The play went through several incarnations before it was finally published. MacLeish began the work in as a one-act production but within three years had expanded it to a full three-act manuscript. There are two versions of J. The play opens in "a corner inside an enormous circus tent".
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Chaos and impermanence exist at every level of the universe—from the life and death of stars to the creation and eventual destruction of the earth and every human, flower, and form of life on it.
As a result, suffering is a key part of human experience, and because of this, mankind has searched for meaning in a world which involves inescapable loss, death, and pain. While it is completely understandable that humans question why suffering exists, J. By analyzing J. In other words, these responses are trying to create justice by applying the roles of hero and villain to God and to man when there are no heroes or villains involved in suffering—just the nature of existence.
This description of the mask is intentional and reveals a lot about the idea that evil is the fault of humanity. Basically, this means that when we blame mankind in order to make God the hero in the story of suffering, we close our eyes to evil and overlook the pain of others.
In the beginning of the play, there is a scene that demonstrates this:. Sarah:[…]I love Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Where have Monday, Tuesday, gone? Under the grass tree, under the green tree, one by one. I love Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday one by one. Rebecca: Say it again Jonathan: You say it, Father. Sarah: Not at all. The light fades, leaving the two shadows on the canvas sky In this scene, Sarah is questioning meaning and describing loss, but when J.
They would rather keep their idea of a good God and justice than acknowledge that God may not be the hero—that there may, in fact, be no hero at all…just existence and everything that comes with it.
In contrast to the Godmask, the Satanmask represents the attempt to justify the problem of evil by blaming God; however, this answer is insufficient because it uses the existence of evil to determine the character of God while ignoring the existence of good. Sarah demonstrates this idea in a conversation with J. Sarah: […] almost mechanically […] God is our enemy. God has something hidden from our hearts to show. She stares and cannot look away.
Nickles: She knows! Sarah: He should have kept it hidden. Yes, I know This scene is so interesting because both the Godmask-response J. At first glance, this response seems logical at least more logical than the Godmask response ; however, there is an important contradiction in the description of the Satanmask and, hence, in its argument. It ignores beauty to stare at the evil that it wishes to project onto the character of God. Interestingly, Sarah and Nickles almost view this hatred of God and thus evil as heroic, thus, creating their own sense of justice.
It is upsetting to accept the fleeting nature of existence. This is important because the text implies that when mankind wears these masks—these attempts to justify the problem of evil—they become hollow and lose what makes them human. They either completely ignore suffering or they pretend that suffering is all that exists when, in reality, life is a mixture of good and evil… of beauty and pain and simple existence.
Weep, enormous winds will thrash the water. Cry in sleep for your lost children, snow will fall…snow will fall… J. Sarah: You wanted justice and there was none—only love. He is. Sarah: But we do. By saying this, J. In this way, J. This is why J. Essentially, he is asking which of the Godmask and Satanmask arguments is correct; however, as the play suggests, both arguments are insufficient because they assume that either God or mankind must play the hero while the other must play the villain on the stage of human experience.
When J. Once he realizes that there are no heroes or villains involved in suffering—just the nature of existence, he does not know what it means to live anymore—what it means to be human anymore. Blow on the coal of the heart…the lights have gone out in the sky. Blow on the coal of the heart. Thus, instead of searching for heroes or villains, J. This is probably one of my favorite plays. I think I was in junior high when I read this.
It made a deep impression on me, and there are lines from it I still remember and ponder. Not a text that I know anything about, so well done on evoking my interest.
Thank you for sharing your analysis. An absolutely brilliant adaptation of the Biblical book of Job. No matter how you feel about the Biblical story, this play will shed new light on it. Beautiful, terrifying, witty, and poignant.
Helpful analysis of the play. I am a freshman in high school and the unit that we are in now is all about the Bible and how it relates to literature such as this book, J. So far, the book has been mostly arguing with the Book of Job and not that similar in most ways. As I finish reading it, I will have more to say….
I think this play really misinterprets the book of Job, but it is thought-provoking and has a lot to say about the messed up world we live in. This was a cool story, really inventive, and I liked how it was like people playin without knowing they were in a play. Interesting parallels to the Book of Job, still, a bit depressing and uneventful considering all that befalls the title character. I taught this in a course called The Bible As Literature. It makes a great companion to the Book of Job.
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J.B. A Play in Verse, by Archibald MacLeish
There is probably no way to prove that the people who like J. If only all the forms of intellectual laziness and disinfected passion were some-how congruent, the Enemy would be more clearly defined, easier both to see and to grapple with. But, alas, what Dwight MacDonald has dubbed "the Middlebrow Counter-Revolution" is a more diffuse and deceptive thing than that: it manifests itself in lush arrangements of Bach and suburban productions of Shakespeare, its artifacts are slow to be recognized because they are forever hiding themselves behind the skirts of greatness. Good grounds do exist, however, for holding that the J. For it was from there, a year ago last May, that the first salvo of literary enthusiasm was discharged, by the noted American poet and fearless antagonist of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, John Ciardi. Only MacLeish has found the line that teaches the American language how to go greatly on the stage.
MacLeish's 'J. B.': A Review of Reviews
Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email. Job in Modern Dress J. A Play in Verse. Houghton Mifflin. Archibald MacLeish has shown great daring in basing his new poetic drama, J.
J.B.: A Play in Verse
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