Père Ubu

Definition

Theater

  • The outrageous character created by the French playwright AlfredJarry. Ubu is a fat, cowardly, greedy, stupid, and cruelbourgeois modelled upon one of Jarry's schoolmasters. He was introducedin the farce Ubu Roi, a brutal and scatalogical work generallyconsidered to have launched the modern avant-garde theater. The satiricaldrama, written when Jarry was 15, was performed in 1888 as amarionette play. It was first produced on stage in Paris in 1896,when the director, Firmin Gémier, used many props and conventionsof the marionette theater. The play was revived successfully by JeanVilar at the Théâtre National Populaire in 1958,while an English version was presented in 1966 at the Royal CourtTheatre with costumes and decor by David Hockney.

    Ubu Roi ridiculed both bourgeois morality and the conventionsof the naturalistic theater. In the plot, which is based loosely onthat of Macbeth, Ubu and his wife, Mère Ubu, conspireto kill the Polish king, assisted by Captain Bordure. Once the deedis done, Ubu double-crosses Bordure, forcing him to flee to Russia.Ubu and his wife rule Poland with great cruelty, until Prince Bourgrelas,the dead king's son, recaptures Warsaw. They escape to Lithuania,where Ubu throws Mère Ubu to a bear, but then rescues her whenhe finds that he needs her help against Bourgrelas, who has pursuedthem. They escape once more, and the play ends with Ubu eagerly preparingfor his new post as minister of finance in Paris.

    Jarry continued Ubu's story with less freshness in Ubuenchaîné (1899) and Ubu sur la butte (1901).

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