Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty

Subject: Art
Type: Compare and Contrast Essay
Pages: 2
Word count: 589
Topics: Art Comparison, Art History, Theatre

Table of Contents


Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty conceptualizes that theatre can change the audience via primitive and violent expressions of cataleptic fears. Artaud used theatre to purge the pains of everyday life that would stimulate the audience (Bermel, 2014). Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty influenced many theatre artists. This essay will analyse how Amiri Baraka’ Slave Ship, the Living Theatre’s Paradise Now, and Hair employed characteristics of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty.  

It is clear that Amiri Baraka’ Slave Ship embraced characteristics of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty. Slave ship concurrently confronts and explodes factors such as visibility, race, and theatricality.   In slave ship, nonojectivity is connected to West African culture as well as to sufferings such as the Holocaust. The theatrical production of Slave Ship was directed into the hold of racism’s epitomous allegory.  This is evident where the captured Africans within the play attempt to find a place to internalise the assault they are going through (Elam & David, 2001). 

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Amiri Baraka’ Slave Ship symbolizes the inconceivable suffering of Middle Passage by employing Artaudian cruelty in various ways: the cruelty of a black nation being developed, the cruelty of a civilizing revolution openly aimed at dissolving the frontiers between ethics and aesthetics (Bermel, 2014). Slave Ship symbolizes Cultural Revolution as an illustration of the Black Arts Movement’s non-objective as well as its complex link to history and activism (Elam & David, 2001). Unlike in Aristotle, Slave Ship is not a social protest play and does not aim at reforming instituions or delivering the message to the oppressor. Slave Ship also does aim to appeal to the moral standards but it attempts to represent strategies that challenge intangible, aesthetic, and moral limits of Euro-American political drama. In addition, Amiri Baraka’ Slave Ship does not implore but deconstructs, satirizes, and annihilates. 

Similarly, in the Living Theatre’s Paradise Now, the audience members were appealed to join the undressed group members on stage to take part in sexual acts. This staging seems to be shcoking but this was used to convey the message of worsening social boundaries through breaking them to those who were readily accessible. At the end of performance, audience members started a revolution. This indicates that the Living Theatre’s Paradise Now managed to shift the theatre from one that arouses change in audiences to the theatre that promotes political agendas through aggressive audience incursion (Bermel, 2014). Unlike in Aristotelean and Stanislavsky concepts of theatre that would use a pervasive sense of urgency, the Living Theatre’s Paradise Now embraces characteristics of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, that makes the audience move beyond the act of seeing to actually experiencing the events sensually and aurally, and hence feeling the instant effect of the theatre show. 

Hair also embraces characteristics of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty because it is clear “Hair” produces mythic spectacles that consist of verbal invocation, screams, as well as raw and real acts. This is evident where Hair sacarstically analyzes war, sex, and racism by performing ludicrous extreme acts that obviously shock the audience and directly challenges the audience’s beliefs and behaviours in order to let the audience experience how absurd, hurting and offensive their actions and behaviours are (Miller, 2001). 


It is clear that Amiri Baraka’ Slave Ship, the Living Theatre’s Paradise Now, and Hair employed characteristics of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and not Aristotelean and Stanislavsky concepts of theatre predominantly applied on Broadway. All the three plays directly challenges the audience to have the first-hand feeling of the messages being conveyed in the play.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Bermel A. (2014). Artaud’s Theatre Of Cruelty. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  2. Elam H & David K. (2001). African American Performance and Theater History a critical reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  3. Miller S. (2001). Rebels with Applause: Broadway’s Ground BreakingMusicals . Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann publishing.    
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