Bertolt Brecht

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Bertolt Brecht
Brecht in 1954
BornEugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht
(1898-02-10)10 February 1898
Augsburg, Bavaria, German Empire
Died14 August 1956(1956-08-14) (aged 58)
East Berlin, East Germany
  • Playwright
  • theatre director
  • poet
Notable works
Relatives Walter Brecht (younger brother)
Bertolt Brecht signature.svg

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956), known professionally as Bertolt Brecht, [lower-alpha 1] was a German theatre practitioner, playwright, and poet. Coming of age during the Weimar Republic, he had his first successes as a playwright in Munich and moved to Berlin in 1924, where he wrote The Threepenny Opera with Kurt Weill and began a life-long collaboration with the composer Hanns Eisler. Immersed in Marxist thought during this period, he wrote didactic Lehrstücke and became a leading theoretician of epic theatre (which he later preferred to call "dialectical theatre") and the Verfremdungseffekt .


During the Nazi Germany period, Brecht fled his home country, first to Scandinavia, and during World War II to the United States, where he was surveilled by the FBI. [3] After the war he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Returning to East Berlin after the war, he established the theatre company Berliner Ensemble with his wife and long-time collaborator, actress Helene Weigel. [4]

Life and career

Bavaria (1898–1924)

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (as a child known as Eugen) was born on 10 February 1898 in Augsburg, Germany, the son of Berthold Friedrich Brecht (1869–1939) and his wife Sophie, née Brezing (1871–1920). Brecht's mother was a devout Protestant and his father a Roman Catholic (who had been persuaded to have a Protestant wedding). The modest house where he was born is today preserved as a Brecht Museum. [5] His father worked for a paper mill, becoming its managing director in 1914. [6] At Augsburg, his maternal grandparents lived in the neighbor house. They were Pietists and his grandmother influenced Bertolt Brecht and his brother Walter considerably during their childhood.

Due to his grandmother's and his mother's influence, Brecht knew the Bible, a familiarity that would have a life-long effect on his writing. From her, too, came the "dangerous image of the self-denying woman" that recurs in his drama. [7] Brecht's home life was comfortably middle class, despite what his occasional attempt to claim peasant origins implied. [8] At school in Augsburg he met Caspar Neher, with whom he formed a life-long creative partnership. Neher designed many of the sets for Brecht's dramas and helped to forge the distinctive visual iconography of their epic theatre.

When Brecht was 16, the First World War broke out. Initially enthusiastic, Brecht soon changed his mind on seeing his classmates "swallowed by the army". [6] Brecht was nearly expelled from school in 1915 for writing an essay in response to the line " Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " from the Roman poet Horace, calling it Zweckpropaganda ("cheap propaganda for a specific purpose") and arguing that only an empty-headed person could be persuaded to die for their country. His expulsion was only prevented by the intervention of Romuald Sauer, a priest who also served as a substitute teacher at Brecht's school. [9]

On his father's recommendation, Brecht sought to avoid being conscripted into the army by exploiting a loophole which allowed for medical students to be deferred. He subsequently registered for a medical course at Munich University, where he enrolled in 1917. [10] There he studied drama with Arthur Kutscher, who inspired in the young Brecht an admiration for the iconoclastic dramatist and cabaret star Frank Wedekind. [11]

From July 1916, Brecht's newspaper articles began appearing under the new name "Bert Brecht" (his first theatre criticism for the Augsburger Volkswille appeared in October 1919). [12] Brecht was drafted into military service in the autumn of 1918, only to be posted back to Augsburg as a medical orderly in a military VD clinic; the war ended a month later. [6]

In July 1919, Brecht and Paula Banholzer (who had begun a relationship in 1917) had a son, Frank. In 1920 Brecht's mother died. [13] Frank died in 1943, fighting for Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front.

Some time in either 1920 or 1921, Brecht took a small part in the political cabaret of the Munich comedian Karl Valentin. [14] Brecht's diaries for the next few years record numerous visits to see Valentin perform. [15] Brecht compared Valentin to Charlie Chaplin, for his "virtually complete rejection of mimicry and cheap psychology". [16] Writing in his Messingkauf Dialogues years later, Brecht identified Valentin, along with Wedekind and Büchner, as his "chief influences" at that time:

But the man he learnt most from was the clown Valentin, who performed in a beer-hall. He did short sketches in which he played refractory employees, orchestral musicians or photographers, who hated their employers and made them look ridiculous. The employer was played by his partner, Liesl Karlstadt, a popular woman comedian who used to pad herself out and speak in a deep bass voice. [17]

Brecht's first full-length play, Baal (written 1918), arose in response to an argument in one of Kutscher's drama seminars, initiating a trend that persisted throughout his career of creative activity that was generated by a desire to counter another work (both others' and his own, as his many adaptations and re-writes attest). "Anyone can be creative," he quipped, "it's rewriting other people that's a challenge." [18] Brecht completed his second major play, Drums in the Night , in February 1919.

Between November 1921 and April 1922 Brecht made acquaintance with many influential people in the Berlin cultural scene. Amongst them was the playwright Arnolt Bronnen with whom he established a joint venture, the Arnolt Bronnen / Bertolt Brecht Company. Brecht changed the spelling of his first name to Bertolt to rhyme with Arnolt.

In 1922 while still living in Munich, Brecht came to the attention of an influential Berlin critic, Herbert Ihering: "At 24 the writer Bert Brecht has changed Germany's literary complexion overnight"—he enthused in his review of Brecht's first play to be produced, Drums in the Night—"[he] has given our time a new tone, a new melody, a new vision. [...] It is a language you can feel on your tongue, in your gums, your ear, your spinal column." [19] In November it was announced that Brecht had been awarded the prestigious Kleist Prize (intended for unestablished writers and probably Germany's most significant literary award, until it was abolished in 1932) for his first three plays (Baal, Drums in the Night, and In the Jungle , although at that point only Drums had been produced). [20] The citation for the award insisted that: "[Brecht's] language is vivid without being deliberately poetic, symbolical without being over literary. Brecht is a dramatist because his language is felt physically and in the round." [21] That year he married the Viennese opera singer Marianne Zoff. Their daughter, Hanne Hiob, born in March 1923, was a successful German actress. [6]

In 1923, Brecht wrote a scenario for what was to become a short slapstick film, Mysteries of a Barbershop , directed by Erich Engel and starring Karl Valentin. [22] Despite a lack of success at the time, its experimental inventiveness and the subsequent success of many of its contributors have meant that it is now considered one of the most important films in German film history. [23] In May of that year, Brecht's In the Jungle premiered in Munich, also directed by Engel. Opening night proved to be a "scandal"—a phenomenon that would characterize many of his later productions during the Weimar Republic—in which Nazis blew whistles and threw stink bombs at the actors on the stage. [15]

In 1924 Brecht worked with the novelist and playwright Lion Feuchtwanger (whom he had met in 1919) on an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II that proved to be a milestone in Brecht's early theatrical and dramaturgical development. [24] [25] Brecht's Edward II constituted his first attempt at collaborative writing and was the first of many classic texts he was to adapt. As his first solo directorial début, he later credited it as the germ of his conception of "epic theatre". [26] That September, a job as assistant dramaturg at Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater—at the time one of the leading three or four theatres in the world—brought him to Berlin. [27]

Weimar Republic Berlin (1925–1933)

In 1923 Brecht's marriage to Zoff began to break down (though they did not divorce until 1927). [28] Brecht had become involved with both Elisabeth Hauptmann and Helene Weigel. [29] Brecht and Weigel's son, Stefan, was born in October 1924. [30]

In his role as dramaturg, Brecht had much to stimulate him but little work of his own. [31] Reinhardt staged Shaw's Saint Joan , Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters (with the improvisational approach of the commedia dell'arte in which the actors chatted with the prompter about their roles), and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author in his group of Berlin theatres. [32] A new version of Brecht's third play, now entitled Jungle: Decline of a Family , opened at the Deutsches Theater in October 1924, but was not a success. [33]

In the asphalt city I'm at home. From the very start
Provided with every last sacrament:
With newspapers. And tobacco. And brandy
To the end mistrustful, lazy and content.

Bertolt Brecht, "Of Poor BB"

At this time Brecht revised his important "transitional poem", "Of Poor BB". [34] In 1925, his publishers provided him with Elisabeth Hauptmann as an assistant for the completion of his collection of poems, Devotions for the Home (Hauspostille, eventually published in January 1927). She continued to work with him after the publisher's commission ran out. [35]

In 1925 in Mannheim the artistic exhibition Neue Sachlichkeit ("New Objectivity") had given its name to the new post-Expressionist movement in the German arts. With little to do at the Deutsches Theater, Brecht began to develop his Man Equals Man project, which was to become the first product of "the 'Brecht collective'—that shifting group of friends and collaborators on whom he henceforward depended." [36] This collaborative approach to artistic production, together with aspects of Brecht's writing and style of theatrical production, mark Brecht's work from this period as part of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement. [37] The collective's work "mirrored the artistic climate of the middle 1920s", Willett and Manheim argue:

with their attitude of Neue Sachlichkeit (or New Matter-of-Factness), their stressing of the collectivity and downplaying of the individual, and their new cult of Anglo-Saxon imagery and sport. Together the "collective" would go to fights, not only absorbing their terminology and ethos (which permeates Man Equals Man) but also drawing those conclusions for the theatre as a whole which Brecht set down in his theoretical essay "Emphasis on Sport" and tried to realise by means of the harsh lighting, the boxing-ring stage and other anti-illusionistic devices that henceforward appeared in his own productions. [38]

In 1925, Brecht also saw two films that had a significant influence on him: Chaplin's The Gold Rush and Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin . [39] Brecht had compared Valentin to Chaplin, and the two of them provided models for Galy Gay in Man Equals Man . [40] Brecht later wrote that Chaplin "would in many ways come closer to the epic than to the dramatic theatre's requirements." [41] They met several times during Brecht's time in the United States, and discussed Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux project, which it is possible Brecht influenced. [42]

In 1926 a series of short stories was published under Brecht's name, though Hauptmann was closely associated with writing them. [43] Following the production of Man Equals Man in Darmstadt that year, Brecht began studying Marxism and socialism in earnest, under the supervision of Hauptmann. [44] "When I read Marx's Capital ", a note by Brecht reveals, "I understood my plays." Marx was, it continues, "the only spectator for my plays I'd ever come across." [45] Inspired by the developments in USSR Brecht wrote a number of agitprop plays, praising the bolshevik collectivism (replaceability of each member of the collective in Man Equals Man ) and red terror (The Decision).

For us, man portrayed on the stage is significant as a social function. It is not his relationship to himself, nor his relationship to God, but his relationship to society which is central. Whenever he appears, his class or social stratum appears with him. His moral, spiritual or sexual conflicts are conflicts with society.

Erwin Piscator, 1929. [46]

In 1927 Brecht became part of the "dramaturgical collective" of Erwin Piscator's first company, which was designed to tackle the problem of finding new plays for its "epic, political, confrontational, documentary theatre". [47] Brecht collaborated with Piscator during the period of the latter's landmark productions, Hoppla, We're Alive! by Toller, Rasputin, The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik , and Konjunktur by Lania. [48] Brecht's most significant contribution was to the adaptation of the unfinished episodic comic novel Schweik, which he later described as a "montage from the novel". [49] The Piscator productions influenced Brecht's ideas about staging and design, and alerted him to the radical potentials offered to the "epic" playwright by the development of stage technology (particularly projections). [50] What Brecht took from Piscator "is fairly plain, and he acknowledged it" Willett suggests:

The emphasis on Reason and didacticism, the sense that the new subject matter demanded a new dramatic form, the use of songs to interrupt and comment: all these are found in his notes and essays of the 1920s, and he bolstered them by citing such Piscatorial examples as the step-by-step narrative technique of Schweik and the oil interests handled in Konjunktur ('Petroleum resists the five-act form'). [51]

Brecht was struggling at the time with the question of how to dramatize the complex economic relationships of modern capitalism in his unfinished project Joe P. Fleischhacker (which Piscator's theatre announced in its programme for the 1927–28 season). It wasn't until his Saint Joan of the Stockyards (written between 1929–1931) that Brecht solved it. [52] In 1928 he discussed with Piscator plans to stage Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Brecht's own Drums in the Night , but the productions did not materialize. [53]

1927 also saw the first collaboration between Brecht and the young composer Kurt Weill. [54] Together they began to develop Brecht's Mahagonny project, along thematic lines of the biblical Cities of the Plain but rendered in terms of the Neue Sachlichkeit's Amerikanismus, which had informed Brecht's previous work. [55] They produced The Little Mahagonny for a music festival in July, as what Weill called a "stylistic exercise" in preparation for the large-scale piece. From that point on Caspar Neher became an integral part of the collaborative effort, with words, music and visuals conceived in relation to one another from the start. [56] The model for their mutual articulation lay in Brecht's newly formulated principle of the "separation of the elements", which he first outlined in "The Modern Theatre Is the Epic Theatre" (1930). The principle, a variety of montage, proposed by-passing the "great struggle for supremacy between words, music and production" as Brecht put it, by showing each as self-contained, independent works of art that adopt attitudes towards one another. [57]

Stamp from the former East Germany depicting Brecht and a scene from his Life of Galileo Stamps of Germany (DDR) 1988, MiNr Block 091.jpg
Stamp from the former East Germany depicting Brecht and a scene from his Life of Galileo

In 1930 Brecht married Weigel; their daughter Barbara Brecht was born soon after the wedding. [58] She also became an actress and would later share the copyrights of Brecht's work with her siblings.

Brecht formed a writing collective which became prolific and very influential. Elisabeth Hauptmann, Margarete Steffin, Emil Burri, Ruth Berlau and others worked with Brecht and produced the multiple teaching plays, which attempted to create a new dramaturgy for participants rather than passive audiences. These addressed themselves to the massive worker arts organisation that existed in Germany and Austria in the 1920s. So did Brecht's first great play, Saint Joan of the Stockyards , which attempts to portray the drama in financial transactions.

This collective adapted John Gay's The Beggar's Opera , with Brecht's lyrics set to music by Kurt Weill. Retitled The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) it was the biggest hit in Berlin of the 1920s and a renewing influence on the musical worldwide. One of its most famous lines underscored the hypocrisy of conventional morality imposed by the Church, working in conjunction with the established order, in the face of working-class hunger and deprivation:

Erst kommt das Fressen
Dann kommt die Moral.

First the grub (lit. "eating like animals, gorging")
Then the morality.

The success of The Threepenny Opera was followed by the quickly thrown together Happy End. It was a personal and a commercial failure. At the time the book was purported to be by the mysterious Dorothy Lane (now known to be Elisabeth Hauptmann, Brecht's secretary and close collaborator). Brecht only claimed authorship of the song texts. Brecht would later use elements of Happy End as the germ for his Saint Joan of the Stockyards, a play that would never see the stage in Brecht's lifetime. Happy End's score by Weill produced many Brecht/Weill hits like "Der Bilbao-Song" and "Surabaya-Jonny".

The masterpiece of the Brecht/Weill collaborations, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny), caused an uproar when it premiered in 1930 in Leipzig, with Nazis in the audience protesting. The Mahagonny opera would premier later in Berlin in 1931 as a triumphant sensation.

Brecht spent the last years of the Weimar-era (1930–1933) in Berlin working with his "collective" on the Lehrstücke. These were a group of plays driven by morals, music and Brecht's budding epic theatre. The Lehrstücke often aimed at educating workers on Socialist issues. The Measures Taken (Die Massnahme) was scored by Hanns Eisler. In addition, Brecht worked on a script for a semi-documentary feature film about the human impact of mass unemployment, Kuhle Wampe (1932), which was directed by Slatan Dudow. This striking film is notable for its subversive humour, outstanding cinematography by Günther Krampf, and Hanns Eisler's dynamic musical contribution. It still provides a vivid insight into Berlin during the last years of the Weimar Republic.

Nazi Germany and World War II (1933–1945)

Unhappy the land where heroes are needed.

Galileo, in Brecht's Life of Galileo (1943)

Fearing persecution, Brecht left Nazi Germany in February 1933, just after Hitler took power. After brief spells in Prague, Zurich and Paris, he and Weigel accepted an invitation from journalist and author Karin Michaëlis to move to Denmark. The family first stayed with Karin Michaëlis at her house on the small island of Thurø close to the island of Funen. They later bought their own house in Svendborg on Funen. This house located at Skovsbo Strand 8 in Svendborg became the residence of the Brecht family for the next six years, where they often received guests including Walter Benjamin, Hanns Eisler and Ruth Berlau. During this period Brecht also travelled frequently to Copenhagen, Paris, Moscow, New York and London for various projects and collaborations.

When war seemed imminent in April 1939, he moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where he remained for a year. [59] After Hitler invaded Norway and Denmark, Brecht left Sweden for Helsinki, Finland, [60] where he lived and waited for his visa for the United States until 3 May 1941. [61] During this time he wrote the play Mr Puntila and his Man Matti (Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti) with Hella Wuolijoki, with whom he lived in Marlebäck  [ de ].

During the war years, Brecht became a prominent writer of the Exilliteratur. [62] He expressed his opposition to the National Socialist and Fascist movements in his most famous plays: Life of Galileo , Mother Courage and Her Children , The Good Person of Szechwan , The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui , The Caucasian Chalk Circle , Fear and Misery of the Third Reich , and many others.

Brecht co-wrote the screenplay for the Fritz Lang-directed film Hangmen Also Die! which was loosely based on the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Deputy Reich Protector of the German-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Heinrich Himmler's right-hand man in the SS, and a chief architect of the Holocaust, who was known as "The Hangman of Prague." Hanns Eisler was nominated for an Academy Award for his musical score. The collaboration of three prominent refugees from Nazi Germany – Lang, Brecht and Eisler – is an example of the influence this generation of German exiles had on American culture.

Hangmen Also Die! was Brecht's only script for a Hollywood film. The money he earned from writing the film enabled him to write The Visions of Simone Machard , Schweik in the Second World War and an adaptation of Webster's The Duchess of Malfi .

Brecht's reluctance to speak publicly in support of Carola Neher, who died in a gulag prison in the USSR after being arrested during the 1936 purges, was much criticised by Russian emigrants in the West. [63]

Cold War and final years in East Germany (1945–1956)

Brecht and Weigel on the roof of the Berliner Ensemble during the International Workers' Day demonstrations in 1954 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-24300-0049, Bertolt Brecht und Helene Weigel am 1. Mai.jpg
Brecht and Weigel on the roof of the Berliner Ensemble during the International Workers' Day demonstrations in 1954

In the years of the Cold War and "Red Scare", Brecht was blacklisted by movie studio bosses and interrogated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. [64] Along with about 41 other Hollywood writers, directors, actors and producers, he was subpoenaed to appear before the HUAC in September 1947. Although he was one of 19 witnesses who declared that they would refuse to appear, Brecht eventually decided to testify. He later explained that he had followed the advice of attorneys and had not wanted to delay a planned trip to Europe. On 30 October 1947 Brecht testified that he had never been a member of the Communist Party. [64] He made wry jokes throughout the proceedings, punctuating his inability to speak English well with continuous references to the translators present, who transformed his German statements into English ones unintelligible to himself. HUAC vice-chairman Karl Mundt thanked Brecht for his co-operation. The remaining witnesses, the so-called Hollywood Ten, refused to testify and were cited for contempt. Brecht's decision to appear before the committee led to criticism, including accusations of betrayal. The day after his testimony, on 31 October, Brecht returned to Europe.

He lived in Zurich in Switzerland for a year. In February 1948 in Chur, Brecht staged an adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone , based on a translation by Hölderlin. It was published under the title Antigonemodell 1948, accompanied by an essay on the importance of creating a "non-Aristotelian" form of theatre.

In 1949 he moved to East Berlin and established his theatre company there, the Berliner Ensemble. He retained his Austrian nationality (granted in 1950) and overseas bank accounts from which he received valuable hard currency remittances. The copyrights on his writings were held by a Swiss company. [65]

Though he was never a member of the Communist Party, Brecht had been schooled in Marxism by the dissident communist Karl Korsch. Korsch's version of the Marxist dialectic influenced Brecht greatly, both his aesthetic theory and theatrical practice. Brecht received the Stalin Peace Prize in 1954. [66]

Brecht wrote very few plays in his final years in East Berlin, none of them as famous as his previous works. He dedicated himself to directing plays and developing the talents of the next generation of young directors and dramaturgs, such as Manfred Wekwerth, Benno Besson and Carl Weber. At this time he wrote some of his most famous poems, including the "Buckow Elegies".

At first Brecht apparently supported the measures taken by the East German government against the uprising of 1953 in East Germany, which included the use of Soviet military force. In a letter from the day of the uprising to SED First Secretary Walter Ulbricht, Brecht wrote that: "History will pay its respects to the revolutionary impatience of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. The great discussion [exchange] with the masses about the speed of socialist construction will lead to a viewing and safeguarding of the socialist achievements. At this moment I must assure you of my allegiance to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany." [67]

Graves of Helene Weigel and Bertolt Brecht in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery Brechtgrave.jpg
Graves of Helene Weigel and Bertolt Brecht in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery

Brecht's subsequent commentary on those events, however, offered a very different assessment—in one of the poems in the Elegies, "Die Lösung" (The Solution), a disillusioned Brecht writes a few months later:

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By increased work quotas.

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another? [68]

Brecht's involvement in agitprop and lack of clear condemnation of purges resulted in criticism from many contemporaries who became disillusioned in communism earlier. Fritz Raddatz who knew Brecht for a long time described his attitude as "broken", "escaping the problem of Stalinism", ignoring his friends being murdered in the USSR, keeping silence during show trials such as Slánský trial. [69]


Brecht died on 14 August 1956 [70] of a heart attack at the age of 58. He is buried in the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery on Chausseestraße in the Mitte neighbourhood of Berlin, overlooked by the residence he shared with Helene Weigel.

According to Stephen Parker, who reviewed Brecht's writings and unpublished medical records, Brecht contracted rheumatic fever as a child, which led to an enlarged heart, followed by life-long chronic heart failure and Sydenham's chorea. A report of a radiograph taken of Brecht in 1951 describes a badly diseased heart, enlarged to the left with a protruding aortic knob and with seriously impaired pumping. Brecht's colleagues described him as being very nervous, and sometimes shaking his head or moving his hands erratically. This can be reasonably attributed to Sydenham's chorea, which is also associated with emotional lability, personality changes, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and hyperactivity, which matched Brecht's behavior. "What is remarkable," wrote Parker, "is his capacity to turn abject physical weakness into peerless artistic strength, arrhythmia into the rhythms of poetry, chorea into the choreography of drama." [71]

Theory and practice of theatre

Statue of Brecht outside the Berliner Ensemble's theatre in Berlin Cremer Brecht.jpg
Statue of Brecht outside the Berliner Ensemble's theatre in Berlin

Brecht developed the combined theory and practice of his "Epic theatre" by synthesizing and extending the experiments of Erwin Piscator and Vsevolod Meyerhold to explore the theatre as a forum for political ideas and the creation of a critical aesthetics of dialectical materialism.

Epic Theatre proposed that a play should not cause the spectator to identify emotionally with the characters or action before him or her, but should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the action on the stage. Brecht thought that the experience of a climactic catharsis of emotion left an audience complacent. Instead, he wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective in order to recognise social injustice and exploitation and to be moved to go forth from the theatre and effect change in the world outside. [72] For this purpose, Brecht employed the use of techniques that remind the spectator that the play is a representation of reality and not reality itself. By highlighting the constructed nature of the theatrical event, Brecht hoped to communicate that the audience's reality was equally constructed, and as such, was changeable.

Brecht's modernist concern with drama-as-a-medium led to his refinement of the "epic form" of the drama. This dramatic form is related to similar modernist innovations in other arts, including the strategy of divergent chapters in James Joyce's novel Ulysses , Sergei Eisenstein's evolution of a constructivist "montage" in the cinema, and Picasso's introduction of cubist "collage" in the visual arts. [73]

One of Brecht's most important principles was what he called the Verfremdungseffekt (translated as "defamiliarization effect", "distancing effect", or "estrangement effect", and often mistranslated as "alienation effect"). [74] This involved, Brecht wrote, "stripping the event of its self-evident, familiar, obvious quality and creating a sense of astonishment and curiosity about them". [75] To this end, Brecht employed techniques such as the actor's direct address to the audience, harsh and bright stage lighting, the use of songs to interrupt the action, explanatory placards, the transposition of text to the third person or past tense in rehearsals, and speaking the stage directions out loud. [76]

In contrast to many other avant-garde approaches, however, Brecht had no desire to destroy art as an institution; rather, he hoped to "re-function" the theatre to a new social use. In this regard he was a vital participant in the aesthetic debates of his era—particularly over the "high art/popular culture" dichotomy—vying with the likes of Theodor W. Adorno, György Lukács, Ernst Bloch, and developing a close friendship with Walter Benjamin. Brechtian theatre articulated popular themes and forms with avant-garde formal experimentation to create a modernist realism that stood in sharp contrast both to its psychological and socialist varieties. "Brecht's work is the most important and original in European drama since Ibsen and Strindberg," Raymond Williams argues, [77] while Peter Bürger  [ de ] dubs him "the most important materialist writer of our time." [78]

Brecht was also influenced by Chinese theatre, and used its aesthetic as an argument for Verfremdungseffekt. Brecht believed, "Traditional Chinese acting also knows the alienation [sic] effect, and applies it most subtly. [79] The [Chinese] performer portrays incidents of utmost passion, but without his delivery becoming heated." [80] Brecht attended a Chinese opera performance and was introduced to the famous Chinese opera performer Mei Lanfang in 1935. [81] However, Brecht was sure to distinguish between Epic and Chinese theatre. He recognized that the Chinese style was not a "transportable piece of technique", [82] and that epic theatre sought to historicize and address social and political issues. [83]

Brecht used his poetry to criticize European culture, including Nazis, and the German bourgeoisie. Brecht's poetry is marked by the effects of the First and Second World Wars.

Throughout his theatric production, poems are incorporated into this plays with music. In 1951, Brecht issued a recantation of his apparent suppression of poetry in his plays with a note titled On Poetry and Virtuosity. He writes:

We shall not need to speak of a play's poetry ... something that seemed relatively unimportant in the immediate past. It seemed not only unimportant, but misleading, and the reason was not that the poetic element had been sufficiently developed and observed, but that reality had been tampered with in its name ... we had to speak of a truth as distinct from poetry ... we have given up examining works of art from their poetic or artistic aspect, and got satisfaction from theatrical works that have no sort of poetic appeal ... Such works and performances may have some effect, but it can hardly be a profound one, not even politically. For it is a peculiarity of the theatrical medium that it communicates awarenesses and impulses in the form of pleasure: the depth of the pleasure and the impulse will correspond to the depth of the pleasure.

Brecht's most influential poetry is featured in his Manual of Piety (Devotions), establishing him as a noted poet.


Brecht's widow, the actress Helene Weigel, continued to manage the Berliner Ensemble until her death in 1971; it was primarily devoted to performing Brecht's plays.

Besides being an influential dramatist and poet, some scholars have stressed the significance of Brecht's original contributions in political and social philosophy. [84]

Brecht's collaborations with Kurt Weill have had some influence in rock music. The "Alabama Song" for example, originally published as a poem in Brecht's Hauspostille (1927) and set to music by Weill in Mahagonny, has been recorded by The Doors, on their self-titled debut album, as well as by David Bowie and various other bands and performers since the 1960s.

Brecht's son, Stefan Brecht, became a poet and theatre critic interested in New York's avant-garde theatre.

Brecht's plays were a focus of the Schauspiel Frankfurt when Harry Buckwitz was general manager, including the world premiere of Die Gesichte der Simone Machard in 1957. [85]

In fiction, drama, film, and music

Collaborators and associates

Collective and collaborative working methods were inherent to Brecht's approach, as Fredric Jameson (among others) stresses. Jameson describes the creator of the work not as Brecht the individual, but rather as 'Brecht': a collective subject that "certainly seemed to have a distinctive style (the one we now call 'Brechtian') but was no longer personal in the bourgeois or individualistic sense." During the course of his career, Brecht sustained many long-lasting creative relationships with other writers, composers, scenographers, directors, dramaturgs and actors; the list includes: Elisabeth Hauptmann, Margarete Steffin, Ruth Berlau, Slatan Dudow, Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Paul Dessau, Caspar Neher, Teo Otto, Karl von Appen, Ernst Busch, Lotte Lenya, Peter Lorre, Therese Giehse, Angelika Hurwicz, Carola Neher and Helene Weigel herself. This is "theatre as collective experiment [...] as something radically different from theatre as expression or as experience." [87]

List of collaborators and associates



Plays and screenplays

Entries show: English-language translation of title (German-language title) [year written] / [year first produced] [88]

Theoretical works


Brecht wrote hundreds of poems throughout his life. [89] He began writing poetry as a young boy, and his first poems were published in 1914. His poetry was influenced by folk-ballads, French chansons, and the poetry of Rimbaud and Villon.[ citation needed ] The last collection of new poetry by Brecht published in his lifetime was the 1939 Svendborger Gedichte . [90]

Some of Brecht's poems

  • 1940
  • A Bad Time for Poetry
  • Alabama Song
  • Children's Crusade
  • Children's Hymn
  • Contemplating Hell
  • From a German War Primer
  • Germany
  • Honored Murderer of the People
  • How Fortunate the Man with None
  • Hymn to Communism
  • I Never Loved You More
  • I want to Go with the One I Love
  • I'm Not Saying Anything Against Alexander
  • In Praise of Communism
  • In Praise of Doubt
  • In Praise of Illegal Work
  • In Praise of Learning
  • In Praise of Study
  • In Praise of the Work of the Party
  • Mack the Knife
  • My Young Son Asks Me
  • Not What Was Meant
  • O Germany, Pale Mother!
  • On Reading a Recent Greek Poet
  • On the Critical Attitude
  • Parting
  • Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters  [ de ] (Questions from a Worker Who Reads)
  • Radio Poem
  • Reminiscence of Marie A.
  • Send Me a Leaf
  • Solidarity Song
  • The Book Burning (The Burning of the Books)
  • The Exile of the Poets
  • The Invincible Inscription
  • The Mask of Evil
  • The Sixteen-Year-Old Seamstress Emma Ries before the Magistrate
  • The Solution
  • To Be Read in the Morning and at Night
  • To Posterity
  • To the Students and Workers of the Peasants' Faculty
  • An die Nachgeborenen  [ de ] (To Those Born After)
  • United Front Song
  • War Has Been Given a Bad Name
  • What Has Happened?

See also


Related Research Articles

Epic theatre Theatrical genre

Epic theatre is a theatrical movement arising in the early to mid-20th century from the theories and practice of a number of theatre practitioners who responded to the political climate of the time through the creation of new political dramas. Epic theatre is not meant to refer to the scale or the scope of the work, but rather to the form that it takes. Epic theatre emphasizes the audience's perspective and reaction to the piece through a variety of techniques that deliberately cause them to individually engage in a different way. The purpose of epic theatre is not to encourage an audience to suspend their disbelief, but rather to force them to see their world as it is.

Erwin Piscator German director and producer

Erwin Friedrich Maximilian Piscator was a German theatre director and producer. Along with Bertolt Brecht, he was the foremost exponent of epic theatre, a form that emphasizes the socio-political content of drama, rather than its emotional manipulation of the audience or the production's formal beauty.

<i>Baal</i> (play)

Baal was the first full-length play written by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. It concerns a wastrel youth who becomes involved in several sexual affairs and at least one murder. It was written in 1918, when Brecht was a 20-year-old student at Munich University, in response to the expressionist drama The Loner by the soon-to-become-Nazi dramatist Hanns Johst.

<i>Drums in the Night</i> Play by Brecht

Drums in the Night is a play by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht. Brecht wrote it between 1919 and 1920, and it received its first theatrical production in 1922. It is in the Expressionist style of Ernst Toller and Georg Kaiser. The play—along with Baal and In the Jungle—won the Kleist Prize for 1922 ; the play was performed all over Germany as a result. Brecht later claimed that he had only written it as a source of income.

Karl Valentin German comedian

Karl Valentin was a Bavarian comedian. He had significant influence on German Weimar culture. Valentin starred in many silent films in the 1920s, and was sometimes called the "Charlie Chaplin of Germany". His work has an essential influence on artists like Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Loriot and Helge Schneider.

Arthur Kutscher

Arthur Kutscher was a German historian of literature and researcher in drama. Together with Max Herrmann he can be seen as a founding father of theatre studies in Germany. He was a professor at Munich University, where he taught a famous seminar in theatre history. Kutscher was a friend of the iconoclastic dramatist and cabaret-star Wedekind. His work influenced many playwrights, poets, and directors. His students included Bertolt Brecht, Erwin Piscator, Peter Hacks, Hanns Johst, Klabund, and Erich Mühsam. Brecht's first full-length play, Baal, was written in response to an argument in one of Kutscher's drama seminars. While Kutscher was responsible for inspiring an admiration for Wedekind in the young Brecht, he was "bitterly critical" of Brecht's own early dramatic writings.

Mr Puntila and his Man Matti is an epic comedy by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. It was written in 1940 and first performed in 1948.

<i>The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent</i>

The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent is a Lehrstück by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, written in collaboration with Slatan Dudow and Elisabeth Hauptmann. Under the title Lehrstück it was first performed, with music by Paul Hindemith, as part of the Baden-Baden festival on 28 July 1929, at the Stadthalle, Baden-Baden, directed by Brecht, designed by Heinz Porep.

In the Jungle of Cities is a play by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. Written between 1921 and 1924, it received its first theatrical production under the title Im Dickicht at the Residenztheater in Munich, opening on 9 May 1923. This production was directed by Erich Engel, with set design by Caspar Neher. The cast included Otto Wernicke as Shlink the lumber dealer, Erwin Faber as George Garga, and Maria Koppenhöfer as his sister Mary. Im Dickicht was produced at Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater in Berlin, where Brecht had been employed as a dramaturg. The production opened on 29 October 1924, with the same director and scenographer, but in a cut version with a new prologue and the title Dickicht: Untergang einer Familie. Fritz Kortner played Shlink and Walter Frank played George, with Franziska Kinz, Paul Bildt, Mathias Wieman, and Gerda Müller also in the cast. Willett and Manheim report that this production "was not a success".

Round Heads and Pointed Heads is an epic parable play written by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, in collaboration with Margarete Steffin, Emil Burri, Elisabeth Hauptmann, and the composer Hanns Eisler. The play's subtitle is Money Calls to Money and its authors describe it as "a tale of horror." The play is a satirical anti-Nazi parable about a fictitious country called Yahoo in which the rulers maintain their control by setting the people with round heads against those with pointed heads, thereby substituting racial relations for their antagonistic class relations. The play is composed of 11 scenes in prose and blank verse and 13 songs. Unlike another of Brecht's plays from this period, The Mother, Round Heads and Pointed Heads was addressed to a wide audience, Brecht suggested, and took account of "purely entertainment considerations." Brecht's notes on the play, written in 1936, contain the earliest theoretical application of his "defamiliarization" principle to his own "non-Aristotelian" drama.

<i>The Life of Edward II of England</i>

The Life of Edward II of England, also known as Edward II, is an adaptation by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht of the 16th-century historical tragedy by Marlowe, The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer (c.1592). The play is set in England between 1307 and 1326. A prefatory note to the play reads:

Trumpets and Drums is an adaptation of an 18th-century English Restoration comedy by Farquhar, The Recruiting Officer. It was written by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht in collaboration with Benno Besson and Elisabeth Hauptmann.

Driving Out a Devil is an early one-act farce by the 20th-century German dramatist Bertolt Brecht. It was written in prose, probably in 1919, and was first published in volume 13 of Brecht's Stücke. The play charts the attempts of a self-confident and manipulative Bavarian peasant boy to outwit the vigilant parents of a girl of his village. Ronald Hayman suggests that this play dramatises most clearly Brecht's own ability to influence people.


Mahagonny, ein Songspiel, or Mahagonny, a song-play, was written by composer Kurt Weill and dramatist Bertolt Brecht and first performed with that title and description in 1927. Elisabeth Hauptmann contributed the words to two of its songs. Just under half an hour in length, the work can be thought of as a staged or scenic cantata. By the end of 1929, however, Mahagonny had grown into a two-hour opera with the title Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, or Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. This was premiered in March 1930. Today the cantata and the opera are considered separately, the latter holding a place in the repertory, the former being an occasional piece staged in small theaters or programmed as an outgrowth of a song recital when resources permit. For this reason the shorter work is informally referred to as Das kleine Mahagonny, or The Little Mahagonny, or as Mahagonny-Songspiel.

Coriolanus is an unfinished German adaptation by the modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht of the English 17th-century tragedy by William Shakespeare. Brecht wrote it sometime between 1951 and 1953. This adaptation reveals the influence of Mao Tse-tung on Brecht's social thought especially the idea of primary and secondary contradictions which Mao discussed in his treatise On Contradiction. Brecht alluded to this text and discusses his development on the original and his ideas for its staging in an essay entitled "Study of the First Scene of Shakespeare's Coriolanus", which is written in the form of a dialogue with his collaborators at the Berliner Ensemble theatre company. The play was first staged by Heinrich Koch at the Frankfurt Schauspielhaus theatre, where it opened on 22 September 1962. It was later staged by the Berliner Ensemble in September 1964. Ruth Berghaus became famous for her staging of the battle scenes in this production. The play was published in an English translation by Ralph Manheim in volume nine of Brecht's Collected Plays.

Turandot or the Whitewashers' Congress is an epic comedy by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. It was written during the summer of 1953 in Buckow and substantially revised in light of a brief period of rehearsals in 1954, though it was still incomplete at the time of Brecht's death in 1956 and did not receive its first production until several years later. It premièred on 5 February 1969 at the Zürich Schauspielhaus, in a production directed by Benno Besson and Horst Sagert, with music by Yehoshua Lakner.

<i>Der Jasager</i>

Der Jasager is an opera by Kurt Weill to a German libretto by Bertolt Brecht.

Arnolt Bronnen was an Austrian playwright and director.

Caspar Neher was an Austrian-German scenographer and librettist, known principally for his career-long working relationship with Bertolt Brecht.

The Good Person of Szechwan is a play written by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, in collaboration with Margarete Steffin and Ruth Berlau. The play was begun in 1938 but not completed until 1941, while the author was in exile in the United States. It was first performed in 1943 at the Zürich Schauspielhaus in Switzerland, with a musical score and songs by Swiss composer Huldreich Georg Früh. Today, Paul Dessau's composition of the songs from 1947–48, also authorized by Brecht, is the better-known version. The play is an example of Brecht's "non-Aristotelian drama", a dramatic form intended to be staged with the methods of epic theatre. The play is a parable set in the Chinese "city of Sichuan".


  1. "Brecht". Unabridged (Online). n.d.
  2. "Brecht, Bertolt". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d.
  3. Willett 1990, pp. 312–313.
  4. The introduction of this article draws on the following sources: Banham (1998 , p. 129); Bürger (1984 , pp. 87–92); Jameson (1998 , pp. 43–58); Kolocotroni, Goldman & Taxidou (1998 , pp. 465–466); Williams (1993 , pp. 277–290); Wright (1989 , pp. 68–89, 113–137).
  5. "Brecht-Weigel-Gedenkstätte-Chausseestraße 125-10115". Berlin-Akademie der Künste – Akademie der Künste – Berlin.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Thomson 1994
  7. Thomson 1994 , pp. 22–23 See also Smith 1991.
  8. See Brecht's poem "Of Poor B.B." (first version, 1922), in Brecht (2000b, 107–108).
  9. Hässler, Hans-Jürgen; von Heusinger, Christian, eds. (1989). Kultur gegen Krieg, Wissenschaft für den Frieden[Culture against War, Science for Peace] (in German). Würzburg, Germany: Königshausen & Neumann. ISBN   978-3-88479-401-2.
  10. Thomson 1994 , p. 24 and Sacks 1994 , p. xvii.
  11. Thomson 1994 , p. 24. In his Messingkauf Dialogues , Brecht cites Wedekind, along with Büchner and Valentin, as his "chief influences" in his early years: "he", Brecht writes of himself in the third person, "also saw the writer Wedekind performing his own works in a style which he had developed in cabaret. Wedekind had worked as a ballad singer; he accompanied himself on the lute." ( Brecht 1965 , p. 69). Kutscher was "bitterly critical" of Brecht's own early dramatic writings (Willet and Manheim 1970, vii).
  12. Thomson 1994 , p. 24 and Willett 1967 , p. 17
  13. Willett & Manheim 1970, p. vii.
  14. Sacks 1994 , p. xx and McDowell 1977.
  15. 1 2 McDowell 2000
  16. Willett & Manheim 1970, p. x.
  17. Brecht 1965, pp. 69–70.
  18. Quoted in Thomson 1994 , p. 25.
  19. Herbert Ihering's review for Drums in the Night in the Berliner Börsen-Courier on 5 October 1922. Quoted in Willett & Manheim 1970 , pp. viii–ix.
  20. See Thomson & Sacks 1994 , p. 50 and Willett & Manheim 1970 , pp. viii–ix.
  21. Herbert Ihering, quoted in Willett & Manheim 1970 , p. ix.
  22. McDowell 1977.
  23. Culbert 1995, p. [ page needed ].
  24. Thomson 1994, p. 26–27.
  25. Meech 1994, pp. 54–55.
  26. Meech 1994 , pp. 54–55 and Benjamin 1983 , p. 115. See the article on Edward II for details of Brecht's germinal 'epic' ideas and techniques in this production.
  27. Brecht was recommended for the job by Erich Engel; Carl Zuckmayer was to join Brecht in the position. See Sacks 1994 , p. xviii, Willett 1967 , p. 145, and Willett & Manheim 1970 , p. vii.
  28. Ewen 1967 , p. 159 and Völker 1976 , p. 65
  29. Thomson 1994, p. 28.
  30. Hayman 1983 , p. 104 and Völker 1976 , p. 108
  31. According to Willett, Brecht was disgruntled with the Deutsches Theater at not being given a Shakespeare production to direct. At the end of the 1924–1925 season, both his and Carl Zuckmayer's (his fellow dramaturg) contracts were not renewed. ( Willett 1967 , p. 145). Zuckmayer relates how: "Brecht seldom turned up there; with his flapping leather jacket he looked like a cross between a lorry driver and a Jesuit seminarist. Roughly speaking, what he wanted was to take over complete control; the season's programme must be regulated entirely according to his theories, and the stage be rechristened 'epic smoke theatre', it being his view that people might actually be disposed to think if they were allowed to smoke at the same time. As this was refused him he confined himself to coming and drawing his pay." (Quoted by Willett 1967 , p. 145.
  32. Willett 1967, p. 145.
  33. Willett & Manheim 1970, p. viii.
  34. Willett and Manheim point to the significance of this poem as a marker of the shift in Brecht's work towards "a much more urban, industrialized flavour" ( Willett & Manheim 1970 , p. viii).
  35. Willett & Manheim 1970, pp. viii, x.
  36. Willett & Manheim 1970 , p. viii; Joel Schechter writes: "The subjugation of an individual to that of a collective was endorsed by the affirmations of comedy, and by the decision of the coauthors of Man is Man (Emil Burri, Slatan Dudow, Caspar Neher, Bernhard Reich, Elisabeth Hauptmann) to call themselves 'The Brecht Collective'."Schechter 1994 , p. 74
  37. Willett 1978.
  38. Willett & Manheim 1970, pp. viii–ix.
  39. Willett & Manheim 1970, p. xxxiii.
  40. Schechter 1994, p. 68.
  41. Brecht 1964, p. 56.
  42. Schechter 1994, p. 72.
  43. Sacks 1994, p. xviii.
  44. Thomson 1994, pp. 28–29.
  45. Brecht 1964, pp. 23–24.
  46. Erwin Piscator, "Basic Principles of a Sociological Drama" in Kolocotroni, Goldman & Taxidou 1998, p. 243.
  47. Willett 1998 , p. 103 and Willett 1978 , p. 72. In his book The Political Theatre, Piscator wrote: "Perhaps my whole style of directing is a direct result of the total lack of suitable plays. It would certainly not have taken so dominant form if adequate plays had been on hand when I started" (1929, 185).
  48. Willett 1978, p. 74.
  49. See Brecht's Journal entry for 24 June 1943. Brecht claimed to have written the adaptation (in his Journal entry), but Piscator contested that; the manuscript bears the names "Brecht, [Felix] Gasbarra, Piscator, G. Grosz" in Brecht's handwriting ( Willett 1978 , p. 110). See also Willett 1978 , pp. 90–95. Brecht wrote a sequel to the novel in 1943, Schweik in the Second World War .
  50. Willett 1998 , p. 104. In relation to his innovations in the use of theatre technology, Piscator wrote: "technical innovations were never an end in themselves for me. Any means I have used or am currently in the process of using were designed to elevate the events on the stage onto a historical plane and not just to enlarge the technical range of the stage machinery. My technical devices had been developed to cover up the deficiencies of the dramatists' products" ("Basic Principles of a Sociological Drama" [1929]; in Kolocotroni, Goldman & Taxidou 1998 , p. 243).
  51. Willett 1978 , pp. 109–110. The similarities between Brecht's and Piscator's theoretical formulations from the time indicate that the two agreed on fundamentals; compare Piscator's summation of the achievements of his first company (1929), which follows, with Brecht's Mahagonny Notes (1930): "In lieu of private themes we had generalisation, in lieu of what was special the typical, in lieu of accident causality. Decorativeness gave way to constructedness, Reason was put on a par with Emotion, while sensuality was replaced by didacticism and fantasy by documentary reality." From a speech given by Piscator on 25 March 1929, and reproduced in Schriften 2 p. 50; quoted by Willett 1978 , p. 107. See also Willett 1998 , pp. 104–105.
  52. Willett 1998, pp. 104–105.
  53. Willett 1978, p. 76.
  54. The two first met in March 1927, after Weill had written a critical introduction to the broadcast on Berlin Radio of an adaptation of Brecht's Man Equals Man . When they met, Brecht was 29 years old and Weill was 27. Brecht had experience of writing songs and had performed his own with tunes he had composed; at the time he was also married to an opera singer (Zoff). Weill had collaborated with Georg Kaiser, one of the few Expressionist playwrights that Brecht admired; he was married to the actress Lotte Lenya ( Willett & Manheim 1970 , p. xv).
  55. Willet and Manheim (1979, xv–xviii). In Munich in 1924 Brecht had begun referring to some of the stranger aspects of life in post-putsch Bavaria under the codename "Mahagonny". The Amerikanismus imagery appears in his first three "Mahagonny Songs", with their Wild West references. With that, however, the project stalled for two and a half years. With Hauptmann, who wrote the two English-language "Mahagonny Songs", Brecht had begun work on an opera to be called Sodom and Gomorrah or The Man from Manhattan and a radio play called The Flood or 'The Collapse of Miami, the Paradise City', both of which came to underlie the new scheme with Weill. See Willett & Manheim 1970 , pp. xv–xvi. The influence of Amerikanismus is most clearly discernible in Brecht's In the Jungle of Cities .
  56. In this respect, the creative process for Mahagonny was quite different from The Threepenny Opera , with the former being durchkomponiert or set to music right through, whereas on the latter Weill was brought at a late stage to set the songs. See Willett & Manheim 1970 , p. xv.
  57. Willett & Manheim 1970 , p. xvii and Brecht 1964 , pp. 37–38.
  58. "Barbara Brecht-Schall – About This Person". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . 2012. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  60. "Bertolt Brecht asui maanpakolaisvuosinaan Kuhankeittäjän korttelissa". Helsingin Sanomat. 26 April 2009.
  61. "International Brecht Society – Brecht Chronology".
  62. Exilliteratur.
  63. Walter Held  [ de ]: "Stalins deutsche Opfer und die Volksfront", in the underground magazine Unser Wort, Nr. 4/5, October 1938, pp. 7 ff.; Michael Rohrwasser  [ de ], Der Stalinismus und die Renegaten. Die Literatur der Exkommunisten, Stuttgart 1991, p. 163
  64. 1 2 Brecht HUAC hearing
  65. GradeSaver. "Bertolt Brecht Biography – List of Works, Study Guides & Essays".
  66. "St. Petersburg Times". 21 December 1954.
  67. Letter published in the Neues Deutschland, 21 June 1953.
  68. Brecht (2000b, 440). The poem was first printed in the West-German newspaper Die Welt in 1959 and subsequently in the Buckow Elegies in the West 1964. It was first published in the GDR in 1969 after Helene Weigel had insisted on its inclusion in a collected edition of Brecht's works.
  69. Röhl, Bettina (2018). So macht Kommunismus Spaß: Ulrike Meinhof, Klaus Rainer Röhl und die Akte Konkret. ISBN   978-3-453-60450-6. They were all "broken", and by this I mean they avoided the problem of Stalinism, ran from it. Never mentioned their murdered friends and comrades, mostly in the USSR. Never engaged politically during Slansky Trial in Prague. "Broken" means they experienced the lie. I accuse them of keeping silent about the crimes of Stalin's regime. They put aside the whole complex of guilt that came with communism, real communism, or Stalinism to be precise. If that was not enough, they also wrote panegyrics praising Stalin, and they did that when they already knew about all these murders and atrocities.
  70. Bertolt Brecht at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  71. Parker, Stephen (2 April 2011). "Diagnosing Bertolt Brecht". Lancet. 377 (9772): 1146–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60453-4. PMID   21465701. S2CID   40879512.
  72. Squiers, Anthony (2015). "A Critical Response to Heidi M. Silcox's "What's Wrong with Alienation?"". Philosophy and Literature. 39: 243–247. doi:10.1353/phl.2015.0016. S2CID   146205099.
  73. On these relationships, see "autonomization" in Jameson (1998 , pp. 43–58) and "non-organic work of art" in Bürger (1984 , pp. 87–92). Willett observes: "With Brecht the same montage technique spread to the drama, where the old Procrustean plot yielded to a more "epic" form of narrative better able to cope with wide-ranging modern socio-economic themes. That, at least, was how Brecht theoretically justified his choice of form, and from about 1929 on he began to interpret its penchant for "contradictions", much as had Sergei Eisenstein, in terms of the dialectic. It is fairly clear that in Brecht's case the practice came before the theory, for his actual composition of a play, with its switching around of scenes and characters, even the physical cutting up and sticking together of the typescript, shows that montage was the structural technique most natural to him. Like Jaroslav Hašek and Joyce he had not learnt this scissors-and-paste method from the Soviet cinema but picked it out of the air" ( Willett 1978 , p. 110).
  74. Brooker 1994 , p. 193. Brooker writes that "the term 'alienation' is an inadequate and even misleading translation of Brecht's Verfremdung. The terms 'de-familiarisation' or 'estrangement', when understood as more than purely formal devices, give a more accurate sense of Brecht's intentions. A better term still would be 'de-alienation'".
  75. Brecht, quoted by Brooker 1994 , p. 191.
  76. Brecht 1964, p. 138.
  77. Williams 1993, p. 277.
  78. Bürger 1984, p. 88.
  79. Brecht 1964, p. 91.
  80. Brecht 1964, p. 92.
  81. Hsia, Adrian (Summer 1983). "Bertolt Brecht in China and His Impact on Chinese Drama". Comparative Literature Studies . 20 (2): 231–245. JSTOR   40246399.
  82. Brecht 1964, p. 95.
  83. Brecht 1964, p. 96.
  84. Squiers, Anthony (2014). An Introduction to the Social and Political Philosophy of Bertolt Brecht. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN   978-90-420-3899-8.
  85. Jacobi, Johannes (14 March 1957). "Zur Brecht-Uraufführung in Frankfurt: "Die Gesichte der Simone Machard"". Die Zeit (in German). Hamburg. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  86. Hammer, Joshua (24 March 2015). "Joseph Kanon's 'Leaving Berlin'". The New York Times.
  87. Jameson (1998 , pp. 10–11). See also the discussions of Brecht's collaborative relationships in the essays collected in Thomson & Sacks 1994. John Fuegi's take on Brecht's collaborations, detailed in Brecht & Co. (New York: Grove, 1994; also known as The Life and Lies of Bertolt Brecht) and summarized in his contribution to Thomson & Sacks 1994 , pp. 104–116, offers a particularly negative perspective; Jameson comments "his book will remain a fundamental document for future students of the ideological confusions of Western intellectuals during the immediate post-Cold War years" Jameson 1998 , p. 31; Olga Taxidou offers a critical account of Fuegi's project from a feminist perspective in Taxidou 1995 , pp. 381–384.
  88. The translations of the titles are based on the standard of the Brecht Collected Plays series (see bibliography, primary sources). Chronology provided through consultation with Sacks 1994 and Willett 1967, preferring the former with any conflicts.
  89. Note: Several of Brecht's poems were set by his collaborator Hanns Eisler in his Deutsche Sinfonie , begun in 1935, but not premiered until 1959 (three years after Brecht's death).
  90. Bertolt Brecht, Poems 1913–1956, ed. by John Willett, Ralph Manheim, and Erich Fried (London: Eyre Methuen, 1976), p. 507.

Primary sources

Essays, diaries, and journals

Drama, poetry, and prose

Secondary sources

  • Banham, Martin, ed. (1998). "Brecht, Bertolt". The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 129. ISBN   0-521-43437-8.
  • Benjamin, Walter (1983). Understanding Brecht. Translated by Anna Bostock. London and New York: Verso. ISBN   0-902308-99-8.
  • Brooker, Peter. "Key Words in Brecht's Theory and Practice of Theatre". In Thomson & Sacks (1994), pp. 185–200.
  • Bürger, Peter (1984). Theory of the Avant-Garde. Theory and History of Literature Ser. 4. Translated by Michael Shaw. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN   0-8166-1068-1.
  • Culbert, David (March 1995). "Joseph Goebbels and his diaries". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (review). 15 (1): 143–149. doi:10.1080/01439689500260091.
  • Ewen, Frederic (1967). Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art and His Times (Citadel Press Book ed.). New York: Carol Publishing Group.
  • Hayman, Ronald (1983). Brecht: A Biography. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN   0-297-78206-1.
  • Jameson, Fredric (1998). Brecht and Method. London and New York: Verso. ISBN   1-85984-809-5.
  • Kolocotroni, Vassiliki; Goldman, Jane; Taxidou, Olga, eds. (1998). Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN   0-7486-0973-3.
  • McDowell, W. Stuart (Winter 1977). "A Brecht-Valentin Production: Mysteries of a Barbershop". Performing Arts Journal . 1 (3): 2–14.
  • McDowell, W. Stuart (2000). "Acting Brecht: The Munich Years". In Carol Martin; Henry Bial (eds.). The Brecht Sourcebook. Worlds of Performance. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 71–83. ISBN   0-415-20043-1.
  • Meech, Tony. "Brecht's Early Plays". In Thomson & Sacks (1994), pp. 43–55.
  • Sacks, Glendyr. "A Brecht Calendar". In Thomson & Sacks (1994), pp. xvii–xxvii.
  • Schechter, Joel. "Brecht's Clowns: Man is Man and After". In Thomson & Sacks (1994), pp. 68–78.
  • Smith, Iris (1991). "Brecht and the Mothers of Epic Theater". Theatre Journal (43): 491–505.
  • Taxidou, Olga (November 1995). "Crude Thinking: John Fuegi and Recent Brecht Criticism". New Theatre Quarterly . XI (44): 381–384.
  • Thomson, Peter. "Brecht's Lives". In Thomson & Sacks (1994), pp. 22–39.
  • Thomson, Peter; Sacks, Glendyr, eds. (1994). The Cambridge Companion to Brecht. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   0-521-41446-6.
  • Völker, Klaus (1976). Brecht: A Biography. Translated by John Nowell. New York: Seabury Press. Translation of Klaus Völker  [ de ]: Bertolt Brecht, Eine Biographie. Munich and Vienna: Carl Hanser Verlag. ISBN   0-8164-9344-8.
  • Willett, John (1967). The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects (3rd revised ed.). London: Methuen. ISBN   0-413-34360-X.
  • Willett, John (1978). Art and Politics in the Weimar Period: The New Sobriety 1917–1933. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN   0-306-80724-6.
  • Willett, John (1998). Brecht in Context: Comparative Approaches (revised ed.). London: Methuen. ISBN   0-413-72310-0.
  • Willett, John; Manheim, Ralph, eds. (1970). "Introduction". Collected Plays: 'One' by Bertolt Brecht. Bertolt Brecht: Plays, Poetry and Prose. London: Methuen. pp. vii–xvii. ISBN   0-416-03280-X.
  • Williams, Raymond (1993). Drama from Ibsen to Brecht. London: Hogarth. pp. 277–290. ISBN   0-7012-0793-0.
  • Wright, Elizabeth (1989). Postmodern Brecht: A Re-Presentation. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN   0-415-02330-0.

Further reading