Eugène Ionesco was born in Romania and eventually moved to France, where he was educated and where he remained during World War I. With The Bald Soprano, his first play, and those that followed—including La Leçon(1951; The Lesson, 1955), Les Chaises (1952; The Chairs, 1958), and Rhinocéros(1959; English translation, 1959)—he became internationally famous, and his plays were produced all over the world. Although his international success gradually declined, in France Ionesco continued to be highly respected, and his works are often revived there.
The name given to the style of Ionesco’s plays (and to the plays of Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov) is absurdist. The Bald Soprano, which is frequently regarded as the first absurdist play, is typical of the theater of the absurd for its absence of plot and a circular trajectory that ends where it began. Absurdist characters tend to be broad, generalized, two-dimensional figures, while settings are nondescript and vague. Moreover, what the characters say is rather insignificant; they tend to communicate not through what they mean but through how they speak the words and how the reader or audience associates meanings with those words.
Little happens in an Ionesco play. Readers and audiences who feel that they can find little in The Bald Soprano that makes any sense have probably discovered an essential ingredient of this one-act absurdist classic. Long after the play opened in Paris, Ionesco revealed that he got the idea of writing it when he tried learning...
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