An exploration into the female characters present in Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco’s plays, in relation to female archetypes, Simone de Beauvoir’s classification of the feminine in The Second Sex, and the playwrights’ use of language
Martin Esslin’s The Theatre of the Absurd (1961) has been accepted as a seminal piece of work providing a way to discuss the works of certain playwright’s, including Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco. One of his concepts includes the notion that the plays have unrecognisable characters. This study examines the female characters in Beckett’s All That Fall, Happy Days, Not I, and Rockaby, and Ionesco’s The Lesson, The Chairs, The Future is in Eggs, and Rhinoceros, in order to refute this concept. By applying the female archetypes present in Adam McLean’s The Triple Goddess, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, along with a brief account of sociolinguistic theory, this study highlight’s the evident Triple Goddess triad of the Virgin, the Mother, and the Crone presented through the female characters in both playwrights’ works. The consistent use of the Crone in Beckett’s work was contrasted to the universality of Ionesco’s, yet still proved that both playwrights’ present their female characters in terms similar to De Beauvoir’s classification of the feminine and McLean’s Triple Goddess. Through this analysis one was able to contest Esslin’s claims that absurd plays have unrecognisable characters with regards to Beckett and Ionesco’s female characters. The findings highlight the need to open up the discussion on the labelling of The Theatre of the Absurd and begs to ask the question: are all characters fundamentally recognisable?