Theater of Absurd in Ubu the King by Alfred Jarry Essay Example
Theater of Absurd in Ubu the King by Alfred Jarry Essay Example

Theater of Absurd in Ubu the King by Alfred Jarry Essay Example

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  • Pages: 10 (2569 words)
  • Published: October 6, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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Alfred Jarry’s groundbreaking drama,Ubu the King,has been a beginning of inspiration for motions such as Dadaism, Surrealism, and the Theater of the Absurd for comparatively a long clip. The thematic and formal building of this drama owes much to the dogmas of the Theater of the Absurd. This paper follows two major stairss. It foremost attempts to demo the hints of Shakespeare inUbu the King, and discourse Jarry’s likely purposes of associating this drama to those of Shakespeare. It so goes on to enlarge the aspects of absurdness in the drama. This paper aims at exemplifying the absurd elements in the drama foremost by pulling some illustrations from the text, and secondly by lucubrating on the societal reaction toward the production ofUbu the King.


Alfred Jarry, a dramatist and novelist, was born in France in 1873. He is


largely recognized as the Godhead ofUbu Roitranslated asUbu the King( 1896 ) ; however Jarry has signed his name under the influential novels as good. One of the most complicated and studied novels published posthumously isFeats and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician( 1911 ) in which Jarry develops on his thought of pataphysics. Jarry as “the most extraordinary and bizarre figures among pokes maudites of Gallic literature” ( Esslin 189 ) is mostly referred and revered as the Godhead ofUbu the King. This drama as the extension of the marionette dramaLes Poloneiscollaboratively created by his two friends Henri and Charles Morin at some point in schooltimes at Lycee Rennes is subsequently followed by two other dramas by Jarry,Ubu Cuckolded( 1897 ) andUbu in Chains( 1899 ) . The sole manner in personal life and the iconoclastic attack t

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linguistic communication and theatrical conventions set out inUbu the Kingunderscore Alfred Jarry and his drama as one of the major precursors of the Dadaism, Surrealism and the Theater of the Absurd. The inquiry this paper attempts to reply is that why this drama is considered as the precursor of the Theater of the Absurd, and whether it is so-considered for the content and its subjects or it was the societal reaction and the iconoclastic nature of its production that made it be brought in different anthologies of Theater of the Absurd or the motions such as Dadaism or Surrealism.

To lucubrate on the issues put frontward, taking a deep expression atUbu the Kingthematically and structurally would pave the manner. Papa Ubu as the cardinal character of this drama is an officer to Wencelas, male monarch of Poland. As a fat, grotesque, someway stupid character, Papa Ubu is tempted into killing the male monarch by his married woman, Mama Ubu. Papa Ubu, Ironically in a banquet that is held for the publicity of him to a higher rank, kills the male monarch and his two boies while the youngest boy survives the conflict and fled to the mountains. After prehending the throne, he bit by bit destroys the evident societal order and peace and follows satisfying his ain satisfaction. Finally, Papa Ubu is defeated in a conflict by Czar Alexis and the survived boy of the male monarch, Bougrelas, and runs off with his married woman.

Ubu and Shakespeare

Taking a brief expression at the secret plan ofUbu the King, the reader instantly recognizes its similarity to Shakespeare’s drama ( s ) . The first drama comes to mind

isMacbethin which the two portion elements of secret plan. While Macbeth is tempted by Lady Macbeth into killing Duncan, in Jarry’s drama it is Ubu who is tempted into killing Wencelas by Mama Ubu. Carrey Mittenberg in his article “Proto-Absurdist Strides and Leanings: Alfred Jarry’s Shakespearean Spirit inUbu Roi” draws analogies between Jarry and Shakespeare and provides the readers with some similarities. The last scene ofUbu the Kingshows the flight of Papa Ubu and Mama Ubu in the storm which brings to mind the opening scene ofThe Tempest. It is besides similar to one of Shakespeare’s historical dramas,Richard III“Pere Ubu’s across-the-board tummy embodies the physically malformation of his hungriness for trespass non unlike Richard III’s premature misshape” ( Mittenberg 51 ) .The rubric besides suggests Jarry’s intended correspondence in hisUbu the King ;the order of the words and the focal point on the character as a male monarch is like some of the rubrics of Shakespeare such asKing Lear,Macbeth, andHenry VII. The other structural component is the division of the Acts of the Apostless and the scenes inUbu the male monarchthat makes it comparable to some of Shakespeare’s calamities.

Stating thatUbu the Kingis similar to Shakespeare’s dramas in non the chief focal point of Mittenberg’s survey ; what he aims at flowering is the fact thatUbu the Kingfor the audience of late 19Thursdaycentury does the same thing that Shakespeare did for the Gallic theatre departers of 16Thursdayand 17Thursdaycenturies. Bing stiff in characteristic and keeping inflexible worldviews toward society and tradition, people attended to watch production of Shakespeare’s dramas were far off accepting the topics dealt with in those calamities. The audience of 16Thursdayand 17Thursdaycenturies barely accepted

Shakespeare since “the drama violated the already relaxed and expanded confines of Gallic gustatory sensation ( gout ) .” ( Mittenberg 6 ) Mittenberg asserts thatUbu the Kingdoes the really same thing to the gout of the late 19Thursdaycentury audience. Implicitly it would non be inappropriate to state that both Shakespeare and Jarry provide the universe of literature in France with being daring in content ( largely in instance of Shakespeare ) and signifier ( largely in instance of Jarry ) . To come to a clear point is to state that Jarry’s intervention of Shakespeare’s major dramas is a sort of witting reaction to the ethical motives and conventions of Gallic theatre. Jarry divest himself of the Frenchistic “gout” of the late 19Thursdaycentury and throws himself into a battleground of specifying a new gout for Gallic theatre and more significantly for world-wide literature ritics furiously debatedUbu Roi’s worth and legitimacy to the Gallic phase, much like others had with Shakespeare 150 old ages before. And whileUbu Roiis both a mixture of Shakespearean figure of speechs and a reworked version of a collaboratively-written schoolboy travesty, the permeant non-serious temper, the historically inaccurate and implausible action, the off-color vocals and unbecomingly unusual verbalism, and the entire neglect for the integrities ( surpassing Shakespeare by springs and bounds ) , suggest that Jarry was trying to destabilise the businessperson outlook that clung to gout and to the smothering construct of legitimate theatre. ( Mittenberg 26 )

As Mittenberg provinces in his article Jarry withUbu the Kingefforts to “destabilize the businessperson mentality.” The 19Thursdaycentury France socially is divided into three chief orders: the blue blood, the in-between category or the

businessperson, and the lower category. The power being in custodies of the blue blood deprives the lower category entirely out of the suited working and living conditions. The lower category suffered non merely from the deficiency of suited life installations but besides from necessary healthful. The in-between land was captivated by the businessperson who tried their best to acquire to the more blue life conditions. Jarry by qualifying the gluttonous Ubu mocks the businessperson, their destructive aspiration, and their deficiency of attention. Ubu as the representation of the in-between category inUbu the Kingputting to deaths Wencelas and seizes the throne. He invariably thinks about money, and as it is shown in act three he personally goes to the place of the provincials and asks for the revenue enhancement and viciously kills the 1s who resist in paying him money. He is even ab initio tempted into killing Wencelas by the thought of acquiring richer and taking an blue epicurean life.

However Ubu is a stupid, grotesque, greedy, and absurdly oppressive character, his creative activity signifies something more than these personal properties. He is an absurd character whose absurdness gives Jarry pleasance. “Talking about things apprehensible merely weighs down the head and falsifies the memory, but the absurd exercises the head and makes the head work.” Whether Jarry takes pleasance in the character of Ubu because of his absurdness is a affair of probe. This absurd Ubu does non solidify the head ; it, on the contrary, sets the head of its Godhead and the readers in gesture. To see to what extent this drama is absurd, the impression of absurdness must be applied onUbu the male


Ubu and the Absurd

Harmonizing to Martin Esslin’s influential bookThe Theater of the Absurdon the impression of absurdness in play, the impossibleness of communicating is one of the dogmas that could sort a drama as absurd. The communicating has been shed light otherwise in assorted landmark dramas of this type of theatre. Absurdity of this sort inUbu the Kingis similar toWaiting for Godotin that the major characters use linguistic communication in a staccato mode that resembles a machine instead than a human being. It is deserving adverting that Ubu the King is the extension of the drama that has been sketched during Jarry’s schooltimes as teamwork with his two friends Henri and Charles Morin. This study under the rubric ofLes Poloneishas been besides staged in the signifier of puppet. However, in instance ofUbu the King, the characters act in some scenes like marionettes, they reject being entirely like one and refused to set on a mask.

The symbolism inUbu the Kingis besides reconcilable with another component of the Theater of the Absurd. “By my green candle” is a symbolic phrase which is repeated by Ubu many times throughout the drama but it is non at all justified within the drama, or is excessively complicated to be comprehended. This component is besides present inWaiting for Godotin the signifier of a tree. The tree which is present from scene one makes it difficult to be related to the other objects or characters in the drama.

ComparingUbu the Kingwith the typical dramas of 19Thursdaycentury like dramas by Ibsen, the reader can happen some hints of unlogical elements which add to the absurdness of Jarry’s drama which are absent in the latter.

The fast-moving scenes and actions, being utmost at its best brand this drama nil but vanguard. For this ground and the incongruousness of the unlogical actions and the secret plan, many critics have regarded this drama as the earliest spring of Theater of the Absurd.

The other component of absurdness could be pinpointed in the genre of this drama. Whether this drama is a calamity or a comedy is a affair of inquiry. Using the impressions of grotesque put frontward by Jan KottUbu the Kingcould be classified in this class. Manuel L. Grossman in his essay “Alfred Jarry and the Theater of Absurd” defines the absurdness of the grotesquery of Ubu the King by adverting that the “distinction between comedy and tragedy” is broken down. While the comedy of the earlier times tend to utilize “comic agencies to comic ends” the tradition started with Jarry is to utilize “comic agencies to serious ends” that culminates in the plants of Beckett, Ionesco, and Pinter, to call a few.

Although the elements of the absurdist theatre are present inUbu the King, there are other influential societal factors at work at the clip of its production that makes this play vanguard of a certain context. These characteristics have been investigated in an essay by Lance Mekeel as U – Effects. By U – Effects Mekeel means the influencesUbu the Kinghad on the history of a new moving ridge in literature. To set it another manner, Mekeel implies that there are peculiar characteristics beyond the text ofUbu the Kingthat caused it to be recognized as the precursor of the Theater of the Absurd. The U-Effects, harmonizing to Mekeel, are divided into

three schemes. The first is the life manner of Jarry in which he identifies with Ubu to a great extent. Jarry became obsessed with his creative activity, to the point that he began to copy him, utilizing an uneven manner of speech production, mentioning to himself as “Pere Ubu, ” and acting in an bizarre mode have attracted critics attending. The following is “the capacity of the drama to shock, ” with its get downing word “mardree” and the violative usage of linguistic communication on the whole. The 3rd is the radical dramatic art that is evident in the signifier of the drama.

Mekeel focal points on the fact that bookmans have dismissed “the contingent contexts of 1896 Paris and 1910s proposing that this ignorance reveals the consequence of the ‘U-Effect’ on the modern-day scholarship.” The first production of “Ubu Roiat Lugne-Poe 's Theatre de l'CEuvre [ had ] provoked a dirt, ” ( Esslin 188 ) with the really first word “Mardree” poured out of Ubu’s oral cavity. In his demystification ofUbu the King, Mekeel goes on to province that the lifes written on Alfred Jarry made him favourable to analyze in 1920s. Furthermore the drape address Jarry carried out before the start of the first production shocked the audience. He was clothed in an unusual outfit, and talked in a confused manner. These all provoke nil but sense of daze and obfuscation in the audience. There were of import literary figures present among the witnesss such as W. B. Yeats who said of the drama “  fter Stephane Mallarme, after Paul Verlaine, after Gustave Moreau, after Puvis de Chavannes, after our ain poetry, after

all our elusive coloring material and nervous beat, after the swoon assorted shades of Conder, what more is possible? After us the Savage God.”


It is an undeniable fact thatUbu the Kingis structurally, and to some extent thematically absurd. Nonetheless it was the societal state of affairs and the reaction of the audience to the production of this drama that extensively makes it absurd. The production of this drama, on the other manus, is coincided with the usual transmutation and clumsiness of the fin-de-siecle. Whether to name it a precursor of the theatre of the absurd is merely rubing the surface ;Ubu the Kingis the drama of contradictions. It could hold been these really contradictions of the drama that were against the gustatory sensation of the late 19Thursdaycentury Gallic audience. Alfred Jarry was in assorted ways in front of his clip ; conveying up these contradictions and bring forthing laughter out of them was Jarry’s invention. Twentieth century Europe start to feel these contradictions and 21st century universe see them and populate with them in the flesh. Jarry declares that “laughter is born out of the find of the contradictory.” By saying this comment Jarry proves to be in front of his clip, examining the possibilities of staying by the antonyms. The contradictions are out at that place ; it might do the reader or the witness laugh the minute they are discovered.

Plants Cited

  1. Aspley, Keith.Historical Dictionary of Surrealism. Old line state: The Scarecrow Press, 2010. PDF.
  2. Esslin, Martin.The Theater of the Absurd. New York: Vintage Books, 1961. PDF.
  3. Fisher, Ben.The Pataphysician’s Library. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000. PDF.
  4. Jarry, Alfred.King Ubu.Trans.Patrick Whittaker. 2007. PDF.
  5. Lasser,

Jake. “Ubu and the Grotesque” . 2011. PDF

  • Mekeel, Lance.From Irreverent to Revered: How Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi and the “U-Effect” Changed Theater History.College of Bowling Green, 2013. PDF.
  • Mittenberg, Corey.Proto-Absurdist Strides and Leanings: Alfred Jarry’s Shakespearean Spirit in Ubu Roi. New York, 2007. PDF.
  • Neophytou-Georgio, Stamatia. “The defacing mirrors of power in the guess of immorality:
  • tyrants and autocrats in the theater of the twentieth century.” PDF.
  • Rajan, Kalyanee. “Analysing Shakespearian Adaptations in Modern European Absurdist Drama: Alfred Jarry’sUbu Roiand Eugene Ionesco’sMacbett.” Lapis Lazuli: 2013. PDF
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