Le Theatre de l’Absurde

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

I’ve figured something else out from interacting with the world in the last few days, and from watching my own thoughts: we are all actors in…

(the) Theatre of the Absurd

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Theatre of the Absurd (French: théâtre de l’absurde [teɑtʁ(ə) də lapsyʁd]) is a post–World War II designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1950s, as well as one for the style of theatre which has evolved from their work. Their work focused largely on the idea of existentialism and expressed what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence.[1]

Critic Martin Esslin coined the term in his 1962 essay “Theatre of the Absurd.”[2] He related these plays based on a broad theme of the Absurd, similar to the way Albert Camus uses the term in his 1942 essay, The Myth of Sisyphus.[3] The Absurd in these plays takes the form of man’s reaction to a world apparently without meaning, and/or man as a puppet controlled or menaced by invisible outside forces. This style of writing was first popularized by the 1952 Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot. Though the term is applied to a wide range of plays, some characteristics coincide in many of the plays: broad comedy, often similar to vaudeville, mixed with horrific or tragic images; characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meaningless actions; dialogue full of clichés, wordplay, and nonsense; plots that are cyclical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the concept of the “well-made play“. These plays were shaped by the political turmoil, scientific breakthrough, and social upheaval going on in the world around the playwrights during these times.

While absurdists believed that life is absurd, they also believed that death and the “after life” were equally absurd if not more, and that whether people live or not all of their actions are pointless and everything will lead to the same end (hence the repetitiveness in many of these absurdist plays).

In his 1965 book, Absurd Drama, Esslin wrote:

The Theatre of the Absurd attacks the comfortable certainties of religious or political orthodoxy. It aims to shock its audience out of complacency, to bring it face to face with the harsh facts of the human situation as these writers see it. But the challenge behind this message is anything but one of despair. It is a challenge to accept the human condition as it is, in all its mystery and absurdity, and to bear it with dignity, nobly, responsibly; precisely because there are no easy solutions to the mysteries of existence, because ultimately man is alone in a meaningless world. The shedding of easy solutions, of comforting illusions, may be painful, but it leaves behind it a sense of freedom and relief. And that is why, in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.

13 thoughts on “Le Theatre de l’Absurde

  1. colettebytes

    I like the last line Sha’Tara. And yes, there is an absurdity to life, and maybe it means we are more enlightened when we discover that! 😄

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      You’re so right. Absurd or Serious? Why do people kill each other? Usually because “something” terribly serious to them has been “slighted” or “maligned” by someone else. This includes racism because as we are learning through the resurgence of white supremacy, they think of non-whites as “polluters” of their pure white skin ideal. While they are absurd, they take themselves seriously enough to kill for their belief. If the could see their own absurdity; if we could see the entire absurdity of politics, of religion, of the economic “system” we could literally laugh our way out of many, maybe most, of our more serious problems.

  2. Lisa R. Palmer

    Wow! The “accuracy” of these definitions, in relation to the world we currently live in, gives me chills. And the last line says it all…

    “And that is why, in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.”

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      That is a good line, indeed. Even in the worst sort of conditions we can still be free and maybe even laugh but that’s another can of rusty nails, that.

  3. Pingback: Le Theatre de l’Absurde – The Militant Negro™

  4. Woebegone but Hopeful

    Interesting over Sha’ Tara, which was clear, much better than some I’ve read. It’s interesting someone picked up on the connection with vaudeville.
    Consider Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges.

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Yes, we laugh at the absurd in comedy, not because it’s impossible but because it reminds us of our condition. I’m reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s many escapades; his satires of Hitler…

      1. Woebegone but Hopeful

        Indeed often I’ve been about some escapade going wrong and suddenly parallels with either The Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy come into mind.

  5. Lily Von Valley

    Brilliant and timely post. As above, truly shocking parallels of absurdity between then and now, the only difference is that now, absurdity is deepening in degeneration and is beyond repair.

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Beyond repair? Yes, I have to agree with you. There is the old story of a box of apples with one rotten apple in the bottom. From observation we know that 49 healthy apples will NOT make the one rotten apple a healthy one. What we do know is, if we do not entirely remove the rotten apple and everything it touched, including other apples around it, the entire box of apples will soon be full of rotten apples. That’s the analogy that describes corruption and corruption is what we are living in globally, day in and day out. We’re so used to it we hardly notice it getting worse day by day. Not just worse, its spread is exponential. To “fix” such a problem would mean an amputation so deep that it would kill civilization. So we will let it die a speeding-up death, and billions will die in its collapse. There were a very few bright moments in the 20th C when the corruption could have been stopped, cleansed, and paths changed. Post WWI; post WWII, Gandhi in India; the so-called Hippie era. After that it’s all downhill. Consumerism takes over the world driven by pig-minded and pig-headed capitalism and endless war. I may see the collapse of the American empire yet, but likely not the complete collapse of civilization – I expect that to take some 300 years to hit bottom. Then several hundred years of absolutely unthinkable horror and stagnation followed by another “sudden” rise of a new civilization. Then it’s going to be an amazing time for Earthians – like nothing they’ve ever experienced before. That’s another story… which if I get to write it, I’d entitled aptly, “Down but not Out”

      1. Lily Von Valley

        so many resonances in your summary of our demise. 300 years, and rising again. I thought it might unfasten before that. Love your positive at the end ” Down but not Out”, appropriately said.. Sounds fab, the book.x

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