Sunday, June 21, 2009

Marat/Sade: A Relevant Debate

Peter Weiss' classic verse play, which I first read as a teen, is all the more relevant today. The play is a debate between Jean-Paul Marat, the agitational journalist of the French Revolution, and Marquis de Sade the pornographer locked away in a mental institution.

The subject of the debate is whether Charlotte Corday was justified in murdering the leader of the French Revolution in the hopes of causing an end to the bloodshed of the infamous "reign of terror."

The debate is thus:

Marquis de Sade: Revolutions are bloody, violent, and oppressive. They are based on idealistic notions of a perfect world. Ultimately all we can do in this "dog-eat-dog" world is weaken the oppressive apparatus of the state, and try to survive.

Jean-Paul Marat: The "dog-eat-dog" world has no chance of improving unless the people take up arms to change it. People dying is sometimes necessary for history to march forward. Until there is a perfect world, the duty of people is to constantly be at war.

Essentially, as society crumbles, should we rise up and try and build a better world, or just try and survive as long as we can?

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