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Dig Deeper: Samuel Beckett

“We are all born mad. Some remain so.” 

– Samuel Beckett 

Beckett Bites: A Villanova Theatre Production 

Villanova Theatre’s newest production, Beckett Bites, is here. Beckett Bites is a collection of four short plays by Samuel Beckett, directed by Edward Sobel, and running Nov. 414 in the Court Theatre at the brand-new John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. There are four plays comprising Beckett Bites: “Play,” “Footfalls,” “Rockaby,” and “Come and Go.”

The play is described by Villanova Theatre as follows: “As we reemerge from a world defined by screen interactions to rejoin each other in shared space, we return with Beckett Bites, four short plays by the modern theatre’s greatest existential clown. Samuel Beckett’s plays exquisitely capture the powerful longing for connection, the inexorable nature of time, and the sheer absurdity of being human. In this deftly curated collection of four short works, audiences will imaginatively progress from isolation to the communal experience of live performance, alternately laughing at the ridiculous and glimpsing the sublime. “

Dig Deeper into Beckett Bites

Theatre of the Absurd 

The theatre of the absurd describes the post-WW2 designation of plays that focus on absurdist fiction. Late 1950s European playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, as well Harold Pinter, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov, amongst others, alluded to the question of “why are we all here?” The four main features of the Theatre of the Absurd are anti-character, anti-language, anti-drama, and anti-plot. In addition, read below for more characteristics and themes of the Theatre of the Absurd.  

CHARACTERISTICS OF THEATRE OF THE ABSURD 

  • Situations and characters’ emotional states may be represented through poetic metaphor (dreamlike, fantastical, or nightmarish images). 
  • The notion of realism is rejected: situations and characters are not “realistic” and characters are often placed in unreal situations. 
  • Set and costumes may not reflect an outward reality. 
  • Dialogue is often nonsensical, clichéd, or gibberish. 
  • Communication is fractured. 
  • There is usually an emphasis on “theatricality” as opposed to realism. 
  • Absurdist playwrights often use dark comedy for satiric effect. 
  • Characters exist in a bubble without the possibility of communication. 
  • Characters may be one-dimensional, with no clear motivation or purpose. 
  • Characters may be symbolic of universal situations. 
  • Behavior and situations may not follow the rules of logic. 
  • Structure may be circular, without a precise resolution. 
  • Action may be minimal. 
  • Setting of the play may be in one locale. 
  • Often characters perceive a threat from the “outside,” leading to a sense of powerlessness. 

THEMES OF THEATRE OF THE ABSURD 

  • Isolation of human existence in a world without God 
  • Lack of communication between individuals 
  • Dehumanization in a commercial world 
  • Social disparity 
  • Life without purpose or examination 
  • Class difference/the haves and have nots 
  • Loneliness 
  • Fear of the disenfranchised 

(Beckett Bites Education Guide, 2021) 

Dig Deeper into the Theatre of the Absurd 

Still want to learn more about the Theatre of the Absurd? Check out the following Falvey offerings: 

About Samuel Beckett 

Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. Beckett wrote in both English and French, being born in Ireland, but spending the majority of his adult life in France. He is a playwright known outside of the field of theatre, primarily for his most famous work Waiting for Godot. As a member of the Theatre of the Absurd, Beckett often explored themes such as the passage of time and utilized repetition and silence to emphasize key ideas. 

Dig Deeper into Samuel Beckett 

Still want to learn more about Samuel Beckett or read some of his works? Check out the following Falvey offerings: 


jenna newman headshotJenna Renaud is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library.


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Last Modified: November 4, 2021