The Bald Soprano
by Eugene Ionesco
The Bald Soprano Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue. We used Donald M. Allen's translation.
Mrs. Smith: "Potatoes are very good fried in fat; the salad oil was not rancid. The oil from the grocer at the corner is better quality than the oil from the grocer across the street." (4)
Mrs. Smith opens the play by babbling about a whole lot of nothing. She basically lists all the things she and her husband have eaten that evening and then rambles on about of lot of other stuff that doesn't really matter. Her monologue reminds us a lot of another famous Absurdist play, Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. In this piece, a woman prattles on about lots of trivial things, even though she is half buried in a mound of dirt. She refuses to recognize her unusual situation and chooses instead to focus on seemingly unimportant day-to-day matters. Both Happy Days and The Bald Soprano seem to be getting at the Absurdist idea that our day-to-day lives are essentially meaningless. This is one of the main reasons that both Ionesco and Beckett were grouped together under the umbrella of the Theatre of the Absurd.
Mr. Smith: "Which Bobby Watson do you mean?"
Mrs. Smith: "Why, Bobby Watson, the son of old Bobby Watson, the late Bobby Watson's other uncle."
Mr. Smith: "No, it's not that one, it's someone else. It's Bobby Watson, the son of old Bobby Watson, the late Bobby Watson's aunt." (58-60)
This kind of identity confusion is pretty common in Absurdist plays. You see it in Beckett's Waiting for Godot, where Vladimir and Estragon become totally confused about which one of them is which. It's also found in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, where the title characters go through the same sort of confusion. All this uncertainty about who is who seems to call into question identity itself. How do we ever know who we really are? For that matter, how do we know who anybody else is either?
Mr. Martin: "Excuse me, madam, but it seems to me, unless I'm mistaken, that I've met you somewhere before."
Mrs. Martin: "I, too, sir. It seems to me that I've met you somewhere before." (87-88)
The Martins don't remember each other even though they live in the same house and sleep in the same bed. We talk about this more in "Memory and the Past," but we'd just like to point out that this kind of memory loss is pretty common in Absurdist plays. The characters in Beckett's Waiting for Godot suffer from the same sort of thing. You also see it in Ionesco's The Chairs. Could it be that so many Absurdist playwrights chose to include memory impaired characters, because it makes us question reality as a whole? How do we know if anything in the past was real? How do we know for sure that it wasn't all a dream?