Trying to Understand Camino Real: an Adornian analysis of Tennessee Williams’s play

Sara Riccetti


My essay focuses on one of Tennessee Williams's least critically analyzed play and probably his less staged one, Camino Real (1953.) The play has often been interpreted as an expressionist and/or an existentialist play. Moreover, it was mostly rejected by critics and audiences alike when he was first performed in the 1950s, mostly due to its unrealistic quality. Remarkably, some of the attributes that the critics used to describe the play are the same used to describe absurdist dramas: "anti-drama", "anti-theatre.” The reason for the failed success of Camino Real lies precisely, in my opinion, in the lack of recognition of the absurdist element in it: the "organized meaninglessness" (Adorno, 120) that allowed Williams to represent the irrational quality of the modern human condition.

Using as critical tool Theodor Adorno’s essay “Trying to Understand Endgame”, my aim will be to show that the play is successful in taking on the themes and techniques of absurdist theatre in the manner of Samuel Beckett. In "Trying to Understand Endgame" Adorno mentions Camino Real and identifies the motif of rubbish as central in both Beckett's Endgame and Camino Real underlying in this way a sort of continuity between the two plays. In my contribution I am going to analyze Camino Real using some of the tools Adorno applies to his study of Endgame and I will try to show the characteristics that in my opinion make Camino Real an absurdist play.


Tennessee Williams; Camino Real; Theodor Adorno; Samuel Beckett

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DOI: 10.3895/rde.v11n19.12966


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