Antonin Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty

Essay by green22High School, 12th gradeA, March 2006

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The Goal of Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty

Did Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty manage to change society in the way he intended?

Antonin Artaud: some say a madman, others say a theatrical genius. His fury and rebellion against the world around him are clearly demonstrated by the theatre he created. He wanted the audience to feel what he did and associate with his thoughts at a subconscious level. Artaud desired to show everyone something they had never seen before, by veering away from conventional Western theatre in the early twentieth century. The popular theatre at the time pertained more to social and political conflicts. The audience would be regularly reminded that what they were watching was a theatrical event, so that their perception would not be clouded by emotion. Artaud believed it relied too much on logic, text, reason, and experience, evoking a shallow response from the spectator.

Every aspect of his theories culminated to form a revolutionary theatrical genre called the Theatre of Cruelty. Artaud intended it to shock and spur change, at first within French society, and later on within all of humanity. So what fueled his intense loathing for society, and will for change? How did Antonin Artaud attempt to influence the system by which he felt enslaved? Did he manage to break through society's constraints and to have an impact on others? I will focus my essay around answering these questions, as they will be a guide in the process of reaching a conclusion.

In order to examine Antonin Artaud's work, I realized that it is necessary to study his life, as the two are visibly related, each being an influence on the other. Already from the tender age of five did Artaud's health problems commence, beginning with physical afflictions...