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Abhinaba Chatterjee

Nietzschean Nihilism and Alternative Modernities in Select ‘Absurd’ Plays of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter

The plays that Martin Esslin famously classified as belonging to the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ are characterised by the presence of nihilism and the influence of existential philosophy. The plays of such Absurd playwrights as Beckett, Pinter and Ionesco have been criticised for portraying a world of nihilism and dominated by the angst of existentialism. The major mode of criticism is dominated by the sense of hopelessness and despair of the post Second World War. It has been argued that the plays comprising the absurd theatre are characterised by their depiction of the sense of senselessness and the inadequacy of rationality. While acknowledging the presence of nihilism and the influence of existential philosophy in the plays of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, this paper claims that the nihilism in these plays is essentially Nietzschean and hence not pessimistic. This paper will argue that the plays of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ is essentially based on Nietzsche’s concept of ‘Amor fati’ and that they project an alternative modernity in its response to the pessimistic tone of the existential philosophy. Keywords: Nihilism, Existentialism, Alternative Modernities, Theatre of the Absurd, Amor Fati


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