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- Published on Amazon.com
When the character of Marquis de Sade shouts out at Marat, "Can't you see this patriotism is lunacy/Long ago I left heroics to the heroes/I turn my back on this nation/I turn my back on all the nations. . ." the reader can truly sense what the play of Marat/Sade is all about. As the reader gets lost in the production of a play within a play, the idea of surrealism presents itself almost at once. The reenactment of the killing of Jean-Paul Marat by Charlotte Corday seems to be a secondary plot alongside of the chanting and screaming of idealism concerning the revolution and liberty. A division of strategies regarding revolution develops between Marat and Sade. Marat advocates fast action, while Sade preaches that it is hopeless or fruitless to even bother to act. Of course, the cries of the asylum patients tend to distract, but it all adds to the surreal, bizarre nature of the play. I felt that one of the aspects the play touches on is how the revolution affects those living within it. The ideas of liberty, freedom, and revolution all make for interesting debate, but I felt one of the themes that struck me was the reality of revolution as it affects those who live around it day in and day out. One of the more striking scenes of the play, for me, came when Charlotte is in the middle of a monologue, describing children playing with toy-like guillotines. The very idea of children treating such a deathly object as a toy is disturbing, but also brings to life the desensitization that revolution brings about. The play reminds the reader that the death of masses makes the value of life and the impact of an individual death meaningless. That alone is a very somber and surreal thought. There are literary techniques throughout the play that seem to remind the reader that the dramatization depicts things which took place in the past, but threaten to become a part of our future. Marat/Sade attempts to mock the aristocratic classes that seem to catalyze such mass movements of revolution in the first place. The play seems to slap the hand of those in power through the action that takes place throughout. Every time that the characters in the play (the asylum patients) seem to become too excited or outspoken, when the truth behind their madness seems to get out of control, the "Herald" of the play speaks out to placate Coulmier, the director of the asylum. I believe that Weiss tries to make the play more socially acceptable by presenting it in a way that mocks and brings out the weakness of the debacle of government that followed, in this case, the French Revolution, but actually cuts across so many more layers than just one isolated revolution.
Our society will always have people who have large amounts of material wealth, and those who do not. That is an injustice that we must rise above, and change ourselves. Whether our means of change is reached through violence and upheaval or through escape within oneself, this is the core dialectic that the play tackles. Although at times this play is a little hard to follow or even outlandish, the play offers a look at how society deals with its corruption and injustice once it escalates to what may seem to be a point of no return. The element that seems to be the most surreal in my mind is that the ranting of the characters within the play, although they are asylum patients, reveal more truth and brutal honesty than the audience would like to admit. I think Weiss is clever to choose some very clear and controversial themes and present them in a way that is socially appropriate. He does this by blatantly speaking out against established forms of government and rule, but discrediting the characters speaking by placing them in an insane asylum. It is true to say that there are many elements of the play that never seem to completely gel in the end, or come together nicely as in most plays. But to be honest, if the story had come together neatly in the end, the essence of the play would have been lost. I think the point of the play is to show that although people may have conflicting ideals of how to handle a revolution, whether of government or ideology, things do not always work out as we had hoped. People may preach liberty and justice, but when the reality is murder and riots, there are two conflicting messages being handled at once. I believe that is what this play shows rather well. In a very surreal and bizarre way, Weiss enables the reader to see that society hardly ever practices what they preach, and although our goal might be change, in the end, upheaval and disarray may be the only things truly achieved.