J.B.: A Play in Verse

J.B.: A Play in Verse

by Archibald MacLeish


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780395083536
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 08/01/1989
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 216,045
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.42(d)

About the Author

Archibald MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois in 1892. He attended Yale University and served in World War I. Later, he went to Harvard Law School and practiced law in Boston for a few years until he gave it up and moved to Paris with his wife and children to devote all his time to writing poetry. He returned to the United States to research the Spanish conquest of Mexico, and the result, CONQUISTADOR (1932), won him a Pulitzer Prize. From 1920-1939, he was a member of the editorial board of FORTUNE magazine and he served as Librarian of Congress from 1929 to 1944. MacLeish's COLLECTED POEMS (1952) won a Pulitzer Prize and his poetic drama, J.B. based on the Book of Job, was a Broadway success in 1957.

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J. B. : A Play in Verse 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿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.
fingerpost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Clif on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a play that provides a contemporary version of the book of Job from the Bible. I'm still in the process of deciding what I think of it. One conclusion from the play is that, "If God is God, God is not good; and if God is good, God is not God." Also, it is obvious that Job's wife's return and declaration of human love provides far better solace that anything that God or the intellectual and religious "comforters" provided.