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Themes

This is a major theme in The Bald Soprano, as well as many of Ionesco's other plays. There was actually a famous debate over this theme in Ionesco's work. Kenneth Tynan, a critic for the London Observer, accused the playwright of having a cynical view of language. The critic thought that Ionesco was trying to say that it was impossible to communicate through language. We can see where Tynan came up with this idea. The characters in The Bald Soprano barely seem to communicate at all. They mostly speak in clichés and non-sequiturs. By the end of the play, language totally disintegrates; the characters are screaming incoherently into the dark. Despite all this, Ionesco famously defended himself against Tynan's criticisms. The playwright pointed out that he was…well, a playwright. Of course, he thought language could communicate meaning. Why else would he…you know…write? Ionesco didn't see his unconventional use of language as cynical at all. Instead he saw it as a way of reawakening "a dead form of communication" (source).

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Are there any moments of real communication in the play? Explain your answer.
  2. What larger meaning does all of the nonsensical language in the play communicate?
  3. What is the effect of the use of clichés in the dialogue?
  4. What do you think causes the characters to start spouting pure nonsense at the end of the play?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The Bald Soprano is a cynical satire of the uselessness of language as a tool for communication.

The play re-imagines the way in which language can be used to communicate meaning.

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