"Whatever the conflicts that haunt the mind of a given period, I defy any spectator to whom such violent scenes will have transferred their blood, who will have felt in himself the transit of a superior action, who will have seen the extraordinary and essential movements of his thought illuminated in extraordinary deeds-the violence and blood having been placed at the service of the violence of the thought-I defy that spectator to give himself up, once outside the theater, to ideas of war, riot and blatant murder"(82).
Artaud, being invested in the concept of art as it is created in the context of the "here and now" as Benjamin would put it, has theorized a type of theatre that is not only a reflection of a "given period" (that is, between the world wars/Great Depression period), but meant to serve a given period. At the risk of sounding reductive, it must be said that the service provided by his "theatre of cruelty" would come in the form of a certain didacticism-not merely rhetorical didacticism (since of course, 'language as usual' is useless for Artaud), rather the service would be to teach the spectator, through a deep contact with the horror of the violence he is capable of doing (and perhaps has been doing), to rebuke "ideas of war, riot, and blatant murder." He believes that a revitalisation of theatre could "revitalize the world we live in" provided it is turned into a "function"(82,92). If Artaud is in fact saying that theatre crafted in the manner he poses can serve as a deterrent to the violence presented therein, he is also posing something of an answer to the ongoing debate concerning the basic 'goodness' or 'rottenness' of human beings. He mentions that "it will be claimed that example breeds example [...] the attitude of murder will induce murder." In order to believe that this representation of murder on stage will not induce murder, one must necessarily believe also, that the spectator will be repulsed by the violent images to which he is exposed, rather than revel in them.
1 year ago