The Concept of The Theatre of the Absurd

The Theatre of the Absurd is a term that was originally used to refer to a breach of logic. It has taken on a broad and varied meaning in contemporary theology, philosophy, and the arts, where it expresses the inability of traditional values to meet man’s spiritual and emotional needs. The absurdist theatre does not believe in God. The practitioners believe that the human condition is fundamentally absurd and that it can be adequately represented only through absurd works of literature.


The term ‘absurd’ was first used in contemporary contexts in the work of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. He labelled Christianity as absurd because no rational person could comprehend or justify it. Martin Heidegger used the concept to describe Christian faith; Jean-Paul Sartre used it to describe the apparent futility of life and the terrors of ‘non being’; and Albert Camus used it to express the chasm between’man’s intention and the reality he encounters. Karl Jaspers used it as an illustration of the way reality repeatedly ‘checkmates’ the individual; and Gabriel Marcel used it as a symbol of life’s fundamental mystery.


Human experience is rejected in the absurdist theatre. The movement shares affinities with Nikolai Gogol and Bertolt Brecht’s works, as well as with the artistic techniques and philosophies of Dadaism and Surrealism. There was a widespread tendency, particularly prominent in the existential philosophy of men of letters such as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, to regard a human being as an isolated existent cast into an alien universe, to regard the universe as having no inherent truth, value, or meaning, and to regard human life—in its fruitless search for purpose and meaning, as it moves from nothingness to nothingness—as a void.

Characteristics of The Theatre of the Absurd

• characters lack individuality and frequently lack a name. The characters frequently undergo a complete transformation midway through the action.

• probability and physics laws are suspended

• words appear to contradict the actions of the stage characters, to devolve into lists of words and phrases from a dictionary or traveller’s conversation book, or to become mired in endless repetitions, much like a phonograph record stuck in one groove.

• a strong sense of human isolation and the inevitability of the human condition

• portrays the world as incomprehensible

• emotional identification with the characters is abandoned in favour of a perplexed, critical gaze

• proclivity to externalise and project outward what is occurring in the mind’s deeper recesses

• makes deliberate attempts to reintroduce drama’s language and to expose the emptiness of conventional stage dialogue

• [language is] a sincere attempt to penetrate deeper layers of meaning and to present a more accurate, albeit more complex, picture of reality by avoiding the oversimplification that results from omitting all the undertones, overtones, inherent absurdities, and contradictions of any human situation.

• the audience is still compelled to make their own interpretations, to wonder what it’s all about… invited to academies to develop their critical faculties

• an infinite number of interpretive possibilities

• the action does not follow a logical syllogism

• always present the spectator with a genuine intellectual problem, a philosophical paradox, which he must attempt to resolve even though it is almost certainly unsolvable

THE ARTISTIC FEATURES OF THE THEATER OF THE ABSURD

The term “artistic feature” encompasses a broad category in the literary world. Playwrights and writers can express it in a variety of ways. It is also critical when conducting research on literary works both domestically and internationally. Generally, each type of theatre has its own artistic characteristics that reflect its unique context and social demands. The Theatre of the Absurd is no exception to this rule. The Theater of the Absurd employs a variety of artistic techniques to convey a tragic message through a comic form. Anti-character, anti-language, anti-drama, and anti-plot are among the characteristics.

A. Anti-Character

From the beginning to the end, the characters in Theaters of the Absurd are created with curious and grotesque personalities. The author appears to specialise in imbuing his characters with a sense of absurdity and attempting to unearth their hopelessness toward life and society. We are all aware that in a traditional drama, characters are shaped by their own personalities. Their communication and behaviour should be reasonable and understandable. However, in the Theatre of the Absurd, characters who reject conventional sense and behaviour are completely shaped and described onstage by playwrights. Characters, particularly the protagonists in the Theatre of the Absurd, possess unique personalities and characteristics. They occasionally converse with themselves incessantly or repeatedly. And their words and sentences are frequently interrupted or disordered. In their words, there are no established rules to follow. As a result, common people will have difficulty comprehending the character’s words and actions. Additionally, individuals associated with the Theater of the Absurd regard their own personalities as a formal case.

Consider the classic example of Waiting for Godot in retrospect. The two tramps are the play’s protagonists. They speak continuously throughout the drama. They converse with one another and with themselves at times. Additionally, their language is difficult for readers and audiences to comprehend. Their conversations are chaotic and devoid of any semblance of order. Occasionally, they blurt out some words and sentences without elaborating. They do not reveal any personalities or peculiarities that would allow us to identify them, even if there were no distinctions. We only know they’re two boys. We do not know anything else about them, including their homes, parents, or even the eras to which they belong. However, when compared to other protagonists in other dramas, they are truly remarkable in terms of personality. It creates the illusion that they lack personalities, but their authors endow them with a unique personality (He, 1999). This is a distinct personality from the protagonists of traditional dramas. At times, while reading the Theater of the Absurd, we may feel befuddled by the protagonists.

To gain a better understanding of the Theater of the Absurd, we can examine the definition of “absurd.” In a musical context, the term “absurd” means “out of tune.” As a result, its dictionary definition is as follows: “contrary to reason or propriety; incongruous, unreasonable, illogical.” While the term “absurd” may be used colloquially to mean “ridiculous,” this is not the sense in which it is used when discussing the Theatre of the Absurd. Ionesco defined absurdity as follows in an essay on Kafka: “Absurd is that which is purposeless…. Man becomes lost when he is cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots; all his actions become meaningless, absurd, and useless” (Chang, 2006).

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The Theater of the Absurd is fundamentally lyrical and poetic in its focus on the central points and scope. By eschewing conventional characterization and plot, The Theatre of the Absurd places an incomparably greater emphasis on the poetic element. The linear plot of the play depicts a development that creates a unique poetic image. The play’s time extension is entirely coincidental. Thus, it differs significantly from traditional dramas in terms of character personalities and quirks. The characters’ minds are constantly filled with erratic speech, capricious behaviour, and strange ideas.

B. Anti-Language

Language plays a significant role in literary work. The way a writer uses language is regarded as a criterion for determining his or her style and ability. Throughout their literary careers, various writers develop their own writing styles. Language is typically used in a logical order in traditional dramas. When someone poses a question, others will respond. Regardless of whether the answers are correct or incorrect, they must follow a certain logical order. However, language has no fixed or established form or regularities in the Theater of the Absurd. Typically, the protagonists speak or speak incoherently. Occasionally, what the character says does not correspond to the words requested or desired by his partner. Occasionally, a character will inquire about something with his partner, but the partner will respond with something completely unrelated to the subject at hand. That is, the language lacks the ability to infer or obey rules. What they have said is incomprehensible to the audience. Just a few moments ago, the characters were arguing about who would come. A split second later, they switch to another irrelevant subject, and you find yourself unable to follow their thoughts, leading you to misunderstand their mind. This unique feature has complicated people’s understanding of the Theater of the Absurd. However, the Theater of the Absurd continues to be popular with the public because it reflects the darkness of contemporary society (Criffith, 1993).

If you have ever read a play that is part of the Theater of the Absurd, you will notice that the language is obscure and disorderly. Meanwhile, it is not bound by any established rules. You have no way of knowing what the character will say next because their language is erratic and unpredictable. The critical point is that it never obeys common sense or thought. It appears that sometimes people who speak in their own terms are difficult for others with common sense to understand. Therefore, when reading one of the Theaters of the Absurd, you must prepare yourself with sufficient energy and wisdom to decipher the obscure language.

Language continues to be the primary component of “literary” theatre. However, in anti-literary theatre, language is relegated to a minor role. The Theater of the Absurd has earned the right to employ language as a component of its multidimensional poetic imagery. By juxtaposing a scene with the action, reducing it to meaningless patter, or by abandoning discursive logic in favour of poetic logic based on association or assonance, the Theater of the Absurd expanded the stage’s dimension. The Theatre of the Absurd’s devaluation of language is consistent with contemporary trends. As George Steiner noted in two radio talks titled The Retreat from the Word, the devaluation of language is a feature not only of contemporary poetry and philosophical thought but also of modern mathematics and the natural sciences. “It is not a paradox to assert that much of reality now begins outside of language,” Steiner writes. Non-verbal languages such as mathematics, formulae, and logical symbolism now encompass a sizable portion of meaningful experience. Others fall under the category of “anti-languages,” such as nonobjective art or atonal music. The literal world has shrunk.” Additionally, the abandonment of language as the optimal instrument of notation in the fields of mathematics and symbolic logic coincides with a significant decline in popular belief in its practical utility. Language appears to be increasingly at odds with reality. All of the major thought trends that have had the greatest influence on contemporary popular thought exhibit this tendency. Apart from the general devaluation of language brought about by the flood of mass communications, the increasing specialisation of life has rendered the exchange of ideas on an increasing number of subjects impossible between members of difficult spheres of life who have developed their own specialised jargons. When Ionesco summarises Antonin Artaud’s views, he notes that our knowledge becomes disassociated from life as a result of our culture establishing a “social” context into which we are not integrated. Thus, the challenge is to reintroduce our lives to our culture, reviving it. To accomplish this, we must first eradicate “respect for what is written in black and white”… to disassemble our language in order to reassemble it in order to reestablish contact with “the absolute,” or, as I prefer to phrase it, “with multiple reality”; it is critical to “push human beings back toward seeing themselves as they truly are” (Wu, 2004). That is why the Theater of the Absurd frequently depicts human communication as broken. It is nothing more than a satirical exaggeration of the current state of affairs. In an age of mass communication, language has run amok. It must be reduced to its essential function —- that of expressing authentic content rather than concealing it. However, this will be possible only if man rediscovers his reverence for the spoken or written word as a means of communication and the ossified clichés that dominate thought are replaced by a living language that serves it. And this, in turn, can be accomplished only by acknowledging and respecting the limitations of logic and discursive language, as well as the uses of poetic language. Language is a broad category within the literary field, encompassing everything from words to sentences to paragraphs.

Multiple languages are used in various literary forms. Additionally, each writer employs a unique style when it comes to language usage. Playwrights typically use language deftly and adequately in the Theater of the Absurd. They frequently employ multiple artistic techniques to describe characters, including their behaviour, language, and the theatre’s plot, in order to achieve a sense of absurdity.

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C. Anti-Drama

Drama, by definition, has its own characteristics due to its origins. While traditional dramas are easily understood by their content and themes, the Theater of the Absurd is difficult to comprehend on numerous levels. The Theatre of the Absurd was founded in the 1950s, while traditional drama dates all the way back several hundreds of years. Both traditional drama and the Theater of the Absurd gain popularity at different points in history, and the latter’s emergence has its own unique social context. They each have their own representative playwright. Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw are the two playwrights who epitomise traditional drama in the United Kingdom. While a separate group of playwrights, including Beckett, Pinter, and Albee, are associated with the Theater of the Absurd. The two distinct groups developed distinct characteristics, but they all adhere to the rules and forms of conventional drama. We cannot assert that they are diametrically opposed. Both groups share similarities in terms of language and artistic techniques. The Theater of the Absurd bears some resemblance to conventional drama. Meanwhile, it possesses some unique characteristics, which are concealed beneath the surface of absurd dramas. The plot of traditional dramas is straightforward, and the content is easily comprehended by the general public. Frequently, the central characters are endowed with unique and characteristic behaviour and personalities. Thus, as you read or appreciate the drama, you will quickly recognise him or her in the crowd. Additionally, the language used in traditional drama is typically straightforward and understandable. For example, despite the fact that Shakespeare’s plays were written centuries ago, people can easily comprehend and enjoy their contents when they read them. That is why the majority of people choose to read and appreciate traditional dramas in their daily lives. While there are numerous difficulties and impediments to understanding the themes and language of the Theater of the Absurd, many researchers and specialists continue to explore it. The audience is confronted with characters whose motivations and actions are largely incomprehensible in the Theater of the Absurd. The more mysterious the characters’ actions and nature, the less humane they become. As a result, it is more difficult for us to comprehend the world from a normal perspective. Because the audience and readers are unable to identify the characters in the play, it inevitably creates an atmosphere of humour and levity. When we recognise a figure who has lost his trousers, we experience embarrassment and shame. However, if our ability to identify is thwarted by the grotesque nature of such a character, we laugh at his predicament. We observe the characters’ actions from the outside, rather than from their own perspective. The incomprehensibility of the motivation effectively prevents us from identifying the characters in the Theater of the Absurd. Despite the fact that its subject matter is sombre, violent, and bitter, this theatre is comic. That is why the Theater of the Absurd defies categorization by combining comedy and tragedy.

D. Anti-plot

Plot is a necessary component of drama. Without it, a drama in the traditional sense cannot be called a drama. The plots of traditional dramas and the Theater of the Absurd are quite different. The distinction is that the plot of the Theater of the Absurd is disjointed and disorganised. In general, traditional dramas are structured chronologically, geographically, or logically. In theatres, you can observe regular patterns and orders based on time, place, or logic. Occasionally, we can easily guess what the protagonist will do based on their words and actions. And occasionally, the author will provide us with hints to assist us in deducing the plot. As a result, reading and enjoying traditional dramas is not difficult for us. Additionally, you can sometimes guess the outcome of the drama. On the contrary, the Theater of the Absurd is unexpected or obscure, and it frequently lacks a conclusion or resolution. For instance, in Waiting for Godot, the audience is left in the dark about the play’s outcome. They have no idea what the two boys will do or say next. From the beginning to the end of this play, we have no idea what they are waiting for or discussing. We only know they are waiting interminably and conversing interminably. However, we cannot conclude that the Theater of the Absurd lacks a realistic element as a result of its unique plot. If we take this view, there would be no reason for authors to continue working in this field in order to create new work for eager readers. When we read Waiting for Godot for the first time, we are unable to discern its essence or theme. Indeed, the play’s central theme is the emptiness of the characters’ hearts. Their words and actions, which serve no purpose, reveal the meaning of human existence. The essence is nothingness. Individuals are seeking their existence in contemporary society but in vain. Additionally, it takes a unique perspective on contemporary society. As a result, its themes and essence will cause us to reflect more on our times. Diverse themes and essences will result in a variety of different types of dramas. The two distinct dramas appeared at distinct points in our society’s history. In contemporary society, an increasing number of people are unable to determine their own status. Their heart’s emptiness has created an atmosphere. Thus, the anti-plot is a critical component of the Theater of the Absurd (Dietrich, 1989).

THEMES OF THE THEATER OF THE ABSURD

By going through the characteristics of the Theater of the Absurd, you should have a firm grasp on the theme. Human existence is fraught with anguish, cruelty, and danger. Such a state of being creates an atmosphere of devaluation of life in contemporary society. Human beings become absorbed in this atmosphere when confronted with it. They gradually develop feelings of loneliness, fear, and despair. As a result, the true essence of their daily lives becomes emptiness. Their minds gradually fill with isolation and absurdity. The Theater of the Absurd accurately reflects life in a desolate society. It reveals that people are tired, obscure, and aimless in their daily lives. The Absurd Theater is a product of contemporary society. Individuals are unaware of the true purpose and destination of their lives. Certain advanced writers have an understanding of it and write it in a unique style known as the Theater of the Absurd. At first, public acceptance is difficult. When the Bald Soprano was first appreciated on stage, only a few people remained in the theatre. As time passes, an increasing number of people value this style of theatre and believe it is appropriate for their lives.

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Originally, the theatre was used to depict reality on stages. However, everyone is aware that reality is grave and full of dangers and adventures, and that it frequently has tragic consequences. Using comic form to conclude a play is a relatively easy and moderate way to do so. When compared to other forms, it is more easily accepted by the general public. When you begin reading the play, you may find yourself laughing at the characters’ words and actions. However, once you’ve finished reading the play, you may change your mind and reconsider its theme. You will conclude that viewing the play as a tragicomedy is worthwhile. Although degradation and oppression should have been included in the tragic theme, many playwrights in the Theater of the Absurd portray them in a lighthearted and comic manner. When you read this type of play, you may find it amusing.

1. The Crisis and Cruelty of Human Beings

In the Theater of the Absurd, playwrights attempt to explore humanity’s crisis and cruelty. In the 1950s, the Theater of the Absurd debuted. At the time, the western world’s economy grew at a breakneck pace. Every field benefited from the application of novel technologies. Individuals who wish to survive must quickly catch up with the pace and variation of society. If they are unable to keep up with the speed of society, they will be abandoned and absorbed into it. Several of them were destined to be abandoned because they were unable to locate their status and identification. As a result, their minds were doomed to be filled with crisis and cruelty, and their thoughts were frequently strange and curious. Some pioneers revealed their inner feelings by writing their minds and thoughts in the Theater of the Absurd. By contrast, traditional playwrights address a broader range of issues, including politics, economics, and culture. The Theater of the Absurd’s playwrights regard the crisis and cruelty of human beings as one of its central themes (Wang, 1995).

2. The Dissimilation of the Society

Dissimilation occurs when people regard metamorphic objects as normal. Dissimilation of society has resulted in the appearance of numerous abnormal phenomena, which have been accepted as normal. Disease, death, and hunger are frequently cited as discussion points. In many societies, evil, crime, and violence are considered natural. When people come across these instances, they are moved to tears and sympathetic toward the deceased or patients. However, in the Theater of the Absurd, it is regarded with indifference. The world teaches people to be callous and even unmerciful. People have lost faith in any gods capable of rescuing them from the abyss. In the first place, material life is considered. Meanwhile, money is regarded as the most valuable commodity on the planet. Money is the primary prerequisite for people to do anything. People live in a world where mutual assistance and love are rendered meaningless. There is no affection or trust between them.

C. The Meaninglessness of Human Existence

To the two characters in Waiting for Godot, life is simply a matter of endless waiting. They were unable to locate what they were looking for. Their existence is pointless. They were even unable to ascertain the essence of human existence. Despite the fact that they live in the real world, their lives are absurd. In the Theater of the Absurd, playwrights express their true feelings about this world through their protagonists. Indeed, a play is a mirror that reflects real-world societal phenomena. By openly abandoning rational devices and discursive thought, playwrights in the Theater of the Absurd attempt to express the human race’s senselessness and the inadequacy of the rational approach. While Sartre and Camus express new content through established conventions, the Theater of the Absurd takes this a step further by attempting to reconcile its fundamental assumptions with the form in which they are expressed. They exist in the real-world but are unaware of it. Indeed, they are fearful of their own existence and would prefer to be confused or unconscious. They can only feel alive when they are unaware of their existence. The majority of poor people exist and live in perpetual poverty, and life is a living hell for them. If they take their lives seriously, they will discover that they live miserable and painful lives. Only when they lose sight of reality are they able to let go of their suffering and experience their existence. However, suffering is limitless for as long as they live, and they must endure it from cradle to grave (Diao, 2008).

D.  Human Isolation

The relationship between people in the society depicted by the Theater of the Absurd is measured in terms of material possessions and money. When they face dangers and difficulties, few people come to their aid. Individuals who have lived in this society for an extended period of time will experience loneliness and indifference. Human beings communicate in a cold and detached manner. As a result, people gradually lose their ability to communicate and prefer to live in cages. And once again, chain reactions result in severe social isolation. As a result, isolation grows like a snowball in people’s hearts. People rarely communicate with one another and have little faith in one another. Because their hearts are filled with selfishness and fear, they are afraid that people with a higher social status will mock or look down on them. As a result, they make every effort to conceal and conceal themselves beneath the material’s surface. And their desires and pursuits are silently implanted in their hearts, despite the fact that they have the ability to express them. The boys appear to be good friends in Waiting for Godot, but their relationship is isolated and unconcerned. They are incapable of providing each other with warmth and comfort. They communicate with few words and lack of emotion and concern (Wang, 2001). People would feel lonely and helpless in the absence of care or concern. Only in the Theater of the Absurd is this phenomenon capable of expressing the true and original characteristics of society.

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