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By Alfred Jarry
Translated by Kenneth McLeish
Series: Drama Classics
Imprint: Nick Hern Books
Paperback : 9781854591890, 160 pages, August 1997


Alfred Jarry's trilogy of plays about the comically grotesque character of Pa Ubu, satirising power, greed, and bourgeois pretension.

The Ubu Plays (King UbuCuckold Ubu and Slave Ubu) caused scandal when they first appeared in Paris in the 1890s, with their surreal and frequently obscene energy, and their broad parodies of Shakespeare. They have since acquired cult status in European drama, and are seen by some as harbingers of modernism.

In King Ubu (Ubu roi, first performed in Paris in 1896), Pa Ubu is a cowardly hanger-on at the court of Good King Wenceslas of Baloney. Nagged by his fearsome wife Ma Ubu, he gathers a band of Barmpots and seizes the throne. But Ubu soon turns into a tyrant, debraining anyone who disagrees with him, murdering all the aristocrats and middle classes and extorting triple taxes from the peasants. When Ma Ubu runs off with a handsome soldier, his downfall suddenly seems inevitable. ..

Cuckold Ubu (Ubu cocu) is the darkest and most surreal of the plays. Pa Ubu takes up residence in the home of Peardrop, a breeder of polyhedra, and he and his Barmpots tyrannise the neighbourhood, despite the efforts of Pa Ubu's Conscience and Peardrop to stop them.

In Slave Ubu (Ubu encha?né) Pa Ubu decides that he has had enough of tyranny, and that the only way to be free is to become a slave, with unpredictable results.

Also included is the short sketch Up Ubu (Ubu sur la butte), comprising scenes and sequences from Ubu roi, with added songs.

This volume of The Ubu Plays, in the Nick Hern Books Drama Classics series, contains fresh and performable English translations by Kenneth McLeish, as well as an introduction to the plays and a chronology of Jarry's life.


"Its lunatic grotesquerie is brilliantly caught in McLeish's new translation. .. Exhilaratingly combines the erudite with the lavatorial. .. classical parody and surreal farce anticipating avant-garde art as well as the Goons and Monty Python. "

- Guardian