Rhea Myers

Ubu Enchaine

Ubu Enchaine (Ubu Enchained) is the third of Alfred Jarry’s Pere Ubu (Pa Ubu) plays. After refusing to say “merdre”, Pere Ubu arrives in France sets himself against the ideal of liberty, demanding to be made a slave.

The effects of liberty can be seen in the behaviour of The Free Men of the French army. They assert their freedom through disobedience and contrariness, struggling to find the best way to not only disobey orders but to act differently from their comrades. They remain in an army that requires them to act freely, with their commander demanding that they not follow his orders properly, not entirely unaware of the contradictions that this entails.

Ubu’s slavery is as proactive. He attaches himself to various masters, deciding what is best for them and then doing it without being asked, thereby taking over their lives and imprisoning them. When taken to court for this he demands to be thrown in prison, where he will be free from society.

Soon others are inspired to join Ubu in the freedom of the prison and all the cannonballs in the kingdom are used for impromptu balls and chains. When the Free Men con a visiting English tourist into accepting Ubu as the King this is not entirely untrue. Ubu to all intents and purposes is running the country, the demands of his incarceration being met by enormous taxes.

Eventually Ubu demands that he be made a galley slave…