The Caucasian Chalk Circle

by Bertolt Brecht

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

As the poet Mayakovsky said: "The home of the Soviet people shall be the home of Reason"!

The play that comprises the bulk of The Caucasian Chalk Circle is actually a play within a play, staged to help persuade the people of the valley to participate in an agricultural project. The statement that the home of the Soviet people shall be the home of reason is largely sincere and is part of a larger dialogue about the courage of the Soviet troops in World War II, the suffering people endured, and the plans the workers made during the war to make this area more fertile once the Germans were defeated. Ordinary people, including women, are seen as capable and worthy. However, there is a touch of irony in this exultation of rationalism, since we are about to see a play in which in emotion plays a strong role.

O blindness of the great!
They go their way like gods,
Great over bent backs,
Sure of hired fists,
Trusting in the power
Which has lasted so long.
But long is not forever.
O change from age to age!
Thou hope of the people!

This speech accompanies action in which a quarrel between powerful people leads to the governor's arrest. The ordinary people are indifferent to his fate, which is stated to be execution. The speech above speaks to the way arrogance blinds the great, and it celebrates the idea that change comes and the mighty fall. This is called the "hope of the people." Not surprisingly, Brecht takes the side of the underdog, the ordinary person.

When the houses of the great collapse
Many little people are slain.
Those who have no share in the fortunes of the mighty
Often have a share in their misfortunes.

The optimism of the second quote quickly gives way to the realization that the common people suffer when change comes to the great. Ordinary people may not share in the good fortune of the powerful, but they often share in their troubles.

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