Existentialism is a concept that became popular during the second World War in
France, and just after it. French playrights have often used the stage to
express their views, and these views came to surface even during a Nazi
occupation. Bernard Shaw got his play "Saint Joan" past the German censors
because it appeared to be very Anti-British. French audiences however
immediately understood the real meaning of the play, and replaced the British
with the Germans. Those sorts of "hidden meanings" were common throughout the
period so that plays would be able to pass censorship.
Existentialism proposes that man is full of anxiety and despare with no meaning
in his life, just simply existing, until he made decisive choice about his own
future. That is the way to achieve dignity as a human being. Existentialists
felt that adopting a social or political cause was one way of giving purpose to
a life. Sartre is well known for the "Theatre engage" or Theatre 'committed
which is supposedly committed
to social and/or political action.
On of the major playwrights during this period was Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre had
been imprisoned in Germany in 1940 but managed to escape, and become one of the
leaders of the Existential movement. Other popular playwrights were Albert Camus,
and Jean Anouilh. Just like Anouilh, Camus accidentally became the spokesman for
the French Underground when he wrote his famous essay, "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" or
"The Myth of Sisyphus". Sisyphus was the man condemned by the gods to roll a
rock to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down again. For Camus,
this related heavily to everyday life, and he saw Sisyphus an "absurd" hero,
with a pointless existence
. Camus felt that it was necessary to wonder what the
meaning of life was, and that the human being longed for some sense of clarity
in the world, since "if the world were clear, art would not exist". "The Myth of
Sisyphus" became a prototype for existentialism in the... [continues]
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