The relationship between presence and absence in theater is intertwined and complex. For Kibédi Varga, a work of art invariably signifies absence in that it proposes an image, a representation, rather than the thing itself (341-42). This is obviously true of theater. At the same time, theater is essentially about presence. The empty stage is a space that derives its potential for force and meaning from the expectation of live bodies engaged in concrete actions there. Perhaps more to the point, theater is about the dialectical relationship between absence and presence. According to Fuchs, "theatre is ever the presence of the absence and the absence of the presence" (172). This dialectic is of course in no way limited to the theater; it pervades current critical theory. Kierkegaard provides a visual image that captures well the interplay between the two: he describes a painting depicting the tomb of Napoleon framed by two trees. Staring at the painting, one begins to see the outline of Napoleon himself in the empty space between the two trees (19). The image of Napoleon both is and is not present in the painting.
Ekstein, N. (2004). Corneille's absent characters. Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature, 31, 27-48.
Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature