News

‘It’s a Limbo’: Grad Students, Frustrated by Harvard’s Response to Bullying Complaint, Petition for Reform

News

Community Groups Promote Vaccine Awareness Among Cambridge Residents of Color

News

Students Celebrate Upcoming Harvard-Yale Game at CEB Spirit Week

News

Harvard Epidemiologist Michael Mina Resigns, Appointed Chief Science Officer at eMed

News

Harvard Likely to Loosen Campus Covid Restrictions in the Spring, Garber Says

Bertolt Brecht's Communist Writings: The Poetry and Politics of Disillusion

By Frederick H. Gardner

Asked why he chose to return to the Soviet sector of Germany following the War, Bertolt Brecht retedly explained, "I feel like a etor with just enough penicllin to cure one person of syphilis. Shall se it on the evil old lecher. . or pregnant young prostitute?" hat trenchant disenchantment! was he simply humoring his stern friends?

The only possible answer cannot definitive, but it is satisfactory: play's the thing. And now, at t, the plays are there (seven of m, at least) handsomely colted in one volume, edited an induced by Eric Bentley. Admirers the German playwright can stop nplaining that no substantial collection of Brecht is available in Eng, and begin whimpering about price of the existing one. Things always getting better.

r. Bentley's introductory mater is quite illuminating, and happi quite specific in treating the en plays offered. Because of his sonal friendship with the playght, he has had to circumvent dangers resulting from close tification. Narrowly avoiding a ipy tone in places, Bentley suc is presenting a feeling for Brecht's personality, and the result fortunate proportion of biogracal detail and critical comment

is particularly good that Brecht being read in this country, as tley observes, "because the Afnt Society is satisfied with it".

working playwright, Brecht's was for detail, and his goal, to lenge the accepted:

serve each one you set eyes pon.

serve strangers as if they were amiliar

d your friends as if they were strangers.

ting, philosophy, music, acting, s, poetry... each aspect of the natic universe he used as a wea to show that the world as it is, n't be the world that it is. ve all he concentrated on the ence, whom he conditioned to uate rationally what he was set forth on stage.

e great obscenity of politics decelerated Brecht's impact upmodern theater, and yet few seri critics, East or West, deplore fact that the playwright stooped elf in Marxist philosophy. For, ily, Answers in Brecht's plays second place to Questions, and ctical training provided him with a needed technique for ironically confronting reality. The intense study of Marxism which he undertook in the late 20's, imparted an intellectual discipline to his outlook and to his style.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

The only possible answer cannot definitive, but it is satisfactory: play's the thing. And now, at t, the plays are there (seven of m, at least) handsomely colted in one volume, edited an induced by Eric Bentley. Admirers the German playwright can stop nplaining that no substantial collection of Brecht is available in Eng, and begin whimpering about price of the existing one. Things always getting better.

r. Bentley's introductory mater is quite illuminating, and happi quite specific in treating the en plays offered. Because of his sonal friendship with the playght, he has had to circumvent dangers resulting from close tification. Narrowly avoiding a ipy tone in places, Bentley suc is presenting a feeling for Brecht's personality, and the result fortunate proportion of biogracal detail and critical comment

is particularly good that Brecht being read in this country, as tley observes, "because the Afnt Society is satisfied with it".

working playwright, Brecht's was for detail, and his goal, to lenge the accepted:

serve each one you set eyes pon.

serve strangers as if they were amiliar

d your friends as if they were strangers.

ting, philosophy, music, acting, s, poetry... each aspect of the natic universe he used as a wea to show that the world as it is, n't be the world that it is. ve all he concentrated on the ence, whom he conditioned to uate rationally what he was set forth on stage.

e great obscenity of politics decelerated Brecht's impact upmodern theater, and yet few seri critics, East or West, deplore fact that the playwright stooped elf in Marxist philosophy. For, ily, Answers in Brecht's plays second place to Questions, and ctical training provided him with a needed technique for ironically confronting reality. The intense study of Marxism which he undertook in the late 20's, imparted an intellectual discipline to his outlook and to his style.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

r. Bentley's introductory mater is quite illuminating, and happi quite specific in treating the en plays offered. Because of his sonal friendship with the playght, he has had to circumvent dangers resulting from close tification. Narrowly avoiding a ipy tone in places, Bentley suc is presenting a feeling for Brecht's personality, and the result fortunate proportion of biogracal detail and critical comment

is particularly good that Brecht being read in this country, as tley observes, "because the Afnt Society is satisfied with it".

working playwright, Brecht's was for detail, and his goal, to lenge the accepted:

serve each one you set eyes pon.

serve strangers as if they were amiliar

d your friends as if they were strangers.

ting, philosophy, music, acting, s, poetry... each aspect of the natic universe he used as a wea to show that the world as it is, n't be the world that it is. ve all he concentrated on the ence, whom he conditioned to uate rationally what he was set forth on stage.

e great obscenity of politics decelerated Brecht's impact upmodern theater, and yet few seri critics, East or West, deplore fact that the playwright stooped elf in Marxist philosophy. For, ily, Answers in Brecht's plays second place to Questions, and ctical training provided him with a needed technique for ironically confronting reality. The intense study of Marxism which he undertook in the late 20's, imparted an intellectual discipline to his outlook and to his style.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

is particularly good that Brecht being read in this country, as tley observes, "because the Afnt Society is satisfied with it".

working playwright, Brecht's was for detail, and his goal, to lenge the accepted:

serve each one you set eyes pon.

serve strangers as if they were amiliar

d your friends as if they were strangers.

ting, philosophy, music, acting, s, poetry... each aspect of the natic universe he used as a wea to show that the world as it is, n't be the world that it is. ve all he concentrated on the ence, whom he conditioned to uate rationally what he was set forth on stage.

e great obscenity of politics decelerated Brecht's impact upmodern theater, and yet few seri critics, East or West, deplore fact that the playwright stooped elf in Marxist philosophy. For, ily, Answers in Brecht's plays second place to Questions, and ctical training provided him with a needed technique for ironically confronting reality. The intense study of Marxism which he undertook in the late 20's, imparted an intellectual discipline to his outlook and to his style.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

working playwright, Brecht's was for detail, and his goal, to lenge the accepted:

serve each one you set eyes pon.

serve strangers as if they were amiliar

d your friends as if they were strangers.

ting, philosophy, music, acting, s, poetry... each aspect of the natic universe he used as a wea to show that the world as it is, n't be the world that it is. ve all he concentrated on the ence, whom he conditioned to uate rationally what he was set forth on stage.

e great obscenity of politics decelerated Brecht's impact upmodern theater, and yet few seri critics, East or West, deplore fact that the playwright stooped elf in Marxist philosophy. For, ily, Answers in Brecht's plays second place to Questions, and ctical training provided him with a needed technique for ironically confronting reality. The intense study of Marxism which he undertook in the late 20's, imparted an intellectual discipline to his outlook and to his style.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

serve each one you set eyes pon.

serve strangers as if they were amiliar

d your friends as if they were strangers.

ting, philosophy, music, acting, s, poetry... each aspect of the natic universe he used as a wea to show that the world as it is, n't be the world that it is. ve all he concentrated on the ence, whom he conditioned to uate rationally what he was set forth on stage.

e great obscenity of politics decelerated Brecht's impact upmodern theater, and yet few seri critics, East or West, deplore fact that the playwright stooped elf in Marxist philosophy. For, ily, Answers in Brecht's plays second place to Questions, and ctical training provided him with a needed technique for ironically confronting reality. The intense study of Marxism which he undertook in the late 20's, imparted an intellectual discipline to his outlook and to his style.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

e great obscenity of politics decelerated Brecht's impact upmodern theater, and yet few seri critics, East or West, deplore fact that the playwright stooped elf in Marxist philosophy. For, ily, Answers in Brecht's plays second place to Questions, and ctical training provided him with a needed technique for ironically confronting reality. The intense study of Marxism which he undertook in the late 20's, imparted an intellectual discipline to his outlook and to his style.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

So strong had his awareness of human self-abasement been, so deep had his bitterness run, that only the theory of inevitable social progress offered him a real alternative to nihilistic despair. This entrance to Marxist belief is illuminating when contrasted with the conversion of other leftist intellectuals of the period, many of whom saw in Socialism an outlet for idealistic views of human potential. Howard Fast, for example, upon leaving the Communist party in 1956, denounced it in a book called The Naked God. The title succinctly sums up Fast's attitude of worship, hic communism of illusion, an attitude obverse to Brecht's communism of disillusion.

For Brecht was an atheist who believed not in the truth, but in probability. In contrast to the agnostic, he did not doubt for the sake of doubting; he weighed alternative courses of action for the sake of choosing one, and he chose Communism not because it struck him as infallible, but because he saw it as the most likely instrument of anti-Fascism and social justice. Thus, in a poetic attack on revisionism, he wrote:

Do not follow the right road without us

Without us it is

The worst of all

Don't cut yourself off

We may go wrong, and you may be right, so

Don't cut yourself off.

The old savagery of In the Swamp and A Man's a Man was channeled into new streams as the Marxist discipline influenced his style. The violent attack on human nature in general was deflected toward a criticism of class-structured society, and he began to set forth the clash upon which all humor is based as a reflection of the planet's dialectical twisting. He urged:

Hungry man, grab that book: It's a weapon!

Get ready to take over!

But Brecht's Communism was uncceptable to the Communist critics, and his satire of capitalist society lacked applicability within the Soviet Union, where audiences were confronted with entirely different sets of problems. Unforgiven on the left for his bourgeois origins and preoccupations, this son of a wealthy Bavarian paper manufacturer was simultaneously feared on the right. A self-made Marxist, Brecht was left an ideological orphan. Why?

The temptation to discuss a great theorist abstractly, and to capitalize on the jargon which has grown up around him, has proved fatal to many critics. Any thoughtful discussion of Brecht must actually concern itself with the practicing playwright, and I will attempt to discuss The Caucasian Chalk Circle in relation to Brecht's broader accomplishment. This play enjoyed a successful run at the University last fall, and in the volume under discussion, represents to Bentley a peak of the author's accomplishment.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during Brecht's exile during the early '40s, and was based upon Klabund's adaptation of a Chinese folk tale (The Chalk Circle), well known to the Berlin theater public twenty years before. Drifting gradually from the original version, Brecht crafted an original story of his own, by creating Azdak, a village scribe, who as an exradical retains a blend of disenchantment and idealism.

The first half of the play is devoted to the flight of "the good Grusha," a servant who has picked up the Governor's son, abandoned by his mother during an uprising. She is pursued endlessly over mountains and rivers, all because the child is a valuable object. Despite her suffering, Grusha refuses to desert him, which serves to show (in terms of character) how good she is, and (in terms of politics) what the right of ownership really entails.

Half the play is devoted to Grusha, and Grusha winds up as half a character. When Director John Hancock was analyzing her during the Loeb production, he charted fourteen "good" traits, which read like the Boy Scout Oath, and one fault (she lost he temper readily). Brecht's failure to elevate Grusha above generic goodness is particularly telling since he conceived the play in order to write a special part for Luisa Rainer, an expatriate German actress. His failure exemplifies the weakness invariably cited by the Communist critics: Brecht could create noble agitators and good proletarians, but never a flesh-and-blood working class character.

Azdak dominates the rest of the work. He shelters the escaping Grand Duke, and then tragically denounces himself for he feels he had betrayed the interests of the people. Expecting to be killed, he sings a denunciation of war profiteering, and the disrespect for human life it implies:

...The battle was lost, the helmets were paid for...

The miracle happens just as the soldiers are stringing Azdak up. The Grand Duke, restored to power, names him judge, and Azdak challenges the accepted idea of justice by simply inverting it. In one case, for example, a stableman is accused of raping a farmer's daughter; Azdak lays the blame on her. "Do you imagine you can run around with a behind like that and get away with it in court?" he asks. "This is a case of intentional assault with a dangerous weapon!"

But Azdak remains Azdak, a bitter man with no illusions about the durability of this golden age, or the tendons in his neck. From the depths of disenchantment and sorrow he sings "The Song of Chaos," which projects into a dreamworld of hope and social justice.

"...The nobleman's son no longer can be recognized

The lady's child becomes the son of her slave.

Five men are sent on a Journey by their master.

'Go yourself,' they say, 'We have arrived.'

...Where are you, General, where are you?

Please, please, please restore order."

Finally, the Governor's wife demands the child back, and Azdak settles the case by the ancient test of the Chalk Circle. She who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle must be adjudged his real mother. Both pull, and suddenly Grusha yields. And so the child is awarded to Grusha, who would not harm him.

The play thus ends on a note of rejoicing and dance, in praise of this fantasy of real justice. Azdak steps forward with the moral:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it.

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper,

The carts to good drivers, that they are driven well

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.

On a political plane, however, this philosophy supports government by the most capable; it rings of the tocratic Plato, who first suggestion that children not be raised by their biological mothers. Psychologically, it suggests that violence should lose and submission be rewarded, a very dubious footing for Revolutionary theory.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

Submission is indeed a major theme, uniting Brecht's pre-Marxist plays with his later work. Of In the Swamp, for instance, the author tells us he is presenting a great struggle between two men ... but he offers hardly any fighting at all. The mutual preoccupation of Shlink and Garga seems far more akin to love than hate, and when, years later, Brecht writes that he sees in this play naive intimations of class struggle, he is only superimposing political analysis upon his non-Marxist work. Similarly in A Man's a Man (pre-Marxist) a simple porter, Galy Gay, is literally transformed in Jeraiah Jip, a soldier. But the process which Brecht focuses on is Galy Gay's relinquishing of his own identity, as opposed to his acquiring a new one. The distinction is as important as it is subtle.

Still further in Galileo, Mother Courage, and The Good Woman of Setzuan (three of the Marxist plays in the present volume) the playwright illustrates what each of his major characters must give up. To Brecht yielding is psychologically far more important (or intriguing) than acquisition. The roots of his negativism may lie in the vicinity of this fact.

When Brecht returned to East Germany, he had at his disposal all that a playwright could materially desire: his own theatre, his own company, virtually unlimited state support...and yet he failed to produce the 'positive' play expected of him. This incapacity to praise the world which the Socialist camp hoped to construct has frequently been traced to an alleged reluctance with which Brecht embraced Stalinism, but there is little evidence to support this theory. It seems clear that his negativism was rooted more in psychological than political soil: his fundamental interest was not the constructive process, but disintegration.

I have not recounted the full story of Chalk Circle; the play contains a prologue, setting the action within the Soviet Union. The War is over, and a tract of land must be redistributed amongst various collective farmers. The Chalk Circle sequence, or the play proper, is thus set as a play within the play, designed to point the moral that the Soviets will invariably make the right and just decisions.

Needless to say, this is not the only moral to be drawn, and Westerners assent at the play's conclusion, simply because there is so much room for philosophic interplay.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags