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Antonin Artaud And The Theatre Of Cruelty English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1081 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Antonin was born 30 September 1896 in Marseille, France. He was an actor, Drama theorist and French poet. His theory of drama was something he called the Manifesto of the Theatre of Cruelty. His own plays were flops, but his theories were a great influence on playwrights of the theatre of the absurd. He wrote Surrealist poetry and acted in Surrealist productions in Paris. His theory of drama was something he called the Manifesto of the Theatre of Cruelty. Lifelong mental illness confined himless about Antonin periodically to asylums from 1936.

He was the putted into long series of sanatorium which were both prolonged and expensive. Aataud went on with this for five years. He was the taken to join the French army but later realized because of his sleep walking disorder.

Artaud in March 1920 moved to Paris to start a career as a writer and instead he realized he had a talent for avant-garde theatre. He trained and performed with the most acclaimed directors of the day, George Pitoeff and Charles Dullin. He continued writing both poetry and essays.

Antonin Artaud and the “Theatre of Cruelty”

Antonin Artaud explains on how he came about with the word “cruelty” for his theory, he said it is a consequence of an act: everything that acts is a cruelty. He goes on saying it is upon this idea of extreme action, pushed beyond limits, that theatre must be rebuilt.

In a letter To Mr. R. de R., dated Paris, November 16, 1932, Artaud writes:

“Cruelty connects things together; the different stages of creation are formed by it. Good is always an external façade but the inner façade is evil. Evil will eventually be reduced but only at the final moment when all forms are on the point of returning to chaos. “Artaud explained cruelty in other words such as terror, danger and violence. He wanted that a punishment of sorts be visited through the spectator-a beneficent punishment. Artaud form of theatre was not punishment but a way of showing people the reality of the world. Things that happened around them, things they were aware of some not aware of them. So Artaudby coming up with the theory he was creating a platform where a director can be able to show things as they are without having to shield the spectator. Bermel write that: “life has in it a lot of ugliness and evil, which are both natural and man-made. Instead of shielding spectators from their impact he would expose them, put them through the experience of a danger and then free them from it.”

There are three features of the Theatre of Cruelty:

1.it does not involve physical or spiritual maltreatment as the words suggest, but rather, it artistically expresses what he calls in different places the “rigor,” “necessity” or “implacability” of theatre and life.

2.This theatre draws on the individual dreams and the collective dreams, or the myths, of all men. It will provide each spectator with the truth of the subconscious, in which a taste for crime, erotic obsessions, ability of being cruel, fear, idealistic sense of life and matter, and even his cannibalism, pour out as honest feelings.

3.Theatre of cruelty works deeply, on the nerves and senses, rather than on the intellect, and because it gives a negative effect on anxieties common to all men, the Theatre of Cruelty is aimed at a general public. The poetic state of feeling such a theatre goes beyond the experience of life for everybody.

He saw it as a popular, non-religious theatre that gave an extraordinary idea of a “nation’s intellectual level, which takes the struggle of a soul as prey to the spectres as phantoms of the Other World to be the basis for its civic festivals.” [68] The Balinese Theatre sets up vibrations, not on a single level that follows what is going on in the drama, but on every level of the mind at once. In its fixedness and in its power to evoke wonder, it has affinities with a religious ceremony, a rite. And, like a rite, it can be participated in by anybody, not just a select group of the brightest or best-informed people. It is popular theatre.

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“The Balinese Theatre gives us an impression of pure theatre in the sense that it does away with the playwright, that behind the organizer of this wonderful collection of stage displays, one does not feel the presence of a certain number of themes introduced by what in modern Western theatre generally corresponds to the author. Instead we feel this organizer, or if you like producer, his or his own author, his own creator, working with exclusively objective stage means. “(www.cyberpaged.com/theatreblogs)

He believed that the only salvation for humans and its societywas theatre working as its doubles

Artaud believed that the only salvation for mankind and society as it was theatre working as one of its doubles, to show the world of its violence and ugliness. If we can think freely, let our mind make the connections freely, without thinking of the ugliness on the underside. Body language was very important because he wanted his actors to transmit feelings or ideas in a metaphoric way; almost without speaking. This kind of theatre didn’t have many supporters or followers. But this doesn’t mean that Antonin’s theatre was irrelevant; despite of all, it left its mark and inspired many modern writers like Grotowsky, who took some ideas -like avoiding the scene decoration- from “Theatre of Cruelty Manifesto”, to create his own style: “Poor Theatre.

Evidently, cruelty was the main element in every spectacle, and by cruelty he meant a very violent representation of reality; because life itself was cruel. So he intended to transmit everyday situations in an exaggerated way so audience go out of their comfort and understand their helplessness in front of conventional attitudes and high class living.

Antonin Artaud was considered retarded by many people. The way he used theatre to bring the reality of our living to life was rather very strange and too much for theatre. He wanted the audience to get the sense of what was going on around them and get to know things that would be hidden from them or censored.”The mind believes what it sees and does what it believes” (www.cyberpaged.com/Artaud) that is the secret of fascination.


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