Speed-the-Plow

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Speed-the-Plow (1988) is a play by David Mamet which is a satirical dissection of the American movie business, a theme Mamet would revisit in his later films Wag the Dog (1997) and State and Main (2000).

Jack Kroll of Newsweek described Speed-the-Plow as "another tone poem by our nation's foremost master of the language of moral epilepsy."

The play sets its context (not to be performed) with an epigram by William Makepeace Thackeray, from his novel Pendennis, contained in a frontispiece: It starts: "Which is the most reasonable, and does his duty best: he who stands aloof from the struggle of life, calmly contemplating it, or he who descends to the ground, and takes his part in the contest?" The character of Bobby Gould finds himself on both sides of this dilemma, and at times in the play he "stands aloof," and at other times he "takes part" in life's contest, with its moral strictures.

Origin and meaning of the title

The Secret Middle Ages (ISBN 0-7509-2685-6) by Malcolm Jones discusses the origin of the phrase "God Speed the Plow" in a celebration known as Plow Monday and a 14th century poem: "God spede the plow/And send us all corne enow/Our purpose for to mak/At crow of cok/Of the plwlete of Sygate/Be mery and glade/Wat Goodale this work mad".

There is an 18th century English play by Thomas Morton called Speed-the-Plough, which gave the world the character of that arch-prude Mrs. Grundy.

In George Meredith's novel...
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