Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Baal (bahl), a poet, named for a Semitic-Phoenician god. He embodies the vitality and amorality of the fertility principle the god represented. The god’s association with storms and with the life-giving properties of water is reflected in the violence and fleetingness of Baal’s passions. In the moral sphere, Baal is exploitive, murderous, and prone to drunkenness. He is tied to no human or ethical obligation. In the natural sphere, he insists on enjoying the pleasures and richness of the world.


Ekart (EH-kahrt), a composer, a bear of a man who entices Baal to follow him into the forest and become his lover. Although it is his animalistic nature that attracts Baal, he is vulnerable to social ties, as evidenced by his sympathy for and desire to care for Sophie and his commitment to composing a Mass. His resistance to Baal’s domination inevitably provokes the rage in which Baal murders him.

Johannes Schmidt

Johannes Schmidt (yoh-HAHN-nehs shmiht), Baal’s friend, a young man bound by convention and propriety. He cannot consummate his desire for Johanna because he is afraid of her innocence and the social consequences. After her death, he fades into a drunken wraith of his former self.

Johanna Reiher

Johanna Reiher (yoh-HAHN-nah

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bentley, Eric. “Baal.” In The Brecht Commentaries 1943-1980. New York: Grove Press, 1981. Describes Baal as a pleasure-seeker, part monster and part martyr in a world of nothingness. Suggests that the mythic elements in the play will become increasingly important to critical understanding of the play.

Hayman, Ronald. Brecht: A Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Hayman intertwines a study of Brecht’s life with a critical view of his work. Traces the inception of Baal, Brecht’s collaboration with Caspar Neher, and the subsequent revisions of the play.

Hill, Claude. “Praise Ye the Cold, the Darkness, and Corruption!” In Bertolt Brecht. Boston: Twayne, 1975. In this chapter, discussing Baal and five other early works, Hill reveals the influences leading to Brecht’s writing the play and points out that there were multiple drafts, resulting in three distinctly different versions.

Speirs, Ronald. “Baal.” In Critical Essays on Bertolt Brecht, edited by Siegfried Mews. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989. Speirs connects Baal with the cult of vitality and modern paganism as represented by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s Dionysus and the playwright Frank Wedekind’s Lulu. He explores how Baal experiences life’s transience as both a threat of death and a source of pleasure.

Weideli, Walter. “To Live Here.” In The Art of Bertolt Brecht, translated by Daniel Russell. New York: New York University Press, 1963. In Baal Weideli sees Brecht’s dialectical intuition, which links decay to existence and attempts to convert destruction into productive energy. The play, rather than presenting an ideal, follows an example to its absurd conclusion.