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Topics: Theatre of the Absurd, Edward Albee, The Zoo Story Pages: 9 (3437 words) Published: March 7, 2014


Essay on Edward Albee’s
The Zoo Story

By: Anas Ebrahim Mohammed
Faculty of Education – 4th year
English department – 2nd semester
Subject: Drama
Supervisor: Prof. Samia Abu-Alam

Contents:
American Drama in early 20th century
Introduction to Edward Albee
The Zoo Story
Plot
Characters and language
Setting
Themes

Introduction:
Although the United States' theatrical tradition can be traced back to the arrival of Lewis Hallam's troupe in the mid-18th century and was very active in the 19th century, as seen by the popularity of minstrel shows and of adaptations of Uncle Tom's Cabin, American drama attained international status only in the 1920s and 30s, with the works of Eugene O'Neill, who won three Pulitzer Prizes and the Nobel Prize. In the middle of the 20th century, American drama was dominated by the work of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Later American playwrights of importance include Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Wendy Wasserstein and August Wilson. Albee’s very first play, The Zoo Story, performed in 1959, was less expressionistic than some of his other early plays, but no less political in its criticism of the American way of life. The play’s genius is the way in which it manages to curry our sympathy for the aggressive Jerry and to deflect it from the mild-mannered Peter. the zoo is, of course, America, where half live like human beings and the other half live like animals. The Zoo Story has been called ‘‘the most impressive debut ever made by an American dramatist’’ (Bigsby 2000: 129). Like the Absurdist’s, he believes that man has lost his faith in everything, yet there is some hope in Albee’s, in man’s ability to face his true condition and thus his salvation. The “Theatre of the Absurd” is a term coined by Hungarian-born critic Martin Esslin, who made it the title of his 1962 book on the subject. The term refers to a particular type of play which first became popular during the 1950s and 1960s and which presented on stage the philosophy articulated by French philosopher Albert Camus in his 1942 essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, in which he defines the human condition as basically meaningless. Camus argued that humanity had to resign itself to recognizing that a fully satisfying rational explanation of the universe was beyond its reach; in that sense, the world must ultimately be seen as absurd. The playwrights loosely grouped under the label of the absurd attempt to convey their sense of bewilderment, anxiety, and wonder in the face of an inexplicable universe. Whereas traditional theatre attempts to create a photographic representation of life as we see it, the Theatre of the Absurd aims to create a ritual-like, mythological, archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams. The focal point of these dreams is often man's fundamental bewilderment and confusion, stemming from the fact that he has no answers to the basic existential questions: why we are alive, why we have to die, why there is injustice and suffering. Ionesco defined the absurdist everyman as “Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots … lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless.” The Theatre of the Absurd, in a sense, attempts to reestablish man’s communion with the universe. Dr. Jan Culik writes, “Absurd Theatre can be seen as an attempt to restore the importance of myth and ritual to our age, by making man aware of the ultimate realities of his condition, by instilling in him again the lost sense of cosmic wonder and primeval anguish. The Absurd Theatre hopes to achieve this by shocking man out of an existence that has become trite, mechanical and complacent. It is felt that there is mystical experience in confronting the limits of human condition.” One of the most important aspects of absurd drama is its distrust of language as a means of communication. Language, it seems to say, has become nothing but a...
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