Antonin Artaud: Theatre of Cruelty

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  • Topic: Theatre of Cruelty, Encyclopædia Britannica, Antonin Artaud
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  • Published : May 12, 2013
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Antonin Artaud: Theatre of Cruelty

Antonin Artaud’s most profound piece of work was not a poem, not a play, not an acting role, but a theory: Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty. He began to form his Theatre of Cruelty theory after learning of the Balinese theatre that seemed, to him, to share qualities with his ideas about theatre. Artaud held a great respect for Balinese theatre which revolves around dance and actions to convey meaning (Encyclopedia Britannica). More traditional theatre revolves around words to convey meaning. Artaud believed that the specificity of verbal interpretations got in the way of true meaning and that using physical gestures to express thoughts was more effective (Encyclopedia Britannica). He looked at drama as more of a physical act than a recitation of a script. The entire form of theatre, in his view, needed to be different to suit his new idea that the purpose of theatre was to express the cruelty of human beings (Encyclopedia Britannica). Artaud was very liberal in his ideas for this new theatre. He was specific in what he wanted out of the new theatre. He had many plans for how it would function and many dreams of the effect it would bring to it’s audiences as well as the art form as a whole.

Antonin Marie Artaud was born in 1846 in Marseille France to his Greek parents, Euphrasie Nalpas and Antoine-Roi Artaud. He was one of the two surviving children out of nine, but he was very ill. Many of his problems can be attributed to his early childhood illnesses and the way they were treated. As a child, Artaud suffered from meningitis of the brain, neuraligia, and clinical depression. Since he was an unhealthy child, he was treated with opium which began his life-long addiction. As a young man Artaud was smart, handsome, and capable. He wrote poetry, but his main focus was theatre. He also acted in plays and directed theatre. While he was never well-known, he gave his life up to writing and excelled at it. His aptitude for...
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