Artaud’s civil war: ‘Theatre and the Plague’ in the time of Covid-19

Sam Haddow*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article examines Antonin Artaud’s ‘Theatre and the Plague’ in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic and through the Ancient Greek term stasis, which describes a civil war between domestic and public spaces. Once initiated, it was believed that this conflict would spread from household to household like a contagion; city states thus implemented draconian measures in the name of preventing stasis. Giorgio Agamben argues that such measures were embedded in subsequent theories of the state, fuelling ever more oppressive policies throughout history. Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ energizes a force comparable to this stasis, both in terms of its latency and its contagiousness, activating dormant conflicts in the individual that are expressed through networks of infection and create frontiers of shared resistance to institutional authority. ‘Theatre and the Plague’, read through the lens of stasis, can thus offer valuable contributions to current debates around biopolitics, particularly those seeking collective forms of agency during and beyond the current pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-271
Number of pages10
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Stasis
  • Plague
  • Biopolitics
  • Cruelty
  • Darkfield
  • Lockdown
  • Nicole Loraux
  • Giorgio Agamben


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