The purpose of this research is to examine the positions of dramatic critics and theorists on the work of Bertolt Brecht. The plan of the research will be to set forth methods that various theorists use to discuss Brecht's writings, to analyze competing political readings of his plays, and then to suggest a depoliticized reading of his work that is keyed to his aesthetic theory. As appropriate, reference will be made to the sometimes contradictory positions taken by Brecht as playwright, political personality, director of the Berliner Ensemble, and dramatic theorist.
One important theorist of Brechtian drama is Brecht himself. His explanation of what he termed epic theatre can be taken as a starting point for understanding the context in which the pattern of ideas in his work and the means by which these ideas may be realized on the stage.
The actor used a somewhat complex technique to detach himself from the character portrayed; he forced the spectator to look at the play's situations from such an angle that they necessarily became subject to his criticism. Supporters of this epic theatre argued that the new subjectmatter, the highly involved incidents of the class war in its acutest and most terrible stage, would be mastered more easily by such a method, since it would thereby become possible to portray social processes as seen in their causal relationships (Brecht, Scene 85).
Preeminent concern with issues and ideas in virtually all of Brecht's plays is in keeping with the epic theatre's attempt to put the audience in touch with the dramatic situation rather than to help it identify with and follow the fortunes of characters. Brecht gives the name "A-effect" or alienation effect to the process whereby a scene may "allow the spectator to criticize (a situation] constructively from a social point of view" (Brecht, Street 91). Accordingly, The Caucasian Chalk Circle is really a play within a play, wherein the subtext...