Ubu Roi (King Ubu) is a play by French playwright Alfred Jarry. It involves Père Ubu, a fat, greedy slob, who is convinced by his wife, Mère Ubu, to kill King Venceslas and become the king of Poland. He succeeds with the help of Captain Bordure, under the condition that he gets Lithuania. Upon being crowned, however, Ubu immediately begins abusing his new authority; he denies Bordure Lithuania and imprisons him, kills the nobles and bankers for their money and titles, and then raises the taxes to absurd levels and violently collects them in person. Bordure escapes to Russia, and gets Tsar Alexis to declare war on Poland to get rid of Ubu. But as Ubu prepares to fight the Russians, Bougrelas, the last surviving son of Venceslas, is preparing a revolt of his own, to free Poland from Ubu and avenge his family...
Ubu Roi evolved out of a schoolboy joke between Jarry and his friends, making fun of his physics teacher, Hébert; "Ubu" is likewise a distortion of "Hébert" (pronounced eh-BEH in French). His friends moved on, but Jarry continued and refined it, and it became Ubu Roi, a bizarre, comical play full of Vulgar Humor and idiosyncratic language, parodying Macbeth. When it was first staged at the Théâtre de l'uvre in 1896, it offended the audience enough to cause a riot.
It also got two sequels; Ubu Cocu ("Cuckold Ubu"), an unfinished play where Ubu violently takes over someone's home in search of a man whom Mère Ubu is cheating on him with, and Ubu Enchaîné (Slave Ubu), where Ubu seeks freedom from tyranny by becoming a slave.
Ubu Roi contains examples of:
- Bears Are Bad News: A hostile bear enters the cave where Ubu and his henchmen are hiding after losing to the Russians; see the entry for Dirty Coward below.
- Big Eater: Near the start of the play, Mère Ubu cooks up a banquet for Père Ubu, Captain Bordure and the other conspirators. Père Ubu chases off the others to have it all for himself.
- Cool Sword: Bougrelas is given one by the ghosts of the royal family, symbolic of his mission to get revenge on Ubu.
- Dirty Coward: After Ubu loses against the Russians, he and his paladins hide in a cave, when a bear enters. His two paladins risk their lives to kill the bear, while Ubu runs off to a safe distance and loudly recites prayers, afterwards claiming they wouldn't have survived the encounter without his prayers.
- Dub Name Change: Happens in English translations, to varying degrees.
- Especially "merdre", which has been translated to "shite", "pshit", "shikt", and even "cunt", among others.
- Hero Antagonist: Bougrelas.
- Kill 'Em All: Ubu executes the nobles, magistrates, and financiers for their possessions.
- Stuff Blowing Up: While dogpiling King Venceslas, one of Ubu's paladins "explodes".
- Surreal Humor
- Villain Protagonist: Père Ubu. He's greedy, self-serving, and cowardly. He also frequently threatens Mère Ubu with violence.
- Vulgar Humor