The dialectic of derision and apotheosis [dialektyka ośmieszenia i apoteozy]

an idea formulated by the renowned theatre critic Tadeusz Kudliński in a review of Forefathers’ Eve [Dziady] at the Theatre of 13 Rows in an attempt to comprehend the fascinating duplicity of play and grotesque, on the one hand, and danger and seriousness, on the other, which characterised, in Kudliński’s view, this performance. Having recognised its accuracy, Grotowski appropriated this idea and employed it in his own commentaries, particularly in the 1960s. The action described in this idea provides the central axis of the programme announced in the text ‘Możliwość teatru’ (The possibility of theatre), published in February 1962 in ‘Materiały warsztatowe Teatru 13 Rzędów’ (Workshop materials of the Theatre of 13 Rows). In this text, Grotowski expressed the fear that the theatrical encounter, which he consistently considered to be the essence of a new theatre, might become something conventional and dead. In order to avoid this, it is necessary to attack unceasingly the ‘archetype’, i.e. ‘symbol, myth, image, leitmotif – something deeply rooted in a civilisation’s culture. It is a metaphor and model of the human condition’. Grotowski consistently rejected, then, the possibility of evoking a given archetype in a cult or ceremony, arguing that its revelation is possible only when it is profaned (as it was in Forefathers’ Eve) through play and ‘low’ theatrical means. In practice, this profanation was based on constructing grotesque contrasts and radically depriving the evoked and embodied ‘lofty ideas’ of everything which endowed them, from the outside, with this loftiness, while also leaving the actors and audience with a ‘live question’ about archetypes. Beyond Forefathers’ Eve, this method was also used most explicitly in Kordian and (on a different level and in a different context) in Apocalypsis cum Figuris.


Jerzy Grotowski: Możliwość teatru, „Materiały warsztatowe Teatru 13 Rzędów”, Opole, luty 1962 (brak numeracji stron).

Tadeusz Kudliński: „Dziady” w 13 Rzędach, czyli krakowiacy w Opolu, „Dziennik Polski”1961 nr 159 z 1 lipca, s. 3; przedruk: „Dziady” w 13 Rzędach [w:] Misterium zgrozy i urzeczenia. Przedstawienia Jerzego Grotowskiego i Teatru Laboratorium, pod redakcją Janusza Deglera i Grzegorza Ziółkowskiego, Wrocław 2006, s. 139–140.