Read The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht Free Online
Book Title: The Good Woman of Setzuan|
The author of the book: Bertolt Brecht
Edition: Penguin Classics
Date of issue: July 5th 2007
ISBN 13: 9780141189178
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 19.75 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.6
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Opening with a monologue from a water seller (Wang), who is waiting for the Gods on the impoverished streets of a city outskirts, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that not only is this a Brecht play, but also it's setting is the far east (Chinese Culture being something that fascinated him). And he may have been one of the most innovative and influential playwrights of the 20th century, but Brecht’s main concern was getting an audience to think first, rather than engaging them easily on an emotional level.
Taking you inside the too often unexamined lives of common folk, petty criminals and outcasts living out a life of brutalising poverty is nothing new to him. But with The Good Person of Setzuan, there is an artistic adventurousness that adds something different to the melting pot. The play, like other works of his, still remains pessimistic, but dazzles nonetheless. Coming from an era when the author was creating parables for the stage, productions that invite you to consider such issues as how economics affect life decisions and how power is surrendered and wielded. With a perception that everyone requires such a dual or split personality to survive an ever present harsh world environment.
This is a story of the streets, not the sort of streets I would want to wander around any time soon.
Most of the action taking place in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. The prostitute, Shen Tei, has a soul like that of a blossoming flower. She wants to become something beautiful, to someone or something. It's her heart’s desire. But her kindness is not predicated on giving as good as she gets. Rather, she gives because sharing is a natural art, just like when she paints her mouth bright red to attract male clientele. She is the only one in Szechwan who offers the Gods a place to stay after Wang assures them that Szechwan is just the kind of town that will refute their notion that a good person is a rare thing. As a reward, the Gods give their hostess a small amount of money. With it,
Shen Tei opens a modest tobacco shop and life seems to take shape for the better. But always lurking is a battle of faith, and of good and evil, that tips the apple cart. How can she survive as a new and honest person, play straight in a corrupt world of ruthlessness, without her former hard self to help get her through?.
Brecht insisted the mechanics of making theatre should always be exposed, so audiences would be made aware of how the theatre sought to manipulate them. He rejected with contempt the popular notion that the chief aim of the theatre was to create empathy. He wanted his audience to think and act critically about their situation, inside the theatre and beyond it's walls. Critiquing capitalism is an underlying theme here, and the tightly-knit text made for a thought-provoking read.
The briskly paced bare bones nature that cuts to the gist of the story in this and his other plays, was always likely to provoke a response and get people talking from whomever attended it's theatrical production, just as Brecht would have wanted it.
The fact he stuck the finger up to Nazi repression and carried on regardless makes me like him
that extra bit more. Not only as a Playwright, but as a person.
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Read information about the authorBertolt Brecht (born Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director. A seminal theatre practitioner of the twentieth century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble—the post-war theatre company operated by Brecht and his wife and long-time collaborator, the actress Helene Weigel—with its internationally acclaimed productions.
From his late twenties Brecht remained a life-long committed Marxist who, in developing the combined theory and practice of his 'epic theatre', synthesized and extended the experiments of Piscator and Meyerhold to explore the theatre as a forum for political ideas and the creation of a critical aesthetics of dialectical materialism. Brecht's modernist concern with drama-as-a-medium led to his refinement of the 'epic form' of the drama (which constitutes that medium's rendering of 'autonomization' or the 'non-organic work of art'—related in kind to the strategy of divergent chapters in Joyce's novel Ulysses, to Eisenstein's evolution of a constructivist 'montage' in the cinema, and to Picasso's introduction of cubist 'collage' in the visual arts). 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 apparatus of theatrical production 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 Adorno, Lukács, Bloch, and developing a close friendship with 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, while Peter Bürger insists that he is "the most important materialist writer of our time."
As Jameson among others has stressed, "Brecht is also ‘Brecht’"—collective and collaborative working methods were inherent to his approach. This 'Brecht' was 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, and Helene Weigel herself. This is "theatre as collective experiment [...] as something radically different from theatre as expression or as experience."
There are few areas of modern theatrical culture that have not felt the impact or influence of Brecht's ideas and practices; dramatists and directors in whom one may trace a clear Brechtian legacy include: Dario Fo, Augusto Boal, Joan Littlewood, Peter Brook, Peter Weiss, Heiner Müller, Pina Bausch, Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill. In addition to the theatre, Brechtian theories and techniques have exerted considerable sway over certain strands of film theory and cinematic practice; Brecht's influence may be detected in the films of Joseph Losey, Jean-Luc Godard, Lindsay Anderson, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Nagisa Oshima, Ritwik Ghatak, Lars von Trier, Jan Bucquoy and Hal Hartley.
During the war years, Brecht became a prominent writer of the Exilliteratur. He expressed his opposition to the National Socialist and Fascist movements in his most famous plays.
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