What is the relationship between existentialism and "Theatre of the Absurd?"

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Existentialism was predicated on the notion that the traditional institutions to which people had always turned were at the end of the day powerless to explain human existence. For many existentialists, this entailed a rejection of religion, of the state, and of many societal mores. In the wake of World War II, many playwrights and authors were inspired by existentialists like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre to reject many of the conventions of drama and of literature in general. The works of Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and other absurdists rejected structures, forms and the general realism that prevailed in previous works, and they generally portrayed very bleak themes, a hallmark of existentialism. Yet  their works also, like Beckett's The End, reflect a certain individualism on the part of characters who have a mutually indifferent relationship with the societies in which they live. This, too, is a key component of existentialist thought.


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