Definitions

plow

plow

[plou]
plow or plough, agricultural implement used to cut furrows in and turn up the soil, preparing it for planting. The plow is generally considered the most important tillage tool. Its beginnings in the Bronze Age were associated with the domestication of draft animals and the increasing demand for food resulting from the rise of cities. The plow is depicted on Egyptian monuments, mentioned in the Old Testament, and described by Hesiod and Vergil. The early plow consisted simply of a wooden wedge, tipped with iron and fastened to a single handle, and a beam, which was pulled by men or oxen. Such implements were capable of breaking but not of inverting the soil. The plow evolved gradually until c.1600, when British landlords attempted greater improvements. The first half of the 18th cent. saw the introduction into England of the moldboard, a curved board that turns over the slice of earth cut by the share. Important improvements in design and materials were made in the early part of the 19th cent. They included streamlined moldboards, replaceable shares, and steel plows with self-scouring moldboards. Standardized by 1870, the modern moldboard plow has been improved by various attachments, e.g., the colter, a sharp blade or disk that cuts the ground in advance of the share. In 19th-century America horses largely replaced oxen for drawing plows. Tractors now supply this power in most developed parts of the world. With more powerful tractors, larger plows have come into use. Among the various types of plows in use today are the reversible two-way plow for contour plowing; listers and middlebusters, which prepare shallow beds; the disk plow, whose revolving concave disks are useful in working hard or dry soil; the rotary plow, with an assembly of knives on the shaft that mix the surface growth with the soil; and the chisel plow, with points mounted on long shanks to loosen hard, dry soils and shatter subsurface hardpan. The plow often symbolizes agriculture, as in the great seals of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and other states.

See publications of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture; C. Culpin, Farm Machinery (12th ed. 1992).

or plough

Most important agricultural implement since the beginning of history, used to turn and break up soil, to bury crop residues, and to help control weeds. The forerunner of the plow is the prehistoric digging stick. The earliest plows were undoubtedly digging sticks with handles for pulling or pushing. By Roman times, plows were pulled by oxen or horses, and today they are drawn by tractors.

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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).

Synopsis

Hollywood mid-level producers Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox engage in a verbal boxing match centered around the eternal debate of art versus money. Should Gould recommend to his unseen boss another bad action would-be blockbuster? Or should he put himself on the line for a film adaptation of a spiritual, uplifting, and apocalyptic novel? The office's temp acts as catalyst in this debate. Gould has her read the novel in order to report on it to him later at his apartment. He has a secret bet that he will bed her; there she gives a glowing review of the novel's themes and content, and Gould becomes deeply affected by her and her analysis. However, she is ditched next day at the office in the play's cynical finale, with Gould's partner, Fox, accusing her of using sex to get a place in the movie business.

Analysis

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?" 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.

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, but Mamet has never indicated that he is familiar with it. In an interview in The Chicago Tribune (Feb. 19, 1989) he explained the title as follows:

"I remembered the saying that you see on a lot of old plates and mugs: 'Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow.' This, I knew, was a play about work and about the end of the world, so 'Speed-the-Plow' was perfect because not only did it mean work, it meant having to plow under and start over again."

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

Productions

Speed-the-Plow premiered on Broadway at the Royale Theatre in a production by the Lincoln Center Theater, opening on May 3, 1988 and closing on Dec 31, 1988 after 279 performances. The cast featured Joe Mantegna (Gould), Ron Silver (Fox) and Madonna (Karen). The play was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and Best Direction of a Play (Gregory Mosher). Silver won a Tony Award for Best Actor (Play). It has since been produced countless times in regional theaters and schools across the country. A 2006 revival in Los Angeles featured Alicia Silverstone as Karen.

In 2008 it played at London's Old Vic Theatre, starring artistic director Kevin Spacey as Fox, Jeff Goldblum as Gould, and Laura Michelle Kelly as Karen.

The first Broadway revival of Speed-the-Plow, directed by Atlantic Theatre Company artistic director Neil Pepe, began previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on October 3, 2008, with an opening scheduled for October 23. The cast features Jeremy Piven as "Bobby Gould", Raúl Esparza as "Charlie Fox", and Elisabeth Moss as "Karen".

Related Works

David Rabe's play and subsequent film adaptation Hurlyburly could be considered a companion piece to Speed-the-Plow, centering on the empty lives of a group of Hollywood executives after the debate was won by money.

Bobby Gould's story is continued in the one act play "Bobby Gould In Hell", also by Mamet.

Arthur Kopit's play "Bone-the-Fish," later rewritten as "Road to Nirvana," was written in response to "Speed-the-Plow."

References

External links

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