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Bertolt Brecht.

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Presentation on theme: "Bertolt Brecht."— Presentation transcript:

1 Bertolt Brecht

2 Brecht’s stylistic departure from naturalism: key features and effects
The rationale behind Brecht’s rejection of Naturalism: Brecht’s championing of “Epic Theatre” The Alienation Effect; Gestic Acting Differing conceptions of acting styles (Brecht vs Stanislavsky) The Caucasian Chalk Circle

3 Brechtian Dramaturgy Rejected the idea of entertainment through emotional catharsis Disallowed the audience’s empathy with the actors on stage Rejected the well-made play in favour of a drama which was episodic and loosely knit Emphasised the theatricality of theatre Facilitated the adoption of a critical attitude towards the actions being staged Initiated a social critique to expose the prevailing ideologies and inequalities of the capitalist system

4 ‘Petroleum resists the five-act form’:
Brecht’s anti-naturalism

5 Brecht’s quarrel with Aristotelian dramaturgy
Brecht’s stylistic departure from naturalism: key features and effects Brecht’s politics Brecht’s quarrel with Aristotelian dramaturgy How Brecht’s theatre provides a synthesis of naturalistic methods with symbolic, expressionistic techniques Contrast with Henrik Ibsen and Alfred Jarry A reading of Scenes 1 and 2 of The Caucasian Chalk Circle EUGEN BERTHOLD FRIEDRICH BRECHT (b. 10 February, 1898, Augsburg; d. 14 August 1956)

6 Politics I grew up as the son Of well-to-do people. My parents
Put a collar round my neck and taught me The habit of being waited on And the art of giving orders. But When I had grown up and looked around me I did not like the people of my own class ………………………………………………. And I left my own class and joined The common people EUGEN BERTHOLD FRIEDRICH BRECHT (b. 10 February, 1898, Augsburg; d. 14 August 1956)

7 Politics Elementary school bored me for four years. During my nine years at Augsburg [Grammar school] I did not succeed in imparting any worthwhile education to my teachers. My sense of leisure and independence was tirelessly fostered by them. - Brecht EUGEN BERTHOLD FRIEDRICH BRECHT (b. 10 February, 1898, Augsburg; d. 14 August 1956)

8 Politics The Legend of the Dead Soldier
They poured some brandy down his throat The rotten corpse to rouse. Two hefty nurses grabbed his arms, And his half-naked spouse. ………………………………………… The band in the van with rum-tum-tum Played him a rousing march. The soldier as he had been drilled Kicked his legs high from his arse. EUGEN BERTHOLD FRIEDRICH BRECHT (b. 10 February, 1898, Augsburg; d. 14 August 1956)

9 I had thought that by a few inquiries among specialists and practitioners I could quickly acquire the necessary knowledge. It turned out quite differently. Nobody was able to give me an adequate explanation of what goes on in the corn Exchange The ways in which grain is distributed around the world are flatly incomprehensible. From any point of view except that of a handful of speculators, the grain market is one large morass. The projected drama did not get written, instead I started to read Marx, and then, not until later, was reading Marx.

10 Germany seemed to be on the path of democracy
Germany seemed to be on the path of democracy. There was freedom of speech and of artistic expression. In the second half of the 1920s, however, the old reactionary militaristic forces began to regain strength. I was hen at the height of my career as a playwright, my plays being produced all over Europe. But in Germany voices could already be heard demanding that free artistic expression and free speech should be silenced. Humanist, socialist, even Christian ideas were called ‘undeutsch’ (unGerman), a word which I hardly think of without Hitler’s wolfish intonation. At the same time, the cultural and political institutions of the people were attacked.


12 Brecht, Poems 1913-1956, eds. John Willett and Ralph Manheim (London, 1976), p.427:
Every word that leaves the lip Describes an arc, and then Falls on the listener’s ear; I wait and hear The way it strikes; I know We are not feeling the same thing and We are not feeling it at the same time.

13 Key Question: Does emotional engagement with an actor playing a part in the theatre help or hinder our critical intellectual reflections on the character and the situations represented by the play?

14 Aristotle’s Poetics states that the audience watching a tragedy should experience catharsis, a relief from pity and fear. 2. The emotions of pity and fear call for a recognition of some kind of affinity between the audience and the characters who act or suffer. 3. The fall of the hero, due to the individual error (hamartia) is inevitable.

15 The dramatic theatre’s spectator says: Yes, I have felt like that too – Just like me – It’s only natural – It’ll never change – The sufferings of this man appal me, because they are inescapable- That’s great art; it all seems the most obvious thing in the world – I weep when they weep, I laugh when they laugh. - Brecht on Theatre

16 The epic theatre’s spectator says: I’d never have thought of it – That’s not the way – That’s extraordinary, hardly believable – It’s got to stop – The sufferings of that man appal me, because they are unnecessary – That’s great art; nothing obvious in it – I laugh when they weep, I weep when they laugh. - Brecht on Theatre

17 Aristotelian catharsis is an “opium for the masses” (Brecht):
Empathising with the characters prevents the audience from reflecting critically on the social causes of human suffering Plots that represent the hero’s error as central to his misfortune do not allow the dramatist to write a play that is socially critical: the focus is on the representation of misfortune due to individual error rather than the “error” in the socio-political structure

18 With whom would the just man not sit
To help injustice? What medicine is too bitter For the man who’s dying? What vileness should you not suffer to Annihilate vileness? If at last you could change the world, what Could make you too good to do so? Who are you? Sink in filth Embrace the butcher, but Change the world: it needs it! The Measures Taken

19 Petroleum resists the five-act form; today’s catastrophes do not progress in a straight line but in cyclical crises; the ‘heroes’ change with the different phases, are interchangeable, etc.; the graph of people’s actions is complicated by abortive actions; fate is no longer a single coherent power; rather there are fields of force which can be seen radiating in opposite directions; the power groups themselves comprise movements not only against one another but within themselves, etc., etc. Even to dramatize a simple newspaper report one needs something much more than the dramatic technique of a Hebbel or an Ibsen. 31 March 1929

20 The man who has leased the Augsburg Municipal Theatre as his milch-cow knows today, after so many years, about as much about literature as an engine driver knows about geography.

21 PARRICIDE (1922) Arnolt Bronnen

22 Martin Esslin Bronnen’s play was written in the explosive, declamatory style of the Expressionists. But Brecht wanted to produce it quietly and realistically. Already at this stage he hated noisy, emotional tantrums in the theatre.

23 Drums in the Night (1922) The audience were greeted by streamers with inscriptions like ‘DON’T STARE SO ROMANTICALLY’ and ‘EVERY MAN FEELS BEST INSIDE HIS OWN SKIN’. They saw the action taking place in a non-realistic setting with the picture of the city rising up behind the screens that suggested the walls of a room.

24 Emile Zola ( ) actors should carry themselves on stage as they would do in real life, and that they do so in response to a naturalistic non-theatrical, milieu realistic sets and settings must be used; the actor must use realistic movement, diction and gesture; the theatre, then, would present the audience with “a slice of life”

25 The Box Set

26 The Box Set

27 Hedda Gabler (Box Set)


29 Cylindrical Design

30 Fan-shaped Design

31 Henrik Ibsen "To My Friend, the Revolutionary Orator”:
"Your changing pawns is a futile plan…. Make a sweep of the chessboard, and I'm your man". "With pleasure I will torpedo the Ark!" Henrik Ibsen

32 Henrik Ibsen Letter to Georg Brandes:
"How the old ideas will come tumbling about our ears! And it is high time they did The old terms must be invested with new meaning, and given new explanations. Liberty, equality, and fraternity are no longer what they were in the days of the late-lamented guillotine. That is what the politicians will not understand and that is why I hate them. They want only their own special revolutions — external revolutions, political revolutions, etc. But that is only dabbling. What is really needed is a revolution of the human spirit. And in this you shall be one of those who take the lead. But the first thing to do is get that fever out of your system". Henrik Ibsen

33 * the use of ideas as a basis for action and character
* the serious dramatic treatment of significant contemporary social issues * the use of ideas as a basis for action and character * theatre which challenged social orthodoxies and present a thesis * drama which avoided stereotype characters * drama which explored a relativistic moral code * plays which avoided a melodramtic climax in favour of discussion

34 1.      a state of equilibrium at the outset 2.      a disruption of the equilibrium by some action 3.      a recognition that there has been a disruption 4.      an attempt to repair the disruption 5.      a reinstatement of the initial equilibrium

35 “By the turn of the century, various anti-realistic tendencies – known as symbolism, expressionism, and surrealism – had already taken form in the critical statements and plays of avant-garde dramatists. Proponents of these counterrealistic movements argued that dramatic truth was not to be found in the tangible surfaces of a box set nor even in the intangible life of a psychologically complex character, but in symbols, images, legends, myths, fantasies, dreams, and other mysterious manifestations of spirituality, subjectivity, or the unconscious.”


37 I go to the first performance of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, at the Théâtre de L'Oeuvre The players are supposed to be dolls, toys, marionettes, and now they are all hopping like wooden frogs, and I can see for myself that the chief personage, who is some kind of King, carries for a sceptre a brush of the kind we use to clean a closet. Feeling bound to support the most spirited party, we have shouted for the play, but that night at the Hôtel Corneille I am very sad, for comedy …. - W.B. Yeats, Autobiographies

38 Alfred Jarry “1) Mask for the principal character, Ubu. . . .
2) A cardboard horse’s head which he would hang round his neck, as they did on the medieval stage, for the only two equestrian scenes; all these details fit in with the mood of the play, since my intention was, in any case, to write a puppet play. 3) One single stage-set or, better still, a plain backdrop, thus avoiding the raising and dropping of the curtain during the single act. A formally dressed individual would walk on stage, just as he does in puppet shows, and hang a placard indicating where the next scene takes place 4) The abolition of crowds 5) Choice of a special ‘accent’, or better still, a special ‘voice’ for the principal character. 6) Costume as divorced as far as possible from local colour or chronology (which will thus help to give the impression of something eternal): modern costumes, preferably, since the satire is modern, and shoddy ones, too, to make he play even more wretched and horrible.” Alfred Jarry

39 Character: q     Voice (special accent) q     Action (robotic movement) q     Mask (covers the face) q     Body (vast carapace) q  Absence of psychological realism


41 PERE UBU useless patriarch possibly impotent dangerous

42 PERE UBU MERE UBU useless patriarch domineering matriarch
possibly impotent dangerous domineering matriarch potentially violent likes cursing (a lot)

43 SCENE ONE: The Old Man: The valley has belonged to us for centuries. The Soldier: What does that mean – for centuries? Nothing belongs to anyone for centuries. When you were young you didn’t even belong to yourself, but to Prince Kazbeki. The Old Man: According to the law the valley belongs to us. The Girl Tractor Driver: The laws will have to be re-examined in any case, to see whether they are still valid.

44 The Expert: As an expert of the Reconstruction Commission, I request the two kolchos villages to decide between themselves whether the Galinsk kolchos shall return here or not.

45 The Expert: How long will the story take, Arkadi
The Expert: How long will the story take, Arkadi? I have to get back to Tiflis tonight. The Singer casually: It is actually two stories. A few hours. The Expert very confidentially: Couldn’t you make them shorter? The Singer: No. Comedy: the wedding scene (pp.49-); appointing Azdak as Judge (p68 – demoncracy); Azdak’s critique of power (p.71); Azdak’s judgements (justice rather than the law)

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