What was the relationship between existentialism and theatre of the absurd?

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Theatre of the Absurd was a derivative of post-war existential thought translated into action in the theatre.

Sartre's plays are thinly-veiled philosophical treatises.  Camus' plays show the absurd predicament of man in accepting a meaningless universe.  In "Myth of Sisyphus," Camus states that man faces three choices in an absurd universe: suicide, a leap of faith, or a recognition that the world is absurd.  He cited only that last as feasible.  The plays that followed are a means of coming to terms with this bitter pill to swallow.

So, the Theatre of the Absurd took these predicaments and put them into action, instead of continuing the rhetoric.  The plays of Albee, Beckett, Ionesco, and Pinter reveal man unable to answer basic questions of his existence, unable to change in the face of nuclear destruction and holocaust, and unable to cast off his individuality in the face of "mass."

This new theatre was called by some as the death of theatre as it attempted to take theatre back to its fundamental roots (to the ancient comedies of Euripedes) much the same way that existentialism was a retreat to fundamental philosophy.  Both movements mean to strip away all that hinders and limits man's individuality and freedom as a means of protecting both.