Maria Daniela Leonte

Assessment 2 Life of Galileo – Bertolt Brecht

‘Complex seeing must be practised. Thinking above the flow of the play is more important than thinking from withing the flow of the play’. (Brecht) Analyse closely Scene 13 from Life of Galileo showing how dialogue, dramatic action, narrative techniques and structure are utilised by Brecht to achieve the ‘complex seeing’ which was the objective of the epic model.

1. Introduction In the 20th Century humanity was undergoing many extraordinary scientific and technological changes. These phenomena determined a series of profound mutations in the interior of social structure. Human kind was witnessing the birth of a new and revolutionary era which also affected the way in which art was perceived. This was transformed from an art of expression to an art of explanation, its main concern being represented by the classification and analysis of reality. Brecht’s innovative and politically oriented view of theatre was born due to this historical and social context. The playwright believed in the necessity of a complete revision of theatre in order to be able to incorporate the particularities of the new era. Theatre’s main interest concerns the internal dynamism of the events, the forces involved in them, with the intention to decipher the world. Epic theatre does not intend to become the equivalent of reality and existence but on the contrary, tries to reveal their way of functioning in order to communicate it and eventually transform it. Society is seen by the epic theatre in a continuous movement and transformation.


or imitation. He goes on saying that ‘Brecht associated these conventions with the categories of “mimesis”. (Brecht) With this statement the author launches a critique to the way in which the naturalistic tradition perceived and conceived theatre. and “catharsis”. Eds." The Cambridge Companion to Brecht: Second Edition(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. In Brecht’s opinion this is the first step towards the enabling of the individual as a force that can actively intervene and change the course of history. first outlined by Aristotle n the Poetics. In Peter Brooker’s words audiences ‘were encouraged to surrender to the suspense and consolations of the well-made play. Peter Thomson and Glendyr Sacks. 2. Content ‘Complex seeing must be practised. to intervene in and so 1 Brooker. "Key words in Brecht’s theory and practice of theatre.Maria Daniela Leonte This essay’s purpose is to analyse the techniques through which Brecht achieves to create a new political and pedagogical type of theatre. Thinking above the flow of the play is more important than thinking from within the flow of the play’. 212 2 . Cambridge University Press. Cambridge Collections Online. the purging of the emotions of pity and fear. p. p. The analysis will be focused on Scene 13 from Life of Galileo. to divide rather than unify its audience. 2006). Peter. which as a consequence would create a sense of total identification of the audience with what they see in front of them. He wants to distance the audience from the events and characters represented on stage in order to determine the analyses of its own condition as active members of a society. Their main purpose was that of representing on stage the exact equivalent of life. 05 January 2012. 212) What Brecht aims to create is the exact opposite of this effect. faithful to the unities of time and place and their naturalistic depiction’1.’ (Brooker. Brooker writes that Brecht’s epic theatre soughts to ‘produce a knowledge of the “causal laws of development”.

’ (Brooker. p. and that can affect it in a more personal way. p. p. 213-214) Scene 13 from Life of Galileo has the necessary characteristics of the epic theatre that could awake the twentieth century audience from a passive state of mind and into a condition of awareness of what is taking place around it. the spectator is able to analyse from an objective point of view his own condition. He does not want his audience to be influenced by its subjective attitude towards certain events that it has directly experienced. non-illusionist and non linear manner. By seeing on stage themes that are historically distant.213) This is the reason why Brecht chose a theme as historically distant as that of Galileo’s life.’ (Brooker. without being chronologically connected to the rest of the play. On this matter Brooker states that ‘the new narrative content signalled by the term epic was to be communicated in a dialectical.Maria Daniela Leonte transform ideas and attitudes. As an example we see that Scene 13 stands for itself. According to Peter Brooker ‘if it were to succeed in its political function a performance would gain assent to this perspective. 215) Another interesting characteristic of Brecht’s writing that can also be observed in scene 13 from Life of Galileo is the use of aphorisms that are meant to pull the reader or the 3 . Brecht employs a simple language and ignores the idea of linearity. Moreover. Its domain was crucially therefore the domain of consciousness and ideology.’ (Brooker. declaring its own artifice as it hoped also to reveal the workings of ideology. Reading about or seeing how the Inquisition constrains Galileo to recant his doctrine in order to preserve his life will determine the reader or the spectator to analyse the ways in which totalitarianism affects his own condition or the condition of the human kind in general. “alienating” its audience from conventional forms of identification and clichéd modes of perception and understanding. for the message to be as clear as possible and his pedagogical purpose easily achieved.

while towards the end. Virginia prays louder (Scene 13. Although this technique may seem artificial it serves the main purpose of the play.94) The narrator adds descriptive information and introduces the actions of the characters. how marvellous for us! They embrace. Andrea and the Little Monk are certain that Galileo will maintain his statement concerning the motion of the earth. Bertolt. p. unhappy the land where heroes are needed’. 95 4 . Federzoni.98) Through the use of a number of pauses and silences the linearity of the play is broken. Federzoni and the Little Monk are playing new style chess with its sweeping moves. At the beginning of the scene Andrea states that ‘power can’t achieve everything’ 2. p. Galileo’s pupils are waiting for news. a technique that doesn’t allow the audience to adopt a passive role. 97) In Scene 13 the playwright provokes the element of surprise. The Little Monk: And no force will help them to make what has been seen unseen. Silence Federzoni looks at the sundial in the garden. 98) To this Galileo answers with ‘No. Reprint Edition. 2008). p. In one corner Virginia kneels saying the Ave Maria. Life of Galileo. They are ecstatically happy. (London: Penguin Classics. after finding out that Galileo recanted his doctrine. which is that of distancing the audience from the events represented on stage. p. (Scene 13. p. he shouts ‘unhappy the land that has no heroes’. (Scene 13. Five o’clock. Scene 13. In the Florentine ambassador’s palace in Rome.Maria Daniela Leonte spectator out of an unconscious state of mind and into a condition of vigilance.96-97) Another technique that Brecht uses throughout Life of Galileo that provokes the ‘alienating’ effect is the use of a narrator that describes the details of the scene and ads extra information to the actions of the characters. (Scene 13. 2 Brecht. p. Oh. (Scene 13. Federzoni: No.

In the epic theatre a good actor is the one that can distance himself from the events and does not try to excel in the art of performance. and that of the audience. Such a lot is won when even a single man gets to his feet and says No. The scene and the actors become pure instruments of transmission of the message. Its only purpose is that of representing an action or an event with an obvious and clear political significance. Epic theatre must try to be as naive as possible and tell the story directly. Man. 3. The hero of the play is a person that reveals himself piece by piece while the action is a number of fractioned events joined together. What this kind of theatre tries to teach the audience is the rejection of anything that is presented as unquestionable. The scene is no longer the place where the truth is represented. to their surprise. His concern was not that of 5 .97) But. but the way in which any kind of absolutist authority can be stopped from making use of its power. Conclusion Through his new form of theatre Brecht tried to eliminate the passivity and idleness of the audience replacing it with a state of political awakeness. so terminated is lifting his head and saying ‘I can live’. (Scene 13. Brecht himself talks about the actor as a person that has no talent or ambition to grow in his profession. p. What Scene 13 from Life of Galileo should determine the audience to meditate about is not whether the actor in the role of Galileo gave a good performance or not. but is only concerned with transporting a message to the audience in a clear and direct way. The purpose of Brecht’s theatre is not the quality of the performance or the talent of the actors. the Crier’s voice announces Galileo’s recantation of his doctrine. as it is. His main and only concern is the message.Maria Daniela Leonte Andreea: But today everything is altered. A possible truth must be born from the continuous interaction between the scene and the audience.

What the playwright must conduct is a dialectical process.014 6 . similar to the one that Socrates used to teach his pupils. as a first step in the process of intervening and changing the course of events." The Cambridge Companion to Brecht: Second Edition.1017/CCOL0521857090. To arrive to this state of awareness the audience must distance itself from the scene in particular and the world in general as a way to study their laws of functioning. Reprint Edition.Maria Daniela Leonte improving the quality of theatre but to transform the condition of the spectator. Bibliography Brecht. the fight against terrorism or global warming. the Holocaust or the invention of the nuclear weapon triggered the need for art to take a more active role. Cambridge Collections Online. (London: Penguin Classics. What Brecht tried to achieve through epic theatre is an awakening of the audience and its realisation of its purpose in history. But announcing its new purpose is not enough. Theatre becomes this way an instrument of teaching. He avoids offering an answer but gives birth to questions and doubts that will determine the audience to look for a solution. Cambridge University Press. Peter. determining him to think “above the flow of the play”. although created during the twentieth century. Peter Thomson and Glendyr Sacks. we may be surprised to find Brecht more relevant than ever. "Key words in Brecht’s theory and practice of theatre. 05 January 2012 DOI:10. Cambridge University Press. nevertheless was not only a product of its era. In the light of more recent events such as civil wars and revolutions. 2006. In order to convince the audience of its power to change events epic theatre must show that their social condition can be changed. Brecht’s epic theatre. 2008) Brooker. The epic theatre abandons aesthetics devoting itself to pedagogy. What the audience needs is not an answer to a specific doubt but the disposition to ask and hear questions. Eds. a time when events such as the world wars. Life of Galileo. Bertolt.

Peter Thomson and Glendyr Sacks.1017/CCOL0521857090.010 Luckhurst. 2006. Eds.1017/CCOL0521857090.013 7 . "Life of Galileo: between contemplation and the command to participate." The Cambridge Companion to Brecht: Second Edition." The Cambridge Companion to Brecht: Second Edition. Mary. Cathy. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge Collections Online. Cambridge University Press. 05 January 2012 DOI:10.Maria Daniela Leonte Turner. Cambridge University Press. Eds. 2006. Peter Thomson and Glendyr Sacks. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge Collections Online. "Revolutionising theatre: Brecht’s reinvention of the dramaturg. 05 January 2012 DOI:10.