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Bertolt Brecht

Life of Brecht

Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, Bavaria in 1898. He was a play write, poet, and a director. He was most famous for his developments in the form of epic theatre. He was anti-war and he used a loophole to not get drafted by going to medical school. However, he finally was drafted into the First World War, but he was stationed in Augsburg to be a medic. He studied Marxism and was a firm believer in it. Although he was never a part of the communist party. When Hitler rose to power Bertolt was in fear of his life, so he fled the country. He moved through out several countries around Germany until he got a visa to go to the United States. During the red scare in the United States, Bertolt was blacklisted from Hollywood and was questioned by the House Un-American Activists Committee. Although some of the other people who were black listed saw it as cowardly, Bertolt was planning on going back to Germany anyways. He then moved to East Germany under soviet control. He won the Stalin Peace Prize. He finally died of a heart attack in 1956.


The first full length play Brecht wrote, Baal, was in 1918. HE wrote his second play shortly after called Drums in the Night in 1919. He wrote Mysteries of the Barbershop. A slapstick comedy movie that went down as one of the most influential movies in German history.

His third play, In the Jungle, had a problematic opening. During opening night, Nazi troops blew whistles and threw stink bombs on to the stage. He directed and co-wrote Edward II. This was a pivotal point in his dramaturgical career. This was the first time he explored the concept of epic theatre. He wrote several other classics like Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and Her Children, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, and The Threepenny Opera.

Theatre Theory

He did not want people identifying with the characters on stage. Instead Bertolt wanted people to have thought provoking criticism about it. He used the quote, “Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it (Brecht,1).” He coined the word Non-Aristotelian drama. This meant that he didn’t want to reach catharsis in his plays. Catharsis is the Greek word for cleansing or purification. Aristotle though that theatre should be a mirror that one holds up to society so people can relate to it. Bertolt Brecht was completely the opposite. His plays would represent reality but not be pure realism. He used a technique called Verfremdungseffekt which translates to distancing effect. This would include bright lighting, characters talking in the third person, to the audience, etc. He would also have his actors only do a gist of the characters actions. He opened up a theatre in Berlin. His wife ran it until 1971. It was devoted to only playing Brecht’s plays. His plays became so popular that they were played more than Shakespeare’s plays.

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ger/102/2014/winter/bertholt_brecht.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/25 17:17 by ammoerer
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