UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The use of ritual in the theatre of the absurd; a study of Beckett, Pinter, Genet Mayhew, Anne L.


It is commonly felt among literary and theatre-going people today that the Theatre of the Absurd is making a comment on the meaninglessness and formlessness of contemporary life. The way the Theatre makes its comment is new and exciting: it simply places before our eyes meaninglessness and formlessness. And the Absurd is left at that. Directors can concentrate on the bizarre, making the plays, even The Caretaker, into three-hour runs of pointless juxtapositions that leave sophisticated audiences complacent. Too often the plays of Beckett, Pinter and Ionesco are treated as slices of life, without beginning or end. This paper was undertaken in an effort to discover whether there was not more to the Absurd play than imitation of life's daily chaos. Strong ritualistic elements had been noticed during a first random reading of some Absurd plays. A later discovery of Genet and his open experimentation with rituals, led me to suspect that the ritual so obvious in his plays also played a part, though a more furtive one, in the works of Pinter and Beckett. The following close examination of texture and structure has convinced me that the formal element, which distinguishes ritual, makes up the fabric of the Absurd play; and that this studied use of ritual makes the plays of the Absurd the most precise dramatic statements to have been seen on western stages since medieval days. Rather than exemplifying formlessness, the Absurd play often stands witness to the stark purity of formality. .

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