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Amiri Baraka’s The Revolutionary Theatre and Victimization (Essay Sample)


n “The Revolutionary Theatre,” Amiri Baraka writes, “The Revolutionary Theatre must Accuse and Attack anything that can be accused and attacked. It must Accuse and Attack because it is a theatre of Victims. It looks at the sky with the victims’ eyes, and moves the victims to look at the strength in their minds and their bodies.” How might this idea be considered in light of (both theatrical and non-theatrical) works of art like the work(s) you have chosen? In what ways does the work “accuse and attack” from the position of victimhood? How might it “move the victims to
look at the strength in their minds and their bodies”? In what ways is calling attention to victimhood a form of empowerment? To what extent does victimhood offer a form of power from which to speak and act despite the common assumption that victimhood means powerlessness? To what extent do others speak (whether knowingly or not) on behalf of the victim, and how might this detract from (or enable) the power of victimhood? To what extent does victimhood maintain constraints on the agency of the victim? In what ways is the notion of victimhood transformed by the work?


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November 25, 2020
Amiri Baraka’s The Revolutionary Theatre and Victimization
Understanding the relationship between works of art and the societal context when it was made is important for any reader. It allows him to be able to see the complex interplay between the author’s mindset and the portrayal of such through the narratives of his work. Accordingly, one of the pieces that suggest this complex interplay is Amiri Baraka’s works entitled The Revolutionary Theatre and the Dutchman. Since both of these narratives are intertwined with one another, I would like to focus on them both at the same time. Particularly, however, I would like to focus on Baraka’s statement that “The Revolutionary Theatre must accuse and attack anything that can be accused and attacked”, which is a representation of what he believed the theatre should ascribe for. All in all, I believe that Baraka’s work has explicitly utilized characters that are victims of his narratives, in order to portray the societal violence and institutional racism that was present during Baraka’s time.
Victimization and Institutional Racism
One of the main reasons why Baraka believes that the “Revolutionary Theater must Accuse and Attack anything that can be accused and attacked” is because of his belief that the theater would be a good representation of the plight of the minority. It could be seen that Baraka’s works have primarily utilized ‘colored’ protagonists in order to emphasize the common experience of Blacks in everyday society. For example, he used Clay’s character to depict an African American man who is at risks of being discriminated, exploited, or killed by White people despite the social safeguards that are meant to protect people of color. This idea could be seen in the plot of the Dutchman.
In the Dutchman, the tendency for Black Americans to be ‘victimized’ despite the rights given to them was emobodied through the character of Clay. Clay is an African American man who exudes a sense of confidence, well dressed, and capable of talking and connecting well with other people. However, during that time that he met and flirted with Lula he gradually lost his self esteem and confidence after he realized what Lula’s true intentions are. Finally, it was shown that Lula stabbed him and had the other passengers throw Clay’s body outside of the car. This reflects the idea that despite rights and safeguards provided for in society, colored men are always victimized and not allowed to take pride in themselves (as represented by how Lula treated Clay) through ways that they do not expect. Thus, Baraka’s stateme

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