The Theater and Its Double, the first English translation of a collection of manifestos originally published in 1938, is the fullest statement of the ideas of Artaud. "We cannot go on prostituting the idea of the theater, the only value of which is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger," he wrote. In three famous essays, "No More Masterpieces," "An Affective Athleticism," and "The Theater and the Plague," which appear in this book, he repudiated all literature written to be performed, all Western traditions and civilization itself. He wished to destroy all forms of language and all social proprieties in order to bring life into the theater and to make actors and audience into "victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames."
"The course of all recent serious theater in Western Europe and the Americas can be said to divide into two periods-before Artaud and after Artaud. No one who works in the theater now is untouched by the impact of Artaud's specific ideas... Artaud changed the understanding of what was serious, what was worth doing... Artaud's thought is organically part of his singular, haunted, impotent, savagely intelligent consciousness. Artaud is one of the great, daring mapmakers of consciousness in extremis." - Susan Sontag