Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Exit the King by Eugene Ionesco is a meditation on life and death, and how power is just a social construct, or a man-made illusion, perhaps even a delusion. The king is inept and his authority is dependent exclusively on the title and designation he was born into.

When the king's health deteriorates, his entourage leaves him, showing him that he only wielded his power over others because they depended on him. When he was no longer dependable, his entourage abandons him. It also illustrates the fragile nature of the king-subject dynamic: the king is only powerful when he has subjects to reign over, just as a slave master's power is linked to obedient slaves.

His kingdom is a failure and its gradual fall from grace parallels the king's own life. His two wives—Queen Marguerite and Queen Marie—represent reality and illusion, respectively. Queen Marguerite and the king's trusted physician tell him the facts of his medical condition, but Queen Marie tries to shield him from the truth by convincing him that he will be fine.

The latter's attempts leads to the king's initial denial regarding his impending demise. However, he realizes that like his crumbling empire, he will soon die. In the end, the king is completely alone, illustrating the solitary nature of death.

Since monarchy is based on man-made ideas of social and political hierarchy, and an empire—or even a society or civilization—is composed of social constructs, the world symbolically dies with the king. After all, the king is supposed to represent a divine entity on Earth, and when a deity dies, so does the universe it has created. However, in actuality life moves on after a king's death, thus reiterating that a king's accomplishments and power are nothing but illusions.

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