Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Coronation of the Emperor Jones


A Parallel?

Draw one of you will

Byline: Lisa Bornstein, Rocky Mountain News

Any mention of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones from the past 50 years will start off with the squeamish factor, the discomfort of a modern audience watching a black man . . . exhibiting a host of sins. We're not supposed to objectify black men in this way anymore.


his regal swagger [gradually falls to pieces]

"Jones may be an archetype, but he's not a stereotype,"
--Paterson Joseph, black English actor

O'Neill's daring. Not only did he put an African-American centre stage, but he made that character an Everyman
--[Thea] Sharrock and [Paterson] Joseph

COMMENT by Leslie White:
Another play by Eugene O'Neill--that touches Americans:
Long Days Journey into Night


Talk polite, white man, talk polite. I'm boss here. — Jones

He is laughing at, and exploiting the islanders by levying huge taxes so that he can live in luxury. "From stowaway to emperor in two years -- that's going some!" he brags. His behaviour emulates white rulers. When he rings the bell to summon servants all that can be heard is the buzz of a fly.
. . . somewhere, in the background, an African witch doctor dances-- frenetically.



Then Jones enters the throne room. He is a powerfully built black man dressed in a uniform of blue jacket and gold chevrons and braids. His pants are red with light blue stripes down the sides. Around his waist is a belt with a long-barreled, pearl-handled revolver in a holster.

Apparently, Jones has established himself as Emperor on the island and he knows secrets about Smithers [a white British colonial] that keep them both in their respective roles.

Emperor reminds Smithers how he has looked the other way on some of his deals while he was trying to pass laws against his very offenses.

The Emperor knows the ways of the white world from the time that he spent working on a Pullman car. He knows how to talk quality and he has positioned himself as someone of authority over the blacks here.

Smithers reminds him that it was a silver bullet, not his skills, that got him his position. Lem, a native chief, had tried to kill him from 10 feet away and his gun misfired; Emperor killed him instead. He told the natives that only a silver bullet could kill him and that is how he arose to power, knowing that none of them would ever have one. He has bamboozled them into thinking he has mysterious powers.

[The] Emperor has had a silver bullet made just for the drama of it and tells people that he is the only one who can kill himself.



Jones boasts: "Dawn tomorrow I be on de coast. Dat French gunboat takes me to Martinique, and dere I is safe wid a mighty big bank roll in my jeans."
--[Dialogue and dialect by Eugene O'Neill, playwright, from his play The Emperor Jones]


Power corrupts: Paterson Joseph as the doomed dictator in Eugene O'Neill's political tale.
Paterson Joseph, as the Emperor, brings a nicely judged swagger . . .

Power play O'Neill's tale of corruption resounds loud and...
Descent into darkness ; THEATRE -

Blackface and a revelatory 'Emperor Jones'
Chicago Tribune
Originally posted: January 7, 2009
by Chris Jones

It’s not just the "black" dialect of the text or the shiftiness of the central character. It’s the implicit assumption that African-Americans are somehow more in danger of shifting back to some sort of primitivist root than the rest of us. O’Neill, clearly, didn’t spend much time around Illinois politicians. Otherwise he’d have seen that such recidivism has nothing whatsoever to do with race. It’s merely human behavior that those in power have always displayed, while preferring to assign to others.

[color emphasis mine. lw]

Breaking News!

17,500 armed soldiers in addition to Secret Service and other Federal personnel will provide security for the inauguration.

Would I attend the inauguration? I would not walk across the street to see the inauguration. Why? Because I honor not celebrity nor pomposity*--only aptitude and merit. Neither will be present at this year's inaugeration nor have they been at the past couple of these quadri-annual events.
*ostentation: lack of elegance as a consequence of being pompous and puffed up with vanity [ -]

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