THE CHAIRS. A Tragic Farce. The Characters. OLD MAN, aged OLD WOMAN, aged THE ORATOR, aged 45 to And many other characters. SCENE. The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco. Translated by Donald Allen. Directed by Frederíque Michel. Production Design by Charles Duncombe. July 24— September The Chairs – Absurd Drama 1 By: SABA NAZ A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE THEATRE OF ABSURD WITH THE REFERENCE OF THE CHAIRS BY IONESCO .
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video intro to the chairs life of ionesco ionesco timeline ionesco & comedy silent movies creative team Teacher Evaluation Form .pdf). Student Evaluation. Theatre Company staging of The Chairs by Eugène Ionesco, in a new adaptation by Ionesco's play The Chairs is one of the plays central to what is called the. by Eugène Ionesco staging of midth-century French playwright Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs is probably Download The Chairs Script raudone.info ( PDF).
He also indulges in the fantastic illusions he and his wife create to escape from reality, and though he claims his life has been well lived, he clearly regrets not having taken up with Belle. Moreover, he has been a neglectful parent and son, abandoning his dying mother and failing his son, who called his parents responsible for his departure. His final touch of irresponsibility is his inability to deliver the message himself as he relies on the Orator.
The Old Man is also bored of his repetitive existence. He has told the same story to his wife every night for their seventy-five married years, and his day is filled with routine. Life is so cyclical for him, in fact, that he seems to be confused about his age. Though he is ninety-five years old, he defers tremendously to his superiors and, moreover, is infantile. He sobs on his wife's lap - whom in fickle fits he calls his "Mamma" and then decides she is not the Mamma. He calls himself an orphan, though he is the one who abandoned his mother.
This confusion over beginnings and endings is understandable, since he cannot even recall the details of when he and his wife were cast out of a garden years ago - an allusion to the Garden of Eden, another prominent ending of one godly world and initiation into a human world. Ultimately, we can view the Old Man as Ionesco's projection of his own literary frustrations.
Ionesco has similarly toiled on his message, built from his life and philosophy, and the actors - or the Orator - do not understand his work, rendering it meaningless. On the other hand, the Old Man is an irresponsible coward, afraid and unable to deliver his message himself, and Ionesco may be launching a self-critique.
She plays the role of his surrogate parent, rocking him on her knees while he sobs about his orphanhood.
She pulls him back from the window when he leans over too far. She praises him for his stories, imitations, and mental faculties. She is his workhorse, getting chairs and selling programs. But underneath this calming exterior is a woman who is deeply unhappy with what her life has become. She asks him to tell stories so she can forget the repetitive nature of their existence.
She doses herself with salt each night so she loses the memory of the story, which is more extreme evidence of her need to escape, as is her participation in their fantasy world of imaginary characters.
Her loss of memory is much like the characters in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot lose their memory of the previous day.
Eugene Ionesco Plays PDF
For every time she praises her husband, she reminds him that he could have been more in life had he tried harder. Her sexual frustrations emerge, as well, when she is taken by the Colonel's kissing her hand and, more explicitly, when she flirts with the Photo-engraver and makes obscene gestures. In her conversation with the Photo-engraver, she is really talking to her husband and defending her age and beauty against his flirtations with the invisible Belle.
The Old Woman also harbors much pain over their son's departure. While the story does not make much sense, as the boy accused them of killing birds, his final words - "It's you who are responsible" summarize the woman's and man's irresponsible life, in which they take little accountability for the past and try to escape the present.
While she chastises her husband for not owning up to his fights with family and friends, she is also implicitly guilty, and her suicide with her husband is a retreat from death, from a direct and responsible confrontation with it.
Orator The Orator is a virtual actor. He is dressed the part as an ostentatious artist, he signs autographs, and he skims past the crowd as if only he exists. This is almost true, literally, since everyone else but the Old Man and Old Woman are invisible, but he believes they are all there.
The Old Man has put all his hopes into the Orator's delivery of his "message", since the Old Man cannot express himself well. But the Orator turns out to be deaf and dumb, and the message, as both spoken and written words, is unintelligible. The reason for this is because the Old Man has not taken responsibility for his life and for the delivery of the message, and thus the message becomes irrationally absurd, but Ionesco probably intended another meaning. As an emerging playwright, Ionesco was most likely frustrated with actors and productions that failed to understand and convey his work.
The Orator, then, is the actor who bumbles the work, mismatching his pleasant face and voice with the difficult words.
But Ionesco could also be criticizing himself for allowing the Orator - or actors - to deliver his work in the first place. The Old Man is cowardly and worships the godly Orator, and Ionesco may find himself at fault for allowing incompetents to handle his plays. Themes The repetitive present and inaccessible past The Old Man and Old Woman are stuck in a repetitive existence, retelling the same story and performing the same imitations day after day - even the water around their island is stagnant.
The man can hardly even advance his story, rarely getting past "Then at last we arrived", which is itself a conflation of an ending and a beginning that circles around itself. In fact, they are not entirely sure what does come next. When the man resumes the story, after having remembered they were in Paris, he says "at the end of the end of the city of Paris, there was, there was, was what?
But perhaps a previous comment the man has made sheds some light. Giving an explanation for why the sky gets darker earlier now, he says "the further one goes, the deeper one sinks. It's because the earth keeps turning around, around, around, around" The revolutions - of earth and of a repetitive existence - grind the couple into deathly routines, cyclical actions that inch them closer to death as they seek ways to create some excitement in their lives.
The man, especially, is such a prisoner of this repetition that he is at times infantile, belying his ninety-five years, and calls his wife his mother, and father, at one point. His confusion over beginnings and endings - whether he is a child or old man - and finds some roots in his story, which is about being cast out of a garden. The reference is to the Garden of Eden, and since he cannot remember mankind's initiation into the real world and expulsion from a godly one, it helps explain his confusion over lesser beginnings and endings.
In this never-ending present-tense cycle, the man and woman both try to access a past that is now beyond reach. The woman even takes a dose of salt each night, she says, to erase her memory of her husband's story, while the man expresses his distaste for history. More than that, they both regret the course their lives have taken. She continually reminds her husband that he could have had a better occupation had he been more ambitious, a notion he derides, as he is already the "general factotum" of their house.
While the woman flirts with the Photo-engraver, the man has a deeper attachment to Belle, waxing poetic about their lost chance at romance. When he says, "I loved you, I love you", it is clear he has not given up on her and wishes he could change his past. Much like the tramps in Beckett's Waiting for Godot and the old couple in Beckett's Happy Days, the couple in The Chairs is trapped in a repetitive prison with their best days either behind them or completely forgotten.
Responsibility and a meaningful life Ionesco was one of the founders of Theatre of the Absurd, the French postwar theatrical movement. Above all, the existentialists believed man's condition in the universe was absurd - beyond human rationality - and therefore meaningless.
Only by committing oneself responsibly to a greater good, they thought, could a life have meaning. The old man in The Chairs certainly aims for this; he feels his life of suffering will have meaning once he communicates his message and saves humanity. But when the Orator finally delivers the message, it comes out garbled, nonsensical, irrational - in other words, it is absurd. The failure of the message can be attributed to the fact that the old man did not take responsibility through his life.
Most notably, in the play we see him and his wife create an illusory world so they can escape from the real one. Escape marks the man's character for much of his life. He denies being in the wrong in his rifts with his brother and someone named Carel, and his double suicide with his wife is another form of escape. The existentialists believed that taking responsibility in life meant accepting death as inevitable, confronting it rather than shying away from it.
But suicide, most of their literature suggests, is not a confrontation but a retreat. The only part of the Orator's message that makes any sense is something he writes on the blackboard that looks like "Adieu, Papa". Whether this is intentional is unclear - the blackboard sequence was not even in the original production, making the message all the more cryptic - it does recall what the couple's son said to them before he left: "It's you who are responsible".
The parting shot has a double meaning; the parents are responsible for his departure, and it's also an ironic comment since they are not, in fact, responsible.
The man denies they even had a son, another form of irresponsibility, but he does own up to his cruel abandonment of his dying mother, though his wife refutes this. Finally, a more immediate reason behind the message's irrationality is the man's irresponsibility in the actual delivery. He fears he cannot express himself well, so he doles out the responsibility of conveying the message to the Orator.
Motifs Self-conscious theatricality The Theatre of the Absurd is known for its innovative use of self-conscious dramatic techniques. In Ionesco's Rhinoceros, for example, a character recommends the plays of Ionesco.
The Chairs is ripe for this, since the stage can be seen as another auditorium, filled with chairs for an audience. When the old man introduces himself before the message is to be delivered, and thanks everyone involved in the evening - the crowd, the Orator, the organizers, the construction workers, the technicians, and writers of the programs - it bears more than a passing resemblance to the way a playwright might thank everyone involved in a production of a play.
The old man, especially, is much like a playwright; not only he has toiled over his "message", culled from his life and his philosophy, but he is a storyteller and an illusionist, crafting characters with his wife out of thin air.
The Orator, then, would be an actor, someone who merely delivers the lines the man has written. The failure of the garbled message may be Ionesco's charge that actors ruin his work, and that they do not understand it and render it unintelligible.
On the other hand, the old man is a coward, not taking responsibility for many things, among them delivering his own message. The Orator's failure, then, may be a self-criticism of his inability to deliver the message on his own. Symbols Semicircular stage Ionesco's semicircular stage design evokes one of the main themes of The Chairs, that the present is circular and repetitive.
But the semicircle is just that - a half-circle. While the complete half can be seen as the present that the couple must circle around endlessly, the missing half is the inaccessible past. Part One: Beginning until end of story Summary An Old Man and an Old Woman both in their 90s, hereafter referred to as "man" and "woman", are on a semicircular stage in dim light.
Two empty chairs are downstage center and doors line the curved wall, including a large double door in the rear center, and two nearly hidden doors next to them. There are two windows with two nearby stools and a hanging gas lamp. The woman lights the lamp, and the light turns green.
She walks over to the man and tells him to close the window to keep out the mosquitoes and the bad smell of stagnant water. He tells her to leave him alone, but she reminds him that Franois I fell into the water. He disdains French history and says he wants to watch the boats on the water, but she says that he cannot, as it is nighttime. He leans out further, but she pulls him in, and he relents. She says she gets dizzy from being on their island house with water all around them.
The man remembers when it would not get dark until late at night, but now it is dark at six o'clock. The woman asks why it has changed, and he answers that "the further one goes, the deeper one sinks. It is because the earth keeps turning around, around, around, around" She praises his intellect, and says he could have had a powerful occupation, if he had any ambition.
He scoffs at the notion of a "better" life, and says he has the "general factotum" of their house, or someone who serves a wide range of capacities.
He complains of boredom, and she suggests they "making believe", as he did another night. They argue about whose "turn" it is to make believe, and he ends it by calling her "Semiramis" and telling her to drink her tea - of which there is none.
She asks him to imitate the month of February, and he scratches his head like Stan Laurel, a popular comedian of the Laurel and Hardy team. She applauds and hugs him. She asks him to tell the story that begins "Then at last we arrived," but he is tired of it - he is told it to her and also imitated people and months every night of the seventy-five years they have been married.
She says his life fascinates her, and even though she has heard the story so many times, she takes a dose of salt each night to erase her memory of the story. She begs him to tell the story. He tells about how they arrived at a big fence to a garden eighty years ago, soaked and frozen from months in the rain. There was a path that led to a square and church in a village, but he can't remember which village it was. Neither can she, and when he thinks it was called Paris, she says that place never existed.
He says it must have, since it collapsed , years ago. All that remains is a lullaby called "Paris will always be Paris". She praises him again, then after a pause he continues, and they both increasingly laugh in the telling. He speaks about a bare-bellied "idiot" who arrived with a trunk full of rice, and then the rice spilled and the idiot fell to the ground as they laughed.
The woman remembers how they laughed, and she repeats phrases from the story, and they both laugh and repeat the phrases, until they calm down and alternate the words "arrived" and "aughed" from "laughed". Analysis Ionesco's semicircular stage design immediately evokes images that develop a main theme of The Chairs: the present is circular and repetitive. The man and woman lead static lives, retelling the same ritualistic story every night, even the water around their island is "stagnant".
The exact details of where they are and how they ended up there - apparently as the remaining survivors in some kind of postapocalyptic world - are not as important as the comment Ionesco makes on old age. When one has lived for so long, one is cut off from the outside world, and each day melts into the next - until it doesn't seem like the "next" anymore.
Consider the opening sentence of the man's story: "Then at last we arrived". First, he repeats the sentence each time he resumes the story, so in a sense he never advances but also returns in cyclical fashion - it even closes out the story. Second, the wording reveals its own circularity. The phrase starts off with a seeming progression in time "Then" , but combines an ending "at last" with a beginning "arrived". The end and beginning are fused, and the sentence is not an advancing "Then" but a repetitive "Then".
The nonsensical story, too, is itself repetitive, but we do not know where these repetitions lead.
The man's explanation as to why it now gets dark earlier provides a poignant answer: "the further one goes, the deeper one sinks. It's because the earth keeps turning around, around, around, around" These cycles, he implies, lead them down into the earth, into a deathly, dark burial. Complicating the man and woman's view of the present is their relationship to the past.
The woman willfully loses her memory each night, much like the tramps in Beckett's Waiting for Godot, lose their memory of the previous day, though not necessarily on purpose. Cut off from the past, life is even more circular, spinning around on its present-tense axis like the rotating earth. While the man does not voluntarily erase his memories, he does not heed history, as suggested by his shrugging off the story of Franois I. As in Waiting for Godot, and Beckett's play Happy Days, the two stranded characters are co-dependent, each having nothing but conversation with the other to keep himself from stultifying boredom.
The man and woman, however, maintain a less rancorous relationship than the characters in the other plays. The man's name for his wife - "Semiramis" - is an allusion on his part to the legendarily beautiful 9th-century B.
However, it could also mean "half-branch". Read this way, the woman completes the branch for him or, more saliently, together they form a complete jaw. In other words, together they have the capacity for speech, the ability to withstand loneliness through communication. Part Two: From end of man's story until the second guest Summary The Old Woman praises the Old Man for his story and says he could have been more in life than a general factotum. He says they should be content, and when she suggests he has "spoiled his career", he makes nonsense words, calls her "Mamma" and himself an "orphan".
She tries to comfort him, but he says she is not his mamma. She rocks him on her knees as he sobs and says she is his wife and mamma, but he insists he is an orphan. After she chimes in with nonsense words of her own and tells him his mother is in heaven and can hear him - a claim he does not believe - he calms down when she reminds him that guests are coming, and he must deliver his message to them. He is energized by the anticipation of his message "to mankind". He considers himself unique in life, since he has an ideal and is gifted.
She agrees, but says he would have done better had he gotten along with others, such as his brother. He defends himself, retelling an insult his brother made. She asks why he got angry with Carel and he warns her she will make him angry, and then retells Carel's insult.
She lists a few occupations he could have had, and then there is a long, rigid silence. The man dreamily recalls that at the end of the garden "there was" She declares "Paris! She agrees, since he has a message he must reveal to mankind, and that all it takes is to have one's mind made up, since ideas come in speech.
He says he will not speak, as he has hired a professional Orator who will speak in his name. He has invited all the property owners and intellectuals - and anyone who is at all intellectual or proprietary, which means everyone - for the oration tonight. He feels that, thanks to her and the Orator, he can relieve his lifelong suffocation by communicating the message to everyone. She suggests putting off the meeting, as it might be fatiguing.
He turns around her with clipped, hesitant steps, then asks if she really thinks it will be tiring, and how he could call it off.
She tells him to call and invite them all for another evening, but he says it is too late - they have already embarked. They hear a boat approaching, and the doorbell rings. As they walk to the concealed door, the woman frets about her appearance.
Hidden from view, they open the door and close it after having shown someone in. We hear them introduce themselves to the guest and help her put away her coat. They re-enter, and leave space for the Lady - who is invisible. They carry on a casual conversation with her - the audience hears only their words - and the man exits through a door to get her a chair. The woman tells the Lady to sit on one of the chairs present, and she sits at the other one and compliments the Lady's fan.
The man returns with another chair and sits on it opposite the woman, with the Lady between them. They listen to her speak, and the woman responds by saying her husband might be able to alleviate her concerns with something he will tell her.
He tells her it is not time yet. They smile and laugh at a story the Lady tells, then agree and disagree with what she has said until they both laugh again at her charm. He picks up an invisible object the Lady has dropped but, being younger, she gets to it first.
He laments his age, and the woman comments on his sincerity. They smile, listen to the Lady, and reply to her inquiries about their lives: he is not misanthropic, but merely likes solitude; he fills his time with the radio, fishing and, on clear nights, the moon; there is regular boat service; until ten years ago they received visits from their remaining family; and the man devotes two hours per day to working on his message. Analysis The man and woman's "conversation" with the invisible Lady hints that all their guests will similarly arrive in their minds.
While the man's story he always retells is a ritual that, in making life bearable, also drives the couple closer to death, their imaginary conversation is more than that: it is an illusion they have created that tries to make their lives meaningful.
Ionesco was a prominent playwright of the Theatre of the Absurd, the French postwar theatrical movement that was closely allied with existentialist philosophy.
The existentialists believed man's condition in the universe was absurd beyond human rationality - and meaningless. The only way for a life to have meaning was to commit responsibly to something beyond the self. In Ionesco's play Rhinoceros, a man overturns his apathetic, irresponsible life by committing himself to saving humanity.
It appears that the old man's "message" is an attempt to do the same thing, and the play's tension is over what the message will be. The woman seems to uphold this existentialist argument when she tells the man that needs only to have his mind made up, and the ideas will come through his words. She believes that with a mental commitment, he will attain some kind of meaning. However, her argument is circular, and she wonders how we can make up our mind before the ideas have entered into it.
The man's anxiety over his actual communication and whether he will even be able to communicate, then, is an additional tension in the play. His reliance on the Orator to deliver the message can be viewed as a self-conscious move by Ionesco, as he, too, relies on actors to speak his words. The Lady, as a fiction of the man and woman's minds, is also a character whose dialogue and actions they "write". Self-conscious techniques were used frequently in the Theatre of the Absurd, generally as ways to keep the audience honest; they were reminded that what they were watching was not an escape, but an artificial representation of life.
In Rhinoceros, for instance, one character recommends the plays of Ionesco. In The Chairs, Ionesco uses self-consciousness more subtly and for a more personal effect, as a comment on himself as a frustrated playwright. This theme will grow more important as the play continues. The man's continuation of the story that repeats words and dangles into nothingness - "at the end of the end there was, there was, was what?
He keeps inching closer to the end, but never reaches it, just as they keep inching closer and closer to death with each passing moment but never reach it. His faulty memory again means that the past is inaccessible and all he knows is the cyclical present. That they were cast out of a garden is also an explicit Biblical reference to Eden, the event that began mankind's life in the real world. But the old man cannot remember this well, so even the most momentous beginning is blurry.
A further fusion of beginnings and endings comes out in the old man's character. At times he is senile, as his spotty memory indicates, but at other times he is child-like, sitting on his wife's lap and sobbing for his mother. The woman's status as his wife and confirms her name of Semiramis, the wife and mother of Nimrod in 9th-century B. Part Three: From after second guest arrives until the room is filled Summary The doorbell rings. The Old Man tells the Old Woman to get another chair, and he opens the second door on the wall while she hobbles toward one of the concealed doors.
He formally greets an invisible Colonel, stumbling over his words. While the man recounts a war story to the Colonel, the woman reprimands the Colonel for dropping cigarette butts on their floor. She enlists her husband in her argument against the Colonel. The doorbell rings and the man goes to answer it, but knocks over the invisible chair of the Lady.
The woman leaves to find a chair, exiting and entering through different doors, while the man greets Belle, an elderly friend of his who was once beautiful, d her husband, a Photo-engraver.
He tells the woman to find another chair; she does and sets them both down. The woman receives a gift of a painting from the photo-engraver. She calls him "Doctor" and complains of several ailments until the man reminds her he is a photo-engraver. She says it doesn't matter, as he's so charming.
The man and the woman sit back to back and talk to Belle and the photo-engraver, respectively. He says he is flattered, and that he loved her years ago, but there has been a change. The woman repeats "Oh! Sir" to the photo-engraver. The man and woman carry on their conversations.
The woman defies the photo-engraver's expectations about her age and sexuality and makes increasingly sexual gestures.
The woman says the photo-engraver flatters her for calling her youthful-looking. The man speaks poetically of their cowardice in not partaking of their love, while the woman gets tickled by the photo-engraver and continues flirting with him. The man tells Belle that Semiramis has taken the place of his mother, and the woman expresses amazement at the photo- engraver's belief that one can have children at any age.
The man tells Belle that his message has sustained him through the years, and the woman tells the photo-engraver that she has never betrayed her husband. She says she is "only his poor mamma," then sobs, and tells him to find someone else. The man and woman seat Belle and her husband next to the other two guests, and then sit down on the opposite ends and listen to the conversations. The woman recalls how their son accused them of killing birds, though they refuted this, then left them as he said, "It's you who are responsible".
The man remembers how he let his mother die alone in a ditch. The woman says for them not to speak to her husband about their son, as he himself was a perfect son and his parents died in his arms.
They speak clipped sentences to their guests, then the doorbell rings and the man lets in a handful of newspapermen while his wife gets more chairs. In the chaotic atmosphere, they try to accommodate the guests. The doorbell rings again and the man lets in more guests, including a small child he leads by the hand.
He thinks the child will be bored by the lecture, and then introduces the new guests and their children to his wife. While they get acquainted, the doorbell rings several more times, and the man scrambles to let them in through all doors but the center one while the woman fills up the room with chairs. The woman starts hawking invisible programs in the packed room as the man seats the standing guests. From the dais he announces that there are no chairs left, but is jostled by the milling crowd.
He and the women are pushed to the stools, which are by the windows at the opposite sides of the room. Unable to see each other, they call over and verify their positions. The woman makes chit-chat with the guests while the man discusses exploitation of man, dignity, and more abstract topics, such "I am the one in the other". The woman echoes or nearly echoes other statements of his - he has suffered and learned much, and only if his instructions are carried out can they save they the world.
Analysis The man and woman's regrets over the path their lives have taken dominate this section, and cement the idea that the past is inaccessible. While the man stands up for his wife against the Colonel, it is obvious that the man and woman both love Belle and the photo-engraver, respectively, and are hung up on the past - the man even says "I loved you, I love you". But the past is more difficult to change than his quick verb-tense change suggests. While the semicircular stage design is necessary to integrate the audience into the action, it also serves as a symbolically incomplete circle.
The complete half can be seen as the present that the couple must circle around endlessly, while the missing half is the inaccessible past. Is communication and interaction of any benefit?
The characters live in extreme situations where the fabric of their reality has been ripped apart. For many sensitive men, the world has lost its meaning and simply ceased to make sense, the foundations of hope and logic collapsed.
World War I, II affected the absurd writers a lot with addition of their family background, and childhood experiences of isolation, develop their concept that man was the architect of his own destruction. There seems an endless popular fascination that how as a species we meet our end. It happened to the dinosaurs over 65 million years ago, so why should we feel so safe?
The Chairs — Absurd Drama 4 By: Husband and wife play the role of parent and child as well.
The only sure thing of life is that we will die and we just clocking time until then. The setting of absurd dramas is non-specific, barren wastelands, with no sense of domesticity or familiarity, no contemporary furniture and props, but a nameless, placeless, cold and unfamiliar world.
The Chairs reflects the stasis of the society both politically and socially. The old man has a message extracted from his life experiences, and words of wisdom, he wants to share with the world. But due to lack of confidence, he hired a skilled Orator for this purpose.
The old couple prepare the room, where they assemble the guests to hear the message. Believing that their presence will distract the orator, so ultimately the sacrificed themselves. But language proves a limited and meaningless means of communication when orator remains unable to deliver any proper word. The Chairs — Absurd Drama 5 By:Tynan expressed his dislike of Ionesco's nihilistic view that communication between human beings is impossible; and went on to chastise those who championed the playwright's evocative escape from realism.
Still, this indirect conversation is an irresponsible means of communication. Study Guide content by: Belle, the photo-engraver, the Emperor and other Mr. On the other hand, the old man is a coward, not taking responsibility for many things, among them delivering his own message. Photo-engraver - The husband of Belle. Paris Review, n. While the complete half can be seen as the present that the couple must circle around endlessly, the missing half is the inaccessible past.
Old Man: How did we reach it?