The author was born in Germany in 1898 and grew up amid the violence and turbulence of twentieth-century Europe.His experience as a medical orderly in World War 1 and as a witness to the political and social turmoil in defeated Germany help shape the Marxist vision that informed such a play.
One fact clearly comes out from the reading of such an interesting and charming play,and I’l quote it directly from the play:
“That what there is shall go to those who are good for it,
Children to the motherly,that they prosper,
Carts to good drivers,that they be driven well,
The valley to the waterers,that it yield fruit.”
Focusing attention on the last statement,It actually drifts us back to the prologue,which I’d be narrating seconds away.And one lesson is outstanding:Those who deserve it possess it.
As the play unfolds,irony,sarcasm and Biblical Allusion paint to the audience a picture of what Brecht might have have been presenting.It is a play involving characters with complex names but who nurture the entire work through immense humour.
I attempted to get a review of specific acts just to ascertain that comprehension,command and demystification of the message in question are attained to the latter.
It deals with a dispute over a farmland where two commune groups-the fruit growing commune and the goat-herding commune,claim ownership of the land.A delegate is sent to arbitrate the dispute and the fruit-growing commune gets the farmland eventually because they have elaborate plans to realise the farm’s full potential.The peasants celebrate the peaceful resolution of the conflict and a Singer agrees to tell them a Chinese story of the Chalk Circle.
ACT ONE opens on Easter Sunday.The singer begins the story.It is about a Governor,George Abashwili,his wife Natella and a son Michael.The governor gets killed by his brother-the Fat Prince,in a coup,and he later takes over the leadership of the city.Everyone flees the city and Grusha,the governor’s maidservant reveals her act of charity by fleeing to the North with Michael.
ACT TWO narrates Grusha’s brave move to save Michael from the Fat Prince and His soldiers who want to kill him.Grusha makes sacrifices for him and risks her life.She pays two piasters for his milk,hits a soldier over the head with a piece of firewood and crosses a bridge on the verge of collapsing.
ACT THREE unfolds Grusha’s refuge in her brother’s house,Lavrenti,who later forces her into marriage with a ‘dying man’called Jussup.The war is over.The dying man miraculously recovers and Grusha is stuck with a husband not of her choice.The play within a play where Michael insists he be allowed to behead the fat boy,who represents the fat prince,foreshadows the death of the fat prince.When Simon(he had been engaged to Grusha) comes back and learns Grusha is married,Grusha is left on the horns of a dilemma,but she later chooses Michael.The soldiers take Michael away from her,claiming that Michael belongs to the Governor’s wife.Grusha follows them back to the city where her case is given to Azdak,the city judge.
IN ACT FOUR,Brecht uses money to denote the difference in the levels of wealth between various social classses.He represents the voice of reason,taking from the rich and and giving to the poor.He rules all cases in favour of the poor.The Governor’s wife returns and demands her child back.
IN ACT FIVE,Azdak preside over the case of Grusha and the child.Natella wants Michael for her to inherit the Governor’s estate,but so does Grusha whose reason is different:she had been taking carre of her for the last two years.Azdak orders a CHALK CIRCLE to be drawn,he places the child in the middle and orders the two women to pull the child out of the circle,that whoever does so gets the child.Natella pulls but Grusha lets go and he rules in favour of Grusha and orders Natella to leave.Azdak represents The Biblical Solomonic wisdom in his rulings.
There we have it!A book sufficient not only to capture but grasp and retain the attention of the audience.As I read through,I vividly conceptualized the Biblical story of Solomon too.What an amazing play!