Discussion Topic

Exploring the central and various themes in Peter Weiss' play Marat/Sade

Summary:

Peter Weiss' play Marat/Sade explores central themes like the conflict between revolutionary ideals and the harsh realities of political power. It delves into the nature of human suffering, the clash between individual desires and collective needs, and the psychological impact of violence. The play also examines the tension between reason and madness, and the role of art in society.

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What is the central theme of the play Marat/Sade?

In relation to the central theme of class conflict, Weiss appears to be suggesting that the French Revolution, though a step in the right direction towards enduring social and political change, didn't go far enough. All of the three competing factions at the asylum—represented by Marat, Sade, and Coulmier—want to remain firmly in control. That being the case, they're not prepared to let the inmates take over. The old ruling classes may have gone, but they've simply been replaced by new authority figures, who are every bit as corrupted by power as the aristocrats they replaced.

Marat is praised by the inmates for his radicalism, but they don't believe he's gone far enough. He too has been corrupted by power to the extent that he remains wedded to a hierarchical social system in which the interests of the poor and dispossessed remain largely unaddressed. This symbolizes the overall evaluation of the French Revolution by successive generations of Marxists for whom the great promise of this monumental historical event was never adequately fulfilled.

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What is the central theme of the play Marat/Sade?

The central theme of this play is class conflict. The play takes place in the aftermath of the French revolution.

A little background on the French Revolution may help. In 1789, the ruling family was forcibly removed from Versailles to Paris.

Professor David of Hartwick College explains the purposes and intent of the revolution: "The French Revolution was not only a crucial event considered in the context of Western history, but was also, perhaps the single most crucial influence on British intellectual, philosophical, and political life in the nineteenth century."

Be that as it may, the idealized purposes are not all panning out in reality. The poor are not seeing the fruits of the revolution, the rich seem to be edging back towards the old way of the aristocracy. The play's central theme, then, deals with the seemingly never-ending conflict of classes.

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What are all the themes in Peter Weiss' play Marat/Sade?

The main themes are body vs. mind, appearance vs. reality, and class conflict. Full details can be found in the section on "Themes" in the eNotes study guide to the play, accessed through the link given below.

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