Reader's Encyclopedia

theatre of the absurd

An avant - garde dramatic convention that emphasizes the illogical and purposeless nature of existence. Often violent, grotesque, and outrageously funny, it strips language of traditional poetic and utilitarian functions, and instead conveys its meaning through masks, ritual, sounds, gestures, costumes, or stylized actions. The dada and surrealist movements, the experiments and theoretical writings of Antonin Artaud and Roger Vitrac, and such plays as Alfred Jarry's Ubu roi and Guillaume Apollinaire 's Les Mamelles de Tiresias (1917) are directly related to the theatre of the absurd.

The main concern of the major dramatists of the absurd -- Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Eugene Ionesco -- is to project onto the stage a personal, concrete image of a situation that epitomizes man's fundamental helplessness in a contradictory and alienating universe. Sometimes, social criticism is embedded in these authors' works, but this is less important than their portrayal of human reaction to the essential realities: death, self, time, loneliness, communication, and freedom. These ancient themes are presented in ways that are intended to shock the audience so that the viewer assumes a more detached and critical attitude than in conventional drama; it is a theatre of alienation rather than a theatre of identification. Other dramatists of the absurd include Fernando Arrabal, Max Frisch, Günter Grass, Harold Pinter, and Edward Albee.

0111011000100101001010011010010011101011010011011110101100000000011110010000101110001110001010011000111000011111101101101111111000
0110010101001011110010011110110011101100111111111001000100010000000010011000101101111001000100101010101101100011010101000111100111
1111100101011010101000010000100011010011010110100111011110011011111001101011000010100010111111011100001001010010101011011101010011
1000011111010100010011110001111010101110110000000010100110001011000101100010100110111001111101011101110000101111000001101101000000
0011000100101101111000001010011101001110010100010011100011111010110101100100111001111100000111011001011001001101101111011001000001
0101110010011100011000100010110111110000111101011000101101110000001110101001101010111100010101111000001000010101100010110001011111
1100110010100010001100110111011101110101111101010001001100100011111111000100100001101011000101000110100011011101100000000101011001
0110011110100111010100011001001011001111100101100111101000010000111000110110000010100000001011000110001110100110011010111010001001
1000100001100001011011100000010001111100100001011110100000111010000111001010010000100000000100110010011000010111011010001011010010
0100101000000010100011110000111011101110111010100111110111001111011101101001110110111111110111001000100110100111000110101000001111
0101010011010001001101001111001101010000001001111001111100000111101011100110011111110111110101101000001001001100100101101001100110
0011111100111011100100011101001100110011100011101001010111001001101110010111110010100101000101010110011110000001010011100111001010
0110100111100000110100101101110101010110100101011000011101111110110101010011101110000110101101110110000011010000110101011111111110
0111001010100010011110000011111001010011001110011000110110101111001100010010101100111111000000111100011001100010011110100000000110