Deconstructing Le Lecon by Eugene Ionesco


Eugene Ionesco born in 1912 in Romania, lived in France from 1911 to 1922. Eugene was of Romanian origin and was a well-known leader of forward-thinking drama in France. His plays are considered to be one of the most enthralling masterpieces to have gripped the French stage.

eugene ionesco

Picking Apart the ‘The Lesson’

The Lesson was Eugene’s masterpiece written in the 50s. It had so many words weaved into its script yet people found it funny and tragic at the same time. The point that Eugene Ionesco was trying to emphasize was that words alone were not enough to create mutual understanding. Taking the words as a point to start, one can follow the feelings in the words and the physicality of the characters says Eugene in this play. He strongly believes that the language of emotions is most immediate and intuitive to the audience that it stays with them, not until they watch the play and the on-stage actors. Ionesco in ‘The Lesson’ makes use of the Professor to explain the meaninglessness of language, though The Professor tries to figure out the underlying code.

A New Definition

Ionesco’s work was defined as a ‘Metaphysical Farce’ by Author Rosette Lamont. He said the dramatic genre of Ionesco presented political criticism and philosophical touch, under the wit and subtlety of comedy.  In ‘The Lesson’ the situation refers to a straightforward story that has a pupil coming for her Lesson hoping to acquire her ‘Total Doctorate.’ This pupil quickly spirals out of control with the rational approach of The Professor in understanding the world clashes and that the result is only chaos, eventually leading to tragedy. The personal demons of Ionesco’s particular execution presented with a combination of emotional, physical, textual, and vocal demands. The pupil has a painful toothache, she is raging with anger, but she has to stay with the pain in the play, and this drives The Professor to annoying heights.

The Depth of the Play

The rhythm and musicality of the play are crucial, and this can be felt when the energy of the actors and the drama lines are at the right pitch. Thus, for the audience to understand and enjoy the play, it is expected that the actors create the ‘metaphysical farce.’ There is no room for emotional moments or pondering, for both, the actors or the audience. The characters are reactive and impulsive that it escalates to go out of control, leading to tragedy.

Watching the rehearsing of this work is also engaging and exciting. It is like watching a sporting event, where the players are listening and reacting.  The play moves at a pace such that the words overwhelm and bombard the audience. The pupil is overloaded by The Professor such that it aggravates her toothache; while the Professor is not concerned about such trivial business that is based on feelings, he plunges deeper and aims to intellectualize the situation. In fact, he becomes the central point of calamity. Ionesco’s work revealed an influx of elements and sought to attain the farce; the actors pursued their acts with a ferocity that it was unstoppable for 65 minutes. Overall, the play is a fantastic work of wordplay and emotions, leaving both the audience and actors, exhausted — a genuinely theatrical experience some would say. 

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