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The Author

Dr. Azher Suleiman is an assistant professor of English Literature, University of Mosul, College of Arts, Department of English. He has been teaching English Literature and Modern Drama for more than 25 years. Books published by the author: Ø Macbeth a translation from English into Arabic. Ø Henrik Ibsen: The Father of Modern Drama Ø George Bernard Shaw Ø Bertolt Brecht

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Bertolt Brecht
Azher Suleiman, Ph.D


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This publication is a creative work fully protected by all applicable copyright laws, as well as by misappropriation, trade secret, unfair competition, and other applicable laws. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

All rights to this publication will be vigorously defended. copyright© 2011 by Dr. Azher Suleiman

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Bertolt Brecht
For the villainy of the world is great, and a man has to run his legs off to keep them from being stolen out from underneath him. (Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera , Act I Scene 3)

Socio-political Background to Bertolt Brecht’s Dramatic Works: Hegemony and Consent

A full understanding of Bertolt Brecht’s dramatic background needs to look at the
socio-political context in which he was writing such as the structure of the state, and the class struggle. Hitler’s totalitarian dictatorship imposed complete control over Germany during 1933-1945, which had an enormous effect on the arts, education, religion and politics. Some intellectuals and artists recognized that the Nazi regime was repressive, and that it undermined the high standards of art, literature and science, but the work of those that held these views was highly censored, and was eventually banned. They were given a choice to emigrate or stay in Germany. But to stay in Germany meant that they had to yield to censorship and sacrifice their integrity. Brecht went into exile to Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, England, then Russia and finally to the United States. Consequently, Brecht’s experience of exile and the cultural values of his time motivated him to create a theatre, which politicalized audiences and stimulated their consciousness through his dialectical influences. Brecht’s key debate was class equality, where the influence of Karl Marx, Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci’s theories were and still are evident in Brecht’s plays. Marxist philosopher L. Althusser states that law, education, police, government and the media are instruments of class control calling them Ideological State Apparatuses


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He argues that these institutions govern society to accept a controlling ideology and behave the way governments want them to. however without this extended knowledge one cannot better one’s present circumstances. and as a result workers become a tool of their own oppression. too will provide for the dominant of the ruling class. however Althusser suggests that by doing so we succumb to the capitalist . but that workers buy into the idea that they are of an inferior status to the established hierarchy.” (Althusser: 1971. He relates back to childhood and our experience of education. resulting in a consenting submissive society which readily accepts a capitalist ideology. and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression. to succeed in society we must work for a living. basic social skills such as reading and writing are deemed imperative in order to succeed in most capitalist societies. but at any rate they learn to read. 127-128) To extend one’s learning is a declaration that one is not knowledgeable enough. 5 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. to write and to add […] which are directly useful in the different jobs in production. According to the capitalist ideology. Not to have these skills is considered a form of degradation and thus the individual’s sense of consciousness is affected by the values of a capitalist society. For Althusser. 127).pdffactory. so that they. (Althusser: 1971.(ISA). For instance. which represent the main façade of hegemony. He proposes that the workforce is not only engaged in an act of working to receive money. “Why do children learn at school? They go varying distances on their studies. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers. consciousness is determined by social existence.

exposes these forms of exploitation to encourage the spectator to question society’s conventions. […] must acquire consciousness of their own existence and of their own strength. Influenced by Gramsci and Althusser’s ideas. an Italian political theorist. this repressive regime exists because the lower class consents to it.” (Gramsci: . (qt. this however would require sacrifice in order to gain long term rewards. Brecht’s theatre.Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci called this theory. 73) Brecht was convinced that Capitalism was inherently a belligerent form of economic and social organization based on internal class warfare between the exploiters and the exploited and on external aggression towards competitors for markets or for sources of raw material or cheap labor. Brecht argues that the capitalist system exists because forms of entertainment. allowing them to dictate how much pay the workers earn. explains that the success of the capitalist ideology is dependent on one part of society owning the means of production. and to enlarge it to include the other classes. because the hegemony of the upper class lasts as long as it is able to ensure the cohesion of the system of alliances on which its rule is exercised. then the working class consents to this regime. thus satisfying in one way or another their moral and material interests.pdffactory. 32) Consequently. He believed fascism was a 6 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Gramsci proposed that to overthrow capitalism the working class must work together to free themselves from their repressive situation. education and the law attempt to hide the exploitation of the working class that is inherent in capitalism. and he uses an unconventional aesthetic style to do this. in Pellicani: 1981. therefore. Gramsci argues that the basis of hegemony is not a rigid set of rules. ‘hegemony and consent’. Therefore. “The subordinate classes.

7 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. which has the opportunity for rational debate within it. individual and social whole. The issue of hegemony and consent in the Brechtian plays always provokes the audience to find a synthesis out of this dialectical struggle between the thesis and anti-thesis. different. but to demonstrate how character and action are historically produced. (Eagleton. and still can be. and so how they could have been. namely that man and society should be re-examined in order to create an equal society. Therefore. 65) The Hegelian and Marxist prints are very obvious here in emphasizing the role of the dialectical struggle of the opposites to generate a synthesis.symptom of Capitalism in crisis. Bertolt Brecht believed that whilst theatre provided entertainment for the spectator it should also engage the spectator’s reasoning rather than their feelings. as a reactionary nostalgia. concrete and abstract. Terry Eagleton argues that Bertolt Brecht regards any attempt to define the literary work as ‘spontaneous whole’ which reconciles the capitalist contradictions between essence and appearance. there was a possibility to end class warfare. “The task of theatre is not to ‘reflect’ a fixed reality. which is usually left for the spectators themselves to formulate. 60) Brecht was a committed Marxist (although famously never a member of the communist party) and believed that if Karl Marx’s philosophy and social theory could be communicated to an audience. he used a dialectic theatre that intellectually engaged his audience through methods that echoed Marx’s theory. 2002. (Speirs: 2000. Therefore. 8) Nevertheless. which is usually a ‘revolution’. they present a situation.” (Eagleton: . Brecht’s plays are vehicles for dialectics.pdffactory. and encouraged workers to unite and rebel against a controlling capitalism.

Epic theater uses “alienating” devices. intellectually stimulated. when Germany struggled to establish a parliamentary democracy in the face of economic devastation. notorious decadence. Peter Demetz.” and as a point of departure in Brecht’s dramatic techniques which from then onward underlie all his works. He rejected the conventions of stage realism and Aristotelian drama. such as placards. by his late twenties. He saw the stage as an ideological forum for leftist causes and wanted to create theater that depicted human experience with the brutality and intensity of a boxing match. 10) The play consists of theatrical innovations designed to sharpen the spectator’s critical ability and to shake him out of his complacency and expect more from the theater than entertainment. considers this play as “a first form of the epic theatre. asides to the audience. but rather to be shocked. Brecht had begun to visualize a new theatrical system that would serve his political and artistic sensibility. discordant music and lighting. and disconnected episodes to frustrate the viewer’s expectations for simple entertainment.pdffactory. for instance. which offer empathetic identification with a hero and emotional catharsis. The Threepenny Opera grew out of its young author’s experiences in Berlin during the Weimar Republic (1919–1933). Technically. Brecht did not want his audience to . and motivated to take action against an unjust society and to awaken them to social responsibility. Many critics regard The Threepenny Opera (1928) as an early example of his “epic theatre.” (Demetz: 1962. projected images.The Threepenny Opera: The Ballad Opera and the Socio-political Criticism and Change Bertolt Brecht’s aggressive political idealism and determination in using art to pose challenging questions about the conflicts between society and morality generated intense controversy throughout his lifetime. Ideologically. and 8 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.

and crime proliferated as citizens were reduced to begging on the street. which involves lower class. * Kurt Julian Weill (March 2. composer active from the 1920s until his death. Furthermore. and in his later years American. Horrified by the poverty and mounting violence. interspersed with songs that are deliberately kept very short (mostly a single short stanza and refrain) to minimize disruptions to the flow of the story. The earliest ballad opera has been called an “eighteenth-century protest against the Italian conquest of the London operatic scene.” (Lubbock: 1962.pdffactory. and The Threepenny Opera was born. He was a leading composer for the stage. More than ten million Germans were without any source of income. 9 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Kurt Weill* was asked to compose the score. The Threepenny Opera proclaims itself “an opera for beggars. was a German. composer Kurt Weill and poet-playwright Bertolt Brecht. He also wrote a number of works for the concert hall. 1950). 467-468) It consists of racy and often satirical spoken (English) . 1900 – April 3. Brecht took The Beggar’s Opera by eighteenth-century English satirist John Gay and re-imagined it through the lens of his emerging dramatic theories. often criminal. John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera The term ‘ballad opera’ is used to refer to a genre of English stage entertainment originating in the 18th century and continuing to develop in the following century and later. The play satirizes class differences and moral hypocrisy in society as inevitable products of the political system.bitter military defeat.” and it was in fact an attempt both to satirize traditional opera and operetta and to create a new kind of musical theater based on the theories of two young German artists.

The lyrics of the airs in the piece are set to popular broadsheet ballads.” of which it remains the only really notable example. opera arias. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today. burglars. but without recitative. and tightly controls the dialogue and plot so that there are delightful surprises in each scene. 15) Brecht adapted The Threepenny Opera from The Beggar’s Opera* (1728). and cutthroats are more important than the national governors. Ballad operas were satiric musical plays that used some of the conventions of. and typically shows a suspension (or inversion) of the high moral values of the Italian opera of the period. 10 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.pdffactory. Brecht and his collaborator Elizabeth Hauptmann thoroughly reworked Gay’s script and transferred the action to London in the 1920s. The basis for The Beggar’s Opera is that the thieves and other low social people that inhabit Newgate prison are the same as to be found in the government. (Wainwright: 2004. poking accurate fun at the prevailing fashion in Italian opera as well as the social and political climate of the age is concerned.’ Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera is a comic farce. who wrote the score for the unusual ‘opera. The original production used innovative theatre techniques and relied heavily on the musical genius of Kurt Weill.characters. church hymns and folk tunes of the time. the “ballad opera. The harlots. a brilliant and popular social satire written by British poet and dramatist John Gay (18651732) (reportedly with the encouragement or assistance of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope). It established a new genre. The play was a theatrical success and became the most popular play of that century. though its popularity led to the work Sheridan and eventually Gilbert and Sullivan. It is a harsh satire that daringly strikes against class distinction and members of the royal court. Gay cuts the standard five acts to three. These low-lives * The Beggar’s Opera is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John .

In John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. was a British statesman who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. It also pokes fun at the judicial system of the period. for Peachum is a “fence” of stolen goods who occasionally informs on his patrons for the reward. Even though he cheats on the adorable Polly.” (Scene III. proving that human nature is a constant throughout the world.pdffactory. He is polite to the people he mugs and steers away from . the spectators still believe his love for her is true. the character Peachum was a lampoon of Sir Robert Walpole.* This satirical element meant that many of plays risked censorship and banning. The first scene takes place in Peachum’s establishment. There was a high crime rate at that time in English history. The death penalty was handed out for the theft of pennies from a person. His objection is for purely business reasons. but acts of murder and arson were mere misdemeanors. The opening prologue is a dialogue between The Player and The Beggar. who is posing as the play’s author. (Encyclopedia Wikipedia) * 11 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. He is a big womanizer. He is a smooth romantic with qualities of both a gentleman and a highwayman. known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole. Peachum is alarmed at the marriage between his daughter Polly and Macheath. (1676 –1745). The leading character of The Beggar’s Opera is the swashbuckler called Macheath. and gain power in much the same ways. Peachum sings a hymn about the dishonesty of everyone.have the manners of proper English lords and ladies. 1st Earl of Orford. He says “I must have women” since "I love the sex. for instance. but prefers to live in the faith and company of cutthroats. 30) He is a paradoxical character that speaks King’s English and dresses well. He fears both the loss of Polly Robert Walpole. They make humor of the Italian opera.

As Macheath is brought back into custody. Macheath is led off to Old Bailey for a trial. 66) At 12 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.”(Scene 14. but Macheath himself is tricked by eight ladies who call the constable and have him arrested. our Gang is ruin'd.from his business. the jailer. is a lover of Lucy Lockit. both Lucy and Polly beg their father for his life. You must continue to act under his Direction. He and Peachum find Macheath’s hiding place and go to re-capture him. The Third Act begins with Lockit discovering his daughter’s part in Macheath’s escape. Two of his gang come to pay respects and he instructs them to have Peachum and Locked hanged. (Scene II. In jail he bribes Lockit. He is a Man who knows the World. When Polly and Lucy come to visit he tells them to travel to the West Indies and have “a husband apiece. We have had a slight Difference. and of Macheath’s learning of any business secrets. who he related to a pretty bartender bringing in money from drunkards. Act II has Macheath and his men outside Newgate. Any private dispute of mine shall be of no ill consequence to my Friends. for the moment we break loose from him. but to no avail. He promises her marriage in return for his escape and she agrees. the daughter of the . 29) Macheath’s goal is to trick Peachum into believing he has left the gang. In prison Macheath drinks wine and sings portions of nine songs. He states his problem with Peachum. and 'till it is accommodated I shall be obliged to keep out of his way.pdffactory. but when his gang want to do Peachum in Macheath explains how he is a necessary evil and that “Business cannot go on without him. and is a necessary Agent to us.” Macheath continues by giving justifications for cooperation with Peachum. Macheath however. for looser chains.

Brecht’s main dramatic contribution resides in transforming Gay’s Macheath into his own Mackie Messier. which could easily be converted to fit the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat of the twentieth century. The Beggar finally agrees and Macheath is released. there can be little doubt that at least 80 percent of the fabric of the work that Felix Bloch Erben would soon globally market was hers. plus the fact that Hauptmann was the only person in the workshop to render such complex English into equally complex German. also known as Mack the Knife. In November of 1927.this moment a jailer calls that four more wives have come to see him and a fellow gang member calls desperately for a hangman because at this moment Macheath will really need one. The play concludes with Macheath stating that he is legally married to Polly alone and there is a joyful dance. Given the existence of this text. John Fuegi emphasizes Hauptmann’s imperative role in presenting this dramatic work to the public by saying. Both in a published article and in a recent interview with me. The Player states that this would make the play a tragedy and operas have happy endings. later. Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera Gay’s satire was an ironic reversal of the royal government and the criminals of old England. Elisabeth Hauptmann began to translate the English play to German for Brecht. Klaus Volker. At this point the Beggar and the Player enter to argue whether Macheath dies or not. Brecht would work on the text and contribute songs primarily taken from other authors. The Beggar states that Macheath must be hanged for poetic .” Though. one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on the Brecht circle told me it was his view that “Elisabeth Hauptmann was responsible for as much as 80 or even 90 percent of the published text of The Threepenny Opera. 13 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.

Peachum agrees to go and bribe the whores whom Macheath goes to every week. including the stable. the fact remains that the text bought by Aufricht and later sold to Felix Bloch Erben was almost exclusively written by Elisabeth Hauptmann. Polly goes with her father and watches as Brown agrees to arrest Macheath. After Brown leaves the men present Polly and Macheath a large bed to sleep in and then leave them alone. She tries to defend the marriage. She then goes back to the stable where Mac is staying and tries to warn him.though the lyrics of the song “Mack the Knife” are almost certainly wholly his. Meanwhile. Soon the parson arrives and they sit down to eat. He does not 14 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Peachum tells his wife that he will go to Tiger Brown and make him arrest Macheath. Polly returns home to find her parents furious with her for marrying Macheath. A young man comes in and asks for a job. 195-96) The Threepenny Opera opens in the beggar shop owned by Peachum. She is hoping that the whores will turn in Macheath. Mr. (Fuegi: 1995. Mac explains that he and Tiger Brown served together in the war and that he has paid Brown kickbacks on every job ever since.pdffactory. Polly provides them with some entertainment by singing a song. After she is done Tiger Brown the Sheriff . Peachum makes the man pay him first and then shows the man the five states of human misery before giving the man a costume to wear. Polly and Macheath have just broken into a stable where they are getting married. The rest of Mac’s gang arrives and they bring in wedding presents. Everything has been stolen. Peachum has taken control of all the beggars in London and runs a shop that outfits the beggars and provides them with a location to beg in. Meanwhile. but they decide to take on Macheath and destroy him. Mrs. but instead of arresting them all he greets Macheath as an old friend.

a prostitute. Peachum. Instead of being emotional. Mrs. Polly arrives and also claims Mac as her husband. Peachum then arrives and drags Polly away. Mrs. 15 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. warning him that a woman will betray him. Matthew tries to challenge Polly's authority. the other thieves applaud her and accept her leadership. Soon thereafter his gang arrives and Mac informs them that Polly will be their boss while he goes away. and convinces her to turn in Macheath should he be foolish enough to show up at the brothel. She soon arrives and is horrified to see him in jail. Mac arrives and sits down. To complicate matters further. He thinks she means Polly. hands him his hat and cane and . Mac chooses to support Lucy instead of Polly because he is more afraid of Tiger Brown. but Polly is “legally” married to him and she has papers to prove it. happy to finally be alone with Mac again.believe her until she produces the charges that are being levied against him. When Constable Smith returns he tries to get the cane. Mrs. who knocks the man down and jumps out the window. One of Mac’s men is trying to convince the whores that Macheath would not be as foolish as to show up.pdffactory. Lucy. Lucy indicates that she is pregnant and therefore has a better claim to Mac. but she threatens to kill him if he opens his mouth again. Jenny soon sneaks out while Mac is talking with the whores and gets the police and Mrs. Constable Smith enters and tries to arrest Mac. However. Both women argue. Now in prison. Jenny takes Mac’s palm and reads it. Mac is afraid that Tiger Brown will learn that he has been playing around with Brown’s daughter Lucy. Peachum is standing there with the other police officers. Meanwhile. They take him away. Peachum approaches Low-Dive Jenny. He hands the business over to Polly and tells her what to do. Mac focuses on his business. Unfortunately for him.

and that he is now with another whore named Suky Tawdry.but Mac is faster than he is and manages to escape. Peachum then demands that Brown arrests Macheath and gives him the address where Macheath is staying. Brown has decided that rather than arrest Macheath it would be far easier for him to arrest Peachum and all the beggars. It turns out that neither of them knows his whereabouts. and ask for their reward for turning in Macheath. Peachum also arrives and threatens to disrupt the coronation if Brown does not find Macheath and arrest him again immediately. Unable to arrest Peachum. Tiger Brown arrives only a few minutes later. The whores arrive. tells them that Mac is a far better man than any of them. He asks Brown point-blank how if would look if several hundred men were clubbed down on the day of the procession. causing Polly to laugh and state that Mac has stood them both up.pdffactory. However. led by Jenny. That night Peachum outfits his beggars with signs and clothes in an effort to ruin the coronation parade the next morning. Peachum refuses to pay them on the grounds that Mac escaped already. Brown enters the cell and is relieved to see it empty. Peachum lastly sends the beggars to the jail rather than that coronation. Peachum is elated by this information and promises to give the whores the reward money. thereby preventing them from ruining the coronation. He sends one of his beggars to get the police. She then accidentally reveals that Mac had gone straight to her place and comforted . They soon hear a noise in the hallway and realize that Mac has been 16 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Peachum merely ignores Brown’s threats and points out that there are far more beggars than there are police. Jenny. Brown realizes that he is caught in a bind. in a fit of rage. Polly goes to visit Lucy in an effort to find out where Mac is.

rearrested. Peachum becomes a beggar king. The next morning. Macheath is brought out of his cell and locked into a public cell. and reporting on his beggars for the reward. such as a wedding scene between Mac and Polly set in a 17 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. She has decided to pardon Macheath and to also elevate him to a hereditary knighthood.pdffactory. the same day the coronation procession is set for. Smith refuses to help Macheath. He is going to be hung at six in the morning. The London setting is replaced by Soho in Victorian England. Having failed to get the money. Even the whores have showed up to watch him die. taxing. Peachum then stands up and gives the final speech. they say that it will be hard to get anything so early in the morning but leave promising to find something. they will save Macheath. outfitting. Brown enters in the form of a mounted messenger and brings a special order from the . It is by no means just a translation of Gay’s play. Matthew and Polly for money. Jake and Matthew apologize for not getting the money in time and tell Mac that all the other crooks are stealing elsewhere. He prays on people’s sympathies and quotes Biblical verses with ironic dark comedy. and has only an hour to live. but Smith refuses to make any promises. Brecht took many liberties in The Threepenny Opera. Mrs. Scenes are added. Mac rejoices his good luck while Peachum remarks that such a thing would never happen in real life. Mac gives a last speech in which he claims all the small crooks are being pushed aside by corporate interests. He offers Smith one thousand pounds in cash if Smith will let him escape. Mac asks Jake. arguing that since this is an opera and not real life. Soon thereafter all of the characters return and stand next to the cage. Peachum shows up with widow’s clothing and makes Polly change into it.

The police chief Tiger Brown. The Threepenny opera was one of those great dramatic conversions into the avant-garde. After the disastrous war. The World War had harsh effects on society’s view of the arts and was the final that toppled the kingdoms of Europe.stable with stolen goods for the reception. stops in to pay his respects. new classes were rising to replace the aristocracy and peasantry. These classes were the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. Brecht’s Mackie is unmannerly. Even though The Beggar’s Opera was over a century old. a Robin Hood type. The adaptation by Bertolt Brecht was composed in the Weimar Period of post World War One Germany. a statement of national pride. Gay’s Macheath is presented in The Beggar’s Opera as a dashing romantic. this unusual play had everything the avant-garde looked for. New art movements called the avant-garde rose to address the new modern society. and a toughened 18 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Wars had to this point been quick. But most important is the changes that make Mack the Knife. a gentleman pickpocket. a new understanding of the hero and heroism began to spring forth as far as the socio-political issues are concerned. But World War One lasted for six long years. Brecht’s . Before the outbreak. from six to eight weeks in length. Gay’s rapid change of scenes was similar to the montage effect that Brecht and others were trying to achieve in drama. an old army buddy of Mac’s. One of the big changes was in the concept of a “hero” in plays and literature. cynical. destroyed a generation of European youth. in literature. and left a dirty scar across the earth between France and Germany that is still present to remind people today.pdffactory. Brecht’s version of the character bears little resemblance to Gay’s Macheath. Starting with industrialism and ending with the war. people thought of war as noble and honorable. including drama.

he tells Polly that in a few weeks he will switch to banking because it is safer and more profitable.” (Brecht: 1979. judge. Thieves like himself are being edged out of the market by business and banks: We lower middle-class artisans who toil with our humble jimmies on small shopkeepers’ cash registers are being swallowed up by big corporations backed by the banks.” (Brecht: 1979. stocky man of about forty with a head like a radish. Brecht presents him as “a short. 133) Brecht offers alternatives in life rather than Gay’s mocking characters that just make the viewer laugh 19 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Brecht turns Mack into a scoundrel who kills eleven people. What’s a jimmy compared with a share certificate? What’s breaking into a bank compared with founding a bank? What’s murdering a man compared with employing a man? (Scene 9. and even keeps books. 92) Therefore. He has become thoroughly bourgeoisie. (Esslin: 1977. In his notes to The Threepenny Opera. “the bandit Macheath must be played as bourgeois phenomenon. He stated that the only difference between a gangster and a businessman is that the gangster “is not a coward. 92) Although he never enters the legitimate business world. He is a gangster who refers to himself as a “businessman”. 92) Brecht’s new style of theater allowed for the play to be more brutally harsh in its satirical attacks on the class than Gay’s play could achieve. not like Gay’s dashing romantic hero. Brecht allowed the audience to observe. 76) Furthermore. He praises efficiency. and decide how things could and should be different where as Gay’s audience got too involved with the characters’ follies. Brecht states that.criminal.pdffactory. two women and two old men and rapes a young widow all in one song and he continues to be immortalized in this song.” (Brecht: 1979. organization. seven . a bit bald but not lacking dignity.

com . but not immoral. he is a tight-fisted capitalist who has built an industry of begging and regulates his myriad panhandler and pickpocket employees in their various professional endeavors throughout the London streets. In Act One. Because they are weaklings and fools just like you. it would be bread. His business is based upon the principle that hypocrisy is a marketing technique: I discovered that though the rich of this earth find no difficulty in creating misery. Peachum is no longer just an underworld dealer of stolen their folly. It is not just coincidence that this sounds like Marxist theory. though of course that only applies so long as he collapses outside their own front door. vii. Brecht introduces one of the most ironic moments in the play by having Peachum fire a beggar for eating too much. Scene Three. If there is a choice between morality and bread. Brecht wanted to make his characters amoral. not power and like in Gay’s play. Brecht subtly criticizes the 20 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Now.pdffactory. 59) Peachum thus reveals himself a player in the very system he seeks to exploit. how can you become an out of work beggar except in a world where capitalism has taken over every aspect of society to such a degree that existence is no longer possible except within the system. They may have enough to eat till the end of their days. But they can’t look on unmoved while a man is collapsing from hunger. they may be able to wax their floors with butter so that even the crumbs from their tables grow fat. they can’t bear to see it. To emphasize this point he switched the goals of his characters to be food and money. but Brecht did not have a utopian view like communists in Russia. after all. In Brecht’s version. have strong anti-capitalist views. (III. The reader or observer does a doubletake at this moment. Morality has nothing to do with action. He did however.

who does not seek to change that society. As usual Brecht avoids the crude propagandistic tactic of presenting an idealized opposition to capitalism. it is a social issue.excesses of capitalism by showing a world where even begging is a profession that has its own rules and ethics. The theft of Polly will cause Peachum to openly declare war on Mac the Knife in an effort to regain his reputation.pdffactory. Stealing Peachum’s daughter is thus a social insult. an attack on Peachum’s status in the London underworld. He and Ginny Jenny share a duet commenting on the inherent problem with social moralizing separate from social equality. Macheath makes a similar observation as to the hypocrisy of the commercially successful. Brecht affirms that “the character of Jonathan Peachum is not to be resumed in the stereotyped formula ‘miser’. the former is in charge of all of London’s beggars. 91) otherwise this character will lose its implication as the sharpest critiques of bourgeois society. it is not an emotional conflict where Peachum is upset about losing Polly. the synthesis that will be formulated in the modern spectator’s mind is definitely different from that dramatic presentation of Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera. but from the point of view of one outside of the capitalist establishment. Consequently. he simply exploits . Thus. The basic conflict in The Threepenny Opera is based on Peachum and Macheath. the latter is in charge of London’s thieves. Rather. rather he concentrates on arousing our indignation and inspires us to action by simply showing us a brutal world. (Brecht: 1979. Macheath opens with the statement: You gentlemen who think you have a mission To purge us of the seven deadly sins Should first sort out the basic food position Then start your preaching: that’s where it begins. 21 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.

It is an attack on the audience. Brecht is issuing a call to his audience to consider the actual circumstances of the characters instead of judging them abstractly. Attempts have been made to update the play.pdffactory. remains one of the great plays . Nevertheless. and with the fact that it has had repeated successes in bourgeois theaters. however. By putting food before morals. the whores and the thieves are doing. Instead of morally judging what Macheath. Brecht’s criticism of the bourgeois society of the Weimar Republic. Morals follow on”. (II. vi. but Brecht himself left it mostly in the original form. through its display of the base elements of society. whatever lies you tell Food is the first thing. the play brought theater to the people rather than to the elite society. It is hard to reconcile Brecht’s outspoken later Communism with the flippancies inherent in the production. the beggars. by the fact that Brecht’s notes were all written after the play and also after his adoption of a committed Marxist stance in 1929. The line. 22 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. serves as a basis for much of the action in this play. “Food is the first thing.You lot. Morals follow on. It is one of the more difficult Brechtian plays to interpret. The problems stem from the fact that when Brecht wrote the play he was only beginning to explore Marxism and he did not yet identify with the class struggle. 55) The song that ends the act is one of the most famous. the song tells the audience to sympathize with them. so elegantly set in Victorian England’s Soho. who preach restraint and watch your waist as well Should learn for all time how the world is run: However much you twist. “The Ballad of Mac the Knife” became a popular jazz tune in the 1950s and the work has inspired numerous artists. The issue is confused.

frailty. known as Mac the Knife. All can read his open . and the conventions of justice. They harshly mirror the weaknesses and limitations as well as the corrupt practices that typify people generally then and now. Mac the Knife always wears fancy “white kid gloves” in spite of the dreadful crimes he has committed. which is sung while beggars. prostitutes and thieves are all enjoying a fair in Soho. One of the main questions posed by Bertolt Brecht in The Threepenny Opera is: how are goodness and love possible amid so much misery? Indeed. The people that move across the stage are murderers. this and some similar moral and socio-political questions preoccupied Brecht throughout his life. An unseen thread of implied identity connects them to the world of light. thieves. and debased by life. and lovability of each of the characters.The Threepenny Opera is a commentary upon society from the vantage point of the underworld. How. Bertolt Brecht describes people caught. and business.pdffactory. 23 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. and corrupt officials. prostitutes. for example. religious teachings. And Macheath has got a knife. marriage. The ballad describes many of the things that Macheath. See the shark with teeth like razors. He is compared to a shark with sharp teeth. has done. trapped. can honesty and decency be demanded from people who have nothing to eat? And who. beggars. then. will be guilty of the evil they may commit? The prologue is the “Ballad of Mac the Knife”. Each character is handled so as to arouse an emphatic response and at no point does the sordidness or immorality overshadow the inherent humanity. but Not in such an obvious place. One’s sympathy is with these people despite their open defiance of sexual proprieties. but unlike a shark he keeps his weapons hidden.

God alone knows how or when. how red his fins are As he slashes at his prey. See a man dodge round the corner… Mackie’s friends will understand. Is it plague or is it cholera? Or a sign Macheath’s in town? On a beautiful blue Sunday See a corpse stretched in the . And Schmul Meier. Mac the Knife wears white kid gloves which Give the minimum away.See the shark. Jenny Towler turned up lately With a knife stuck through her breast While Macheath walks the Embankment Nonchalantly unimpressed. By the Thames’s turbid waters Men abruptly tumble down. And the ghastly fire in SohoSeven children at a go- 24 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. reported missing Like so many wealthy men: Mac the Knife acquired his cash box.pdffactory. Where is Alfred Gleet the cabman? Who can get that story clear? All the world may know the answer Just Macheath has no idea.

In the crowd stands Mac the Knife, but he Isn’t asked and doesn’t know. And the child-bride in her nightie Whose assailant’s still at large Violated in her slumbersMackie, how much did you charge? (Prologue, 3-4) The song indicates that Macheath is to blame for killing many men, stealing cash boxes, murdering a prostitute, setting a fire in Soho that killed seven children, and raping a young bride. At the end of the song the whores laugh and a man steps out of their group. As he walks away, Low-Dive Jenny cries out that that was Mac the Knife. The introduction of Mac the Knife immediately sets him up in paradoxical terms. He is represented as a shark with bloody fins and hidden teeth, but at the same time he is described in terms of “white kid gloves” in order to cover his bloody hands. These white gloves, signs of pure hands, serve as a symbol of bourgeois society. Brecht is essentially saying that Macheath covers his crimes by pretending to be bourgeois Alternatively, this can also be interpreted as implying that bourgeois society commits the crimes and then pretends that nothing ever happened. By transforming the stable into an excessively luxurious room, Brecht again is using bourgeois decoration to hide the murders and thefts. The use of furniture is paralleled by the gang in suits, a comic image since they do not have the right manners. Thus we again see bloody deeds and bloody people parading around as if they were common, normal members of the successful society. One may note that Macheath does not deny his crimes; instead, he acts as if nothing is wrong.


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The fundamental theme that emerges is that business trancends love in this amoral, capitalist world. Love is made fun of by portraying it ironically. Normally a parent would be swayed by arguments of love, but Polly’s parents instead advocate divorce for her. When she continues claiming that she is really in love with Macheath, Mrs. Peachum blames the books that Polly used to read. Polly: Look. Is he particularly handsome? No. but he makes a living. He can support me. He is not only a first-class burglar but a far-sighed and experienced stick-up man as well. I’ve been into it, I can tell you the exact amount of his savings to date. A few successful ventures and we shall be able to retire to a little house in the country just like that Mr. Shakespeare father admires so much. Peachum: It’s quite simple. You’re married. What does a girl do when she’s married? Use your head. Well, she gets divorced, see. Is that so hard to figure out? Polly: I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mrs. Peachum: Divorce. Polly: But I love him. How can I think of divorce? Mrs. Peachum: Really, have you no shame? Polly: Mother, if you’ve ever been in love… Mrs. Peachum: In love! Those damn books you’ve been reading have turned your head. (I, iii, 30) This attitude converts “love” into a form of business deal; there is no point in marrying unless you gain something financially. Polly realizes this and tries to point out to her parents that Macheath is financially well off, however, since he is a competitor to her father, Peachum chooses instead to take this opportunity to ruin Macheath.


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The reduction of love to mere business is furthered by Polly in her dream. She remarks that she dreamt about the moon, a symbol of her and Mac’s love. Oh, last night I had a dream. I was looking out the window and I heard laughter in the street, and when I looked out I saw our moon and the moon was all thin like a worn-down penny. (II, iv, 39) The moon is equated to a “worn-down penny.” This gives love two meanings and references, the first being that it equates love with capitalism. Second, love is compared to something old and not worth very much. This belief that love is worthless is held by all of the characters except for Polly who seems to the only character struggling to achieve worthwhile emotions. In Act Three, Scene Eight, the falseness of love and marriage is dealt with throughout the scene. Lucy, the Sheriff’s daughter, admits that she lied about being pregnant and shows Polly the cushion. “Oh, that’s magnificent! Is it a cushion? Oh, you really are a hypocritical strumpet!” (III, viii, 68) At the end, Mrs. Peachum has the gall to enter and make Polly dress as a widow before Macheath is even dead. Ha, Polly, so this is where I find you. You must change your things, your husband is being hanged. I’ve brought your widow’s weeds. [Polly changes into the widow’s dress.] You’ll be a lovely widow. But you’ll have to cheer up a little. (III, viii, 69) This brutal disruption of the sentimental interaction between Lucy and Polly serves again to make the audience feel less pity for Polly. The image of her as a sad, broken wife does not hold very long either; when Mac asks her for money in the last scene she is brilliantly evasive, implying that she has taken over his business and kept the money.


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Another example of that business supercedes love, marriage and other sentimentalities is presented in the cell meeting between Brown and Mac. Brown visits Mac in the cell to settle up their business first. Mac even explicitly states, “The accounts, sir, if you please, the accounts. No sentimentality”. (III, viii, 73) When Brown agrees, Mac yells at him for only caring about money. Mac’s final speech is quite important. In the speech he accuses big business of doing exactly what he does, namely being a thief. The only difference is that the big companies do it with more money and legally. “What’s a jemmy compared with a share certificate? What’s breaking into a bank compared with founding a bank?” (III, viii, 76) Actually, this is what he was planning to do: Mac wanted Polly to take the money and set up a bank with it, thereby getting rid of his men and entering a more reliable business. Lucy brings up the issue of class for the first time in the play. She tells Polly “You should have stuck to your own class of people, dear Miss.” (III, viii, 67) Lucy is implying that Polly married outside of her own class. The question then is which direction did she marry, up or down? The answer is not obvious because her parents are actually in a similar profession to that of Macheath. However, Polly clearly interprets it as meaning that she married down. She elevates herself into the business class by stating, “I should have kept everything on a strict business footing.” (III, viii, 67) This line has another meaning, though. It serves to accuse the bourgeois class, i.e. the business class, of being unemotional and marrying only for money. The issue of class re-emerges when the Queen raises Mac to the hereditary peerage. By giving him a knighthood she elevates him into the highest class, the leisurely class of aristocracy with guaranteed income. This further undermines the issues of class


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to be his in usufruct until his death. The Brechtian songs always comment on the main action of the play. It also serves as yet another sardonic commentary on Brecht’s own society which he saw rewarding people he considered to be criminals. likewise a pension of ten thousand ponds. Her Majesty bids me to convey her gracious good wishes. This objectification of character is requisite for the “work” of art: Aristotelian forms 29 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. An examined reading of Bertolt Brecht’s songs makes one deduce that they are thematically linked to the action. Brecht’s final goal is that he wants the audience to leave his play with a logical desire to change society. furthermore. when we argue that Brecht’s songs are designed in such a manner we do not mean.pdffactory. Brecht’s use of songs does not represent any attempt aiming at intensifying or heightening the conflict of the play. By forcing the audience to not empathize with the characters. rather it specifically intends to detach the spectator from suspense. [Cheers] The castle of Marmarel. 79) The songs in Brecht’s plays deserve some discussion because they are as famous as the play itself. Hence.present in the play. Brecht is trying to make people think about the play rather than feel emotions. at any arte. and raised to the hereditary peerage. (III. Therefore. To any bridal couples present. such technique helps the audience to question attitudes and behaviour which have been taken as expected and natural. Mac manages to leapfrog the bourgeois society and lands comfortably in the aristocratic class. it gives the spectators time to think of what has been said by other characters or by the singer himself since the tempo of the song is slower than that of the normal dialogue. that these songs are forcibly injected as isolated parts into the structure of the play. ix. Brown: I bring a special order from our beloved Queen to have Captain Macheath set at liberty forthwith [All cheers] as it’s the .

Peachum sing a song under spotlight which has nothing to do with their real characters. and a perception of . they also are an attack on traditional Wagnerian opera. but only when the audience is at a distance. Peachum sings a morning “hymn”. The Lord will cut short your enjoyment.which induce empathy. it is a mere presentation of actors on a 30 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. cabaret style works that invert the common perception of opera. you rat. an ideological construct). Peachum runs an outfitting shop for beggars. 5) Brecht here tries to remind the spectators from the very beginning of the play that what they are watching is just a game not a slice of life. and Mrs.pdffactory. sympathy. when they feel no personal kinship with the characters. all create the illusion of reality (in actuality. can the destructive mechanisms of capitalist ideology be exposed and resisted. I. You think the Lord God’s just a joke? He’ll give you His Judgement on that. Betray your own brother. You ramshackle Christian. The songs serve as social statements by combining high culture with low. forcing him to constantly create new ways of arousing human sympathy. (Act. awake! Get on with your sinful employment Show what a good crook you could make. The songs are nonetheless bawdy. He laments the fact that humans are able to deaden their feelings. you rogue And sell your old woman. basically a call for thieves and beggars to start their “sinful employment”. he provides them with props and slogans and is paid a part of their daily “take”. This is evident in the first scene where Mr.

and she supplied the breast. ‘The Ballad of immoral earnings’ makes fun of bourgeois society by attacking its nostalgia. if not quite the best. One of the main attributes of the middle class is a preference for an idealized past. but what would I not give To see that whorehouse where we used to live? …………………………………………………………… But in the end we flushed it down the sewer. In Act Two. That could not last. I’d got the brain. the “golden years”.pdffactory. now very far a way When we set up together. That time’s long past. which will reach its peak and maturity in the 1940’s.stage in a theatre. vi. I saw her right. This . Scene Five. 44-45) Brecht attacks this naive view of the past by having Mac sing about his life with Jenny. Mac makes the couple seem idyllic even though if they live in a whorehouse. and she looked after me – A way of life then. but what would I not give To see that whorehouse where we used to live? (II. with concepts such as the “golden ages”. in fact. and go and have a drink instead And when he paid up I’d address him: Sir Come any night you feel you fancy her. There was a time. This is reflected in a great deal of literature. Jenny also wishes for the past again even while telling us how Mac used to knock her down the 31 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. one of many Brechtian preliminary attempts of initiating an epic drama and theatre. I and she. or the Romantic period playing a key role. And when a client came I’d slide out of our bed And treat him nice.

(Esslin: 1977. he gives them a dose of harsh reality. (Brecht: 1979. demanding decorum today and abusing them tomorrow. at specific moments. the ray of hope which shines in this opera’s chaotic 32 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. transforming the protagonist. The dancers will be the ones to face the rich spectators with their hypocritical . however. into a morally ambiguous hero. Since at the same time. Brecht writes in his “Notes to The Threepenny Opera” that. a former army buddy of Macheath’s who protects his friend’s criminal activity in exchange for a percentage of his spoils. Thus Brecht uses the two of them to combine elements of bourgeois nostalgia with lower class crudity. and creating the character of Sheriff Jackie Brown. he is theoretically in a position to appoint a new function for the theatre. Macheath. Brecht exposes his understanding of death penalty in the play. 132) The Threepenny Opera places blame on the capitalist society for the criminal underworld that Gay presented merely in The Beggar’s Opera as a mirror-image satire of eighteenthcentury aristocracy. And perhaps through that rudimentary feeling of moral tolerance towards the poor. Brecht made some stylistic changes. The Threepenny Opera is concerned with bourgeois conceptions not only by content. by representing them. but. since therefore he sees his wishes not merely fulfilled but also criticized (sees himself not as the subject but as the object). It is a kind of report on life as any member of the audience would like to see it. emphasizing the parallels between Polly and Lucy Peachum. he sees a good deal that he has no wish to see. Brecht’s theater is intentionally extremely political. but also through the manner in which it does so.pdffactory. 90) This means that Brecht is giving the bourgeois audience their fantasy of the criminal world.stairs.

plagiarize. outlandish American jazz. for it is cold. Lotte Lenya. straight . which moves the chorus to sing: Injustice should be spared from persecution: Soon it will freeze to death. and. reinterpret. (Act III. Brecht is proposing a notable correction of the merciless machinery of justice. recollected about the play in the1940s.pdffactory. but also a great respect and compassion for every human creature. For when it seems that the leader of the gangsters is going to be executed. not one thing or the other. for this positive penal law seems inhuman to him. Other critical views mix admiration and doubts of this Brechtian adaptation of the play. Lenya describes what was Brecht’s tendency. operetta. cabaret. the victim of social injustice. “Respected Berlin theatre oracles slipped out to spread the word that Brecht and Weill proposed to insult the public with a ludicrous mishmash of opera. 79) Notice finally how. As his admirers have it: to adapt. Think of the blizzards and the black confusion Which in this vale of tears we must behold. magnificently add modern significance. more directly still. or in his detractors’ eye: to pirate. Brecht is not only expressing a profound feeling of compassion and mercy towards that poor criminal.” (Lenya: 1960. shamelessly appropriate – to borrow at will from the vanished greats like Marlowe and Shakespeare and 33 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. xiii) She asserts that he was eclectic and unabashed about borrowing from other cultural sources as part of his own creative genius. already in this earliest of works.closing moments could be explained. of the death penalty. Thus. re-create. one of the stars of the original production (and wife of composer Kurt Weill). however perverse he or she may seem. an unexpected pardon arrives.

written during Brecht’s exile and set in Communist China. Gay’s original production had been laced with political satire itself. greed and power. when the idea came to him to resurrect The Beggar’s Opera but in a satirical manner that would ultimately highlight Brecht’s socialist ideals. The Good Woman of Setzuan: Goodness vs Money. The various situations of the play deal with the idea of changing a world where goodness cannot exist by itself amidst money. The story of the play is dramatized by Brecht from an old Chinese . love and practicality. and even from his actual or near contemporaries like Kipling and Gorky and Klabund. and between her own needs and those of her friends and neighbors. 4 February 1943. between obligation and reality. After all. is a parable of a young woman torn among goodness. Therefore. money. and to borrow from opera a dramatic form and adapt it so that it reached to a new audience. V) As such. To conclude. greed and power.pdffactory. * Der Gute Mensch Von Setzuan was first produced in Zurich. all these dramatic modifications have been made to suit and serve two main purposes: the Brechtian ideological attitude of how human relations are affected or determined by economic. Greed and Power The Good Woman of Setzuan*. the borrowing of Gay’s story and characters was not only convenient. (Lenya: 1960. the basic problem that faces Shen Te is how to be good and rich and yet to live. it was quite appropriate. 34 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. and in so doing they created a new type of musical theatre. social and political forces and that is one of the main themes of The Threepenny Opera. The play consists of an epilogue and ten fragmentary Acts.

Shui Ta reveals that he is Shen Te in disguise. then. Shui Ta. Shui Ta manages to drive the sponger away. therefore she pretends. Shen Te learns that Yang Sun is only after her money. would-be relations. The three gods are delighted and relieved that the only good person is still alive. they ask Wong. But the confesses that she could only have survive by alternatively being the bad cousin Shi Ta. she disguises as a brutal males cousin. After their . She is now pregnant. But the situation is more complicated when Shen Te saves Yang Sun. as the male cousin Shui Ta that Shen Te is away on a journey. The next morning the three gods show their gratitude by giving her a thousand silver dollars. the unemployed airman.pdffactory. At the trial where the three gods act as judges. The selfish people of Setzuan refuse to offer a place for these three gods. To protect herself. the water seller. buys a tobacco shop but she is immediately surrounded by parasites. and beggars who threaten to bankrupt her.Three gods descend from heaven in search of good human beings on earth in order to justify the continuation of the world. Shen Te:I’m telling you I’m the bad man who committed all those crimes! 35 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. to find someone who can give them shelter for the night. Shen Te’s long absence arouses suspicion. In order to provide her future child with a good standard of living. 121) Shen Te.”(Thomson and Sacks: 2002. she starts a tobacco factory and then she becomes the king of tobacco. As they enter Setzuan town. Shui Ta employs Yang sun who becomes a foreman and begins to exploit the workers by making them work harder. which sets her up with a “petitbourgeois status. Shui Ta is arrested and accused of imprisoning Shen Te. Only the penniless prostitute Shen Te accepts to offer them a room. from suicide and she falls in love with him.

the play attempts to bring the whole issue about social change. that’s all! (Sc. Shen Te’s kindness and generosity results in her nearly ruining her business and. Shui Ta*. Shen Te is able to regain her status and rebuild a successful business. who tries to please her neighbours and . This powerful capitalist ugly face is the only means that can survive amidst greed and voracity. 36 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. the gods told her not to disguise herself too often and to keep being the good woman of Setzuan. the * The name Shen Te. but never receives anything in return. but the bad man too! First God: [as if something had dawned] Unfortunate coincidences! Heartless neighbours! Third God: [shouting in his ear] But how is she to continue? First God: Continue? Well. however this generosity does not give you any position in society. As a result of her transforming into a man. she must reinvent herself as her ruthless male capitalist cousin. After the gods said those words to Shen Te. 105) As Shen Te asked for their advice. healthy girl… Second God: You didn’t hear what she said! First God: I heard every word! She is confused. they flew away.10. in Chinese.First God: [using – or failing to use – his ear trumpet] The good woman who did all those good deeds? Shen Te: Yes. in order to survive. The generous Shen Te rains her small gifts on those around her. The play explains that to be ‘good’ results in unconditional giving of labor. The name Shui Ta suggests the rushing waters of a flood tide. This is demonstrated through the character Shen Te. she’s a strong. but one of human origin. Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan has been written as a response to the unjust treatment of the lower classes and as a result.pdffactory. The play is ended and no resolution in the traditional sense is given. Brecht believes that “evil is not an outside force. connotes gentle rain.

therefore. Brecht’s compelling argument highlights that a good. and. In order to succeed in society. Brecht’s audience is predominantly petit-bourgeois. Brecht not only highlights the lower classes’ constant struggle to improve their lives. who has the potential to become . to be kind or not to be kind and to help people or not to help them.same as goodness. The character Shen Te illustrates the simple step from working class status to capitalist status when her male cousin transforms the shop into a factory. is likely to fail in a capitalist society. she buys a shop that will ultimately exploit either the workers who work for her or the people who buy from her. honest person who pays taxes and looks out for others. The petit-bourgeois believed they are neither being exploited nor exploiting and therefore they consent to the system rather than taking a stand against it. Brecht’s messages are overtly clear. it is up to humans to stem it. Shen Te succumbs to the middle class. As Louis Althusser suggests. greed and power are concerned. the main dramatic conflict emerges from this socio-political situation. Shen Te is split into the good exploited female and bad exploiting male. Her benevolent deeds did not win her others’ respects but invited more people trying to make use of her.” (Abbotson: 2003. Shen Te consents to exploitation. for instance. One of the major dramatic conflicts of the play. a capitalist regime. but also questions the female’s inferiority. Accordingly. 118) This evil lurks in every corner of the play where money. Like the audience. she felt somewhat undervalued and not respected. takes the shape of class struggle as far as money. greed and power are interwoven to face goodness in any possible shape. he highlights that to break 37 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. She would rather be kind than be wicked. as more and more people exploited her generosity. are two major powers that push Shen Te to have a decisive attitude to protect her money. Furthermore.pdffactory. However.

is revolution. to Brecht. the whole action of the play represents an answer to this inquiry. despite Shen Te’s desperate plea for help at the end of the play. the only solution. The prologue establishes the basic dramatic question around which the entire play is organized. In short. …but there’s the rent to pay. the good woman 38 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Shen Te. but ultimately leave them to struggle after their interference. “Isn’t it true she might do better if she had more money?” (Prologue.pdffactory. 26) This suggestion will undergo a number of investigations and it will set the action itself in motion. as Marx suggests he or she must sacrifice their social situations and revolt against the regime. This little world has much engaged us.. For example. for instance.[He makes a sign and music is heard. Its joy and its sorrow have refreshed and pained us.] Let us return. I should love to stay with one man. the gods still proceed to exit on their cloud. Even so I can’t make ends meet. We shall gladly think of you. 26) In the Prologue. Up there. there’s too much competition. beyond the stars.. one of the solutions to Shen Te’s inquiry how to be good is presented by the Third God who suggests . The gods might well represent the capitalists who offer small ways to help the poor. however. I’d like to honour my father and mother and speak nothing but the truth and not covet my neighbour’s house.out of this unfair cycle his audience must stop consenting to the system and. Shen Te tells the three gods that she wants to be good. First God: And now. And that’s not all: I sell myself for a living. Rosy light. Thus. But how? (Prologue.

the philosophical dimension which is obviously presented in the Prologue and in the several short scenes. in the Epilogue. The spectators should think of an end of the capitalistic powers and of a way to change their world. and visiting the luxurious opera houses.107) Due to their more fortunate circumstances. First. 233) It is the role of the spectators to reach this synthesis through many theatrical and textual means used by the playwright. Who. the action of the play as a whole moves on three dimensions or levels in revealing its theme. which Brecht frequently stimulates by means of direct appeals and questions. who are distanced from the situation. and sort out her own problems. to find a solution which Brecht 39 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. in cold darkness. Therefore. they are happy to leave Shen Te to suffer. But at the same time the gods could represent the . 10.” as Martin Esslin believes. Second. Brecht may be highlighting that the spectator should not float away onto their ‘clouds’ and forget the important issues raised in the play. as long as they were living in their comfortable homes. and they are usually fall under the technique of Alienation Effect.Who bears witness to our spirit down below. carries a little lamp! Good-bye! Do it well! (Sc. Instead.pdffactory. But in “Brecht’s view.” (Esslin: 1977. According to Claude Hill. “[the world] simply cannot be changed slowly and gradually: only violence can bring about really fundamental change. were disinterested in the suffering of the lower classes. which reflect and comment on the action. the dramatic dimension which emerges from Shen Te / Shui Ta’s encounters and involvements with other characters. they should engage in critical thought and take action. This may be a metaphor for the middle class who. The third dimension is not seen in the text but is created by the reaction of the spectator. and by challenging him. by making the spectator an unseen judge in the last trail act.

she needs her ruthless cousin more and more often in order to reconcile her impulsive generosity with the interests of selfpreservation. Shen Te the good woman finds that she needs a kind of power or protection. She wants to practice her altruistic impulse without the mask of her brutal male cousin but she finds this ambition impossible in a world of poverty. Consequently.deliberately withholds. they.* I want to go with the man I love I don’t want to count the cost I don’t want to consider if it’s wise I don’t want to know if he loves me I want to go with the man I love. Dialectically speaking. egoism. She wants to be good. to make the spectators conscious of what is going on stage. are judges on level two. and we. that he is marrying her for her money. and hardship. The conflict of * Directing the speech to the spectators by the actors is one of the Brechtian theatrical means to achieve Alienation Effect. level two judging level one. the last word is left for the audience. with her goodness. at the same time. to confront the egoism and the greed of our abnormal world.pdffactory. that is. She tells the audience. Shen Te mentally and physically suffers from her existential dichotomy that it is impossible both to have money and to be good and to continue living. on level three. 5a. as Shui Ta. It means that in such a world goodness cannot survive by itself. Shui Ta.” (Hill: 1975. Shen Te’s conflict then starts. Therefore. and ready to use his critical ability. (Sc. but she cannot. hatred. 71) The only one who can confront all these problems is the ruthless male cousin. 40 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. judge level one and. Hence. in turn. Her goodness is unable to drive the parasites away or to resist Yang Sun’s love although she . 126-127) Obviously. “The protagonists judge each other on level one.

As a result. By this he questions the rightness of Christian principle. her love story. Oh. suicidal.the play. Brecht would ask that the world be changed so Shen Te can be offered a better option. are not resolved. but. other ethics.” (Dickson: 1978. Dickson. which are indicated in her tendency to help people. A. He illustrates that a capitalist society will always corrupt and that abiding by repressive laws will ultimately lead to corruption also. whilst being entertained. 141) The wealth is the main reason of this socio-political conflict among the characters. being a determined believer in Marxism.pdffactory. don’t illustrious ones! Don’t go away! don’t leave me! How can I face the good old couple who’ve lost their store and the water-seller with his stiff hand? And how can I defend myself from the barber who I do not love and from Sun whom I do love? 41 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. we must live in a society without wealth. She tells the three gods. according to K. and her desire to protect her unborn child from need. the only synthesis the spectator may conclude out of this dialectical conflict is that: to exist in a society without corruption. shows that. 28) and unsuitable as a workable social system. in extreme cases. which considers Christianity the “opium of the people. This wealth incessantly brings more and more parasites to Shui Ta hoping of getting a share in her fortune. “individual goodness is not only inadequate to deal with the evil in the . in which the working class has to exist.” (Singer: 2000. we must live in an utopian communist society. morals and beliefs do not work as a solution for such socio-political dilemma. Finally. becomes a thinking human being and as a result of seeing a piece of theatre would want to bring about a change. the conflicts between Shen Te’s altruism and self-interests. In other words. where everyone shares everything equally. He clearly presents the unfair ideology. As an alternative. Brecht sees the need for an analytical spectator who.

Shen Te destroys the old couple who lend her money and then need it repaid when the man falls ill. Shui Ta represents the paradoxical fact of our society: that to be good. the First god answers in coolness. and wonder how much the gods might be to blame by sullying her with money in the first place. and the humanitarian response should be to seek better justice in the world and make crucial changes. Brecht suggests. But since Brecht believed in Marxism. He feels that it is only the mechanics of the capitalist society which restrict and pervert this goodness. He believes that simple goodness is the natural state of man. 107) Brecht seeks the Marxist synthesis of man rather than the Marxist synthesis of the gods. “This allows us to question even her goodness.”(Abbotson: 2003. 107) To all these worrisome conflicts and problems of Shen Te.” (Act 10. 124-125) Therefore. ‘unhappy is the land that needs a hero’.And I am with child.” (Hill: 1975. therefore. Because of her love for Yang Sun. maybe it 42 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. “just be good and everything will turn out well. who is worthless and insensible in return. and at times having to sacrifice others to stay afloat herself. 122) They forced her to become part of a capitalist system in which she must constantly struggle to keep her head above water. will resolve all these contradictions. that man should strive for a society of the future in which simple goodness will be possible. that is in excess.pdffactory. can also be applied to Shen Te: Unhappy is the land that needs goodness as a virtue. the will of . not the will of gods. In other words. which is made by man. man must also be bad. we have come to accommodate evil within the social system. frequently resorting to the wicked practices of her alter ego. “Galileo verdict. Soon there’ll be a little son who’ll want to eat – I can’t stay here! (Act 10. Brecht wishes us to recognize that when the good are so easily destroyed in this manner.

It is a damning portrait of materialism. Not only do these stories. only the scavengers survive. peace is often * War fascinates humankind and has occurred throughout history. Many people have pointed out that peace presents special difficulties. 43 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. It is harder to define than war and it is more difficult to cultivate and maintain. No culture has ever been immune to it. but they also contribute to how the modern world sees war and peace today.* If war is generally defined as armed conflict between two conflicting groups. wrote the play in direct response to the escalating conflict in Europe in 1938-39. The Premise of War and Its Ramifications in Mother Courage and her Children What are the purposes and consequences of war? Is it for religion. In the war-torn world of the play. Aside from being the absence of war. many of the sentiments expressed in world literature about war or peace closely echo similar thoughts in the contemporary . where commerce is equated with violence and opportunism makes a mockery of ideology. himself a victim of war. states. and it emerged as one of the most significant artistic works inspired by that period in twentieth century history. and the stories and experiences of many cultures around the world combine to create a global view of war and peace. Despite differences in time and geography.pdffactory. then one would have to say that war has always been a part of human experience and is perhaps even a defining characteristic of human beings. allow readers a glimpse into the past. War and peace tussle with each other throughout the pages of human history. by picking on the literal and metaphorical bones of those who fight (and die) in the name of causes labeled as religious or political. some passed down for centuries. for power – or purely for business? Where is the hole once the cheese has been eaten? There are those who use it to make their destiny. or tribes.takes a new structure of society to change the economic environment and the plights of people. Brecht.

order. Brecht’s attitude towards war is derived from Marxism. This class made its wealth from the misery of workers. who. a critique of the corrosive moral changes brought about by the rapid industrialization of Europe. for example.pdffactory. 1848. the proletariat. Marx and Engels were highly critical of the new wealthy class. was first published on February . at its heart. (Wikipedia) 44 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. A learned sense of justice cannot be acquired overnight. Justice is the fruit of reflection on the way humans relate to one another in society. suggesting that lasting peace could only be achieved by starting a war that would completely uproot and overturn European society. specifically from awareness that reliable.understood to include the stable presence of law. rather than a prediction of communism's potential future forms. The Communist Manifesto** is. Commissioned by the Communist League and written by communist theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. it laid out the League's purposes and program. The authors’ revolutionary ideas came from their observation that the workers were uniting and educating themselves to better their conditions. worked up to eighteen hours a day in factories and mines. This placed workers in an explosive position. ** Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei). often referred to as The Communist Manifesto. and is one of the world's most influential political manuscripts. and justice. Social order follows from understanding. for the bulk of their lives. established patterns of behavior are useful to both individuals and societies. Law. the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels predicted a time when the bourgeoisie would become so corrupt that the workers would rise up against them in a great revolution that would destroy the bourgeoisie and result in a worker’s paradise. is the product of centuries of tolerant human experience gained throughout the history of a given society. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism.

nearly 400 years after the event. Perhaps his inspiration for this play came about as he witnessed World War II unfolding across Europe. The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It must have also left a lasting impression on Bertolt Brecht since he decided to set his play Mother Courage and Her Children during this conflict. directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. spread throughout the world and inspired others to attack unjust and corrupt regimes by any means possible. It has but established new classes. their ideas. it also inspired oppression itself. producing some of the worst totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. it is no surprise that it has left such a lasting mark in history. Seeing as how this was war so lengthy. new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. possesses.Though Marx and Engels did not directly advocate violence. He did not forget to illustrate the social. Between the years of 1618 and 1648. however. into two great classes. Our epoch. (Marx: 1969. Even though The Communist Manifesto inspired change and revolt against oppression. this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms: Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps. The political wheels in his head began to turn as he pieced this play together.pdffactory. political and economical 45 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. new conditions of oppression. Marxism has permanently altered modern views of war and peace. 7) This created the ideal of communism—in which each person worked as he or she could and received what he or she needed—which has only dissipated since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union in 1989. known as . the 30 Years’ War migrated across Central Europe from the original rebellion in Bohemia to its conclusion in Westphalia. the epoch of the bourgeoisie.

including the changing roles of women and children as well as the practice of religion. her daughter. the term “socio-political” mainly refers to the dialectical interrelationship between politics and the social environment of the play. To the sound of a Jew’s harp. Threatening suicide.ramifications that come about in a war.pdffactory. It is pulled by Mother Courage’s two sons. Thus. at length. Mother Courage and her Children (Mutter Courage Und Ihrekinder was first produced in Zurich Schauspielhaus. War is one of those political decisions taken by such authorities. See: Paul Harvey. Eilif and Swiss Cheese. 46 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. which is set during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century*. Mother Courage is sitting aloft with Kattrin. he tells the sergeant that his difficulty finding honest. In the play. It shows a mother who tries to profit from the war in order to help her . and the Imperial forces represent Catholicism. The recruiting officer complains bitterly about the difficulties of recruiting an army. the social circumstances are governed. 815. willing men to recruit has led to the loss of his faith in humanity. which later will turn the whole social life upside down and make its own system and laws. a covered cart rolls onto the stage. Furthermore. The Oxford Companion to English Literature (London: Oxford: Oxford University Press. ed. The play opens with a recruiting officer and an army sergeant standing together. 19 April 1941) is an anti-war socio-political play. This dialogue shows war’s effect on the little people. * The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) was part of the political upheaval that followed the Reformation which had divided Christian Europe into Protestant and Catholic states and killed off half of Germany’s population. p. but loses all of her children in the attempt. as she sings her opening song. talking in the freezing snow. 1967). regulated and directed by the political will and power of the authority. the Swedes stand for the Protestantism. that war is the only way of creating order. The sergeant explains.

is more interested in her son than the belt buckle she tries to sell him. explains why she is called Courage (her real name is Anna Fierling): she once drove her cart through the bombardment of Riga in order to sell fifty molding loaves of bread. By the time she has pocketed her profits. An argument ensues between Mother Courage and the sergeant about the rights and wrongs of Eilif’s signing up for service in the war. making hoarse noises to warn her mother of what is going on behind the . Now distracting her by haggling over a belt buckle. pulling a knife and insisting that the soldiers keep away from her children. He is shaken when he draws a black cross.pdffactory. 19) Dumb Kattrin jumps from the cart. 1. the sergeant occupies Mother Courage while the recruiting officer leads Eilif off into the fields. but Mother Courage is occupied with her trade and pays no heed. The recruiting officer. 47 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Mother Courage immediately attempts to make a sale. All of her children are to die in the war. She obviously has rigged the slips of paper. Mother Courage then draws black crosses (signifying death) on slips of paper. however. Ten gilders in advance and you’re soldier of the King and a stout fellow and the women will be mad about you. her son is gone. Mother Courage marks up several more black crosses and has each of her children draw one. and Eilif is about to be taken from her under her nose. And you can give me a smack in the kisser for insulting you. but in doing so she proves a prophet. He tells Eilif. and she invites the sergeant to select one. Mother Courage reacts violently. having joined at seventeen. The sergeant points out that he has had a good life in the army. unable to produce a valid set of papers.Mother Courage. When Eilif seems keen to enlist. (Sc. but Mother Courage dryly comments that he is yet to reach seventy.

with on one side the General’s tent and. the all-too-honest Swiss Cheese. That is. Eilif repeats the same ‘heroic action’ by killing innocent peasants taking their cows a meat for his soldiers during a short interlude of peace. pours him expensive wine. However. She does so not. his kitchen. but because he put himself in danger. but he is now regarded as a war criminal and executed. Mother Courage slaps her son around the face. if good battle strategies were in place. comments that the General-being obsessed with the heroism of his troops-must be a very poor General. When Swiss Cheese’s corpse is brought in. with the General and the Chaplain ominously laughing in the doorway. because he took the oxen. his mother—to save her own life—has to deny she even knows him. Eilif successfully killed some peasants and stolen the oxen they attempted to hide from the General’s army. Later on. her haggling over the price of the bribe costs him his life. When he is taken prisoner Courage can win his freedom by paying off his ransom. absolutely delighted with Eilif’s heroic deed. to whom Mother Courage is attempting to sell a capon that she swindled from the peasants in the nearby village. astonished to hear her son’s voice again. there would be no need for heroism. He’s got nobody knows him.” ( Sc. The Catholic sergeant says. is lost because of her mercantile inclination. Courage’s second son. The General. on the other. she explains. Mother Courage. 42) 48 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. She places the value of her business operation—her cart full of goods—above his life.pdffactory. “Chuck him in the pit. As paymaster of a Finnish regiment Swiss Cheese hides his cash box during a successful attack by Catholic .The slogan of scene two announces that two years have passed and that Mother Courage is about to meet her son Eilif again. The scene finishes in the middle of this reprimand. The stage is split in two. In the kitchen we meet General’s cook. 3.

The peasants advise her to follow the regiment immediately.” (Sc. From offstage. though she has given her own life in doing so.pdffactory. hoping that she can pull it alone..Kattrin is killed as well when she is attempting to warn the sleeping town of Halle from a sudden Catholic attack. She pays the peasants to bury her. She has succeeded in awaking the townsfolk. Tennessee Williams has commented. Fetching a tarpaulin from her cart. is not really a military conquest but an illegal robbery carried out so that a hungry army could eat. For capitalists. pulling the cart. Be all right. The slogan of Scene eleven comments on her heroic deed as “The stone begins to speak” (Sc. Mother Courage harnesses herself to the cart. its heroic determination to somehow. “Hope I can pull cart all right by meself. 12. 11. the first military deed the play introduces us to. Mother Courage sings a lullaby over Kattrin’s dead body. in Bentley: 1981. Go to get back in business again. nowt much inside it. and Courage follows along with . It is worth noting that at the early stage of the play.120) What Brecht underlines is war’s omnipresence in capitalist civilization. war is just a business like any other business. keep on pulling the wagon further on. One of war themes of the play is that little people cannot profit from a war which runs only for the profit of the greater authorities. It is time for her to get back on the road. the song that introduced Courage in Scene One is repeated to end the play. The victims of this destructive machine of blood and death are always the innocent citizens. almost anyhow. 87) The noise of a regiment passes by. “I doubt that any other play has paid such homage to mankind’s greatest virtue. 80) referring to her dumbness and her beating on drum from a rooftop. she covers Kattrin’s body. a source of getting money and other economical profits. 49 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.” (qt.

94). As an alternative. although some of them would have been shop owners etc. “the harm done to her children is associated with her business .pdffactory. climax and resolution is generally ignored. Brecht should have something rather than cause and effect to connect the separate parts of his play. giving her petit-bourgeois status. it stimulates the audience’s consciousness and states that. Brecht’s protagonist Mother Courage is a civilian. These business dealings. Brecht’s play explains that Mother Courage consents to the system that murdered her children. Comfortable in her status she ignores the damaging effects of her business and as a result her business costs Mother Courage her children.” (Spiers: 1990. however. who exploits the war by selling food and clothing to soldiers. ranging from politicians and world leaders through to civilians. The traditional cause and effect plot with its pattern of exposition. 99). In the Brechtian theatre. The audience is not being asked to identify with Courage. By placing the action in a historical situation the audience can be made to think: “Is this how things are? This is terrible. are the means by which she attempts to fulfill a mother’s obligation to provide for her family. themes and dramatic techniques are dialectically welded together to produce the final premise of the play.Since Mother Courage and her Children is an anti-war socio-political play. but to stand back and think about the actions and how they could have been avoided. Ergo Brecht’s dialectics encourages his audience not to consent to such damaging systems. He finds in ‘theme’ the 50 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. the suffering must stop”. When we come to Bertolt Brecht’s epic drama. The play explains that war presents an opportunity for profit. conflict. we actually come to a modern exploitation of the episodic plot technique. Consequently. “men are indeed mostly motivated by concern for their own material and physical well-being” (Spiers: 1990.

The whole play is regarded as an offproduct of corruption of war and how human values are profoundly tainted by the circumstances of such deadly business. he makes a schematic table using key words whereby the basic changes of emphasis as between the dramatic and the epic theatre are sketched. a state in which finances are less assured. War always strives to establish its own ethics. The total corruption of society is an inevitable output of war circumstances. He shows peace being less prosperous. but arouses his capacity for action forces him to make decisions picture of the world 51 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. substituting the peace ethics and demolishing man’s moral values. At this point of ‘thematic unity’. In short. in the notes to The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1928-1929). To shed light on how Brecht creates his own premises.pdffactory. each does not cause the . Twelve separate scenes are presented in Mother Courage and her Children. DRAMATIC THEATRE plot implicates the spectator in a stage situation wears down his capacity for action provides him with sensations Experience EPIC THEATRE Narrative turns the spectator into an observer. the ideas and the techniques are manipulated and interwoven with each other. yet all are thematically related to one another. the twelve scenes of Mother Courage and her Children share the same war theme although they are presented through fragmentary incidents and different characters.suitable means to achieve this unity. Each scene presents a variation on this theme but it does not cause the next.

847) The comparisons in the table are not antithetical. Brecht desired and established a theatre that challenged the spectators to think for themselves and respond to the social issues that were brought to light by the performance.the spectator is involved in something Suggestion instinctive feelings are preserved the spectator is in the thick of it. shares the experience the human being is taken for granted he is unalterable eyes on the finish one scene makes another Growth linear development evolutionary determinism man as a fixed point Thought determines being Feeling he is made to face something Argument brought to the point of recognition the spectator stands outside.pdffactory. 52 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. but rather indicate what he viewed as a necessary shift from the dramatic to the epic mode. Rather than a theatre that was set up as a place for the spectators to passively immerse themselves in an emotionally involved story that was geared toward the climax and catharsis that plot promises and . Studies the human being is the object of the inquiry he is alterable and able to alter eyes on the course each scene for itself Montage in curves Jumps man as a process social being determines thought reason (Dukore: 1974. Brecht proposed a more active theatre-and-audience relationship.

com . 69) Eilif’s actions are antiheroic. but it’s peace now. directly contributing to the death and destruction of war. Moreover. in Mother Courage and her Children. Since plot tends to draw the spectator into “the story. These characteristics are needed as methodological tools to achieve the desired premises. You ought to see the king. Eilif is trying to justify his crime by saying that “It’s what I did last time. montage (not dramatic development).The table also clearly lists the characteristics of epic theatre’s form. and scenes that jump (not cause and effect). He is now regarded as a war criminal and should be executed. episodic (not climactic) scenes. curves (not linear development). The General rewards him for one of his courageous deeds that he killed many Catholic peasants taking their cows for his hungry soldiers.” (Scene 8. 18) Eilif repeats the same deed but during a short peace interlude between the Protestants and the Catholics. What Brecht points out is not the criminality of war but 53 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. in which the spectator only becomes an observer.” (Scene 2. This will make the spectator expelled from the story anytime s/he is drawn into it. His behavior counters his sibling’s bravery. the scenes can be presented in a series of non-linear scenes in which the spectator could not but think about what is going on on stage. it is presented episodically with scenes that can jump to any places or time without the spectator’s anticipation. The General praises him by saying. ain’t it?. joins the army without his mother’s consent and become a cutthroat soldier.” Brecht introduces the use of narratives. Even more surprising. Eilif. “Aye. 69) But the Cook answers him.” (Scene 8. as a montage. “you’ve the makings of a young Caesar. Epic theatre uses narrative (not plot). balancing the heroic with antiheroic actions.pdffactory. for instance.

Brecht uses the exceptional circumstances or war as a means of forcing the contradictions in her character to the surface. Eilif’s second action during peace time as the antithesis. As far as Eilif’s incident is concerned. She wants to maintain her family during the war and by means of it. the spectator in the Brechtian theatre is stimulated to draw his own conclusion (the synthesis) as in the following statement: killing innocent peasants is a crime whether it is committed during war-time or during peace-time. Eilif’s heroic deed in wartime is a crime during peace. whereas the synthesis is left for the readers or the spectators to think of. Brecht establishes the first incident as a thesis. Mother Courage continually curses war yet embraces 54 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. She aims at exploiting war circumstances and to get money but without paying the price. But what happened indeed that Mother Courage sacrificed her children in order to make a living. the synthesis is formulated in the spectator’s mind rather than it is mentioned in the text.the ways (as Scene One sets out) that war creates its own system of . Brecht differs from Shaw that the former does not establish any written synthesis in the text. (Brecht: 1974. to dramatically confront and reveal the contradictions through the brutal event so the war. The main dialectical conflict is presented in Mother Courage’s character. Eilif’s inability to distinguish between the moral values of war and peace leads him to his tragic destiny. between business and motherhood. Dealing with war there is no compromise either death or life. 229) Therefore. She wants to serve the army and also to keep out of its clutches.pdffactory. most of Brecht’s plays are open-ended. She is caught in the contradiction between being a merchant and being a mother. It is about the inevitable loss that the mother suffers as she tries to negotiate these contradictory demands. Consequently.

In Act one Mother Courage warns her sons. it 55 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.” (Act 7. each of her positive actions has a negative complement. she cannot keep herself out of the war which will destroy her family. but she is completely contradicting herself since her trade completely depends on the continuity of war. 59) Brecht represents Mother Courage as a social phenomenon which always flourishes during wartime. She advises her three children not to go deep in this .its circumstances for profit and survival. Swiss Cheese. Kattrin! May all of us be torn apart like this if we let ourselves get too mixed up in the war. preserving her family through the war and turning a profit. Of her two goals.pdffactory. She is now resigned to hauling the wagon by herself. in the hopes that a balance of the two forces will insure success. Brecht shows this duality as a negative consequence of war. All her children are dead. yet by the time the action in the play begins. 59) but she curses war when she counts her losses. and there is no profit in uncertainty. and she has little money. She has equated the relentless pursuit of profit (her antiheroic side) with success and survival.” (Act 7. Hence. “War be damned. Peace means uncertainty and loss to her. the canteen wagon is nearly empty. she comes to believe that if she is profitable. describing war as “Nice way to get living. taking a sheet of parchment and tearing it into two. then she says.” (Act I. 9) Mother Courage is both hero and antihero. she achieves neither by the play’s end. It is an unnatural vicious state in which common values are challenged at every turn. “Eilif. Mother Courage’s behavior is driven by a need to survive during wartime. it is clear her priorities on this matter have become twisted. people are forced to act on both their good and bad impulses. She praises war when her business is being flourished. She is a good representative of a bourgeois who wants to keep her family together and her cart moving.

This emphasis on the virtuous elements of Mother Courage’s sons helps Brecht to establish and to stress the negative side of Mother Courage. despite what her heroic nature might dictate. ultimately. it robs people of their humanity. Eilif.g. In short. Eilif is executed because of his heroic deed. and. refuses to hand over the regimental cash box to the enemies and is killed. In portraying his 56 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Kattrin. Mother Courage’s mute daughter. is killed by the Catholics while she is beating a drum so as to awaken the sleeping citizens of Halle.will allow her family to survive the war. Mother Courage and her three children represent another dialectical technique of characterization and structure in the play in achieving the unity of opposites towards producing the final promise of the play. While gains may be made in geographic terms. everyone involved loses. Swiss Cheese. the honest paymaster. Courage and her Children are necessary to formulate the final effect of the contradiction (e. although his mother could save him by paying the compensation on the right moment. Dialectically speaking. She has allowed this side of her to rule each situation.pdffactory. Courage’s cowardice and viciousness cannot critically be grasped without her sons’ virtues in the sense that Courage sacrifices and subordinates her family and her motherhood to her commercial inclination. the technique of unity of opposites used by Brecht reminds us of the conventional struggle between desire and duty but with some twists. the synthesis). It is this last point that hammers home Brecht’s primary theme in the play: war is pointless. Yet in the end her pragmatism and devotion to commerce leaves her emotionally and financially bankrupt. Both sides. humanity is left poorer for the . Swiss Cheese and Kattrin stand for various excessive virtues during wartime and they are consequently killed by them. but she hesitates and haggles too long on the amount of the ransom.

Brecht felt that identifying such contradictions was an essential part of the theatre’s role. and Brecht’s reading of Voltaire and classical Chinese philosophy makes it into an exercise in clear thinking. Like Bernard Shaw. potential husbands or business partners to pitch their lot in with hers. In wartime. She refuses both men and chooses instead her independence. War produces another corruption as a socio-political phenomenon: the Chaplain. on the contrary. chopping wood . Mother Courage allows two refugees. her cart and her remaining . Nonetheless. The Chaplain is a speaker not a doer and any physical work he does is seen to be alien to him. He stands for men of religion who do not practice what they preach. this interest in contradiction and dialectic becomes more positive. In his mature work. the chaplain is expected to be of great benefit to raise the soldiers’ spirit. however. Brecht emphasizes the socio-political circumstances as basic motivations for the attitudes of human beings more than any conventional playwright did. whereas Brecht does not. antithesis and synthesis. Brecht always leaves the synthesis for the spectators to formulate in their minds.characters and their action. Brecht uses the dialectics and the unity of opposites in portraying his characters and their action but with one difference. the Cook and the Chaplain.pdffactory. they are realistic portraits of the way that real people behave in a contradictory world. the point is that these many contradictions are not the result of poor characterization – rather. He is 57 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. disguising. the Brechtian Chaplain is coward. a clash between two characters simply means a clash between two social or political phenomena which are produced by certain existing circumstances of society. Shaw always mentions the three main dialectical elements of his conflict in the text: thesis. Therefore. pulling the wagon and escaping from place to place in order to save his skin.

the willingness of people to hide their faith when faced with persecutions is evident when the Chaplain with the Swedish army dresses himself 58 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. “He seeks to live off the ‘business’ and at the same time to keep aloof from it. when high morals take second place to necessity. Her pipe smoking should be both flirtatious and provocative. . it is its double standards and denial of material reality.” (Mennemeier: 1962. he represents a contradictory situation which is usually created in such people by the circumstances of war. He is at his best in time of war. “It is a war of faith. mark my words.3. fought for the faith and therefore pleasing to God. To the Chaplain. 25) Then he argues that “the war will always find an outlet.declaring his interest and yet at the same time having to do manual labour. 28) The speed with which the Chaplain changes his robes when he learns the Catholics are attacking demonstrates that his religious principles are instantly superseded by his cowardice in the face of danger.pdffactory. which he considers to be both repugnant and beneath him. he is sanctimonious and hypocritical. however. why should it ever stop?” (Sc. the sight of Mother Courage smoking the cook’s pipe signals that he will not win her over into having a relationship. in peacetime. Indeed. “Ah well. None of your common wars but a special one. 54) But when the canons of this “special war” roar. The Chaplain first appears glorifying this great religious war by telling the Cook that. 144) Mother Courage is very deliberately teasing him with the fact that she is interested in the Cook. If only I had a cloak to cover me. Furthermore. Blessed are the peacemakers is the motto in wartime.” (Sc. 3. The Chaplain is a cynical and wooden character. the Chaplain is scared and he says to Mother Courage. As usual in Brecht. it is not religion which is being criticized. I’ll be going too. if the enemy is so close as that it might be dangerous.” (Sc.

6. Seriously. it’s not a relationship founded on meals and wood-chopping and other such base necessities. I like you. . because of its length many people had become apathetic about their religion at the end. I don’t want to row you. I mean. “I happen to be a pastor of souls. The Chaplain: Don’t change the subject. He complains that his clerical talents are being underused. 59 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. (Sc.different as he and mother courage are captured by a Catholic army. which ultimately changes a society’s culture. some soldiers and the Chaplain try to help hurt peasants: “No way of sorting ’em out in a bombardment. After Kattrin has left. “Be sensible.pdffactory. Courage lights up the Cook’s pipe. Mother Courage: I’d say it was close enough. From that scene. The Chaplain (coming closer: You know what I mean by closer. one can realize that religion does not just spread from generation to generation. while Courage quite likes him. she tells him. a foreshadowing of their future sexual partnership. The difference of religions no longer mattered. given that the whirlwind of war has so strangely whirled us together.6. and when he tries to appeal to her soul. I sometimes ask my self what it would be like if our relationship were to become somewhat closer. 5. He dislikes the Cook. This can be seen in the play as mother courage comes across an area that was under bombardment. people needed help.” (Sc. and the Chaplain converses with her as he chops firewood. sometimes it can spread through force.with ambiguous motives . not a wood-cutter” (Sc. Courage. 49). 57) She hints that she does not want to take anyone into her business. Despite the fact that the war had started as a religious war.suggests a marriage. or at least a closer (perhaps sexual) relationship. 55) and . harden thyself not. I cook meals for you and you run around and chop firewood for instance. Let your head speak.

com . and I ain’t in the mood for private affairs. Thus peace is nothing without a backdrop of war upon it. a hole is only a hole .pdffactory. Kattrin is kind and human. For instance. When the cheese . the Chaplain rhetorically asks his famous question. I don’t see it as mine. she rebukes her for risking her life to save a baby from a burning house. Their use to her (her reality) was a hole framed in substance (their children). the hole is exposed to never have existed. She slams her daughter in every interaction they have. He says. Mother Courage has lost what supports her. This type of dialectical relationship used by the capitalists and military men reminds us of the speech of the Sergeant in Scene One. 57) In Scene Six. when (the cheese) is lost. As long as they keep these restrictions. She sees only the hole. 4) Concerning Mother Courage and her children. and the 60 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Mother Courage does not accept Eilif’s death and she regarded it as useless. She could not understand that her children have their own entities. 53) The Chaplain sees that war is the standard occurrence (the cheese) and peace as merely an interim incidence (the holes in the cheese).” (Scene 1. Each child represents a virtue but in excessiveness during wartime.All I’m after is get myself and children through all this with my cart. she is nothing. The substance of life is war. (the cheese) is her children and (the hole) is how she understands her reality. obviously. which is restrained to their obedience to her and to their work with her. Swiss Cheese is a man of integrity. 6. 6.” (Sc. “takes a war to restore order.” (Scene 1. and the play is over. She loves them but this love is abstract. “Where is the hole once the cheese has been eaten?” ( contains nothing. 3) or “no order. she will keep them safe. but she sees him as a fool.the children . but her children are real people with real ambitions. but Mother Courage could not see the substance of this kindness and humanity in Kattrin’s depth. no war.

com .pdffactory. and uses her manipulative skills to marry his older brother. Later again. When directing the character of Yvette. she would at first be played as bitter. because what supported her personality so fully was her children. 22) 61 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. but that she profited so well out if it is unfair. Some women are also see in prostitution a way to earn more money. Millions of women have been involved in prostitution for survival on the streets. When her husband dies she bets his inheritance. she must be played as slightly smug. One of the most dangerous ramifications of war is prostitution. What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone? Mother Courage could not find the answer which is simply: it disappears. there are about a millions women who have turned to prostitution due to the war-caused break down of social structures and traditional security mechanisms in the world. 3. “Don’t you know you ain’t s’posed to drink before midday with your complaint?” (Sc. Later in the play. it must be made clear that she has grown more cunning and learnt how to bend people to her will. Yvette in Mother Courage and her Children is no exception. She follows the soldiers wherever they go.story vanishes into thin air. as she is yet to have much success in her trade. We no longer care about Mother Courage. when she has received her dead husbands inheritance. As a sad illustration of further social decay. when she is getting the colonel to buy something for her. many women see the streets and prostitution as a way to freedom from conflict. It is sad that she became a whore in the first place. She relies on the war to make money. with a new sense of power over the soldiers she used to depend on. The character of Yvette is a perfect example of how bad people profit form war and capitalism. Yvette is a whore. Thus. She manipulates a colonel into (nearly) buying the wagon for her. Yvette appears first in Scene Three when Mother Courage advises her.

When Mother Courage is at the peak of her business career she is robed in articles which express her wealth. whether they conform to social rules as expected traditionally or whether they react in a more individualistic ways. a confused war torn society. Bertolt Brecht diminishes the traditional roles of characters because they have to survive according to their situation. they are such friends in need. Like Shaw’s point of view of prostitution in Mrs. “it’s a matter of hauling the war out of the mud .Yvette has a venereal disease and she refuses to discuss this matter since her business depends on. Yvette changes her physicality. Warren’s Profession. but if there was a society then Yvette would be isolated from society. literally rebuilding herself when she is for sale. Brecht saw war as an exaggerated form of capitalism where people are driven by greed to consume. there is no condemnation to Yvette’s occupation because this is her only form of survival. emperors or the popes. Yvette is not going against any social or moral norms because there are not any. 62 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. In the play. 53) The best people who can do so are the kings. The people in the play behave as required by the dictates of war. War is always in the mud.” (Sc. so they tend to be amoral in order to survive. 6. moral and social issues both merge into one another. war is a political will and decision with destructive and disparaging social consequences. To Brecht. The aim is to demonstrate how characters behave and react to social values according to the needs of the situations they are placed in. For example the Recruiting Officer sizes up Eilif and Swiss Cheese as if he were buying farm animals. In other words.pdffactory. They cannot afford to be moralistic. Mother Courage and Yvette are two characters that are individualistic and have to survive.

Polly’s relationship with Macheath causes the change within her character. naïve girl who has fallen in love. She initially experiences his world of depravity and criminality with horror. When the play opens. but gradually she accepts the circumstances of Macheath’s business and even agrees to lead the gang in his absence. ethics and values. Polly exhibits a toughness that contrasts her perceived sweetness. Instead of launching her children’s lives. and it displays a virtuous girl that has 63 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Bertolt Brecht relies on the technique of metamorphosis to transfer the character into the opposite side. action and reaction. She is initially horrified by the criminality of her new husband.pdffactory. she is a young. But Polly eventually accepts the brutality all around her and helps to make Macheath’s thieves accept her as their new boss after Macheath tells them he has to leave.Consequently. the side which is determined by sociopolitical factors. Mother Courage is trying to suppress their instinct towards independence and action because the war is not a safe place to grow up. Her wagon is like a military service station providing for the war. The Behaviour Socio-political Context Determines the Characters’ Like Ibsen and Shaw. The social circumstances play a tremendous role in portraying all Polly’s later behaviour. The result is a comprehensive obliteration of lives. Polly is the only character who undergoes any significant change in the course of the play. Mother Courage cannot resolve the conflicting roles of mother and trader and the tragedy of this play is that she thinks she can. She has to make her living from the war and the war will exact its price. At the jailhouse with Lucy. while the war provides for her and her . By the time Macheath has escaped from jail. This toughness belies the jealousy that lies beneath. Polly has been coarsened enough to try to trick Lucy into revealing where Macheath is hiding. In The Threepenny Opera.

become cruel. Instead of showing loyalty to his friend. not because he fears for her life in the hands of a criminal. Jenny turns in Macheath because she needs the money. Brecht skillfully and artistically combines the two techniques of metamorphosis and the unity of opposites to generate a new dynamic situation. The external conflict that the social circumstances the personal choice put her face to face with Macheath. He does not consider Polly’s feelings for Macheath or care that she loves him. She truly loves Macheath. On the other hand. Her sweet nature turns to toughness when she must take over Macheath’s business. Peachum decides to bring down Macheath because losing his daughter will hurt his business. the characters are forced to trample on each other to survive. Brown agrees to capture Macheath because he is afraid of Peachum’s beggars disrupting the queen’s coronation. but her love for Macheath never diminishes even when he betrays her and tells Lucy that Polly is not his wife. so she is willing to do anything to help him. These conflicts are put in a dialectical formula of thesis anti-thesis and synthesis. His dramatic premise of the socio-political power on the individual mannerism is very clear from the very beginning.pdffactory. Everyone appears in one way or another to be engaged in the effort to cut someone else’s throat for his own gain. In The Threepenny Opera. not because she hates him for abusing her. characters make decisions not based on psychology but on the need or desire for material things such as money. Polly is the only character who acts out of love and not self-interest. Every action that furthers the plot in the play is based on a character pursuing self-interest. Therefore. Polly undergoes internal and external conflict: Polly the innocent and Polly the professional. his business concerns motivate him to destroy their marriage. the social 64 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. In a capitalist society in which competition rewards callousness and .

He never expresses remorse for his crimes. prostitution at another. and open a bank (less risk in banking and better profit). merchandising of the beggars at still another. Differences exist among them as to the character of their work.needs that are met by the characters’ activities are not generally regarded as healthy needs. He is dissatisfied. Traditionally. Doolittle and Eliza. partially for profit and partly because they can. though. Macheath is a rather predatory creature filled with cynical contempt for all human beings no matter in what relation they stand to him. Macheath wants to leave his life of crime. thievery and murder exist at one level. tableware.pdffactory. these values are associated with a progression toward power and responsibility. nor does he consider whether he should have done something differently. 65 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Macheath does not change during the course of the play. put his money into a bank. with the small-time criminal life and aspires to middle-class legitimacy. Operating on the basis of . Macheath (also known as Mack the Knife) and his gang rule the lower class world of nineteenth century London. Macheath’s middle-class aspirations embody another set of values: the belief in upward mobility and economic progress. murder and rape. It is the same metamorphoses we have found in Hedda Gabler. and acquire the trappings of middle-class life like quality furniture. At the end he remains a ruthless criminal who cannot see beyond his own selfinterest. He always narrowly focuses on his immediate desires and needs. They steal. and manners. The socio-political background of the play and the milieu in which the character lives in strappingly determine Macheath’s behaviour. Suddenly Macheath quits thievery. he is caught up with forces he does not understand and which almost succeed in destroying him.

Macheath has no intention. We lower-class artisans who toil with our humble jimmies on small shopkeepers’ cash registers are being swallowed up by big corporations 66 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. and she asks him to say this line again to her. Mac: Lucy. Macheath’s actions display two examples of the alienation effect. (Act II. 6. he tells her that he would like to owe her his life. when Macheath is talking with Lucy. Say it again. I should like to owe you my life. Mac: Lucy. These moments break the audience’s emotional connection to the performers and leave them free to evaluate the characters and events of the play critically. By showing Macheath’s desire for economic legitimacy as completely unconnected to any change. Brecht reveals that although Macheath may plan to leave his life of crime for a safer profession. Macheath steps out of the scene and speaks to the audience directly to comment on what he just did.pdffactory. I should like to owe you my life. of changing his values.Despite wanting to leave crime. and plans to betray his friends to make it easier to stay on the right path. Later in the . Macheath’s metamorphosis from a criminal into a business man is justified by his speech before he goes to the scaffold and it critiques the competitiveness of capitalism. Sc. after staring down Brown. Ladies and gentlemen: You see before you a declining representative of a declining social group. The other example comes earlier in the scene. when. 53) This exchange could be played naturalistically. Lucy: It’s wonderful the way you say that. though. as sweet banter between two old lovers. He steals the domestic niceties he desires. continues to visit the whorehouse even though he is married. his values will remain unchanged.

C. During Solon’s time.pdffactory. Macheath may be a murderer. The implication is that employment brutalizes and exploits people far more than even murder. philosophers. The sociopolitical premise is now complete: the corrupted socio-political circumstances of the character decide his mannerism. Macheath steals from only a few. What’s murdering a man compared with employing a man? (Act . soldiers. (Bordenn: 1999.backed by the banks. opportunistic noblemen who had grabbed power on behalf 67 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. in its legal shape. Justice. may be dated back to sixth century B. The universal legal system evolved from the need to tame wild justice that was tearing apart early civilization. Justice without being restricted by public laws is often called ‘wild justice’. Athens with the genius of Solon (638 BC-558 BC). Sc. but that role is nowhere near as bad as being an employer. 76) Macheath compares the tools of his trade to those of banks and major corporations. practical economists as well as social critics came to power in revolutionary times with a mission to put an end to the cycles of disciplinary violence that had overwhelmed Greece for centuries. while a bank steals from all by consolidating money and power into the hands of the rich. merchants. 12) Politicians. The Issue of Social Justice: The Caucasian Chalk Circle The issue of justice has been an archaic controversial argument. Theft by physical force is nothing compared to theft by economic means. poets. This comparison portrays Macheath as the ironic hero because he commits crimes against fewer people than does Peachum or the rest of society. 9. many Greek city-states had seen the emergence of tyrants. In such a society governed by the rule of exploitation it is the same whether you are a common thief or an official thief.

He was said to have been killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head. less than two years before Aeschylus’ death. It is likely. a soldier. Aeschylus produced the Oresteia*. was performed in 458 BC. It is * Aeschylus Greek[Aiskhulos] (525–456 BC) a dramatist and poet He wrote some ninety plays of which seven survive.pdffactory. and the peaceful resolution of conflict. Once again. and resolution of conflict through a public court system with juries of peers in an adversarial process before the presiding judge. (Bordenn: 1999. 12) This system was based on rule of and equality before the law. Aeschylus* (525 BC-456 BC) was also a poet. but his genius lay in drama.. and like Solon. In other words. however. He was reportedly charged with "impiety" for revealing the Eleusinian mysteries--the secret rites of the city of his birth--to outsiders. a fighter for justice. As Solon was creator of democracy. (Coleman: 2007. Solon laid the foundation for a democratic system of justice through the first of a series of constitutions that gave birth to democracy. Religion was separated from the administration of justice for the first time in human history. the greatest tragic drama in human history. During his time political upheaval threatened to sweep away democratic justice.C. Athens wanted peace and . law. a trilogy. and turned to the man who had communicated his vision of social order and the need for justice through his poetry. Seven Against Thebes. together with Prometheus Bound. a redeployment of power through law.of sectional interests. legendary world in which Tantalus was cast into the pit of Tartarus for revealing to mankind the secrets of the gods. that these charges were politically motivated. Amidst that first crisis in 458 B. He harnessed wild justice and made it a central part of democracy. a “hereditary curse” which began in a dim. Solon converted private revenge into public justice. These are the trilogy Agamemnon. 27) * The Oresteia. 68 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Choephorae (The Libation Bearers) and Eumenides known as Oresteia. The Persians and The Suppliant Women. a philosopher. he dealt with the tragedy of a royal house. This situation paralleled events in Aeschylus' own life. Aeschylus was creator of tragic drama and he used his art form as a weapon for democracy. and he was not convicted. He instituted changes and established a legal code that brokered a non-violent social revolution and transformed the passion for vengeance into a justice system.

The play is a transcendental plea for democratic justice. 69 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.’ (New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology: 1987. Dharma was a Hindu god of justice and truth. Enki was a Mesopotamian (Sumerian) creator-god of . Zeus was both the youngest and the oldest of the brothers who were sons of Cronus and Rhea. 21) This huge number of gods and goddesses of justice of the ancient history clearly indicates the importance of this side of life in the human existence. bearded man. Yü Ti was a Buddhist god of justice in Chinese mythology.pdffactory. Armaiti was a Persian goddess of justice. Akonadi was a West African goddess of justice and a guardian of women. He was son of Nanna and Ningal and brother of Inanna. he appears as a dignified. the judge of the Gods who was also called ‘the Master of Maat. On her head she wears the ostrich feather which is an ideogram of her name .a window into the evolution of Athenian justice. Dabog was a Russian goddess of sun and justice. and the threats to justice inherent in human passions. water. Anbay was an Arabian god of justice. magic and wisdom. 52) All other ancient civilizations had gods of justice: Utu was a Sumerian sun-god and god of justice. He became the undisputed king of the gods.truth or justice. 20) Maat is depicted as a woman standing or sitting on her heels. (Colakis: 2007. The texts describe her as the cherished daughter and confidante of Ra. (Coleman: 2007. truth and justice. and also the wife of Thoth. In art. often holding a thunderbolt. the principles underlying its law. She was the Goddess of law. Although he appears comical in many stories. He acted as judge of men by day and of the dead by night. he was a symbol of order and justice to the ancient Greeks.

and the sociological. to hold the position that Iago feels he deserves. and raw vengeance. leaving the state once again in chaos. (Larner: 1998. in a world in which. Creon punishes Antigone for her crime and tries to put the state back together after a horrifyingly destructive civil war. human justice is simply not the measure of the order of things. Greek drama.pdffactory. A great injustice is done to Othello the Moor. cruel power. Othello is manipulated by the villain Iago to satiate Iago’s need for control and his desire for revenge. scientific and. Othello the General has promoted another. He ends up destroying both Antigone and his own family. 13) and justice seemed to be extinguished by societies ruled by greed. civilization sank into the “darkness of the worst of times” (Bordenn: . as we discover. If Othello had known what injustice was being practiced on him. he would have ended it. In drama the theme of justice has a long legacy. psychological principles underlying ancient law played a role in the evolution of a great and complex Roman jurisprudence. Cassio. Primitive magical thinking and belief in the supernatural buried the scientific attitude. Oedipus seeks to do justice by following strictly the law he has himself decreed. as well as his kingship. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.The Athenian legal system served as a frame of reference for the first codification of Roman law. We are left with prominently similar sets of dilemmas about justice in Shakespeare’s tragedies. In Antigone. The furies retook Justice. Then Demonology and witchcraft metamorphosed into a cruel scapegoating preoccupation that became twin to the Plague and turned human understanding into chaos. he 70 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Then as Rome declined and fell. 3) Is this justice? The matter is more complicated to be answered by yes or no. For the injustice that Iago feels has been committed against him.

brings about the destruction of Othello and his wife. The justice which is at stake for Malcolm and his allies. which deserted Denmark when Old Hamlet was killed. We are left with the feeling that justice. Desdemona. as we do.pdffactory. diseased and dangerous when evil is afoot. using Cassio as his tool for doing . Hamlet unjustly rejects Ophelia.” and destroyed what he valued most. (Stoll: 1967. is returning to its seat. Where was the justice in Iago’s practice on him? He futilely tried his best to expose to others the amount of injustice he had received. he “loved not wisely but too well. In Macbeth. Interestingly. 4) In tragedy the limits of 71 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. is then theirs to seize./ From this time forth I never will speak word. “Was justice done? What was the justice that was done?” (Larner: 1998. in the end losing everything he sought to promote. but as an act of justice. Consequently. Macbeth himself knows. and deforms. unknowing. and follows through. commits himself to it. strange. What you know you know. rebukes his mother. and orderly and benign when the health of the kingdom is restored. 300-301). recklessly kills the person behind the arras who turns out to be Polonius. 57) But. Daniel Larner wonders whether there is justice in Hamlet or not. and to save his own life. he stands mute at the end of the play. what is just. In Hamlet. “Demand me nothing.” (V. agrees to go to England. and the new order will now play itself out. Othello finally discovers what he has done. seeking to avenge the murdered king and restore the state. in nature as it does in our own hearts and minds. ii. this imagery suggests that nature takes its instruction from human inclination and behavior—that justice forms. becoming warped. The imagery of the play suggests that nature itself reflects human justice. he kills himself-not from shame or remorse. But he is tempted by evil.

and they are told to pull the child out of the circle.pdffactory. Summer. the Rosa Luxemburg kolchos. by Li Xingfu. The two women were asked to take an arm of the baby. 1947) is derived from an old Chinese legend which speaks of a quarrel between two women. in English. a play Brecht saw in German translation. The setting of the prologue is Georgia. structure and plot from a 13th or 14th century Chinese play Huilaw.) The Biblical story relates that two women came to Solomon. . each of whom claimed that a baby belonged to her. thereby revealing to Solomon that she was in fact the mother. See (Clark: 1960 227-58) for an English translation. the end of the Second World War. the judgment was that the actual mother was the woman who refused to pull the baby. 72 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.understanding must be stretched to the breaking point to know what the limits are. it involves highly political and social maneuverings and questions of justice. Therefore. The true mother chose to instead give the entire baby to the other woman.* A circle of chalk was drawn on the ground. One group. Minnesota. The main episode of The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Der kaukasische Kreidekries was first produced. He also may have been influenced by the story of Solomon in I Kings 3:16-28. Northfield. is arable farmers who remained in the valley during the war and successfully defended the village from the Nazis. beyond their ability to take the weight placed on them by everyday affairs. This episode is dramatized as Act Five. in Carleton College. So our ideas of justice are stretched. The true mother preferred to lose the test rather than to hurt the baby. The complexities of the issue in this representation is great. he ordered the child cut in half. both of them claiming the same child. The Caucasian Chalk Circle is divided into a prologue and five acts. or The Chalk Circle. The other * In his Circle Brecht made use of elements of theme. Amidst the ruins of a badly shelled Caucasian village two opposing sides meet to discuss the future of a valley. in drama. the baby was put in the centre of it.

her dangerous journey to the northern mountains and her marriage with the dying man. A famous Singer is called upon to tell a story to seal the contract. Reluctantly the Galinsk kolchos agree. The first three acts. therefore. Michael. It is because of the Communist overtones in the prologue that Brecht originally did not allow the prologue to be printed while he was living in the United States. A Governor. But a military revolution led by the princes. deal with Grusha’s flight from the town. even though historically the land has belonged to them. the long ago. leave their palace to go to church on Easter Sunday. The country. The whole action of the next five acts are related a famous Georgian singer in order to illustrate ethically the answer to this episode. Brecht instead argues that whoever can best use the land should get it. Now they have returned and the two sides must decide who is to get the land. In the small town of Nukha all seems calm. Natella. the Galinsk kolchos. is fighting a disastrous foreign war with Persia. in turn. which form about half the play. The five acts. who are unhappy at the way the war is being conducted. They want to drive out the Grand Duke and his governors 73 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. An agronomist reveals irrigation plans which will mean a substantial increase in crop production. is shown to the crowds for the first time. Georgi Abashvili. consist of two parallel stories. is goat-herders and were moved on during the fighting to graze their animals . Their only son and heir. Any capitalist society would argue that whoever originally owned the land should get it. is underway. The last two acts deal with Azdak the rascal judge and the episode of the chalk circle. The dialectic. Act One starts in questions the polarities of justice and injustice. and his wife. led by the Grand Duke. This entire prologue is extremely Communist in its message.

170). Riots break out in the town and the palace is thrown into chaos. Thus. the rebellion against the Grand Duke in Grusinia. The second and the third acts deal with Grusha’s sufferings during her escape with the baby to the northern mountains. The Fat Prince orders his troops. a servant. Finally.pdffactory. she accepts to marry a dying man in order to provide shelter to the baby. when Simon. She tries to explain the situation when suddenly the Irionshirts seize the boy and Grusha bursts into tears .and the Fat Prince oversees the capture and beheading of Governor Georgi. The beginning of the second part moves back to the first incident in Act One. he finds that Grusha has already a husband and a child. hurrying as the fighting gets worse. to search for the child. get engaged. the Ironshirts. leaving her child Michael behind. her fiancé. This incident ends the first story of the play. Simon. returns from the war. After a night of soul-searching. Grusha steals away with Michael. flees. she escapes from the Ironshirts who follow her to bring the child back. she crosses a rickety bridge risking her life to save the child from the soldiers. offering 1000 piastres as a reward. The Governor’s Wife. please! He’s mine!” (Act III. and Grusha. The Singer starts Act Four by singing the following lines: Hear the story of the judge 74 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. (a fictional historic country in the Caucasus) telling us how Azdak became a judge who uses a large law book as a pillow to sit on. She buys milk with her last few coins in order to save the hungry child. “Leave him here. allowing Simon to suspect her of unfaithfulness rather than to give away the child to the Ironshirts. Simon is satisfied that the child really belongs to her and no one else. a palace guard. As servants try and pack for the Governor’s Wife to escape.

“He has one principle. (Act IV. Azdak presides over a trial in which he must judge. He accepted bribes.How he turned judge. based on the Biblical story of Solomon and the baby. The true mother chose to instead give the entire baby to the other woman. in fact. but those bribes did not affect his judgments. When two women came to Solomon. Hearing 75 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. thereby revealing to Solomon that she was in fact the mother. The officers were amused by his jests and made him a judge. Azdak is declared an enemy of the new regime and is stripped of his judge’s robes. when the Grand Duke was overthrown And his Governor Abashwili. After two years a counter revolt brings the old authority and the Grand Duke is back. how he passed judgment. lost his head The village Scrivener Azdak found a fugitive in the woods and hid him in his hut. When Azdak later recognized the fugitive as the Grand Duke. father of our child. both of them claiming the same child. Therefore. 171) Azdak. he gave himself up to the court of Ironshirts confessing what he had done. Grusha is accused of having stolen the baby of the Governor’s wife during the chaos of the rebellion in the palace. what kind of judge he was. Azdak ruled as a judge for two . The Duke has not forgotten how Azdak saved his life. he ordered the child cut in half. He is about to be hanged when a messenger arrives announcing the Grand Duke would like Azdak to remain as judge.” (Gray: 1969. did not hand the fugitive over to the police. 110) This paradoxical behaviour is itself a version of Solomonic Law. he felt that he participated in a criminal act by hiding a fugitive in his cottage. that the rights of the poor are disregarded and that this situation must be reversed. On that Easter Sunday of the great revolt.

Natella faints. 76 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. The child is placed in the center of a chalk circle and the women are told that whoever pulls the child outside the circle will be awarded custody. Grusha won’t pull. each of whom claims to be the mother of a child and hence the rightful guardian. who signs the divorce papers – not the divorce of the old couple but Grusha’s divorce from the man she married in the mountains. Azdak invokes the ancient wisdom of the Chalk Circle: Michael is placed in the centre of a circle and whoever is strong enough to pull him out must be the right mother. Everyone dances. who is more disposed to love and care for the child for his own sake.both arguments. In the setting it is just given that the relevant standard of justice that determines in principle the correct decision is that the woman who is more disposed to love and care for the child for his own sake deserves to be awarded custody. Azdak disappears. Azdak orders the women to repeat the trial. who has just been introduced to them by hearing their conflicting testimony. yields immediately rather than participate in a determined tug of war that might well break the child’s body.) Nobody can see into the women’s characters.pdffactory. The final moral justice is that both child and valley should go to whoever serves them best. Azdak is unable to decide. Azdak institutes a procedure that brings it about that the women’s character is revealed by their responses to a decision problem set by the court. (The morality that the play endorses appears to be that things belong to people who are good for them. she cannot hurt him. certainly not Azdak. Azdak judges that she must be the right mother. Simon and Grusha thank . Azdak must decide a dispute between two women. Azdak summarily awards this woman custody. The woman. Grusha again cannot pull.

(Gray: 1969. and it is this that helps to make him the most fascinating character in the play. He sets no store by his actions. 251) Claude Hill shares Keith Dickson’s view that this dimension of humour is a direct result of Hegel’s dialectics (Willett: 1964. on the grounds that the comic characters are impartially and critically alienated. 110) It is worth noting that Azdak’s character provides the best illustration of the tendency of Brecht’s most characteristics work assume the guise of comedy. (Dickson: 1978. Azdak’s contradictory and strange behaviour is designed in a way to reflect the essential discrepancies of which reality is compound. Giorgio Strehler. preposterous and humble. some elements of Brecht’s technique of characterization belong to the stock-in-trade of conventional comedy. therefore his character tends to have a comic rather than a tragic effect. any more than Grusha does by hers.pdffactory. that if he wants to fulfill a truly epic effect in a play it would have to be directed along the lines of a . Ronald Gray describes him by arguing that. blasphemous and pious. On the other hand. Brecht himself tells one of the producers. insulting and generous. nothing consistent of foreseeable in his actions: he acts on impulses. Thus the caricature and comic portrayal of Azdak enables the 77 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.Azdak is the most distinguished character in the play in the sense that he is dialectically connected to the main theme of the play. Indeed. 85) since there is no humour in Marx. There is nothing that can properly be called a self in Azdak. Brecht’s dramatic intention of such mixture of humour and dialectics in The Caucasian Chalk Circle is to sharpen the ironical and satirical contrast between Grusha’s seriousness and Azdak’s comic situation. ignorant and wise.

would certainly have cost him his life. Princes have won their war. perceived some justice in his account of the war: War lost.audience to condemn critically the whole corruptions of the ruling class. on discovering that he has sheltered the Grand Duke himself. He professes to believe that a new age of spontaneous justice is at hand. cringes and whines. and. but not for princes. When Azdak learns that he has miscalculated in assuming the proletariat to be in control. Are therefore victors.indulgence. who have taken a fancy to Azdak. the savage caricaturist of bourgeois and capitalist society. 182) 78 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. He insists.000 piastres for food supplies not produced.000 piastres for horses not delivered. but for the nice balance of power between Kasbeki and the soldiery.pdffactory. which.” but dare not contravene the soldiers.863. and self-protective cunning. 8. a murderer and tyrant. cowardice. John Symonds comments on this point by arguing that. 65) Azdak is obsessed with justice. He insists on being punished as much in the hope of avoiding excessive punishment as of furthering justice. He launches into a savage and brilliant attack on the conduct of the war by the princes. which is not present in this Court. on being taken into Nukha in chains to be . their injustice and the whole bourgeois society of the play. he cannot resist the lure of justice when he is invited to play the part of the Grand Duke in a mock trial. His appetite for justice sorts ill with his self. Got themselves paid 3. “Brecht was the counterpart in the theatre of George Grosz.” (Symonds: 1978.240. Yet even in the presence of Prince Kasbeki himself and the gallows with which he has already been threatened. War lost only for Grusinia. Kasbeki shrieks “Hang him. (IV. he repudiates his revolutionary song. perhaps.

we have a melodrama with a happy ending: will Grusha and the child survive all the nasty people who threaten their lives and their new-found status as a family?(Larner: 1998. 14) The following argument tries to find solutions for such inquires as far as justice is concerned. Justice is very hard to explain because it is very abstract and has many controversial aspects.” Brecht is asking us whether we can. is that the child shall go to the maternal that it thrives. and the presence of the gallows on stage serves to remind us that Azdak’s career may end as quickly as it began. but the basic justice of them is clear. The Old Testament and Plato’s Republic offer us great insights into the meaning of justice. Now the rascal shall be Judge. Clearly Azdak was right. as truth is of systems of thought. but neither one can give a clear and flawless definition of what true justice is. But was he just? How widely do such principles apply? Understanding this work as a “parable for the theatre.pdffactory. or should. John Rawls argues in Theory of Justice: Justice is the first virtue of social institutions. There cannot be a set definition of justice in our free society because everyone has his own insights and acts on his own thoughts. the questions which introduce Azdak story are: what sort of justice can give Grusha the child she deserves? The judgment of the Chalk Circle. likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are . Azdak manages to remain a Judge for two years. His judgments are presented as high comedy.The Judge was always a rascal. Thus. and the disinherited lands shall be a public park. Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of 79 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. which only Azdak could have given. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue. run a society based on them. Dramatically.

For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. and no entanglement with larger or higher powers. For Oedipus. go after it and drive it out. [A]n injustice is tolerable only when it is necessary to avoid an even greater injustice. But in the play this does not work. and through diligence and investigation we can accurately determine the truth. truth and justice are uncompromising. Neither the gods nor human order allow Oedipus his perfect plan. Nonetheless. not individual justice.pdffactory.. We are either sick or well. No one should have to suffer for anyone else. but he takes his punishment upon . Oedipus declares. in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled. Therefore. Where there is a problem. in turn. as for Rawls. Rawls develops the 80 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. (Rawls: 1971. eyeless in Attica. The double irony is that this. and casts himself out to wander. and establish the reign of justice again in Thebes.society as a whole cannot override. a circumstance is either just or unjust. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Oedipus’ goal was to rescue the people and save the state. social justice is the focus. where the king’s promises of order and protection will once again order and protect. 3) There is no equivocation here. The state is saved from plague. this works much like the justice Oedipus wants to find in Thebes—pure and clear. Being first virtues of human activities. But individual justice is what he so ironically reaps. leaves the state rudderless and in chaos. the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests. We will solve the injustice of the plague.

An example of this theory is the idea of a . Azdak’s rule cannot fit within a stable system of rules that is public in this sense. social justice laws are those society values that determine which is right or wrong but that work within the framework of public law. and enjoy their full benefit of civil liberties. Azdak’s trick fails to satisfy the norm that a just society’s basic structure of institutional arrangements be public. If I foresee that losing the tug of war gains me custody of the child and I want custody. but can cause a huge dilemma. 81 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. Azdak’s trick works in a particular setting. Social justice occurs when all members of a society share equally in the social order. This is scientifically impossible. So how does one know that there is a circle? One has an idea of what it is. and they draw their own version of the absolute definition of that circle.pdffactory. This theory is sometimes true. in other settings. For one thing. One of the main characteristics of the social justice is that it is indefinite. and other violation of human rights. It may seem that there may not be a definite justice. One can never actually draw a complete circle perfect. Consequently. the rule can be exploited by the clever. political oppression. Accordingly. How can we live by the rules when they are not definite? Everyone is just seeing a part of the big picture. Social injustice could include any social problem-domestic violence. when all the members of the society are appropriately in agreement with a set of principles of justice.thesis that justice can be understood as fairness. Generally speaking. the definition of justice is often thought of being controversial and confrontational. different measures would be needed. secure an equitable consideration of resources and opportunities. with other agents. I will make haste to be the first to lose the tug of war and gain custody. but it is just something that exists.

1905. He swindles them into giving him money for a bribe then turns about and gives a contradicting verdict against the upper classes.Bertolt Brecht wants to emphasize his Marxist point of view that law protects and secures the interests of the ruling classes and within this ‘class justice’ the poor can only gain justice under a series of chances.. The feudal society. Brecht in the play seeks to underline the difference between justice and the law within Grusinia. Take note what men of old concluded: * See Wigner. as she is good for the child and will continue to do good for the child. This is the final hint that Grusha will get the child. Furthermore. 82 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.pdffactory. This duplicity when passing judgment is seen by the audience but the lower classes see that for once the law is on their side. or class justice. contrasting to Natasha Abashwilla’s intent to get the child only to keep her late husband’s estate. the play tries to distinguish between the two traditional concepts: the law of property and the heriditary right as part of the social justice. Phillips and Co. is shown to have harder implications for the poor than the even distribution of wealth which is the main emphasis of the Marxist state. New York: MaClure. you who have listened to the Story of the Chalk Circle. or Marxist society. whims and exceptional circumstances that not linked to the law as it should be in a feudal regime. The Marxist law is not equated with justice for all rather justice for the upper classes. Azdak although seen as the arbiter of justice between Natasha Abashwilli and Grusha is shown throughout the play as greedy and corrupt when dealing with the upper classes.* The whole action of The Good Woman of Setzuan abandons them in favour of a new type of justice whose values are to be worked out in the play and celebrated in the epilogue: But . where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Charles. Justice.

Carts to good drivers. 124) When danger threatens. (I. but this care springs not from parental love. in every case the powerful smashes the powerless. that they prosper. but from the knowledge that the child guarantees the continuation of injustice for a further generation. that it yield fruit. 129) The old law is at last overthrown. 83 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. and the definitive legacy for our time. The town Judge is strung up by the carpetweavers. The princes and soldiers in uneasy alliance keep up a semblance of authority. (V. exploitation and corruption. In these decisions. The valley to the waterers. It is heavily ironic that the crowd of beggars and petitioners should forget their complaints in their obsequiousness: God bless the child. This is the way of the world. This is painted both as the nature of the human . Your Grace. blindness of the great! They wander like gods Great over bent backs. the province itself is light-handedly lost through blindness: Oh. 195) The law. For a time there is chaos. at the beginning of the play. Great care is taken of the Governor’s heir.That what there is shall go to those who are good for it. Azdak intentionally disregards the actual law in order to administer a rough justice that helps the poor. trusting In their power which has already lasted so long. Children to the motherly. and in turn both will be smashed by larger powers in a ruthless and nasty progression. is merely a prop for injustice. that they be driven well.pdffactory. (I. more care indeed than is likely to produce a thriving child. sure Of hired fists. Another type of injustice will replace the old one through these endless eruptions and revolutions.

insidious circumstances. determined by society and relentless. all Brecht’s plays have strong socio-political messages.pdffactory. He was not interested in illusions.In short. Brecht viewed human beings as helpless animals who were battling against the vicissitudes of life. This is why he endeavoured to arouse people from their inactivity and listlessness. he relished mental and intellectual motivation that might lead to the kind of revolution that Marx himself had contemplated. at the mercy of ineluctable . which condemn capitalism regarding it as the main source of all socio-political corruptions in any society including the issue of justice. His sole concern lay in making a different world. He visualized a world where people would stand up for their rights. 84 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. where everyone would be given a fair crack of the whip.

Bertolt. 2. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to Grotowski. Brecht.. Parables for the Theatre. A. 1982. 2002. Ed. Englwood Cliffs: PrenticeHall. Marxism and Literary Criticism. Eagleton. No. Ed. Bertolt. 1999. London: The Penguin Press. 1981. inc. Parables for the Theatre. London: Penguin Books. Bertolt. John. Brecht: A Collection of Critical Essays. The Brecht Commentaries. 24. Brecht on Theatre. Terry. 1969. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Dukore. 1962. “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”. Vol. Brecht. For Marx.References Abbotson. Walter. 1974. Louis. “The Good Woman of Setzuan”. London: Eyre Methuen. 1974. Part II. 1982. April. 1979. Peter. Bertolt. Translated by John Willett. Eric. 85 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. “A History of Justice”. Brecht. Translated by Eric Bentley. 1995. Bentley. Althusser. Oregon: University of . AAPL Newsletter. Demetz. 12-14. Thematic Guide to Modern Drama.pdffactory. Brecht. Translated by Eric Bentley. Susan. London: Penguin Books. London: Eyre Methuen. Trans. Ralph Manheim and John Willett. New York: Grove. pp. Bernard. Rinehart and Winston. The Beggar’s Opera. The Threepenny Opera. Gay. New York: Holt. London: Mathuen. Bordenn. 2003.

Basingstoke: Macmillan. 8. Claude. 1990. Boston: G. . 1988. Lubbock. John.. Brecht’s Poetry of Political Exile. Larner.pdffactory. 2 (May 1978) : 5972. Roland. Bertolt Brecht. Speirs. 1. 86 PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www. L. 1975. Marx: A Short Introduction. R.” London Magazine. Bertolt Brecht. Roland. 1962. Ed.3. John. 2000. Daniel. Speirs.Gramsci. An introduction to his thought. No. 2000. 1969. Mother Courage and her Children.”The Unclosed Eye. Translated by John Willett. Brecht. Vol. 22. Antonio. 1-17. Legal Studies Forum. New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts. London: Pluto Press. Gray. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyed. Brecht. Singer. Hill. Vol. “Justice And Drama: Historical Ties And “Thick” Relationships”. Pellicani. Hall and Co. 1998. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bertolt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. No.2. Symonds. London: Methuen Drama. Peter.K. Gramsci An Alternative Communism? New York: Hoover Press Publication. 1970. 1981. The Complete Book of Light Opera.