Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, David Mamet (1998)

“What comes from the head is perceived by the audience, the child, the electorate, as manipulative. And we may succumb to the manipulative for a moment because it makes us feel good to side with the powerful. But finally we understand we’re being manipulated. And we resent it. Tragedy is a celebration not of our eventual triumph but of the truth–it is not a victory but a resignation. Much of its calmative power comes from that operation described by Shakespeare: when remedy is exhausted, so is grief.”

“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 world in a new way. It’s called a gun.”

“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.”

“I don’t believe reaching people is the purpose of art. In fact, I don’t know what ‘reaching people’ means. I know what Hazlitt said: It’s easy to get the mob to agree with you; all you have to do is agree with the mob.”


“The avant-garde is to the left what jingoism is to the right. Both are a refuge in nonsense. And the warm glow of fashion on the left and patriotism on the right evidence individuals’ comfort in their power to elect themselves members of a group superior to reason.”


And many more bossy but glossy little gems.

Leave a Reply