USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)

First Advisor

Trey Conner, Ph.D


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued



Existentialism and the Theatre of the Absurd delve into some of the bleakest aspects of human cognitions and existence, with particular attention given to suffering and our own struggles with life and death. Perhaps, however, we can look beyond this profound suffering and use it to better understand ourselves, as well as the tumultuous worlds we create for ourselves. This thesis examines three plays that have a foothold in both Existentialism and the Theatre of the Absurd: Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco, Endgame by Samuel Beckett, and No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. It seeks to analyze how these plays might provide social or political commentary in the times in which they were written, as well as how such commentary may mold to present events and sentiments. To provide context and background, an introduction to some of Existentialism’s overarching features will be provided, along with its relation to the Theatre of the Absurd (the two share significant areas of overlap). Then, an analysis of the aforementioned plays will be given with attention to social, political, temporal, and philosophical implications. To conclude, the enduring relevance of these Absurdist and Existential pieces will be contextualized, with the argument that these disciplines extend far beyond mere entertainment or obscurity. Lines such as “If I could drag myself down to the sea! I’d make a pillow of sand for my head and the tide would come” capture the often-despairing and ambiguous natures of these literary traditions, yet they continue to provide insights into the societies we create and our intrinsic self-awareness (Beckett 61).


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Honors Program University of South Florida, St. Petersburg December 5th, 2020.