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David Mamet explains the hero journey

There’s Moses, he’s a Prince of Egypt.

Moses says, ‘I can’t take it anymore. I saw this Jewish guy getting beat up, this slave. I said to him do you like being a slave and he said, yes I do. So I killed the slavemaster. And I went off to the wilderness. I got to figure this thing out. I’m going to be King. I’m a Jew. I don’t like it.’

He goes off to the wilderness and there’s a burning bush. Okay, now the story starts. The burning bush says, ‘Guess who I am? I got something I want you to do.’

So what does Moses say? He says, ‘Hmmm, now is not good for me. Saving the Jewish people and listening to a burning bush? That’s great. Why don’t you take my brother Aaron, he speaks beautifully. I have a speech impediment. My brother Aaron is smarter than I am, why don’t you pick him?’ God says, ‘No, actually I want to pick you.’

Moses doesn’t want to go. The whole story of “The Five Books of Moses” is him having difficulty with these idiot people, my own people, the Jews, trying at every stage to go back to slavery.

Moses keeps wanting to give up. He says, ‘God, start again or give me one more chance, I don’t know what to do, I’m lost. I was up there on the mountain getting the word of God and came down 30 minutes later and they’re worshipping the golden calf. These are the same people we took out of Egypt two weeks ago when you parted the Red Sea, they’re worshipping the golden calf. I can’t take any more.’ God says, ‘No, you’re not done yet. I’ll tell you when.’

“The Five Books of Moses” is the paradigmatic story of all drama. It ends with Moses just about to get into the promised land. We’re just about to get to this wonderful ending with the fuzzy little bunnies and all that. And God says, ‘No, you’re going to die here.”

Moses says, ‘Well, you remember from before, I was the guy with the burning bush, we had such a good time, all those adventures, I worked real hard?”

God says, ‘Yeah, you’re done.’ Bink! And that’s the end of the story. It’s surprising and inevitable.

It’s the hero journey.


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