What is the Theatre of the Absurd? The theatre of the absurd is a term that was created by a Hungarian Critic Martin Esslin. It is a term that represents a few European playwrights in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Some characteristics of the theatre of the absurd include broad comedy, mixed with horrific or tragic images, characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meanlingless actions, dialogue full of cliches, wordplay and nonsense: plots that are cynical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the concept of well made play.
Esslin had four major play wrights that had different techniques in which ‘absurdism’ was shown through. These play wrights were: Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugene Ionesco and Jean Genet. Most of the absurdist play come under Tragic Comedy . This is influenced hugely by William Shakespeare who was the first great playwright to use Tragic Comedy. However, even though there was a lot of tragic situations in The Theatre of the Absurd, comedy always came through well.
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A lot of the material used in the Theatre of the Absurd is borrowed from earlier playwrights and also cites early comedians such as Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. The Theatre of the Absurd is commonly associated with Existentialism. On stage is presented on stage the philosophy which was articulated by a French Philosopher by the name of Albert Camus. The theatre of the absurd shows the failure of a man without recommending a solution. This theatre was very popular in France and all absurdists, if not born in France, they lived in France.
As Absurdism grew, so did its popularity and it extended to other countries. ‘humanity had the resign itself to recognizing that a fully satisfying rational explanation of the universe was beyond its reach; in the sense, the world must ultimately be seen as absurd. ‘ – Albert Camus Most of the bewilderment on absurd drama was created because critics and reviewers were accustomed to the realism of conventional drama. The Theatre of the Absurd springs from real characters and situations and have theatrical elements added to them.
As said before, there is a lot of repetition and meaningless actions however a difference is shown between chaos and non realistic elements and meaningless chaos. The theatre of the absurd allows the audience to draw to their own conclusions and make their own errors on the plot. “Absurd is that which is devoid of purpose…. Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless” – Esslin, 1961