How Absurd Drama is Different Form the Drama Proper?

Some writers in 1960s (In France from the mid-1940s through the 1950s) reacted against traditional Western theatrical conventions, rejecting assumptions about logic, characterization, language, and plot. British scholar Martin Esslin used the phrase “theater of the absurd” in describing his contemporary dramatists, including Irish-born playwright Samuel Beckett and French playwrights Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov. As popularly misunderstood, they do not really mean to be an intellectual puzzle to be solved by academic commentators: his vision is so comprehensive in its simplicity that once we grasp his central passion, which has been remarkably consistent throughout, things fall into place and the novelty of technique does not really distract us from the reality of his compulsive vision.

In the works of the absurd dramatist “all semblance of logical construction, of the national, linking of idea with the idea an intellection, of the argument is abandoned, and instead the irrationality of experience is transferred to the stage.” The absurd playwright believes that there is an essential absurdity in our life because neither death nor birth comes to us at our will and pleasure. In between life and death, many of our steps remain imperfect and incomplete. Death and destruction are relentless and inexorable not only to people but for their creations. Human attempts at perfection and permanence are doomed resulting through absurd situations. Despite all these shortcomings and pointlessness, humanity has to strive till the end. This state is precisely called ‘absurd’. Therefore ‘absurd’ is a conceptually pregnant term revealing the attitude of man, today, in the past and into the future. Apparently, Absurdist Theater for its use of nonsense language and mocking of theatrical conventions, they study the in-depth subconscious mind by creating works of art spontaneously, without conscious thought; the sometimes bizarre, disjointed, or illogical products. 

Waiting for Godot
The absurd dramatists are noted for their philosophical bent of mind and an intellectual nature. They are ‘intellectual, ideological, objective and cerebral’. The action of an absurd drama “is intended to demonstrate symbolically the ideas of the playwright and to create dramatic temperature necessary to maintain the interest of the audience. Whatever farce or absurdity or obscurity is there in such a play is a direct reflection of those things in the actual world.”

The absurd dramatist is characterizing by his distrust of language as a means of communication. The absurd drama is much amusing and sensational and surprising. For example, Beckett’s En attendant Godot (1953; translated as Waiting for Godot, 1954) portrays two tramps waiting for a character named Godot.

They are not sure who Godot is, whether he will show up to meet them, and indeed whether he actually exists, but they spend each day waiting for him and trying to understand the world in which they live. Beckett often reduced character, plot, and dialogue to a minimum in an effort to highlight fundamental questions of human existence. Ionesco’s La cantatrice chauve (1950; The Bald Soprano, 1956) portrays a group of characters who are incapable of true communication and who have no apparent purpose in their lives. The play has a circular structure, ending in the same way that it began.  Very often its central message is buried in symbols.  Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and Ionesco’s La cantatrice chauve enshrines the essential features of an absurd drama. They play is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the “Absurd”. 

The first absurdist plays shocked audiences at their premieres, but their techniques are now common in avant-garde theater and in some mainstream works. Contemporary playwrights whose work shows the influence of the theater of the absurd include American dramatists Edward Albee and Sam Shepard, British dramatists Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard, German dramatists Günter Grass and Peter Weiss, Swiss dramatist Max Frisch, and Czech dramatist Václav Havel.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert, 
      2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
      3. Microsoft Students’ Encarta

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