The Portrayal Of The Theatre Of The Absurd

1785 words - 7 pages

The Portrayal of the Theatre of the Absurd
Throughout literature, much has been assumed and gathered about the state of man and his purpose in life. Different poets, novelists, and playwrights have employed the powerful tools of language to broadcast their respective statement to the literate world. Many authors stand out for their overly romanticized or horribly pessimistic notations on life, but only Samuel Beckett stands out for his portrayal of absence. As Democritus, a Greek philosopher, noted, "nothing is more real than nothing," a quote which became one of Beckett's favorites and an inspiration for his masterful plays (Hughes 1). Beckett's works have astounded many through their utter divergence from the typical basis of a play. His blatant discount for the traditional concepts of character development, setting, time, and sequence of events distinguish Beckett's plays from a myriad of themed dramas. Because of such breaks from the standard, the message of Beckett's plays rings clearly. In his ground breaking play Waiting for Godot, Beckett describes two men, Estragon and Vladimir, who come to a rock and a tree beside a road and wait for an unknown "Godot" in vain day after day, idly making frivolous conversation and casually meeting another pair of characters, Pozzo and Lucky, who pass by daily. His follow up play, Endgame, creates a similar scenario with a blind, chair-bound man, Hamm, and his servantile friend, Clov, stuck in a room characterized only by two high windows and two ashbins housing Hamm's parents, Nagg and Nell. Such unusual plays portray the American Theatre of the Absurd perfectly. In both Waiting for Godot and Endgame, Samuel Beckett expertly incorporates nonconformist setting and dual characters to illustrate that man is a bewildered being in an incomprehensible universe.
Through both plays, the purposeful confusion of time and setting make the perceived universe unclear not only to the characters, but also to the audience. Beckett purposefully strips the setting of all elements of reality—namely time and definition. In Waiting for Godot, his stage directions simply state, "A country road. A tree. (1)" Such simplicity initially seems to muddy the clarity of the work, causing confusion as to the location and specifics of the characters' plight and conditions. However, as Daryl McDaniel constitutes, bareness of the set only serves to create a "complex fictional and highly theatrical world (McDaniel 1)." As the play goes on, this vague scenario also serves to make the work universal, due to the commonality of such elements in nature. Similarly, although Endgame's plot plays out in a more confined and defined space, a room with two high windows and two ashbins, the surroundings are bleak and undefined. Collectively, Beckett's use of setting defies reality. Jean-Jaques Mayoux elaborates on this point to clarify, "a realistic setting would spoil everything (Mayoux 42)." Beckett's intentional...

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