The Chairs

by: Eugène Ionesco


The Orator is a virtual actor. He is dressed the part as an ostentatious artist, he signs autographs, and he skims past the crowd as if only he exists. This is almost true, literally, since everyone else but the Old Man and Old Woman are invisible, but he believes they are all there. The Old Man has put all his hopes into the Orator's delivery of his "message," since the Old Man cannot express himself well. But the Orator turns out to be deaf and dumb, and the message, as both spoken and written words, is unintelligible. The reason for this is because the Old Man has not taken responsibility for his life and for the delivery of the message, and thus the message becomes irrationally absurd, but Ionesco probably intended another meaning. As an emerging playwright, Ionesco was most likely frustrated with actors and productions that failed to understand and convey his work. The Orator, then, is the actor who bumbles the work, mismatching his pleasant face and voice with the difficult words. But Ionesco could also be criticizing himself for allowing the Orator—or actors—to deliver his work in the first place. The Old Man is cowardly and worships the godly Orator, and Ionesco may find himself at fault for allowing incompetents to handle his plays.