The Effects of World War One on French Theatre

3097 words 13 pages
The Effects of World War One on French Theatre
At the turn of the century Paris was one of the capitals of culture and art to the outside world. However, the truth of the matter was that this taboo-ridden society was being run by an aristocracy that was repressing the arts. Naturally, when World War 1 broke out, the suppressed French society finally had a release and a rebellion against order arose. WWI specifically affected the theatre of French and it’s aftermath. From the ashes of war the avant-garde theatre grew and styles such as Dadaism and Surrealism were born. It was both the climate of culture before the war and the devastation of the war that lead to the outbreak of avant-garde theatre in France.
Beginning around 1890, France
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Around 4.3% of the French population was killed during battle (“France After”). There are many accounts from soldiers from all ethnicities about the devastation of the trench warfare, some of them relaying the excessive amounts of corpses with no advancement in the war. With every gruesome letter written about the war, there is a pattern seen among the soldiers and their struggle to find the meaning in what they were doing. Ernst Junger, a 19 year old from Germany, wrote one of the most powerful letters recounting the trench warfare:
For here some awful spirit has struck out all redundancy and created a background worth of tragedy that far exceeds the pitch of any poet. Hence man has no choice but to become a bit of nature, subjected to its inscrutable decrees and used as a thing of blood and sinew, tooth and claw. To-morrow, perhaps, men of two civilized countries will meet in battle on this strip of land; and the proof that it must happen is that it does. For otherwise we should have stopped it long ago, as we have stopped sacrificing to Wotan, torturing on the rack, burning witches, or grasping red-hot iron to invoke the decision of God. But we have never stopped it and never shall, because war is not the law of one age or civilization, but of eternal nature itself, out of which every civilization proceeds, and into which it must sink again if it is not hard enough to withstand the iron ordeal.”
(Shevin-Coetzee, p.65)
It is obvious from this personal

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