David Mamet
Three Uses of the Knife

Drama doesn't need to affect people's behavior. There's a great and very, very effective tool that changes people's attitudes and makes them see the worid in a new way. It's called a gun.

Now I've been working with audiences thirty years or more, in different venues. And I've never met an audience that wasn't collectively smarter than I am, and didn't beat me to the punch every time.

These people have been paying my rent, all my life. And I don't consider myself superior to them and have no desire to change them. Why should I, and how could I? I'm no different than they are. I don't know anything they don't know. An audience (a populace) can be coerced, by a lie, a bribe (a gun); and it can be instructed/preached at. By anyone with a soapbox and a lack of respect. But in all the above this audience is being abused. They are not being 'changed,' they are being forced.

Dramatists who aim to change the world assume a moral superiority to the audience and allow the audience to assume a moral superiority to those people in the play who don't accept the views of the hero.

It's not the dramatist's job to bring about social change. There are great men and great women who effect social change. They do so through costly demonstrations of personal courageā€”they risk getting their heads beat in during the march on Montgomery. Or chain themselves to a pillar. Or stand up to ridicule or scorn. They put their lives on the line, and that can inspire heroism in others.

But the purpose of art is not to change but to delight. I don't think its purpose is to enlighten us. I don't think it's to change us. I don't think it's to teach us.

The purpose of art is to delight us: certain men and women (no smarter than you or I) whose art can delight us have been given dispensation from going out and fetching water and carrying wood. It's no more elaborate than that.



  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,
   

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Through Eden took their solitary way.