Samuel Beckett And The Theatre Of The Absurd

2690 words - 11 pages

To understand Beckett and the Theatre of the Absurd we must first go back to Beckett's roots in Irish theatre. It was Martin Esslin who coined the phrase 'The Theatre of the Absurd.' Esslin attributed this form of drama to the moment when 'the certitudes and unshakeable assumptions of former ages have been swept away, that they have been found wanting... The Theatre of the Absurd has renounced arguing about the absurdity of the human condition; it merely presents it in being - that is, in terms of concrete stage images' (Harrington, 2004). It was a revelation in his home country of Ireland that led Beckett to explore this method of drama, a revelation immortalised in his short play, Krapp's ...view middle of the document...

Also writing in French allowed, he said, to write without style. Composition in a second language would serve as a corrective to literary confidence and prevent polished performances of essentially bankrupt eloquence like, he evidently thought, his earlier work (Harrington, 2004). Writing Godot in post-war France must have also influenced his thinking. The initial wave of optimism brought on by the end of the war had turned to the pessimism when the dreadful conditions due to the vast destruction of great swaths of Europe became prevalent, no doubt enforcing Beckett's gloomy and nihilistic outlook.'If a good play must have a cleverly constructed story, these have no story or plot to speak of; if a good play is judged by subtlety of characterisation and motivation, these are often unrecognisable character... almost mechanical puppets; if a good play has to have a fully explained theme, which is neatly exposed and finally solved, these often have neither a beginning nor an end.'' This is how in his book of the same title Martin Ellsin described the Theatre of the Absurd. Waiting for Godot is not merely a part of this theatre, it defines it. It explores the depths of what, up until that point, had been certain assumptions. It swept these away and ushered us from the rational thinking they had dominated Western thought and its theatre up until then. If Descartes steered us into the age of reason, then Beckett could be said to have brought us into the age of uncertainty. By shattering these illusions of certainty Beckett allowed us to question our assumptions and then built upon those foundations, more secure than before. Albert Camus in his work 'The Myth of Sisyphus' wrote 'a world that can be explained by reasoning, however faulty, is a familiar world. But in a Universe that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranger... this divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes the feeling of absurdity'. So how does Beckett portray this feeling of absurdity in Waiting for Godot? The characterisation in Beckett and the mechanics of the stage are key to this.Much has been made of Vladimir and Estragon's relationship but it is in the interaction between Pozzo and Lucky that reveals one of the most interesting aspects of Becketts work; that of the relationship between the mental and physical facets that make up an individual. It is also the one of the most common themes in The Theatre of the Absurd, once stripped of all rational assumptions. Becketts work is infused with this contradiction and balance, the ultimate paradoxical union in man. Pozzo and Lucky represent the relationship between body and mind, the material and spiritual sides of man, with the intellect subordinate to the appetites of the body (Ellsin, 1961). All the characters in Godot are examples of Beckett's anti-hero, which were becoming more and more prevalent, but were never brought to such extremes that Beckett brought them to, so...

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