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Ubu Roi

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  4,691 ratings  ·  183 reviews
One of the most extraordinary events of the late nineteenth century in Paris was the opening on December 11, 1896, at the Théâtre de lOeuvre, of Alfred Jarrys play Ubu Roi. The audience was scandalized by this revolutionary satire, developed from a schoolboy farce, which began with a four-letter word, defied all the traditions of the stage, and ridiculed the established ...more
Paperback, 186 pages
Published January 17th 1961 by New Directions (first published December 9th 1896)
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Το Άθχημο Γατί Καρολίνα
I read an article (published under the title: Rachilde's Supermale of Letters and the Invention of Ubu Roi Riot) by Sebastian Trainor, who teaches theater history in Pennsylvania State University and makes a very interesting revelation:

He dismisses the myth about the alleged impact of Ubu Roi's performance on Théâtre de l'Œuvre. Besides the avant garde (Symbolists, Decadents) intellectuals who already had an idea of the play, no one else was particularly concerned with it. No upheaval, no
David Schaafsma
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays, drama
Ubu Roi (or, Ubu the King) by Alfred Jarry opened and closed on December 10, 1896 in Paris. The audience stood and threw anything they could get their hands on at the stage, and howled in outrage at the actors. The play, comic grotesque, sort of inspired by a boyhood send-up of their obese, unattractive teacher, features an obese, unattractive guy who does anything he can (including mass murder) to become king and enrich himself. In the tradition of Rabelais, it skewers the greedy and pompous ...more
Like most of the participants in Ubu Week, I am at a bit of a loss when it comes to actually writing about Alfred Jarry's aggressively odd contribution to French theatre. Having only read the first play in the series, Ubu roi (which I understand is not the best), I am left with an impression of frat-boy humor that is somehow also a revolutionary step toward surrealism; a piece that invites comparison to everything from Shakespeare's Falstaff, to Monty Python's exploding man sketch, to some kind ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Aug 19, 2013 added it
Recommends it for: Pantagruelists
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Chuck LoPresti
Shelves: new-directions
(view spoiler) ...more
John Allen
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jarry's perverse creation, "Ubu Roi", is now running the United States. Thus Jarry takes his place as the artist-prophet.
Amy Hawthorne
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
This play is funny and absurd ~ as it's meant to be for an absurdist drama! The settings move about quickly, the action is fast paced and predictable, the characters are gluttonous and disgusting.

I have no idea how I feel about this kind of drama yet. The production I watched on youtube played on the filthy language and actions of Mama and Papa Ubu. It's cringe worthy, awkward but a real development in theatre at the time and I think when I've studied this play (as with most of the texts we
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was so... ridiculous! Or it's maybe that I just don't understand surrealistic literature, but you know what, I don't care one bit about it.
It was very easy to read, though.

description (
May 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"Jarry's teaching could be summarised thus: every man is capable of showing his contempt for the stupidity and cruelty of the universe by making his own life a poem of incoherance and absurdity."

His last request was for a toothpick.
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
There's nothing quite like laughing at something and then thinking deeply about it. Alfred Jarry makes you do this a lot in Ubu Roi. It's a brilliant satire on power playing in politics.
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
What's unique and interesting about Ubu Roi is that it is one of those plays that secured its fame because there were riots (later named the Ubu Riots) at its premier. Of course, for modern theatre goers, violence, sexual activity, and swearing are all common place, so I think Ubu Roi is not as shocking today as it certainly would have been when it was first performed and confronted an audience whose sensibilities were conditioned by a Symbolist aesthetic.

It seems like Jarry's goal was to stage
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it
If John Waters-- not the JW of Hairspray or Cry Baby, but the down and dirty creator of Pink Flamingoes-- did an interpretation mash up of Macbeth and Julius Caesar... You might get something approaching this play. I had a different translation, one that the translator, David Copelin, called the only one "with balls."

Well, sheeyit! Funny, disturbing, gross... And the exploration of corruption, tyranny, and greed of man still very relevant, of course.
Absurd, childish, a catalyst for those movements which would embrace childish absurdity. It is not so much a work of literature as it is a subversion of everything previously revered in literature -- and for this reason, 'Ubu Roi' should be read. Its primary shortcomings are brevity and shallowness, which seem to be the result of the work's adolescent composition (it was originally penned during his childhood) and the obtuseness necessitated by its theatrical performance.
Laura Collins
I have no idea what that was...

I can see how it might be seen as clever and linking to absurd art movements at the time but it is not an enjoyable read... MEH
Dec 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
Feb 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
Alfred Jarry is probably in my top 20 favorite writers & this is his most famous bk. It's also one of the ones that I find least interesting. It's basically juvenilia - striking in its clear rebelliousness & biting satire but not necessarily THAT great otherwise. Nonetheless, I HAVE 7 EDITIONS OF THIS - 4 IN ENGLISH, 1 IN SPANISH, & 2 IN FRENCH. & mon Français est minimale (et mauvais) & I don't speak Spanish at all. Each of the editions is interestingly different. This ...more
Stephen Gallup
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
The first word of this play is a thinly disguised vulgarity (which sparked a riot when the play was first staged in 1896), the treatment of humanity is degrading, and the plot is a low-brow farce on great literature (most obviously, Macbeth). One may well ask whether the thing merits any consideration at all. I think there's a thin line separating the slapstick from the profound, and depending on how it's staged this play could probably be either. Pere Ubu has all the fatal flaws of all the ...more
Wendy Crittenden
Dec 26, 2007 marked it as to-read
i do believe that this is the dude that we discussed in art h. methods seminar (though none of my goodreads friends were in that seminar) this past semester when we were reading examples of post-colonial art historical practices with a sociological approach. he was only briefly mentioned but as my group presented the article containing the blurb about him, i of course excitedly tripped on his mention and haven't forgotten about his absurdist approach to exploiting colonialism. i am a bit excited ...more
Oct 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
by my green candle, this one's a wild ride. absurdist theater in the 1890's?
Sep 19, 2015 added it
A strange, strange play. I know he came first, but Pere Ubu reminds me of Ignatius Reilly of Confederacy of Dunces.
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
Macbeth retold as an absurdist drama revolving around shit? Yes. As a matter of fact, that is what this play is about.
Madison Lee
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this play for a drama class. Jarry was difficult to appreciate at first, but the more I studied it the more I liked it. Absurdist drama owes much of its nature to this and Jarrys other works.
Whether its a commentary on the growing Bourgeois class or a tongue in cheek retelling of Macbeth, however you read it, its work time and appreciation.
Edie Maas
Apr 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Easily the most incisive and best researched of the Trump biographies. 3.5
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Not technically a huge fan of surrealist literature (even though Ubu Roi predates surrealism, but it often attributed as the absurd which lead to surrealism...), but nevertheless I found the book somewhat interesting. Definitely not the best play I've ever read, but there were many attributes of it that I rather enjoyed, specifically the idea of the antihero and the power of prayer (or lack thereof?) throughout.

First off, I LOVE that Père Ubu is the main character but he's so unlikeable that
Paula Koneazny
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Paula Koneazny by: Jean Baudrillard
Shelves: french, plays
Ubu roi is first and foremost a piece of theater and thus is better seen in performance than read. I first heard of this play during a lecture by Jean Baudrillard at Columbia back in 2005. Baudrillard claimed to be a pataphysician, a "philosophy" that he traced back to Alfred Jarry's Ubu roi. I don't claim to even now have a firm grasp of exactly what pataphysics "means" (neither Baudrillard nor Ubu roi were (are) particularly illuminating on the subject) other than that it purports to be the ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Comical. Vulgar. Absurdist. A few adjectives which come to mind to describe this play. Pere Ubu, the main character, is cowardly, lazy, despicable, comical, a tyrant, a bloodthirsty murderer, greedy, idiotic, a liar, manipulative. He reminds me of a particular politician currently running for the oval office. A particular Mr. Trump or at least the Trump persona. As politics goes this election season, the tale of this oaf could not be more relevant. It is as hyperbolic as any satirical piece but ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: drama
Perhaps this plays well, but as a text is it pretty disjointed. There's not much in the way of plot; the action and characters seem designed more to violate and subvert expectations of action and character, and to be shocking (the first word is a slightly-misspelled "shit," quite shocking in 1896, and there's a lot of other deliberately transgressive stuff--by 1896 standards, anyway, though hardly by 2016 ones), than to do anything else. It's aggressively unrealistic, proto-absurdism, I guess, ...more
Sep 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Pere Ubu kills two characters with a toilette brush! Theatre can't get any better than that! All I knew about this play was as a resource from my readings on Brecht and that the 1896 audience caused an uproar when it premiered.

The play is not dated or has aged poorly. Any person living under the rule of a confused, generally stupid, grotesque and/or power-hungry leader can relate to this in some way.

The drawings done by Franciszka Themerson years later may give the reader an idea what viewing
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french-lit
What a grotesque character is King Ubu. He isn't dumb, he is just a coward, brutish, grotesque, pathetic... The adjectives aren't enough to define Ubu's person. It is this very character who develops such ridiculous situations like the murder of a king just because the lands aren't enough as an appreciation of his potential.

Another unique character is the queen Ubu, who tries to balance her husband's moods, and aims to have a say about his decisions and actions. King Ubu shows the core human
Jun 14, 2013 rated it did not like it

Picked it up as it keeps popping up in references relating to herald of the Avant-Guard...

It is junk. It's "purposeful" crude writing, childish adaptation of classic themes, and "structured" lack of structure... can also be found in the writing of uninspired teenagers all over.

My only plus out of this ordeal is that I now have an obscure reference to throw out and impress people... not because I want to impress people... but because the proponents of the movement that support this book,
Found this interesting, but frankly I expected to be a lot more groundbreaking, a lot more vulgar, and a lot funnier, based on all the hype. A lot can happen in a hundred years, and I can see how it would have ruffled feathers in Paris in 1896. It's kind of entertaining as a crude cartoon, it's got echoes of Macbeth, Hamlet and Richard III, and the themes -- treating the middle class as blustering, greedy oafs -- seem to still resonate today. I would be interesting to see what someone would do ...more
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Alfred Jarry was a French writer born in Laval, Mayenne, France, not far from the border of Brittany; he was of Breton descent on his mother's side.
Best known for his play Ubu Roi (1896), which is often cited as a forerunner to the surrealist theatre of the 1920s and 1930s, Jarry wrote in a variety of genres and styles. He wrote plays, novels, poetry, essays and speculative journalism. His texts

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