This In so doing, they change the very

This book endeavors to show that all theatre is
necessarily political unlike what is generally assumed. This is , because all
the activities of man are political and theatre is not an exception. Those who
try to detach theatre from politics  try
to lead us into error, and this in itself is a political attitude. In this book
Boal  also offer some proof that the
theatre is a weapon,a very ef? cient weapon as such. And for this sole reason
it must be fought for. For this reason the ruling classes or bourgeoisie   struggle
to take permanent hold of the theatre and utilise it as a tool for domination
of the lower class. In so doing, they change the very concept of what ‘theatre’
is. But the theatre can also be a weapon for liberation. For that, it is
necessary to create appropriate theatrical forms. Change is vital. This Book
tries to show some of the fundamental changes and how the people have responded
to them. In the ancient Greek era, ‘Theatre’ was the people singing freely in
the open air; the theatrical performance was created by and for the people, and
could thus be called dithyrambic song. It was a celebration in which all could
participate freely. Then came the aristocracy and established divisions: some
persons will go to the stage and only they will be able to act; the rest will
remain seated, receptive, passive – these will be the spectators, the masses,
the people. And in order that the spectacle may ef? ciently re? ect the
dominant ideology, the aristocracy established another division: some actors
will be protagonists (aristocrats) and the rest will be the chorus –
symbolising, in one way or another, the mass. Aristotle’s coercive system of
tragedy shows us the workings of this type of theatre. Later came the
bourgeoisie and changed these protagonists: they ceased to be objects embodying
moral values, superstructural, and became multidimensional subjects,
exceptional individuals, equally separated from the people, as new aristocrats
– this is the poetics of virtù of Machiavelli.

         Bertolt Brecht
reacts to this poetics by taking the character theorised by Hegel as absolute
subject and converting him back into an object. But now he is an object of
social forces, not of the values of the superstructures. Social being
determines thought, and not vice versa. What was lacking to complete the cycle
was what is happening at present in Latin America – the destruction of the
barriers created by the ruling classes. First, the barrier between actors and
spectators is destroyed: all must act, all must be protagonists in the
necessary transformations of society. This is the process Boal describes in
‘Experiments with the People’s Theatre in Peru’. Then the barrier between protagonists
and choruses is destroyed: all must be simultaneously chorus and protagonist –
this is the ‘Joker’ system. Thus we arrive at the poetics of the oppressed, the
conquest of the means of theatrical production.

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In chapter one of Theatre Of The Oppressed. Augusto
Boal makes mention of some very early scholars like Aristotle and Plato. He
speaks on how they make the connection between Theatre and Politics. He
classifies Aristotle’s system of Tragedy as coercive  and intimidating. He believes theatre was
used then to make the audience or spectator put an end to negative habits. They
are horrified by the end of the play they are sort of forced to pay heed
without necessarily thinking for themselves. He asserts that Aristotelian
theatre is oppressive and which seeks to get the spectator to be law abiding.
The hero is associated with a tragic flaw which eventually leads to his
downfall. There is catharsis and the spectators feel sorry for him and this
leaves some fear in them.  He goes on to
comment on Aristotle’s position on  art
imitiating nature,what is imitation, the purpose of art and science, what
tragedy is  and many more.

What, then, is the Purpose of Art and Science? Boal
asks. He probes for the importance of art and science if everything is said to
be perfect. Nature, according to Aristotle, tends to perfection, which does not
mean that it always able to achieve this perfection. The body tends to health,
but it can become ill; men in the aggregate tend to the perfect State, but wars
can occur. Thus nature has certain ends in view, states of perfection toward
which it tends – but sometimes nature fails. From this follows the purpose of
art and science: by ‘re-creating the creative principle’ of things, they
correct nature where it has gone wrong . Here are some examples: the body
‘would tend’ to resist rain, wind, and sun, but it does not in fact do so since
the skin is not suf?ciently resistant by itself . Thus we invent the art of
weaving and the manufacture of fabrics to protect the skin. The art of
architecture constructs buildings and bridges, so that men can have shelter and
cross rivers; medical science prepares medications for organs that have ceased
to function as they should. Politics likewise tends to correct the faults that
men have, even though they all tend to the perfect communal life.  The purpose of science then is to correct the
faults or mistakes in nature by using the things nature itself suggest.

 He goes on
to speak on Major Arts and Minor Arts. The arts and sciences do not exist in
isolation, without relation to each other, but on the contrary, are all
interrelated according to the activity characteristic of each. They are also,
in a certain way, arranged hierarchically according to the greater or lesser
magnitude of their ?elds of action. The major arts are subdivided into minor
arts, and each one of them have elements that can be found in the other.Thus,
the raising of horses is an art, as is also the work of the blacksmith. These
arts, together with others – such as that of the man who makes leather goods,
etc. – constitute a greater art, which is the art of equitation. Always a group
of arts combines to form a more ample, greater, more complex art. Thus we have
established that nature tends toward perfection, that the arts and sciences
correct nature in all its faults, and at the same time are interrelated under
the domain of a sovereign art which deals with all men, with all they do, and
all that is done for them: Politics.

What then does Tragedy Imitate?

Tragedy imitates human acts. For Aristotle, man’s
soul was made up of two parts that is the rational part and of another,
irrational part. The irrational soul could produce certain activities such as
eating, walking or performing any physical movement without greater importance than
the physical act itself. Tragedy, on the other hand, imitated solely man’s
actions, determined by his rational soul. Man’s rational soul can be divided

A faculty is everything man is able to do, even
though he may not do it. That is a man can be wicked even if he isn’t and can
love even if he doesn’t love Faculty is pure potentiality  and capability and is inherent to the rational
part of the soul. But, even though the soul has all the faculties, only some of
them may not come to fruition. These are the passions. A passion is not merely
a ‘possibility’, but a concrete fact. Love is a passion once it is expressed as
such. As long as it is simply a possibility and not a realization  it will remain a faculty. A passion is an
‘enacted’ faculty, a faculty that becomes a concrete act. Not all passions  necessarily serve as subject matter for
tragedy.. Thus we conclude that tragedy imitates man’s actions, but only those
produced by the habits of his rational soul. Animal activity is excluded, as
well as the faculties and passions that have not become habitual.Thus far we
are able to say that tragedy imitates man’s actions, those of his rational
soul, directed to  helping him attain his
ultimate happiness…

That leads us to what is Happiness?

The types of happiness, as propounded by Aristotle,
are three: one that derives from material pleasures, another from glory, and a
third from virtue. For the average normal person, happiness consists in
possessing material wealth and enjoying them. Riches, honours, sexual and that
is happiness. For the Greek philosopher, human happiness on this level differs
very little from the happiness that can be enjoyed by animals too. This
happiness, he says, does not deserve to be studied in tragedy. On a second
level, happiness is glory. Here man acts according to his own virtue, but his
happiness consists in the recognition of his actions by others. Happiness is
not in  what can be termed as virtious
but it rather is in people acknowledging the deed. Man, in order to attain
happiness needs approval from other people. Finally, the superior level of
happiness is that of the man who acts virtuously and asks no more. His
happiness consists in acting in a virtuous manner, whether others see him or
not. This is the highest degree of happiness: the virtuous exercise of the
rational soul. Now we know that tragedy imitates the actions of the rational
soul – passions or faculties  transformed
into habits of the man in search of happiness, which is to say, virtuous

What then is Virtue?

Virtue is the behaviour most distant from the
possible extremes of behaviour in any given situation. Virtue cannot be found
in the extremism: both the man who voluntarily refuses to eat and the glutton
harm their health. This is not virtuous behaviour; to eat with moderation is.
The absence of physical exercise, as well as the too violent exercise, ruins
the body; moderate physical exercise constitutes virtuous behaviour. The same
is true of the moral virtues. Creon thinks only of the good of the State, while
Antigone thinks only of the good of the Family and wishes to bury her dead,
traitorous brother. The two behave in a non-virtuous manner, for their conduct
is extreme. Virtue would be found somewhere in the middle ground. The man who
gives himself to all pleasures is a libertine, but the one who ? ees from all
pleasures is an insensitive person. The one who confronts all dangers is
foolhardy, but he who runs from all dangers is a coward. Virtue is not exactly
the average, for a soldier’s courage is much closer to temerity than to
cowardice. Nor does virtue exist in us ‘naturally’; it is necessary to learn
it. The things of nature lack

man’s ability to acquire habits.. But we can
cultivate habits which will allow us to behave virtuously. Necessary
Characteristics of Virtue

A man can behave in a totally virtuous manner and,
in spite of that, not be considered virtuous; or he may behave in a vicious
manner and not be considered vicious. In order to be considered virtuous or vicious,
human action must meet four conditions. For the to be true virtue , there must
be wilfuness,freedom,knowledge and constancy. He goes on to speak on the
degrees of vrtue and what justice is.

                    In  chapter two,
Boal brings to bare  the changes in
theater during the transition from the medieval, feudal period and the
renaissance, with the rise of a bourgeois middle class. He states that the
bourgeois rose up due to their individual prowess and practicality, leading to
the rise of the exceptional individual protagonist in theater. Machiavelli’s
plays propound the value of intellect separated from morality, through which
characters get what they want. He talks about Machiavelli and Poetics of
Virtu. The feudal abstraction where the ruling class dictating the content of
the plays that were put up the state and the wealthy financed this productions
hence will not permit content contrary to their  rules and beliefs. The Athens society for
instance was an imperialistic society. In the middle ages theatre control by
the clergy and noble was even more effective

              The feudal plays were always
aiming at teaching morals  and exemplary
nature: the good were rewarded and the bad were punished.  Examples could be found in Shakespeare and the
greek theatre were the feudal society created art that promoted religion. Noble
character were equated to saints and the resolution of the plays  put fear in the people and reminded them of
the reward that awaits them for good service. They could be divided roughly in
two groups: plays of sin and plays of virtue. Among the plays of virtue, there
was The Representation and Commemoration of Abraham and Isaac, his Son, by
Belcari. Eveyman by an unknown English writer is an example of plays on sin. The
feudal society and the clergy had one thing in common they perpetuated existing
systems. The feudal nobility later gave way to new art;  the Bourgeois Concretion In “Machiavelli and Mandragola”, Boal
discusses Machiavelli’s play Mandragola, a transitional play between feudal and
bourgeois theater. The characters are in part, individuals, and in part,
abstractions. Machiavelli believes that reason, separated from morality, is the
key to gaining power or conquering a woman, as in the play. The
“virtuous” characters believe in this idea, such as Ligurio, the
practical central character who approaches all problems through his own
intellect, without thought to morality.  Ligurio is able to seduce the young Madonna
Lucrezia Around that time people were concerned with making money and
economizing and using cleverness to achieve their aims.

                 In the third chapter, Boal
compares Hegel and Bertolt Brecht. There is some misunderstanding which has to
do with how certain words or terms are used. Hegel creates an idealistic
theater, where moral characters act according to their individual, free wills.
The character is like the subject of a sentence, the acting force that creates
action. As we have seen in ‘Aristotle’s Coercive
System of Tragedy’, invokes empathy in the spectator and this provokes,
fundamentally, a delegation of power on the part of the spectator, who becomes
an object in relation to the character: the spectator feels what happens to the
characters will happen to him.. In Brecht’s Marxist theater, the social roles
of characters are emphasized. Characters reflecton society, which forces them
into certain actions and behaviors. In Brecht’s theater, the audience is called
to action through an appeal to reason. In
the case of Aristotle, the empathy he recommends consists in the emotional tie
which involves two basic emotions: pity and fear. Aristotle binds us (the
spectators) to a character who suffers a tragic fate that is undeserved, given
his great virtues and nobility, and the second refers to the fact that that
character suffers the consequences of possessing some fault which we the
spectators also possess. But empathy does not necessarily refer only to those
two emotions , it can be realised through many other emotions, too. The only
indispensable element in empathy is that the spectator assumes a ‘passive’
attitude, delegating his ability to act. But the emotion or emotions which
provoke that phenomenon can be any – fear, sadism, sexual desire for the star,
or whatever. We should note, furthermore, that already in Aristotle empathy did
not appear alone, but simultaneously with another type of relation: dianoia
That is, empathy was the result of the ethos, but the action of dianoia also
provoked the action of a relation which John Gassner called ‘enlightenment’.
What Brecht asserts is that in idealist works the emotion acts by and for
itself, producing what he calls ’emotional orgies’, while a materialist poetics
– whose objective is not only that of interpreting the world but also of
transforming it and making this earth ? nally habitable – has the obligation of
showing how the world can be transformed. A good empathy does not prevent
understanding and, on the contrary, needs understanding precisely in order to
avoid the spectacle’s turning into an emotional orgy and the spectator’s
purging of his social sin. What Brecht does, fundamentally, is to place the
emphasis on understanding (enlightenment), on dianoia. Brecht is not
necessarily speaking against emotion, though he always speaks against the
emotional orgy.According to him he is entirely for emotion born out of
knowledge as opposed to emotion born out of ignorance. Before a dark room from
which a scream is heard, a child becomes frightened: Brecht is against any
attempts to move the spectator with scenes of this type. But if Einstein
discovers that E = mc2, the formula of the transformation of matter into
energy, what an extraordinary emotion! Brecht is all for this type of emotion.
Learning is an emotional experience, and there is no reason to avoid such emotions.
Oblivion causes emotions, and one must oppose emotions of this kind.

the fourth chapter  Boal speaks about
poetics of the oppressed. He takes us back to the beginning where
theatre was the dithyrambic songs, in honour of the god Dionysus. People sang
in open air in procession. Later the ruling class took possession of theatre
and created divisions. They created the actor and the spectator and the people
were coerced and oppressed. Now the oppressed
people are liberated themselves and, once more, are making the theatre their
own. The division must be taken away. The spectator starts acting again:
invisible theatre, forum theatre, image theatre. Boal reviews his work in Peru
with the adult literacy program. He outlines ways in which the people can
become participants in the theater, instead of inactive spectators. Boal’s
stategy to transform the spectator into an actor is in four stage; the first
stage is a series of exercises which allows you to know your body that is
knowing your limitations and possibilities of how far you can or can not go.
The second stage is expressing your body in ways that you are not used to and
not common form of expression. The third stage is theatre as language one
begins to practise theatre as a language that is living and present, not as a ?nished
product displaying images from the past. This one is however in degrees; First
degree: Simultaneous dramaturgy: the spectators ‘write’ simultaneously with the
acting of the actors; Second degree: Image theatre: the spectators intervene
directly, ‘speaking’ through images made with the actors’ bodies; Third degree:
Forum theatre: the spectators intervene directly in the dramatic action and
act. Finally the fourth stage is  theatre
as discourse: simple forms in which the spectator-actor creates ‘spectacles’
according to his need to discuss certain themes or rehearse certain actions.  Newspaper theatre ,Invisible theatre are
examples of theatre as discourse. . Newspaper theater, developed
by the Nucleus Group of Sao Paulo, transforms news into drama. A news story may
be read out of context. Boal reviews
different types of theater that can involve the audience actively in the ideas
of the theater.

              Finally, in
the fifth chapter, Boal reviews his work in Brazil’s Arena Theater in Sao Paulo
and outlines his Joker system of theater. In the Joker system, a Joker
character, who exists in the time and place of the audience, represents the
author’s point of view and presents the argument of the drama. The Joker leads
the audience in an educational analysis of what is happening and calls the
audience to take  action at the end of
the play. “, Boal
contrasts the Arena Theater to Brazil’s European-style, upper-class  theater and follows its stages of development.
It was a long period during which the Arena Theatre stopped accepting European playwright
no matter how quality the work was, opening them to anyone who wished to talk
about Brazil to a Brazilian audience. This phase coincided with political
nationalism, with the ?ourishing of industry in São Paulo, with the foundation
of Brasília, with the euphoria of prizing highly everything that is national.
At this time the Bossa Nova and the New Cinema were also born. The plays dealt
with anything that was Brazilian: bribery in provincial soccer games, strikes
against capitalists, adultery in a small village, subhuman living conditions of
railway employees, bandits (cangaceiros) in the Northeast, and popular belief
in visions of the Holy Virgin and devils, etc.The Arena Theater sought to find
Brazilian works, but Brazil’s authors were working in foreign style, so the
theater settled on realism as a first stage. The new Actor’s Laboratory studied
Stanislavski’s method acting style, with Brazilian actors. They performed works
by Steinbeck and Brecht, among others, using the intimate circular style of
theater. The art direction evolved from conventional structures of doors and
windows, to a bare stage of few elements, to finally appropriate design for
circular staging. The Arena produced musical shows as well



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