Conclusion: The Death of Comedy?

  • Peter Norrish
Part of the The Humanities Research Centre/Macmillan Series book series (HRC)


From the dramatisation of ideas in Sartre and Camus to the irreverent rituals of Genet and Arrabal, the period from 1945 to 1970 in France offered extraordinarily rich experimentation in new versions of both tragedy and comedy. This involved startling innovations in technique, particularly in the 1950s, including the introduction of new hybrid forms mingling the two genres more than ever before. At the same time, there was a new kind of stylisation, with concentration on the raw essentials of living and dying for ordinary, unheroic creatures, on their hidden obsessions, and on the woes of the contemporary human consciousness, seen as confronting the world alone, bewildered, sceptical and afraid. The new mode of theatre was intended to make spectators think anew about themselves and the nature of their destiny. Being intellectually as well as emotionally stimulating, it questioned uncomfortably some of their long cherished values and beliefs. It also brought about a widening of the social as well as the metaphysical scope of drama, by contributing new insights into the world of human relationships.


Assertive Statement Official Corruption Mental Anguish Modern Drama Classical Mythology 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    J.-P. Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism, translated by P. Mairet (London: Methuen, 1948) p. 34.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Considered semiotically, this has been said to mean that ‘a new subcode had been identified which allowed erstwhile aberrant texts to be “recuperated”’. See K. Elam, The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (London and New York: Methuen, 1980) p. 55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    D. Bradby refers to ‘the black despair of much New Theatre writing’ (op. cit., p. 251), while M. Borie relates this to society’s loss of a sense of community, participating collectively in the reaffirmation of a meaningful world. (See M. Borie, Mythe et théâtre aujourdhui: une quête impossible? (Paris: Nizet, 1981).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Where such information has not been explicitly given, however, it has not been assumed. No account is taken here, for example, of an astonishingly relevant but contentious biography of Beckett by D. Bair, Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Picador, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    H. Blau, ‘Comedy since the Absurd’, Modern Drama, XXV, 4 (December, 1982) 545–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Norrish 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Norrish
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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