– Eugene has written 28 plays. His most famous works include The Lesson (1951), The Chairs (1952), and Rhinoceros (1959). -Eugene has been recognized as a leading writer in the Theatre of the Absurd. His plays break theatrical archetypes of plot and sequence; explore mortality, and introduce existential conundrums while utilising over imaginative, unrealistic and out of the blue humor. The line between fiction and reality is consistently blurred as Ionesco depicts meaningless worlds ruled by chance.
Was made a member of the French Academy in 1970, and won a number of prizes including the Tours Festival Prize for film, Prix Italia, Society of Authors Theatre Prize, Grand Prix National for theatre, Monaco Grand Prix, Austrian State Prize for European Literature, Jerusalem Prize, and honorary doctorates from New York University and the universities of Leuven, Warwick, and Tel Aviv. Contribution to Existentialist Thought and Relation to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are Dead – Eugene’s greatest contribution to existential thought comes from developing the building blocks for theater of the absurd.
Eugene popularized nonrepresentational writing techniques to a point which audiences found it acceptable, and used basic existential concepts in his plays, inspiring future writers such as Tom Stoppard. – Eugene constantly refers to two main themes throughout his writings; loneliness and isolation; and having no control over one’s fate. The setting of The Chairs provides a great example, in which an old couple 90s only have each other in their small house on an island, which represents the isolation.
Guil and Ros are always alone in their absurd existentialist thought which does not seem to bother anyone else, which leads them unable to relate to the people around them and feel alienated. They are physically isolated in their un-determinable location; however they are also mentally isolated. The two characters have no memory of their past, and as such they cannot retain any future purpose or goals they may want in the future; they are isolated to the present, and as such they can only react to things happening around them, rather than seeking tasks for the betterment of themselves.
Guil expects that the letter they are bringing to the king will tell him their next task in life. He says “[t]here may be something to keep us going a bit. ” Ros then asks, “And if not? ” to which Guil replies, “Then that’s it, we’re finished” (Stoppard, 96). Stoppard shows here how little control Ros and Guil have over their own life. – Eugene’s work focuses on human existence and trivia of everyday life. Rhinoceros is bold enough to say “sometimes I wonder if I exist myself”. Eugene constantly challenges the meaning of life and what it means to exist in his writing.
Stoppard compliments this topic as well, as demonstrated when Guil and Ros first gain consciousness on the boat. Guil converses with Ros by saying “‘we’re not finished, then? ’ ‘Well, we’re here, aren’t we? ’ ‘Are we? I can’t see a thing. ’ ‘You can still think can’t you? ’ ‘I think so. ’ You can still talk. ’ Ah! There’s life in me yet. ’ “(88). Stoppard explores the idea of living within a conscious mind, and no body, and only had thought and a voice in the dark. – Restraint due to social norms is another major theme throughout Eugene’s writing, specifically in Rhinoceros.
One of the main reasons Eugene wrote Rhinoceros, was to explore the mentality of those who so easily succumbed to Nazism. Ionesco wanted to mock the German fascist movement by having characters in his book all turn into rhinoceros’s because everyone was talking about it and doing it themselves, which leads to one of Eugene’s main existential opinions: that “one must break away from conformity and commit oneself to a significant cause to give life meaning”. Eugene has people in his plays repeat ideas others have said earlier, or simultaneously say the same things.
Not only do Guil and Ros constantly repeat each other when they lack the originality or purpose to say something new, Stoppard takes lines directly from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and has Guil and Ros unknowingly change to Shakespearean English and speak Shakespeare’s words whenever they converse with other characters from Hamlet, for example when first meeting Claudius, they say “We both obey/ And here give up ourselves in the full bent/ To lay our service freely at your feet/ To be commanded” (27-28).
Their inability to control their language and their conformity with the original play demonstrates the lack of control they have over their destiny, as if it was planned.