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Thread: thirst

  1. Senior Member
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    Question thirst

    how can the theatre of the absurd be applied on the play Thirst by Eugene O'neill?

    • Join Date: Nov 2007
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    Re: thirst

    First, you have to understand what is understood by Theatre of the Absurd.
    The basic elements are, that life is meaningless (so don't expect meaningful emotions, or meaningful relationships between people): instead, the action is play for extremes, with broad comedy mixed with horrific or tragic images; the characters in the play are caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meaningless actions, or nothing!; the dialogue is full of clichés, and even just nonsense; the plots can seem to go round in circles, going nowhere, or suddenly branch off into something absurdly expansive; and hence, the idea of any 'development' of plot or character, and so even the concept of the well-made/well-written play is dispensed with, so don't expect an ending that brings it to a 'meaningful close'.

    Then - see which of these elements are in Thirst. Just look at the play! It opens with three survivors in a life raft of a ship that has gone down, many days adrift, out of water to drink, and surrounded by sharks. The three characters are “A Gentleman,” still in his formal evening clothes ; “A Dancer,” dressed in a short-skirted costume of black velvet covered with spangles”; and a West Indian mulatto crew member who opens the play by singing some monotonous negro song to himself while the fins of sharks endlessly circle the boat. The only other thing the negro utters in the whole play is, “I have no water” and “I do not know.”

    What more can you find!?

    (My favourite is one of Ionesco's, The Bald Prima Donna )
    Last edited by David L.; 18-Mar-2009 at 21:07.

  2. Monticello's Avatar
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    Re: thirst

    Hi sash2008,

    Theatre of the Absurd -- a rich topic for discussion here.

    If you haven't already, please take a look at the wiki entry: Theatre of the Absurd, which expands upon the salient points that David L. has already pointed out.

    Also, while considering the O'Neill play, ponder this quote by theatre critic Martin Esslin, who actually coined the term "Theatre of the Absurd":
    The theatre of the absurd strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought.
    Eugène Ionesco's The Bald Soprano (La Cantatrice Chauve) -- definitely a prime example, along with his Rhinoceros.

    You might also wish to explore Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist influences, especially through his own play, No_Exit Huis Clos (meaning In Camera or "behind closed doors"). Another existentialist influence to consider is Albert Camus.

    Finally, don't forget to reflect upon American popular films' influences:
    "Esslin cites early film comedians such as Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, and Buster Keaton as direct influences (Keaton even starred in Beckett's Film in 1965)."
    Good luck!
    Last edited by Monticello; 19-Mar-2009 at 03:56.

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