The intent of this thesis is to investigate the prominence of audience ridicule in the French theatre from the medieval sottie to Ionescan Absurdism of the mid-twentieth century. Throughout the history of French drama, playwrights have exploited this tactic with either the purpose of invoking an emotional or intellectual response or inciting a social or political call to action. This exploration takes particular interest in shaming theatrical audiences during periods of political unrest, analyzing the ways in which playwrights employed language, studies of characters, and plot-related content to highlight the prevalent and pervasive ills of society and of humanity. The majority of the literature from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries criticizes the aristocracy, the clergy, and the crown. As we approach revolutionary France, the theatre all but abandons intrigue in favor of the tears that flowed that from the ocean of English Sentimentalism. Melodrama and the well-made play adorned the early-nineteenth century, while the later part of the century brought French theatre Jarry’s pataphysics and his affinity for audience shaming that set the stage for the impending onslaught of twentieth-century ridicule. The avant-garde movement flourished at the beginning of the century with the Dadas and the Surrealists responding to humanity’s response to the War to End All Wars. When Ionesco arrived at the forefront of the French theatre mid-century, he employed the most effective audience ridicule tactics invented by his predecessors and created his Absurdist theatre. Ionesco writes: “take a circle, caress it, and it will turn vicious” (38). From the fifteenth century to the twentieth century, the cycle of audience ridicule was indeed vicious in a theatre that sought to effect positive change in a rapidly changing society.
Thomas, Aaron C.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Orlando (Main) Campus
Elfont, Stephanie C., "It Will Turn Vicious: An Exploration of the Cycle of Audience Ridicule in French Drama" (2016). Honors in the Major Theses. 40.