The Caucasian Chalk Circle

by Bertolt Brecht

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Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a play by German playwright Bertolt Brecht (10 February 1898–14 August 1956). It was written in 1944 in the final years of World War II as the Nazis were slowly losing territory. Brecht himself, a committed Marxist, wrote the play while living in exile because of fear of persecution by the Nazis due to his radical politics. The play itself is technically an exemplar of modernism and is philosophically grounded in the works of Karl Marx and especially in a belief in the innate virtues of the oppressed peasantry and proletariat.

By using a frame technique, Brecht deconstructs the illusion of the theater. The frame concerns two quarreling Soviet communes set in the present and the interior or framed play-within-a-play tells a fable concerning a Governor and his wife whose child is left in the care of a peasant Grusha who is the heroine of the play and victim of class and gender oppression. The story of Grusha's eventual triumph is a moral parable showing that the peasant mentality leads to treating people as ends in themselves rather than things to be exploited for profit or power. This moral also has implications, as the Singer argues, for which commune is most deserving of the land based on community values and utility rather than capitalist measures of exploitation.

Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht is an interesting play that reveals to readers a moral lesson. The playwright was a German theater director. The play’s structure is complicated, as the story has many plots. For instance, the first plot involves two Russians settling a disagreement regarding a piece of land. The second plot is about two women fighting for child custody. Some of the themes in the play include political instability and war. By writing the play, the author reveals that sometimes justice does not mean following the law.

Brecht writes the play in chronological order. The play starts with two people making amends about a land disagreement. The two men decide to make a skit, which is about Grusha and Natella. Therefore, the author transitions into other plots in the story without interrupting the flow of his writing. I agree with the author’s sentiments about justice and the importance of using reason in making legal decisions. I found the play interesting, especially since different plots are revealed and connect with each other by the time the story ends.

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