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42. BECKETT

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					The Theatre of Absurd and
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Samuel Beckett
The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   1. The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett


                                     HISTORICAL BACKGROUND




   NEW MEANING OF EXISTENCE          FRENCH EXISTENTIALISM              SAMUEL BECKETT




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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   2. Historical background

                                                                  •    The aftermath of World War II
                                                                       increased by the Cold War.

                                                                  •    The atrocities of the Nazi
                                                                       concentration camps.
            The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, 1945


                                                                  •    The Allies’ atomic bomb.

                                                                  •    Disillusionment coming from the
                                                                       realization that Britain had been
                                                                       reduced to a second-class power.

             The infamous entrance to Auschwitz.

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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   3. New meaning of existence
   •   Awareness of man’s propensity to
       evil and conscience of the
       destructive power of scientific
       knowledge.
                                                                        A sense of anguish,
                                                                         helplessness and
   •   The lack of moral assurance and the
       decline of religious faith.                                         rootlessness
                                                                        developed especially
   •   The disillusionment with both the                                 among the young
       liberal and social theories about
       economic and social progress.

   •   Mistrust in the power of reason.


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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   4. French existentialism
       • Existentialism saw man
         trapped in a hostile world.

       • Human life was meaningless
         and this created a sense of
         confusion, despair and
         emptiness.

       • The universe was not                                           Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

         rational and defied any
         explanation.
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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   4. French existentialism
       • The main exponent of this
         philosophical current was the
         French Jean Paul Sartre.

       • Existentialists presented the
         absurdity of human condition
         by means of a lucid
         language and logical
         reasoning.                                                     Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980)




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   5. The Theatre of the Absurd: main features

     •   Absence of a real story or plot.

     •   No action since all actions are insignificant.

     •   Vagueness about time, place and the characters.

     •   The value of language is reduced; in fact, what happens on the
         stage transcends, and often contradicts, the words spoken by
         the characters.

     •   Extensive use of pauses, silences, miming and farcical
         situations which reflect a sense of anguish.

     •   Incoherent babbling makes up the dialogue.

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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett



   6. The Theatre of the Absurd: main themes


        • The sense of man’s alienation.

        • The cruelty of human life.

        • The absence or the futility of objectives.

        • The meaninglessness of man’s struggle.


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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   7. Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
                                                                  Main works

                                               •    Waiting for Godot (written in French in
                                                    1952 and translated into English in 1954)

                                               •    Endgame (1958)

                                               •    Krapp’s Last Tape (1959)

                                               •    Happy Days (1961)

                                               •    Breath (1970)
                Samuel Beckett


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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   8. Waiting for Godot

                                                                  • No Setting: a desolate country
                                                                    road and a bare tree.

                                                                  • Time: evening.

                                                                  • Characters: two tramps,
                                                                    Vladimir and Estragon, bored by
                                                                    a day of nothingness; Pozzo and
                                                                    Lucky.
          Poster for a staging of Waiting for Godot.




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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   8. Waiting for Godot

                                                                  • Theme: the static situation of
                                                                    waiting.

                                                                  • Plot: the two tramps are waiting
                                                                    for a mysterious Godot who
                                                                    never turns up.



          Poster for a staging of Waiting for Godot.




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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   9. Waiting for Godot: characters

      •   Vladimir and Estragon are
          complementary.

      •   Lucky and Pozzo are linked
          by a relationship of master and
          servant.

      •   Vladimir and Lucky represent
          the intellect.                                            Waiting for Godot, London, Peter Hall Co.




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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   9. Waiting for Godot: characters

     •   Estragon and Pozzo stand for
         the body.

     •   The two couples are mutually
         dependent.

     •   The character the two tramps
         are waiting for is Godot 
         Biblical allusions in this name.                           Waiting for Godot, London, Peter Hall Co.




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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




      10. Waiting for Godot: structure
  •   The play has a circular structure
       it ends almost exactly as it
      begins.

  •   The two acts are symmetrically
      built  the stage is divided into
      two halves by a tree, the human
      races into two, Vladimir and
      Estragon.
                                                                    Waiting for Godot, London, Peter Hall Co.

  •   It is pervaded by a grotesque
      humour.

  •   Its tone is tragic and desperate.

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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett




   11. Waiting for Godot: themes
     •   Human impotence in the face of life’s meaninglessness.

     •   A static world where nothing happens.

     •   Absence of a traditional time  there is no past, present and
         future, just a repetitive present.

     •   Disintegration of language  absurd exchanges, broken and
         fragmented dialogues.

     •   The lack of communication  use of para-verbal language:
         mime, silences, pauses and gags.

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The Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett



   12. Beckett vs. Osborne
                                            Beckett                          Osborne
   Plot                            Obscure, non                         True-to-life,
                                   consequential                        consequential
   Setting                         Symbolic, bare                       Realistic, related to
                                                                        working class
   Theme                           Meaninglessness of                   Social critic against
                                   human experience                     middle-class values

   Stage Directions                Repetitive, frequent                 Detailed, informative,
                                                                        clear
   Language                        Everyday, meaningless Everyday, simple, clear

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