609 words | 3 page(s)

Within the United States and across the globe, there has long been a discussion regarding the nature of freedom and what exactly it means to be free. Notably, slavery was a formative attribute of early American culture and it led to the forced servitude and abuse of the overall human rights of millions of Africans who were brought to the country against their will. As such, the idea of slavery and what constitutes freedom have both been integral characteristics of many American artistic endeavors, such as this . Their journey and the embodiment of what it means to be free both physically and spiritually are prominent themes in Tim Robbins’ Harlequino: On To Freedom. Furthermore, Robbins discusses the nature of how societal structures have long defined the nature of instituted class slavery, while simultaneously implementing a style known as Commedia dell’arte, which is used to satirize the absurd nature of the prominent upper classes across the globe.

The play integrates many different elements used to observe the complexities of what freedom is, such as highlighting two distinct eras of human history and displaying scenes from 1530 and the present day 2016. Using the Commedia dell’Arte style, Robbins displays his characters in three distinct archetypes, being the Master, Servant and the Lovers. By implementing this type of approach to showing the lives of the characters that he crafts to represent 1530, many of the concepts that he plays with are based around the overall relationship between these three societal classes. The relationship between Commedia dell’Arte and the nature of slavery are evident in the way that Robbins has his characters break the fourth wall and address the audience. In these moments, the audience is exposed to the opinions of different characters on the existence of slavery and what it all means. At one point, Pantalone speaks of the character Harlequino by stating that he’s not a slave, but in fact, a servant as a means to attempt to justify his condition.

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In this moment, Harlequino’s reply summarizes the bulk of the perspective that Robbins is trying to make, when he states that he isn’t a slave. The overall desensitization and detachment that the upper class has to the issues of the common man is a prevalent theme throughout the course of the play’s narrative, as on many occasions, individuals in the story that are of the upper class are made to look foolish and ignorant to the plight of those that are in the dominion of their masters. This relationship is provided a modern spin as Robbins references such things as student loan debt, the construction of a border wall and the act of water boarding to emphasize the nature of the practices that still limit people’s freedom and those that are used by the upper class to assert and continue their prominence in the world.

Throughout this prominent piece by Tim Robbins, there is an awareness of the conditions through which freedom is nullified, both in the previous eras of human existence and in the modern times. Robbins plays with various themes and the relationship between the poor servants of the world and their masters is among the most interesting attributes of the play. Robbins addresses how class structures and the servitude of the impoverished is comparable both in the years 1530 and in the modern 2016. Furthermore, he integrates the detachment of the upper class and their inability to understand the limitations that lower classes experience to show how these levels of slavery are propagated. Through implementing a witty sense of humor and developing themes that coincide with these sorts of reflections on society, he shows the many different forms that racism can take.

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