Existentialism And The Theatre Of The Absurd English Literature Essay

October 6, 2017 English Literature

In this paper, my purpose is to give a brief debut of existential philosophy and to demo how the Theatre of the Absurd has derived from and is influenced by the experiential doctrine of Sartre and Camus. I have besides made an effort to clarify the typical characteristics of the Theatre of the Absurd by doing a passing mention to some of the representative plays that belong to this genre.

Existentialism was officially introduced in the plants of philosophers like Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger and can be traced to the late nineteenth/early 20th century authors like Fyodor Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka. But existential philosophy as a motion became popular in the mid-twentieth century through the plants of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

Jean-Paul Sartre is possibly the most well-known existential philosopher. His version of experiential doctrine developed under the influence of the German philosophers Husserl and Heidegger. His Being and Nothingness is a seminal work on existential philosophy. Sartre ‘s No Exit, written in 1944, foresees the Theatre of the Absurd. The ‘existentialist theater ‘ differs from the Theatre of the Absurd in the sense that the existential philosopher theater expresses the incomprehensibility and the unreason of the human status in the signifier of a comprehendible and logically constructed logical thinking, whereas the Theatre of the Absurd abandons the old dramatic conventions and goes on to contrive a new signifier to show the new content. In the Absurdist dramas, incomprehensibility and unreason are reflected even in the signifier. Sartre ‘s No Exit establishes the doctrine of existential philosophy as he perceived it. But Martin Esslin notes that many Absurdist dramatists demonstrate the experiential doctrine better than Sartre and Camus did in their ain dramas.

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Sartrean existential philosophy argues that being precedes kernel, i.e. adult male is born in this universe without a intent and it is he who defines the significance of his being in his ain subjectiveness. The single consciousness constructs an individuality for itself, independent of any counsel from any external bureau, including God. For Sartre, the single consciousness is responsible for all the picks he/she makes, irrespective of the effects ; and because our picks are entirely ours, we are condemned to be responsible for them.

Therefore, existential philosophy proposes that adult male is full of anxiousness and desperation, with no significance in his life ; he merely exists until he makes a decisive pick about his ain hereafter. Since persons are free to take their ain way, the existential philosophers argue that they must accept the hazard and duty of their actions. For case, in Samuel Beckett ‘s Waiting for Godot, Estragon and Vladimir choose to wait without any counsel from anyone else, as Vladimir says- “ He did n’t state for certain he ‘d come ” but decides to “ wait till we know precisely how we stand ” . Besides, much of their inaction stems from the fright of the effects of their actions. For illustration, Estragon says- “ Do n’t allow ‘s make anything. It ‘s safer. ”

A contradiction that surfaces in the context of the existential philosopher thought of freedom of pick is that although existential philosophy emphasizes action, freedom, and determination as cardinal to human being, it argues against the capableness of human existences to take a rational determination. Existentialism asserts that people arrive at a determination based on their subjective reading of the universe. The experiential idea therefore concerns itself with the rejection of ground as the beginning of significance, while concentrating on feelings of anxiousness, apprehension, consciousness of decease, and freedom of pick. This freedom to take leads to the impression of non-being or nothingness and the natural corollaries of this subject of void are the existentialist subjects of disaffection and decease. These subjects are apparent in the Absurdist dramas like Edward Albee ‘s The Zoo Story ( 1958 ) which presents the quandary and the predicament of Jerry, the castaway in a dehumanising commercial universe, who towards the terminal of the drama provokes Peter into pulling a knife and so impales himself on it.

Sartrean existential philosophy provinces that the hunt for a rational order in human life is a ineffectual passion. In Waiting for Godot, Estragon and Vladimir attempt to make some order in their lives by waiting for Godot who ne’er arrives or possibly who does n’t even be. Therefore, they continually resign to the futility of their state of affairs, repeating the lines- “ Nothing to be done ” , “ Nothing happens, cipher comes, cipher goes, it ‘s atrocious! ” This corroborates ( proves as true ) the existential philosopher position that human existences exist in an indifferent and “ absurd ” existence in which significance is non generated by the natural order, but an unstable, probationary significance to life is provided by human existences ‘ actions and readings.

Albert Camus ‘ The Rebel, The Outsider, and ‘The Myth of Sisyphus ‘ are suffused with experiential subjects. But like many other authors, he excessively rejected the existential philosopher label and considered his plants to be absurdist. ‘The Myth of Sisyphus ‘ , written in 1942, is an of import work in which Camus uses the analogy of the Greek myth to show the futility of being. He saw Sisyphus as an “ absurd ” hero with a pointless being. Finally, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus ‘ became a paradigm ( an original theoretical account on which subsequently signifiers are developed ) for the Theatre of the Absurd.

Camus believed that ennui or waiting prompted people to believe earnestly about their ain individuality, as Estragon and Vladimir do in Waiting for Godot. In the drama, waiting induces boredom as a subject. And Beckett succeeds in making a similar sense of ennui in the audience by agencies of everyday insistent duologues and actions. Vladimir and Estragon invariably ponder and inquire inquiries which are either rhetorical or are left unreciprocated.

Therefore, a close reading of the Absurdist dramas would uncover how the existential philosopher subjects have influenced much of the Theatre of the Absurd.

A brief overview of the Theatre of the Absurd would be in topographic point here.

The term Theatre of the Absurd derives from the philosophical usage of the term absurd by such existentialist minds as Camus and Sartre. This term was coined by Martin Esslin in 1961 and it designates peculiar dramas written by a figure of European dramatists chiefly between the late fortiess to the sixtiess, every bit good as to the signifier of theater derived from their work.

The Theatre of the Absurd draws to a great extent on the experiential doctrine, of Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus, which lays accent on the absurdness of the human status and on the incapableness of idea to supply an account of world. But this does non intend that the playwrights of the Absurd merely translated the modern-day doctrine into play. In fact, they responded to the same cultural and religious state of affairs and reflected the same preoccupations as did the philosophers.

The dramas grouped under the label the Theatre of the Absurd express a sense of daze at the absence every bit good as the loss of any clear and chiseled systems of belief. Such a sense of disenchantment and prostration of all antecedently held beliefs is a characteristic characteristic of the post- World War II epoch. Suddenly adult male confronted a existence that was both awful and illogical- in a word, absurd. Therefore, the chief thought of the Theatre of the Absurd was to indicate out adult male ‘s weakness and meaningless being in a universe without intent. The Absurdist plays show a disillusioned and blunt image of the universe. They are besides rather ‘realistic ‘ . The pragmatism of these dramas is a psychological and interior realism- they explore the human subconscious instead than merely depicting the outward visual aspect of human being.

The Theatre of the Absurd came approximately as a reaction to the Second World War. It took the basic premiss of experiential doctrine and combined it with dramatic elements to make a signifier which presented a universe that was unaccountable and a life that seemed absurd.

The Theatre of the Absurd has its beginnings in Dadaism, non-sense poesy, and daring art of the first and the 2nd decennaries of the 20th century. Its roots besides lie in Camus ‘ ‘The Myth of Sisyphus ‘ . The Theatre of the Absurd tried to come to footings with the traumatic experience of the horrors of the Second World War which revealed the entire impermanency of values, shook the cogency of beliefs, and exposed the precariousness of human life and its nonsense. It besides emerged as a response to the humdrum of the conventional theater. However, it is besides a sort of return to the old, even antediluvian, traditions. The Theatre of the Absurd therefore shows in new and separately varied combinations the antique traditions of- ‘pure ‘ theater ; anticing ; fooling, and huffy scenes ; verbal bunk ; and the literature of dream and phantasy ( with strong allegorical constituent ) .

Harmonizing to Martin Esslin, the four specifying dramatists of the motion are Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov. Beckett is a premier illustration of an existentialist author for the Theatre of the Absurd. His dramas, Waiting for Godot and Endgame, are possibly the finest illustrations of the Theatre of the Absurd. Endgame is a drama where ‘nothing happens, one time ‘ , whereas in Waiting for Godot, ‘nothing happens, twice ‘ . These dramas are read as basically existentialist in their return on life. The fact that none of the characters retain any memory of their past clearly indicates that they are invariably fighting to turn out their being.

Eugene Ionesco is doubtless the most profound and original of the playwrights of the Absurd. A review of linguistic communication and the haunting presence of decease are the main subjects in his plays- The Bald Prima Donna, The Lesson, The Chairs, The Killer, Rhinoceros, and Exit the King.

The other major advocates of the Theatre of the Absurd include Jean Tardieu and Boris Vian in France ; Dino Buzzati and Ezio vitamin D ‘ Errico in Italy ; Gunter Grass and Wolfgang Hildesheimer in Germany ; Fernando Arrabal in Spain ; Edward Albee and Tom Stoppard in America ; Slawomir Mrozek and Tadeusz Rozewicz in Poland ; and N. F. Simpson, James Saunders, David Campton, and Harold Pinter in Britain. The dramatists whose plants can be considered as precursors to the motion include Alfred Jarry, Guillaume Apollinaire, Luigi Pirandello, the surrealists and many more.

The Theatre of the Absurd follows certain dramatic conventions:

While most of the dramas in the traditional convention state a narrative, the dramas of the Theatre of the Absurd communicate a poetic image or a complex form of poetic images which are basically inactive.

However, this does non connote that they lack motion. But the state of affairs of the drama remains inactive, whereas the motion we see is the flowering of the poetic image. For case, Waiting for Godot does non state a narrative ; it explores a inactive situation- that of waiting which emerges as a poetic image and the repeat of this form throughout the drama leads the reader to the flowering of this image ( i.e. the disclosure of the significance ) towards the terminal of the drama. Similarly, in Albee ‘s The Zoo Story, it is merely in the concluding lines of the drama that the thought of the full duologue between Jerry and Peter falls in topographic point as an image of the trouble of communicating between human existences in our universe.

The most of import features of the Theatre of the Absurd are as follows:

1. There is frequently no existent narrative line ; alternatively there is a series of ‘free drifting images ‘ which help the audience to construe a drama.

2. The chief focal point of an Absurdist drama is on the incomprehensibility of the universe, or the futility of an effort to apologize an irrational, disorderly universe.

3. The Theatre of the Absurd is, to a really considerable extent, concerned with a review of linguistic communication ( which has become devoid of intending ) as an undependable and deficient tool of communicating.

For case, in Waiting for Godot, Beckett parodies the linguistic communication of doctrine and scientific discipline in Lucky ‘s address. Besides, the silences that punctuate the conversation between Estragon and Vladimir represent the emptiness that pervades people ‘s lives. They talk to each other but they fail to grok what is being said. They frequently interrupt and repeat each others ‘ duologues.

In other words, the Absurdist play creates an environment where people are isolated, clown-like characters drop the balling their manner through life because they do n’t cognize what else to make. Though the Absurdist plays seem to be rather random and meaningless on the surface, one can follow an implicit in construction and significance amidst pandemonium.

Another of import characteristic of the Theatre of the Absurd is that it does non locate adult male in a historical, societal, or cultural context ; it is non simply a commentary on the general status of human life. Alternatively, it delineates human status the manner adult male experiences it. For illustration, in Waiting for Godot, the hobos have a really bleary sense of clip and history. This deficiency of cognition of one ‘s ain civilization and yesteryear symbolizes the dislocation of civilization and tradition in the 20th century.

Most of the playwrights whose dramas are grouped under the label Theatre of the Absurd resisted and disliked any such categorization and classification of their dramas. Harmonizing to Martin Esslin, a term like the Theatre of the Absurd is merely an assistance to apprehension ( and is valid merely in so far as it helps to derive an penetration into a work of art ) . It is non a restrictive class. He says that a drama may incorporate some elements that can be best understood in the visible radiation of such a label, while other elements in the same drama may deduce from and can be understood in the visible radiation of a different convention.

Therefore, on the footing of this brief analysis of existential philosophy and its influence on the Theatre of the Absurd, I would wish to reason that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the experiential doctrine and the Theatre of the Absurd, however the experiential idea is subtly woven into the Absurdist dramas. The end of the Absurdist play is non to deject the audience with its pessimism, but an effort to convey them closer to world and assist them understand their ain significance in life or the significance of their ain being ( whatever that may be ) . That is why the Theatre of the Absurd transcends the class of comedy and calamity and combines laughter with horror. Beckett has, for illustration, really competently called his drama Waiting for Godot- ‘A Tragicomedy in Two Acts ‘ .


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