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Existentialism Expounded. The Theatre of the Absurd. What is it?. First, we must define the use of the word absurd… In common colloquialism, we use the word to typically mean ridiculous or unreasonable.

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existentialism expounded

Existentialism Expounded

The Theatre of the


what is it
What is it?
  • First, we must define the use of the word absurd…
    • In common colloquialism, we use the word to typically mean ridiculous or unreasonable.
    • In literature and art, the absurd is a term applied to the sense that human beings, cut off from their roots, live in meaningless isolation in an alien universe.
    • Plays of this type demonstrate the view of humans as moving from the nothingness from which they came to the nothingness in which they will end through an existence marked by anguish and absurdity.
characteristics of the genre

Characteristics of the genre

The works of Absurdismare characterized by a tragicomic storyline, word play, nontraditional narratives and broad comedy.

setting of absurdism
Setting of Absurdism

Theatre of the Absurd frequently has simplistic sets that help audiences visualize the meaningless lives/actions portrayed in the play. Here, in Waiting for Godot, two men seem stuck as various aspects/characters symbolizing life pass them on a country road with a dead tree as their background. Rather than joining the life that passes, they are constantly waiting for Godot, an undefined entity or “person”, merely a symbol for the abstract nothingness embodied by this type of drama.

playwrights of the absurd
Playwrights of the Absurd

Samuel Beckett

Works typically discussed are:

  • Waiting for Godot(previous slide)
  • Endgame (below)
eug ne ionesco
Eugène Ionesco

Works typically discussed are:


The Lesson

The Chairs

The Bald Soprano (left)

edward albee
Edward Albee

American Absurdist who wrote:

The Zoo Story

The Sandbox

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

harold pinter
Harold Pinter

Works typically discussed are:

The Birthday Party

The Room (left)

The Dumb Waiter

The Caretaker