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JB by Archibald MacLeish

JB (original 1958; edition 1958)

by Archibald MacLeish

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581817,011 (3.66)14
Authors:Archibald MacLeish
Info:Houghton Mifflin (1958), Edition: First Edition. date on title page, Unknown Binding
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J.B.: A Play in Verse by Archibald MacLeish (1958)

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A look at the story of Job, told through the eyes of two actors, Mr. Zuss and Nickles, who take on the roles of God and Satan respectively. J.B. loses everything, but still refuses to curse God. That much is well known; the interest in this play lies in the modernization of the play, and also in the biting wit with which the author addresses his topic. Philosophical questions of life, death, and justice are examined, but answers are not easily dispensed. The audience is left to sort that out for themselves. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | Mar 16, 2015 |
  cavlibrary | May 29, 2013 |
By Archibald MacLeish
Pulitzer Prize winning Play

The world sucks. I could say worse but right now that is all I have strength for – the world sucks.
However – two ways to look at that world – however. However there is a silver lining or however damn it there is a silver lining.
I wrote a poem in January of 2012 – “My Job Days,” it was well received in my writers group. Rod – really great guy, brought me the play J.B. the next writers group meeting and told me to read it.
Brilliant – a brilliant play and just as frustrating as the book of Job itself.
We all have our causes – poverty, worker’s rights, anti-slavery, anti sex trafficking – so many harms in this world, so many disasters. It is hard to take when personal tragedy is answered by a question.
As a matter of fact it is mind bending.
I’ve finished J.B., and it has nearly finished me.
Of course it ended in a humanistic flare – he repented of nothing –he accepted that he is not God – but that was not what redeemed - the love of human for human redeemed.
And it is funny now, that has been my biggest sin – love of man, the desire to be loved by a creature that does not know me. How can he? Did man create me – make me move away from death, instill in me self-preservation? Oh damn – another question.
But the answer is no – no, he, he, he, he, he, he, nor will he ever replace HE.
You know, maybe man wasn’t meant to be saved at all – but the second, the warrior who struck back verbally at the serpent, maybe it was she who was meant to be saved – and he, he, he, he, is saved by default.
And it is mostly men reading this, scoffing at the word, “saved,” well you would, wouldn’t you – you don’t need to be saved from this world – she does. And blindly she, she, she, she, she, comes back, just like Sarah to J.B. She comes back to be human rather than seek her own whirl wind. And why wouldn’t she, built as she is – the lure of sex, the contentment and afterglow of orgasms, the feeling of partnership after God has dealt His tremendous blows. Ah deception, deception works in wonderful, wonderful ways – and the result – she would rather be a slave than be alone.
J.B. is brilliant – yeah I said that already – but it is true – it is brilliant. ( )
  skwoodiwis | Jun 10, 2012 |
“We have no choice but to be guilty. God is unthinkable if we are innocent.”

In a playhouse, a story of J.B. and Sarah is performed – a pious family who suffers and grieves when all five of their children are killed. But above in the rafters, looking on, are two veteran and world-weary actors supplying the deliberations, by proxy, of God and Satan. It’s a retelling of the book of Job, obviously, but its examination of the pathos and ethics of theodicy takes a highly different strategy. Job is no longer isolated and in opposition to the rest of the world: instead, his family is equally affected and given the respect of being subjects rather than objects of Job’s suffering. The children’s deaths are not a static circumstance that establishes Job’s suffering at the outset (in the book of Job, the children’s deaths can be resolved wryly with “His children die, but it’s okay, he gets new ones!”), but an ongoing source of grief through which to struggle. The portrayal of suffering as not an individual struggle but rather one that breaks down relationships makes the ethics of the situation even more insurmountable: would a God who is good give us love and then give us circumstances whose anguish is only heightened by love’s loss?

The story’s setting within the rehearsal of a playhouse also shifted the tone in a really interesting dynamic. In the book of Job, while God and Satan have a greater perspective, Job’s “on the ground” circumstances leave him with a sense of divine inevitability (ie, God is God, what are you going to do about it). But for J.B., the play is artificial, and when it’s over he goes back to…life? The real world? The tension raised by the recognition that these are actors portraying one circumstance of tragedy, while in the greater world a variety of equally moving tragedies are actually affecting people’s lives, heightens the indirect confrontation of God. Job isn’t extraordinary or specially hand-selected: rather, exactly the opposite, he is ordinary and among the vast company of humanity enduring hardships. And in the end, the theatricality is undercut, as there is no whirlwind, no confrontation of God, and no restoration.

The character and power of God is diminished in this retelling of Job because, as Sarah says, “God is unthinkable if we are innocent.” By bringing humanity and relationship to the forefront, the story is steadfast about the value of human life, human goodness, and human innocence: therefore God remains accused and the sympathies of the audience remain with humanity. ( )
1 vote the_awesome_opossum | Jun 14, 2011 |
The Biblical book of Job consists of the "frame" and the "body" of the story. The body is the bulk of the book, and consists of a lengthy debate between Job and his friends. The frame was written later, and opens with the story of God and the Adversary having a spat about why Job is so good, and God handing Job over for the Adversary to do with as he pleases. And then concludes with God's appearance at the end of the book.

J.B. is a modern dramatization of the Job story, except that almost the entire play is built from the frame. The body of the story is passed over in a few short lines.

Like Job, J.B. asks the question, "If there is a loving God, why do bad things happen to good people." And as in Job, it is the asking of the question that is important. No satisfactory answer is given. ( )
  fingerpost | Apr 2, 2011 |
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The scene throughout is a corner inside an enormous circus tent where a side show of some kind has been set up.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0395083532, Paperback)

Based on the story of Job, this drama in verse tells the story of a twentieth-century American banker and millionaire whom God commands be stripped of his family and wealth, but who refuses to turn his back on God. J.B. won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1959 and the Tony Award for best play. More important, the play sparked a national conversation about the nature of God, the meaning of hope, and the role of the artist in society.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:58 -0400)

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Modern poetic version of the biblical Book of Job which attempts to relate the concept of goodness to contemporary life.

(summary from another edition)

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