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The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail: A Play

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The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail: A Play Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A reissue of a now classic American drama.

If the law is of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law." So wrote the young Henry David Thoreau in 1849. Three years earlier, Thoreau had put his belief into action and refused to pay taxes because of the United States government's involvement in the Mexican War, which Thoreau firmly believed was unjust. For his daring and unprecedented act of protest, he was thrown in jail. The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail is a celebrated dramatic presentation of this famous act of civil disobedience and its consequences. Its poignant, lively, and accessible scenes offer a compelling exploration of Thoreau's philosophy and life.

Jerome Lawrence, formerly master playwright at New York University, and Robert E. Lee (1918-1984), who was a professor of playwriting at UCLA, collaborated on thirteen plays, including Inherit the Wind and Auntie Mame.

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail is a play in two acts, with several shifting and interpolated scenes from the real and imagined life of Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), the great nineteenth-century American author and poet-philosopher. The play is a dramatic representation of a vital moment in our history, in which the 29-year-old Thoreau's ardent refusal to pay taxesin protest to the United States government's involvement in the Mexican Warlanded him in prison in his home of Concord, Massachusetts.

This famous act of civil disobediencedaring and unprecedented though it wasis merely the point of departure for Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's widely celebrated drama. As the play progresses, we in the audience witness many if not most of the formative experiences in young Thoreau's life. We come to understand what motivates this brilliant, independent, and ever-unorthodox writer and thinker, what matters most and least to him in life and why. Perhaps most importantly, we are made privy to the inspiration and development of Thoreau's personal, natural, and influential philosophy.

That philosophy, known as transcendentalism, was an American creation of the middle 1800s that viewed all aspects of life, including human life, as small and inter-related parts of God, or the Universal Mind. Transcendentalismoriginally, at leastwas as much a literary movement as it was a philosophy, and it stressed individual choice and instinct above all other human impulses. Since the play carefully and candidly profiles the friendship between Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, it likewise profiles the friendship that, more than any other, fostered the development and dissemination of transcendentalist thought.

Written and first produced in the early 1970s, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail canand shouldbe read as a work of protest. As alluded to in the playwrights' introductory remarks, the many telling similarities between the Mexican War and the Vietnamese conflict are not coincidental. Indeed, Lawrence and Lee seem to view their protagonist as one who can speak with clarity and conviction to all generations of Americans, be they veterans of the Revolution or members of today's military. But the play, like the man it celebrates, is a work not only of protest but of enlightenment. Henry does the majority of speaking in this play, and whenever he speaks, and whatever he says, he is quite often addressing the audience. The task students have in reading this play is to discern Henry's message as well as his methodwhat Henry David Thoreau is trying to say to us and why (and how) he is saying it. By turns wise, funny, engrossing, and deeply sad, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail is, as the playwrights assert in their Production Notes, "the ruminating of one man in one place in one night." Within these dramatic and far-reaching ruminations American students will recognize both their choices as human beings and dilemmas as members of society, both their history and reflection.

"A superior play, a literary work as well as a theatrical experience. Thoreau would illuminate any season."George Oppenheimer, Newsday

"Absolutely fascinating. The ingenuity of fitting the years together for a single night, the research skill which uncovered all these striking parallels and uses them so naturally, strikes me as imaginatively commanding."Richard L. Coe, The Washington Post

"Thoreau's night in jail seems destined for an important place in the American theater. It combines the drama of Lawrence and Lee's most important previous work, Inherit the Wind, with the charm of their other best known play, Auntie Mame. The script is filled with humor, poignancy, and powerful drama."St. Paul Dispatch

"Lawrence and Lee have produced their finest work."London Financial Times

"The play must rank among the most brilliant intellectual stimulants of the 1970s, perhaps even of the twentieth century."Columbus Dispatch

"There is a great deal to enjoy in this play."Clive Barnes, The New York Times

Synopsis:

A reissue of a now classic American drama.

If the law is of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law." So wrote the young Henry David Thoreau in 1849. Three years earlier, Thoreau had put his belief into action and refused to pay taxes because of the United States government's involvement in the Mexican War, which Thoreau firmly believed was unjust. For his daring and unprecedented act of protest, he was thrown in jail. The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail is a celebrated dramatic presentation of this famous act of civil disobedience and its consequences. Its poignant, lively, and accessible scenes offer a compelling exploration of Thoreau's philosophy and life.

Synopsis:

The American naturalist's life and philosophy are revealed in a dramatic work which focuses on his symbolic act of civil disobedience in 1846. "A superior play, a literary work as well as a theatrical experience".--"Newsday".

About the Author

Jerome Lawrence, formerly master playwright at New York University, and Robert E. Lee (1918-1984), who was a professor of playwriting at UCLA, collaborated on thirteen plays, including Inherit the Wind and Auntie Mame.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780809012237
Author:
Lawrence, Jerome
Author:
Lee, Robert E.
Publisher:
Hill & Wang
Location:
New York
Subject:
American
Subject:
Thoreau, Henry David
Subject:
Drama-American Anthology
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Second Edition
Series Volume:
106-24
Publication Date:
20010731
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
112
Dimensions:
8.28 x 5.45 x 0.4 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Drama » American Anthology
Arts and Entertainment » Drama » Plays

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail: A Play New Trade Paper
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Product details 112 pages Hill & Wang - English 9780809012237 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
A reissue of a now classic American drama.

If the law is of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law." So wrote the young Henry David Thoreau in 1849. Three years earlier, Thoreau had put his belief into action and refused to pay taxes because of the United States government's involvement in the Mexican War, which Thoreau firmly believed was unjust. For his daring and unprecedented act of protest, he was thrown in jail. The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail is a celebrated dramatic presentation of this famous act of civil disobedience and its consequences. Its poignant, lively, and accessible scenes offer a compelling exploration of Thoreau's philosophy and life.

"Synopsis" by , The American naturalist's life and philosophy are revealed in a dramatic work which focuses on his symbolic act of civil disobedience in 1846. "A superior play, a literary work as well as a theatrical experience".--"Newsday".
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