"Merdre!"(in translation: "Pschitt!")The very first word uttered by Pa Ubu proved to be a bit too much for the sensibility of its audience and led to a riot. The incident has since then become one of the most talked about bits of Jarry's life.
The audience may not have taken their time to get to know Pa Ubu before passing their judgement, their reaction to him was rather appropriate. Pa Ubu is monstrous and grotesque. A crappy character - literally and metaphorically. His physical form is one horrible amalgamation. His conscience lies cramped in a suitcase, covered in cobwebs (and is later shoved headfirst into a toilet). From Wikipedia:
The central character is notorious for his infantile engagement with his world. Ubu inhabits a domain of greedy self-gratification. Jarry's metaphor for the modern man, he is an antihero—fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, jejune, voracious, cruel, cowardly and evil....Pa Ubu is a caricature that not only embodies all kinds of human vices, but follows them to the extreme - to the point of being utterly ridiculous. Jarry intended for him to be the perfect anarchist and Pa Ubu plays that role perfectly well. If Ignatius J. Reilly was too disgusting for your appetite, you may want to stay miles away from Pa Ubu.
The character of Pa Ubu was born in the minds of a few 15 year olds ridiculing one of their teachers. While Jarry's friends left their teenage jokes behind, Jarry went on to transform this character into one of the forerunners of absurd/surrealist theater. In addition, Jarry's creativity with language has also contributed a few new expletives to the French language. Pa Ubu from a drawing by Alfred Jarry:
While Pa Ubu enjoys more popularity, Ma Ubu is just as depraved. She often instigates Pa Ubu into acts of greed and mindless violence. Emerging every now and then to take potshots at Pa Ubu, her character does leave a mark.
The first play, Ubu Roi demonstrates greed and absolute abuse of authority at the hands of Pa Ubu. In the third play, Ubu Enchained, science of pataphysics comes into play and spins the concepts of freedom and slavery on their heads. The plays are absurd and can easily be waved off as juvenile farce. To understand what Jarry meant to showcase through these, it helps to read around the plays a little bit. The plays certainly are good for multiple laughs.
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