The Good Woman of Setzuan has ratings and reviews. In , Hannah Arendt hailed Bertolt Brecht as beyond a doubt the greatest living German p. Dive deep into Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan with extended analysis, The plot of The Good Woman of Setzuan winds through a prologue, ten. Analysis and discussion of characters in Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan.

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For the hundredth anniversary of Bertolt Brecht’s birth born February 10, in Augsburg, died August 14, in Berlinthe theatrical world on all continents celebrates one of twentieth century society’s most implacable critics as well as one of the wetzuan influential poets, dramatists, and essayists of our time.

Born into a bourgeois family and afforded its social advantages, Bertolt Brecht followed the usual educational path reserved for members of his class. Yet he abandoned hrecht medical studies, especially after his service as a medical orderly in a military hospital inan experience which turned him into a radical oof of war and the nationalistic attitudes associated with it, which he saw also as manifestations of capitalism thinly disguised.

Instead, he became a poet and dramatist who saw the theater as the cultural forum most public and thus most well-suited to effecting changes within society. Although Brecht’s early plays such as BaalDrums in the Nightand In the Jungle of Cities show traces of earlier and contemporary literary influences-most notably those of the Expressionist movement and the brechg of Friedrich Nietzsche – and thus are heir to ideas celebrating the individual and individual agency, they already foreshadow his later obsession with the political manifestations of his age and the inextricable links which weld brevht to their historical circumstances.

Brecht’s own life bears witness to this reality. When Hitler’s National-Socialist party came into power inBrecht was on their black list. Despite his successes in the theater, most notably with the Three-Penny Opera, a work written and produced in collaboration with composer Kurt Weill, Brecht went into exile in Switzerland.

However the fully realized drama Saint Joan of the Stockyards, a searing indictment of capitalism as practiced in the Chicago stockyards of the setzusn, can serve both as an apex of this period in Brecht’s oeuvre and a hint of plays to come. From Switzerland Brecht and his family – which by then included his wife Helene Weigel, his son Stefan, and his daughter Barbara – fled to Denmark where they stayed until From Denmark the family once again was forced to flee to Sweden, then to Finland, and in to the United States via Moscow to settle in San Pedro, California where they stayed until During these troubled years of exile and wandering, Brecht wrote some of his most enduring and best known plays, including womwn play Gooc Good Woman of Szechuan and Mother Courage lf Her Children But life in the United States also proved difficult for Brecht: Inin what was to become East Berlin, Brecht and his ensemble of actors and directors were given their own theater where he continued to create the theatrical work that has been so enormously influential becht world over.


The Theater am Schiffsbauerdamm, also known as vood Berliner Ensemble, still in existence today in the reunited Berlin, continues to keep Brecht’s theatrical legacy alive, albeit in his spirit of adapting to aesthetic and societal changes.

The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht

The theoretical impact Brecht had on the theater of the twentieth century cannot be overestimated. His concept of “epic theater” constitutes a major departure form the principles of traditional Aristotelian theater. Epic theater, setzuann combines narration with enactment, breaks the illusion which is woma the core of traditional theater. Even though Brecht understood that theater had to be fun and pleasurable for the audience, he was not interested in passive consumption and simple enjoyment.

He compared illusionistic theater to opium consumption: Instead, he wanted to challenge the viewers to think, analyze, and act in the interests of social change. Thus the key term defining Brechtian theater is the Verfremdungseffekt or “alienation effect.

Brecht proposed several breht to change radically the audience’s involvement in the theatrical experience. We no longer need to woma with characters in a drama, nor must we vicariously live their story, Brecht insisted. On the contrary, we must keep a cool and critical distance in order to be able to judge the actions of fictional women and men by the highest ethical standards.

We, the audience, are encouraged to decide whether we setxuan or disapprove of characters’ actions and decisions, and we are encouraged to contemplate alternative plots and decisions. To make these intellectual judgments, we are no longer kept in suspense, nor should we empathize or sympathize with the characters.

The Good Woman of Setzuan

Thus actors might abandon their assigned roles and tell us what they are about to do, or some signs and titles might come up on stage as useful pointers and directions. Aware at all times that we are in a theater, watching a play that is presented by actors who are clearly not identical to the characters, the audience is provoked to confront the problems presented, and to participate in finding solutions. The Wu Wei Theater of Frankfurt has based its work on Brecht’s epic theater and it is thus most appropriate to celebrate Brecht’s Centennial with their performance of one of his most popular and most challenging plays.

Angelika Sieburg and Andreas Wellano have worked together in the epic mode since They founded the Wu Wei theater in Frankfurt in They perform both classic contemporary plays and also write and create their own plays. Others, the active audience, react to our performance by forming or revising opinions, by contrasting their experiences with ours, by offering both positive and negative criticism.

In rbecht elaboration of Brecht’s Epic Theater we reach back to the very simplest method goox theater – playful creativity and the pleasure found in communicating individual experiences to others. Our theater draws its vitality from the continuous surprises for actors and audience. Wu Wei is “to be able to achieve a state of doing by not doing. Sieburg and Wellano play the characters, but mostly they play themselves working through the play, figuring out how to present it, involving the audience in the process of its performance.


The first thing to note about this play is that the English translation of its title is misleading: The play takes place in the capital of the Chinese province of Szechuan. On the outskirts of the city, Wang the water carrier is awaiting the much rumored arrival of several important gods. He wants to be the first to greet and welcome them to the city. When the gods indeed arrive, they ask Wang to find them an abode for the night.

They are tired, have traveled far and wide in search of good people who still live by their gpod. Instead they have found only greed, evil, dishonesty, and selfishness. The same turns out to be true in Szechuan: Shen Te is rewarded for her goodness. The gods’ gift of a small tobacco shop is at the same time a test: In spite of, or perhaps because of, her inherent generosity and goodness, Shen Te fails the test. Or rather, her neighbors’ and friends’ inordinate need and greed, and the brutality with which even those closest to her take advantage of her, force her to invent an alter ego who might protect her: At first, Shui Ta only comes in when Brdcht Te is desperate but soon, unable to keep up with the demands made on her, and overwhelmed by the promises she makes to others, she has to bring him around for days and weeks until he threatens to take over her entire personality.

Shui Ta is cold and calculating, Shen Te soft, loving and vulnerable. But only Shui Ta is made for the world in which they live. In the final judgment of Shui Ta, the gods are confronted with the circumstances they have created but in which they refuse to intervene structurally. At the end, it is the audience who is asked to find a solution to Shen Te’s problems. How can a good person come to a good end? What in society might we change to invent a happy ending to this story?

Brecht and the Wu Wei Theater invite us to think with them about this.

In our production we have, following Brecht’s notion, created such a narrator. In fact, we have created not only one but two narrators. They will interrupt the action, and thus the illusion of “being there,” and they will guide the non-German-speaking audience through the play. Addendum by Monika Totten.