Tragicomedy and Contemporary Culture: Play and Performance from Beckett to Shepard

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This study examines the historical relationship between tragicomedy in the modernist theatre and the performative culture of Western consumer societies. While discussing a wide range of playwrights, it focusses specifically on the work of Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Sam Shepard. Their plays, it is argued, illuminate the forms of pleasure, fear, performance and corruption which dominate our daily lives. Tragicomedy is seen as unique because of the existential playfulness and confusion of its protagonists, and because of its muted vision of apocalypse in the nuclear age.