Discuss Sartre's concept of the Theatre of Situations with reference to Huis Clos

Essay, 2001

10 Pages, Grade: A


Discuss Sarte’s concept of the Thetare of Situations with reference to Huis Clos

Jean-Paul Sartre created a new dramatic concept called the Theatre of Situations which is based on his philosophical work L’Etre et le N é ant written in 1943. His existentialism deeply influenced society and intellectuals in particular. According to his specific point of view, man now was only determined by the decisions and actions he makes and nothing else. However, Sartre’s concept of the Theatre of Situations that the angst, which marked the twentieth century, was only faced up with nineteenth century tools. A circumstance which his drama Huis Clos, written in 1943, clearly shows.

Sartre’s existentialism is an atheistic philosophy, which indicates that in man existence precedes essence. There is no universal essence of man but in contrast to that, man is a free being who creates his own essence by making his own decisions. His acts are all-important as “ l’homme n’est rien d’autre que ce qu’il se fait.“[1] Consequently, existentialism equally speaks of man’s anguish. His being is totally dependent upon the choices he makes and is, therefore, responsible for them and cannot find any excuse.

“L’homme est condamné à être libre. Condamné, parce qu’il n’est pas creé lui-même, et par ailleurs cependant libre, parce qu’une fois jeté dans ce monde, il est responsible de tout ce qu’il fait”[2]

When Sartre considers the self, he always distinguishes between être-en-soi and être-pour-soi. The latter describes a state of being in which the human being has the freedom to choose and, therefore, has to act. It is characterized as free and fluid in contrast to the solid and static of être-en-soi, which cannot be changed anymore. It is inanimated and unconscious, not able to choose and hence, freedom is not existent within the state of être-en-soi.

According to Sartre’s philosophical concept, human beings always have the temptation to tend towards être-en-soi. They have to renew their freedom by making new choices and actions, as the state of freedom, the être-pour-soi, is never a static and solid one. Having to make choices all the time and being responsible for them, some people prefer to rest as quasi-objects.

Sartre refers to that escape from one’s liberty and responsibility as bad faith. A human being in bad faith turns to authority, which could be his religion or a political party for example, and does not trust on his own ability of guidance. Confronted with a choice, he passes responsibility for his acts on to the others. He has a justification for his acts, which is not his own reflection but the belonging to a certain authority, which takes away his responsibility as well as his freedom. The human being has turned into an être-en-soi, an static and solid object which does not depend upon choice or act but is simply an object.

Sartre’s dramatic concept is deeply linked with his existentialism. He emphasizes the moment of choice in the drama, stressing the existentialist belief that man is not created but creates himself through his decisions and the way he acts.

“ From now on, the central matter of a play should not be the character whom we describe with erudite theatrical language and who is nothing more than a collection of our vows…but the situation….If it is true that human beings are free in a given situation, and that they choose themselves in, and by virtue of, this situation, then we must show in the theatre simple and human situations and the freedom which is chosen in these situations. …The most moving thing the theatre can show is a character in the process of making themselves, the moment of choice, of that free decision which sets in train a morality and a whole life.”[3]


[1] Sartre, Jean-Paul (1967) L’Existentialisme est un humanisme, Paris, Gallimard p.22

[2] Sartre, Jean-Paul (1967) L’Existentialisme est un humanisme, Paris, Gallimard p.37

[3] Sarte, Jean-Paul ( M.Contant and M. Rybalka, eds) (1973) Un theatre de situations, Paris, Gallimard

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Discuss Sartre's concept of the Theatre of Situations with reference to Huis Clos
Staffordshire University
20C French Drama
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ISBN (eBook)
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Discuss, Sartre, Theatre, Situations, Huis, Clos, French, Drama
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Ulrike Häßler (Author), 2001, Discuss Sartre's concept of the Theatre of Situations with reference to Huis Clos, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/43571


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