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    absurd theatre,

    existentialism,

    context,

    beckettSipra Mukherjee

    Course 202 401West Bengal State University

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    didi and gogo

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    waiting for godot

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    social and historical background of

    the age

    evils of imperialism exposed as

    dehumanizing to both the colonised and

    the coloniser

    impact of the two shockingly destructive

    World Wars (potential of evil in human

    nature a revelation) Eminence of western Europe lost with

    the world wars

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    intellectual background of the timesAbsurdity of human situation in thearbitrary world -

    Impermanence of values, life,

    conventions (arbitrariness of world)

    Loss of faith in certainties/religion

    Doubts about scientific progressbeing equated with advance of

    civilization

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    the shock of the 2ndworld war

    The F irst World War was

    supposed to be the war to end

    all wars, so the outbreak of

    World War Two in 1939, alongwith the atrocities it brought,

    destroyed all the basicassumptions people had about

    life.

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    feelings of uncertainty about

    humanity and life

    Faced with the horrors of the trench

    warfare and the holocaust, people

    began to lose their faith in god.The attitude of the Theatre of theAbsurd is perhaps best summarised

    by Becketts character, Clov, whoquestions You and I meansomething?

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    THE SCREAM

    EDWARD MUNCH'I was out walking with two friends. Thesun began to set. I felt a breath of

    melancholy. Suddenly the sky turned

    blood-red. I paused, deathly tired andleaned on a fence looking out across the

    flaming clouds over the blue-black fjord

    and towns. My friends walked on andthere I still stood, trembling with fear -and

    I sensed a great, infinite scream run

    through nature.'

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    the scream

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    production history of play

    the original French En Attendant

    Godot the text was composed

    between 1948 and 1949. Premiered in Paris, 1953.

    Waiting for Godot was Beckettstranslation of his play, 1955,

    London.

    h l h / h k

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    Philosophers/writers whose works

    are are existentialist in tone/theme:Sren Kierkegaard,Fyodor DostoevskyFriedrich NietzscheMartin HeideggerFranz Kafka,Jean-Paul Sartre andAlbert Camus

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    Arthur Schopenhauer:

    "Life is a taskdrudgery filled with universal

    need, ceaseless cares, constant pressure,endless strife, compulsory activity requiring

    extreme exertion of all the powers of body

    and mind. The tumult is indescribable. And

    the ultimate aim of it all, what is it? To

    sustain an ephemeral and tormented

    individual through a short span of time, in

    the most fortunate case with endurable want

    and comparative freedom from pain...and to

    reproduce the race and its strivings.

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    In this evident disproportion between the

    trouble and the reward, the will to live

    appears to us from this point of view, iftaken objectively, as a fool's paradise, or

    subjectively, as a delusion wherein

    everyone living works with the utmostexertion of his strength for something

    that is of no value. And when we consider

    it more closely, we shall find that this willto live is rather a blind pressure, a

    tendency entirely without ground or

    motive."

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    Kierkegaard : Maintained that

    the individual is solely

    responsible for giving his orher own life meaning and for

    living that life passionatelyand sincerely, in spite of

    many existential obstacles

    and distractions includingdespair, angst, absurdity,

    alienation, and boredom.

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    playwrights of the absurd theatreSamuel Beckett,Eugne Ionesco,Jean Genet,Harold Pinter,Tom Stoppard,Friedrich Drrenmatt, andEdward Albee.

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    origins

    Theatre of the Absurd is thoughtto have or iginated from the

    theatre of ancient Greece

    between c. 550 and c.220 BC.

    From what was named Old

    Comedy, particularly from theworks of playwr ights such as

    Aristophanes (The Frogs)

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    Old Comedy is thought to have come about

    from songs, mime and improvisation where

    there was satir ical treatment of domestic

    situations and from myths and commentary on

    society, poli tics, li terature and the

    Peloponnesian War that was happening

    between the Athenian Empire and thePeloponnesian league, led by Sparta. Old

    Comedy was often exaggerated and farcical

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    origins: Ubu Roi In 1896 a French writer named Alfred Jarry

    created a play called Ubu Roi (King Ubu).

    This is acknowledged as influencing the Dadaand Surrealist movements , and as a theatrical

    precursor to Theatre of the Absurd.

    The play ridicules European philosophies andtheir sometimes ludicrous practices includingaspects of folklore, myth and storylines.

    Jarrysplays are said to be greatly hated for

    their lack of respect to society, religion androyalty. They were vulgar and brutally harsh,mocking theatrical conventions and using anonsensical blend of language and song.

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    Clifford OdetsWaiting for Lefty

    Odetsfamous 1935 play Waiting

    for Lefty was about workers

    oppressed by capitalism, waitingfor the salvation in the form

    of union organiser Lefty. But theplay ends as the workers learn

    that Lefty will not come after all

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    Leading to the following aspects

    of Absurd Theatre:unusual, innovative, avantgarde

    forms, to startle the audience

    out of the comfortable,conventional life of everyday

    concerns

    attempt to bring ritual and myth

    back into our lives through art.

    Pl i h h B k d Pi

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    Playwrights such as Beckett and Pinterdid not claim to be part of the

    Theatre of the Absurd. It was notthey who gave the name to theirmovement. Instead, this was a name

    given to their work by others.To be part of the anti-theatremovement was found more

    acceptable, as they attackedtraditional art forms as no longerbeing valid in this pointless existence.

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    what is the absurd?

    The absurd in this sense refers not tothe ridiculous but to being out ofharmony.Camus argued that it was the world that

    was absurd, and that the theatre was onlyreflecting this absurdityEugene Ionesco claimed that the Absurd

    is that which is devoid of purpose

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    distrust of language as a means

    of communication. Language

    appeared to be a vehicle formere conventional, meaningless

    exchanges, unable to express theessence of human experienceDrama of this age becomes

    either a parody or dismissal of

    concept of the "well-made play".

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    Friedrich Nietzsche God is Dead

    In 1883 a revolutionary thesis was published bythe German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Itwas called Thus spoke Zarathustra and it

    declared that God is dead. Nietzsche wrote of religion, morality, philosophy

    and contemporary culture, he has been a greatinfluence in many fields including Existentialism

    and Post Modernism as he radically questionedthe value of truth, he sought to bring about amore naturalistic source of value in the impulsesof life itself.

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    absurdism

    Becketts/Camus philosophy hassometimes been called Absurdism, which

    focusses on the conflict between human

    potential/yearning and ability/reality.

    This is closer to existentialism and

    nihilism-, which appeared a more

    probable explanation (?) of life in thecontext of the post-2ndWorld War

    devastated France.

    " i it f i d fi f th h l f

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    "... in spite of or in defiance of the whole of

    existence he wills to be himself with it, to

    take it along, almost defying his torment.

    For to hope in the possibility of help, not to

    speak of help by virtue of the absurd, that

    for God all things are possibleno, that he

    will not do. And as for seeking help from any

    otherno, that he will not do for all the

    world; rather than seek help he would prefer

    to be himselfwith all the tortures of hell, ifso it must be."-Sren Kierkegaard,The Sickne