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J.B.: A Play in Verse
Archibald MacLeish
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J.B.: A Play in Verse

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  948 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
The beloved poet-statesman's Pulitzer Prize-winning play which offers something for every reader.
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published August 1st 1989 by Turtleback Books (first published 1958)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,566)
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Dec 21, 2008 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literature scholars
Shelves: poetry, plays, my-top-ten
I've directed this play three times and read it about 10. MacLeish's poetry is phenomenal, and this modern take on the Biblical story of Job is fascinating. In the end, J.B. denies both God (Zues) and Satan (Nickles), turning to human love as the only solace for human suffering. Even the staging--a circus ring--is unique. When Job's "comforters" are replaced by a Marxist, a priest, and a psychologist, MacLeish is devastating in his criticism of such shallow attempts to explain human suffering. I ...more
Jun 10, 2012 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Progreessive Chrisitans
JB is a 20th century version of JOB, the most referred to book in the Bible. This modern masterpiece has all the drama and poignancy of its Old Testament counterpart and it has somewhat a better ending and answers to the question about why bad things happen to good folks.
JB's blinding trust in a God, who rewards the good and punished the sinful, survives all that happens to him or his family.
The devil has more compassion for him than God and his wife even more. She first leaves him for his man
Aug 30, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A play presented in verse is a very ancient art form and not one, frankly, that many today would gravitate toward. Add to this, that this play takes as its template a book from the Old Testament of the Bible and it can sound more than a bit off-putting to the modern reader. This is unfortunate, however, because this work (and it biblical precedent, the Book of Job) engage questions that not only interest the faithful, but indeed, bear directly on the very experience of being human. For example, ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Resa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed “J.B.”

Based on the biblical story of Job, MacLeish takes that story and turns it into a modern day play. That catch? J.B. doesn’t know he’s in the play. He doesn’t know the actors are playing God and the Devil, or using him to prove how quickly man will turn from God when things go wrong.

This is a refreshing take on the story of Job, and in the play J.B. is not just one man, but all of humanity. Originally published in 1956, the world had alread
Feb 19, 2016 Keith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, this book/play is a hit and miss. I thought the Nickles and Zuss sections were outstanding, but I was less interested in the JB sections, particularly those with his wife. It seemed to me that those sections with Sarah were almost maudlin. The original Job has an impersonal feel that dampens the emotion, but highlights the intellect as it grapples with meaningless misfortune. I think it's this kind of play that Brecht was reacting to when he tried to distance the audience from the chara ...more
This is a stark and bitter account of an author who feels alienated from a God who could allow the human horror we often witness in man's inhumanity to man. This is a quite good and highly imaginative account of someone who wished to survey a variety of possibilities for God and still find him wanting. I can understand why this play may have been popular but frankly before last month I was unaware of it. A good read for those familiar with the Biblical story and still believe that God and Satan ...more
William Demaree
Nov 28, 2009 William Demaree rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I am teaching the Book of Job in my lit class, I re-read MacLeish's wonderful play based on the biblical text. Actually, the play is not so much based on the Bible story; it's more like the play argues with it, questioning many of the themes that the Hebrew text seems to take as axiomatic. I love the play, having seen it performed once years ago; the final scene between Job and Sarah will have you tearing up, for sure. Modern plays in verse can become a little pretentious at times, and thi ...more
Aug 07, 2011 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
JB is described as a poetic drama. I got into the rhythm of it and began to appreciate the accomplishment of describing people’s suffering in life and the debate over man’s guilt vs. innocence. The play ends with these key lines:

“Blow on the coal of the heart.
The candles in churches are out.
The lights have gone out in the sky.”

I got the feeling that MacLeish was an atheist and reflected with amazement that we read this radical message in high school in 1968.
Briana Grenert
Jan 10, 2013 Briana Grenert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The characters were awesome. The way that MacLeish wove the acting with the reality was beautiful.
The writing was wonderful and powerful. It is what really made this play epic.
The premise was creative.
The philosophy was stimulating.
I could see this play in my mind; it was epic! I would love to go to the mainland and see it. That would be awesome.
Ahhh, Job.
It was unsettling an marvelous.
Paul Dinger
Jan 06, 2009 Paul Dinger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would love to see this staged. Two clowns put on the masks of god and the devil and act out the book of Job. What is fascinating is how commentary and text are combined. What is more fascinating is the notion of faith in the play as something blind and trusting. Rather than make fun of the Biblical story, this play attempts to understand it. I am sure it would be a triumph onstage.
Erik Graff
Sep 26, 2015 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Dennis Haas
Shelves: drama
I read this play after finishing the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures for Chaplain Dennis Haas' introductory class on the matter at Grinnell College in Iowa. Of the contents of the bible, Job was a favorite and, as an hermeneutic on Job, J.B. is strongly recommended.

The description of the book herein sounds silly, but the play actually works. It even reads well.
Gabriel Oak
Jun 11, 2014 Gabriel Oak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-and-drama
I read this play for Mrs. Horsley's AP Lit class in high school, then promptly forgot about it until I was perusing the poetry stacks at the library a few weeks ago. I couldn't resist picking it up again. The play won a Pulitzer Prize in 1958, and is a modern-day re-telling of the book of Job, though it is more expressionist than realist. The Job character, J.B., is a pious, successful businessman who is divested of children, wife, and health in successive disasters. But the real main characters ...more
Sydney Young
Reading this was fine and good and hard, just like Job is. But seeing it -- there is just something about it. I loved it. I loved all the questions it raises and does not answer. Why is life so hard? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? What are we to do after we suffer and suffer and suffer? Can we ask questions? Must we curse God and die? Can we not just choose to live? The ultimate to be or not to be, this ancient story made modern so that I can gr ...more
Sarah Barry
Jul 11, 2014 Sarah Barry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely brilliant adaptation of the Biblical book of Job. No matter how you feel about the Biblical story, this play will shed new light on it. Beautiful, terrifying, witty, and poignant.
John Elliott
Aug 04, 2015 John Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy read and a different twist to the story of Job from the Bible. Can't do wrong in reading this version. Great play.
Jul 10, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a play that garnered such critical praise in its day, "J.B." seems to get surprisingly little attention these days. It's actually a better play than I thought it would be. I saw a college production over twenty years ago and remember it well. It adheres very tightly to the biblical "Book of Job," while simultaneously allowing significant latitude for performers, directors, and other artists. Like a preacher in a pulpit, MacLeish has embellished on a facet of the original story that appealed ...more
Eugene Plawiuk
Feb 22, 2015 Eugene Plawiuk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mar 12, 2014 Harvey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thought provoking retelling of the story of Job that wrestles honestly with suffering and the goodness of God.
Alexis mask
i loved doing this play

my drama club just finished this play it was amazingly fun and very emotional (also we made alternet in the uil compitition)

its pretty much a more modern version of the book of job from the bible
although you can be very creative with it

the setting is supposted to be at a circus with 2 workers putting on a show

one playing the devil and the other playing god
as they watch j.b. to see if he will lose faith in god
after losing all his childern money and his wfe walking out on hi
Manuel Sanchez
This production won both the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1959 Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Direction. I read this in High School almost 40 years ago and still had the original book. It is a modern retelling of the biblical story of JOB, and one where a faithful JOB, while remaining faithful through his trials, holds fast to his innocence and struggles with the arbitrary injustice of suffering, and God's rule as witness and protagonist to that suffering. This is a story that still ...more
Jan 11, 2015 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Perhaps as a play in a theater this would have moved me. Reading it did not.
Mary Kinietz
Mar 02, 2014 Mary Kinietz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
Read for book group - story of Job. I did not enjoy this book.
Matthew D'alonzo
May 26, 2015 Matthew D'alonzo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good play, good characters, good message. Not much else.
Greg Chandler
A decent "Book of Job" alternative reading.
Anne White
A re-read, after finishing War and Remembrance.
Chelsea Tobin
Apr 18, 2015 Chelsea Tobin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books. Stunning.
3.5, really.
May 31, 2014 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sep 03, 2013 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Margaret by: Lou Ruprecht
Stunning. Beautifully and compellingly written.

It's a play, and poetry, so you have to be prepared to read the style, but it brings the biblical story of Job to life in a modern context. MacLeish delves into the depth of the characters and, avoiding cliche, makes them come alive for the reader. This work is honest about the difficult questions inherent in the story of Job, but sympathetic enough to bring them out in all their complexity.

Well worth the read. A work you will not soon forget.
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Archibald MacLeish (7 May 1892 – 20 April 1982) was an American poet, writer and the Librarian of Congress. He is associated with the Modernist school of poetry. He received three Pulitzer Prizes for his work.
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“You wanted justice ,didn't you?There isn't any...there is only love." - J.B's wife” 3 likes
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