Alfred Jarry

Alfred JarryAlfred Jarry, known primarily for his Ubu plays, began writing in 1888 at the age of fifteen with two fellow pupils at the Rennes lycee. Their project, a comic satire of their physics teacher, Monsieur Hebert, was nothing more than a childish prank. Eventually, however, this "piece alquemique" would become the world's first absurdist drama.

The first and most famous of Alfred Jarry's Ubu plays is Ubu Roi or Ubu Rex. This strange parody of Shakespeare's Macbeth let loose upon the world the grotesque figure of Pa Ubu, a foul old man set on conquering Poland by any means necessary--and a personification of all that is base and stupid in mankind. The play premiered at the Theatre de L'OEuvre on December 10, 1896 to mixed results from an angry and violent crowd. Some audience members were outraged. Others were intrigued. But no one had ever seen anything like this before. The next day, the debate raged on in the papers and the cafes.

In 1898, Ubu Roi was performed again at the Theatre de Pantins--this time with marionettes. Around the time of this second performance, Jarry completed the second play in his Ubu trilogy--Ubu Cuckolded. The first play, however, had generated such a heated reaction that he failed to find a publisher. The third play of the cycle, Ubu Enchained, was completed in September of 1899. Neither Ubu Cuckolded nor Ubu Enchained was ever performed during the playwright's lifetime.

Alfred Jarry's career was brought to an unfortunate and early end when he died in 1907 at the age of 34, but his legacy lives on in the works of such playwrights as Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett. Jarry was the first prophet of the Theatre of the Absurd. Today, his plays are considered an integral step in the evolution of the modern theatre.

Jarry's Plays  |  Other Works  |  Biographies/Studies


Jarry's Plays

Other Works


Related Sites

French Theatre Index

Related Playwrights

Samuel Beckett

Eugene Ionesco

Maurice Maeterlinck

Harold Pinter

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