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A comedy of anguish: a study of the plays of Eugene Ionesco

Stokes, William Philip Harvey (1978) A comedy of anguish: a study of the plays of Eugene Ionesco. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The antithetical title A Comedy of Anguish has been selected to represent the ironic manner and tone in which Ionesco has sought to release from his subconscious fears, fears common to humanity in every age. His unmitigated anguish serves as a reminder of the consequences of that scientific discovery, made long before Nietzsche’s cry "God is dead", that we are confined to the limits of time and hence desperately need to relate to a substitute for the Almighty, beyond those limits. Confronted with this dilemma, he continues to be suggesting, from La Cantatrice chauve to L’Homme aux valises, we need to reconsider our concepts of culture and reality itself. This scepticism is reflected in the theatrical experience which he conceives of as being therapeutic and non-utilitarian. In his choice of themes (chapter l), he reduces his material to fundamentals, attaching overwhelming significance to personal anecdotes, dreams and the irrational as these alone appear to him to be representative of mankind as a whole. He rejects the forces of rationalism as essentially perverted. "Marionettes" for the most part replace conventional characters (chapter 3), whilst causal necessities of plot are abandoned in favour of a rhythm of proliferation (chapter k) and language based on rational logic is dismissed as the prerogative of concierges and corrupt politicians (chapter 5). Moreover, far from being dependent on any literary text, these plays have evocatively exploited all the resources of stagecraft (chapter 6). Long after the iconoclasm of the early 1950’s; his plays continue to enjoy success. His pessimism, traditionally associated with humorists, has not wained, nor has the consistency of his thought. Within a concise thematic framework he has retained a child-like simplicity and sense of exaggeration, best suited to express the latent paradoxes and aspirations of the contemporary age.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1978
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:44

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