Top 10 Most Existential Plays
#10 - THE ZOO STORY [1958] Edward Albee
THE ZOO STORY [1958] Edward Albee Image

"You have everything in the world you want; you've told me about your home, and your family, and your own little zoo. You have everything, and now you want this bench. Are these the things men fight for? This iron and this wood, is this your honor? Is this the thing in the world you'd fight for? Can you think of anything more absurd?"

#09 - THE BALCONY [1957] Jean Genet
THE BALCONY [1957] Jean Genet Image

"So long as we were in a room in a brothel, we belonged to our fantasies, but once having exposed them, we're now tied up with human beings, tied to you and forced to go on with this adventure according to the laws of visibility."

#08 - ENDGAME [1957] Samuel Beckett
ENDGAME [1957] Samuel Beckett Image

—"Do you believe in the life to come?"

—"Mine was always that."

#07 - RHINOCEROS [1959] Eugene Ionesco
RHINOCEROS [1959] Eugene Ionesco Image

—"Life is an abnormal business."

—"On the contrary. Nothing could be more natural, and the proof is that people go on living."

—"There are more dead people than living. And their numbers are increasing. The living are getting rarer."

#06 - SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR [1921] Luigi Pirandello

"Whatever you touch and believe in and that seems real for you today, is going to be—like the reality of yesterday—an illusion tomorrow."


"Eternity's a terrible thought. I mean, where's it all going to end?"

#04 - THE ROOM [1957] Harold Pinter
THE ROOM [1957] Harold Pinter Image

"We're very quiet. We keep ourselves to ourselves. I never interfere. I mean, why should I? We've got our room. We don't bother anyone else. That's the way it should be."

#03 - THE BALD SOPRANO [1950] Eugene Ionesco
THE BALD SOPRANO [1950] Eugene Ionesco Image

"Take a perfect circle, caress it and you'll have a vicious circle."

#02 - NO EXIT [1944] Jean-Paul Sartre
NO EXIT [1944] Jean-Paul Sartre Image

"One always dies too soon—or too late. And yet, life is there, finished: the line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life."

#01 - WAITING FOR GODOT [1953] Samuel Beckett
WAITING FOR GODOT [1953] Samuel Beckett Image

"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! . . . Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us!"


Top 10 List Courtesy of Marty Murray

User Comments - Add a Comment
jimmydadean - 2009-01-15 04:00:08

Ros and Guil one of my favorite plays of all time, I'm glad to see it made it on the list

dherkes - 2009-01-19 00:17:58

You forgot Camus . . . The Plague, etc.

J.Truant - 2009-01-19 21:16:37

Read the title you idiot

Marty - 2009-01-20 21:15:13

There was already one for novels. So this one is for PLAYS.

Anonymous - 2009-10-17 19:31:05

This list definitely needed Ibsen on it somewhere.

Bokanovsky Jones - 2009-10-18 07:26:10

I'd like to know your definition of existentialism. At least half of these plays are absurdist. There's a difference.

Anon - 2010-05-07 02:16:40

You're right, existence cannot be absurd. Surely existentialism doesn't encompass absurdity within it.

Virginia - 2010-05-11 01:49:48

Existentialism encompasses absurdity. The idea of the absurd is a major theme in existentialist literature, especially in Camus's. Camus even says in his very notable EXISTENTIAL work "The Myth of Syphilis" that "The absurd is born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world."

Joe L. - 2010-10-16 19:14:47

All of the plays of Camus would qualify as Existential plays. They just are not well known. State of Siege, The Possessed, and Caligua are probably known better than his other plays. The Plague is a novel by Albert Camus.

Tasha - 2011-05-15 11:57:12
I'm happy to see No Exit. (:
Anonymous - 2013-01-27 03:41:58

Really, Virginia, "The Myth of Syphilis"? If you quote the book, know how to spell the title...or you're a troll who's denouncing a good bit of writing. However, I do agree with you when you say absurdism falls under existentialism, as it agrees on a lot of key points with existentialism and descended from it.

Dan - 2017-03-02 05:43:08

Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy should be on the list