Blog Post #1 – Ubu Rex

This is the first course in which I will be learning about Dada and Surrealism. I have heard of Surrealism through my coursework, but it was only referenced, not taught. Therefore, I am looking forward to learning more about this literary movement.

I would consider the production of Ubu Rex as a series of Shakespearian parodies. With that said, I found that a considerable amount of the language used within it was just nonsense. “Jarry’s play took only one word – the infamous merdre – to cause a near riot” (Zelanak). Although it is difficult to think of any literary precedents that compare this one in terms of language, a few come to mind when looking at the different works that are parodied.

The main plot reminds me of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In the original Shakepeare work, Macbeth intends to kill Duncan, the King of Scotland. In Ubu Rex, Ubu plans and does kill the King of Poland. Also, there is a parallel with Shakespeare’s Hamlet with the idea of a ghost of the dead King calling for the revenge of the murderer. Also, the character of the bear is found in both Ubu Rex and A Winter’s Tale.

 The idea of having visions or dreams is generally discovered across Shakespearian literature and is also found in Jarry’s play when Queen Rosamund has a vision that Pa Ubu murders the King of Poland, “Didn’t I see him in a dream with a gang of armed men, striking you down and throwing you into the Vistula, while an eagle like the one on the herald of Poland placed the crown on his head?” (Jarry, 17). It seems like a consistent trend in Shakespeare’s literature that visions of the future and dreams actually do come true, as Queen Rosamund’s eventually does in Ubu Rex.

Considering the sheeyits, Sexcrament, and green snot, I interpreted the play to be unorthodox with its language. However, I also found it to be compelling in terms of its literary benefit and connections with literary precedents. Having taken a Shakespearian literature course here at UWM, I was able to connect a few productions to Alfred Jarry’s. When I first started reading, I was kind of shocked at what I was reading with all of the immature humor involved, but eventually, I realized the aesthetic and was able to understand the plot and the writing for what it was. This production truly fits the avant-garde genre and makes me interested in the works that we will read regarding the Dada and Surrealist movement going forward.

Works cited:

Jarry, Alfred, Ubu Rex, 1896 (trans. 1977), Pulp Press, Vancouver, CA.

Zelanak, Michael, UBU RIDES AGAIN: THE IRONDALE PROJECT AND THE POLITICS OF CLOWNING, Duke University Press, 1987 18(3): 43-46


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