What is the difference between Brecht’s style of drama and Ibsen’s?
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Ibsen is usually used as the model for domestic realism, in which characters are depicted realistically, well within the psychological bounds of reason, acting out their domestic problems in domestic settings, whose symbolic connection to social inequities, etc. is implied but subtle—Nora Helmer or Hedda Gabler are believable characters in their familiar domestic surroundings. Brecht differs from realism in two important respects: first, he is more interested in political inequalities and problems than simple domestic ones. Thus, Mutter Courage und Ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children), while superficially dramatizing a domestic problem, is actually dramatizing the larger problem of war, especially its connection to commerce. Second, Brecht never wants his audience to forget that they are in the theatre—an opposite motive from the realism of Ibsen, who wanted the audience to believe they were in the Gabler house, etc. The method Brecht used to distance the audience from the performance—exaggeration, breaking into song, costumes and dialogue to one side of the ordinary, etc.—was given a name—Verfremdungseffekt – meaning alienation effect. So the political message and the non-naturalistic dramatization separated Ibsen from Brecht.
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