Oleanna: A Play
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Publish Year note: First published in 1993
In David Mamet's latest play, a male college instructor and his female student sit down to discuss her grades and in a terrifyingly short time become the participants in a modern reprise of the Inquisition. Innocuous remarks suddenly turn damning. Socratic dialogue gives way to heated assault. And the relationship between a somewhat fatuous teacher and his seemingly hapless pupil turns into a fiendishly accurate X ray of the mechanisms of power, censorship, and abuse.
against my better judgment, against … CAROL: I was most surprised … JOHN: … against the … yes. I’m sure. CAROL: … If you would like me to leave, I’ll leave. I’ll go right now … (She rises.) JOHN: Let us begin correctly, may we? I feel … CAROL: That is what I wished to do. That’s why I came here, but now … JOHN: … I feel … CAROL: But now perhaps you’d like me to leave … JOHN: I don’t want you to leave. I asked you to come … CAROL: I didn’t have to come here. JOHN: No. (Pause)
are a Free Person, you decide. (Pause) JOHN: Give me the list. (She does so. He reads.) CAROL: I think you’ll find … JOHN: I’m capable of reading it. Thank you. CAROL: We have a number of texts we need re … JOHN: I see that. CAROL: We’re amenable to … JOHN: Aha. Well, let me look over the … (He reads.) CAROL: I think that … JOHN: LOOK. I’m reading your demands. All right?! (He reads) (Pause) You want to ban my book? CAROL: We do not … JOHN (Of list): It says here … CAROL:
prolong adolescence … CAROL: … and about “The Curse of Modern Education.” JOHN: … well … CAROL: I don’t … JOHN: Look. It’s just a course, it’s just a book, it’s just a … CAROL: No. No. There are people out there. People who came here. To know something they didn’t know. Who came here. To be helped. To be helped. So someone would help them. To do something. To know something. To get, what do they say? “To get on in the world.” How can I do that if I don’t, if I fail? But I don’t
something-other-than-useful. CAROL: What is “something-other-than-useful?” JOHN: It has become a ritual, it has become an article of faith. That all must be subjected to, or to put it differently, that all are entitled to Higher Education. And my point … CAROL: You disagree with that? JOHN: Well, let’s address that. What do you think? CAROL: I don’t know. JOHN: What do you think, though? (Pause) CAROL: I don’t know. JOHN: I spoke of it in class. Do you remember my example?
Yes, all right. I was looking for a model. To continue: I feel that one point … CAROL: I … JOHN: One second … upon which I am unassailable is my unflinching concern for my students’ dignity. I asked you here to … in the spirit of investigation, to ask you … to ask … (Pause) What have I done to you? (Pause) And, and, I suppose, how I can make amends. Can we not settle this now? It’s pointless, really, and I want to know. CAROL: What you can do to force me to retract? JOHN: That is not what