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The Strength of Jacob: A Tragedy Essay

Characters Jacob: an African-American preacher and civil rights activist Susan: Jacob’s only daughter Mary: Jacob’s wife Billy: Susan’s boyfriend, who is white Setting Alexandria, VA in the 1950s. The action takes places in and around Jacob’s church, as well as in the family home. PROLOGUE Susan: To wrestle with God is always to win, even if what you win is death. Our fate, like the children of Exodus, is to struggle through this world and be delivered from inequality. We must be ready to sacrifice ourselves, but remain humble in our strength. Beware the pride that says ‘I do not need help’.

These are the words of my father. CHORUS (Parodos) Jacob, son of light and son of enslaving chains Speaks the truth with fire and from God receives his gains. A prophet of his time, alone against the world Has no fear of struggle or strife, but boldly speaks his word. EPISODE 1 (Jacob is preaching to an all-black congregation—the chorus—and Susan and Mary. ) Jacob: God is not the God of white men! We are God’s disciples. A disciple must be strong and fight! Peter was a disciple, but he betrayed his Lord. What was his sin? Susan: (after several moments of silence) Pride.

Jacob: No! Peter’s sin was weakness. We must never be weak. (Fade out. Lights come up on Jacob, Susan and Mary. ) Mary: That was moving, dear. But…you’ve got to be careful about telling them to fight. Jacob: Why? We should fight. Jesus fought for truth— Susan: And Jesus was killed! It’s only a matter of time before you get into trouble. Jacob: (angrily) So let me get into trouble! Truth and equality are worth the sacrifice! Mary: Don’t lose your temper. She’s only trying to help— Jacob: I don’t need her help! God has always rewarded me for my hard work, why would he stop now?

He gave me a lovely daughter too, if only she’d fight for her rights! Susan: I do fight. I want the whole world to see that I love a white boy, but you— Jacob: Not another word! You are never to see that boy again! Do you understand me? (Susan runs away in tears. ) Mary: Why not let her see Billy? They adore each other, and she’s nearly seventeen… Jacob: No! The world is cruel, and she’ll only end up hurt. We’ve got to keep her safe. CHORUS (Stasimon 1) Jacob is a mighty man, who will follow God to the end, Struggling for equal rights, with no fear of suffering.

He knows that he is right and favored by the Lord. With unmoving strength he will protect his daughter from the world. EPISODE 2 (Susan and Billy are locked in an embrace. ) Susan: I’m so sorry. It’s only for a year. In a year, I can do anything I want. Billy: A year! You can’t let your father control you like this! Meet me tonight. Susan: You’re right…we have to be true to our love. Meet me in the church at midnight. (They kiss as the lights fade. Lights up on Jacob and Mary’s house. Susan enters. ) Susan: I’m home! (Jacob and Mary look upset. ) What’s wrong?

Listen, I’m sorry— Mary: It’s not about you. Sit down, baby. Your father has received…a threat. Jacob: It’s nothing—just some crazy bigot. It’s nothing to be afraid of. Mary: They’re angry about his preaching, and they’ve threatened to destroy the church. Susan: No! Oh, daddy, you have to call the police. And stop preaching about fighting— Jacob: I will not stop! What I’m saying has to be said…it’s the truth. And I will not call the police. I don’t need help from this twisted world. God will see me through. CHORUS (Stasimon 2) Jacob and his daughter, going forth and unafraid

Believe that truth and love will save them from their fates. They are noble in their trust that conviction conquers all And following their one true dream will save them from the fall. EPISODE 3 (Jacob and Mary’s room. Night. Mary shakes Jacob awake, panicked. ) Mary: Susan’s gone! And the extra key to the church isn’t on the hook where we keep it. Jacob: She’s with that boy! Let’s go. I’ll teach her once and for all to obey her parents! (Fade out. Lights up on Billy, weeping, with Susan’s body in his arms. The church is ablaze in the background. Jacob and Mary enter. Mary screams.

) Billy: We were caught in the fire…I got her out, but I was too late…too late… Jacob: I’ll kill you! (He attacks Billy, and then slowly breaks down weeping. ) My daughter! God, how can you do this to me? After everything I’ve done in your name? Mary: God is not to blame, you are! You refused to report that threat! You smothered our baby! Our child, our livelihood…everything’s lost! I will never forgive you! Jacob: (to Billy) She’s right…it’s my fault. I tried to serve God and have faith, but… Billy: You only had faith in your own strength. If you want God’s help…accept my help.

Jacob: How can you help me? I’m done for! If you want to help me, kill me! Billy: No. Preach a sermon at my parents’ church. Don’t stop preaching or fighting. Susan wouldn’t want that. But she would want you to realize that you can’t fight alone. (Jacob and Billy just look at each other, Susan’s body between them. Lights fade. ) CHORUS (Exodos) Jacob, watch your flocks by night, and wrestle until dawn, But remember human love is worth a thousand wars of arms. Do not forget that God is in the helping human face Not above you, but in the world, is where you’ll find true strength.


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