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By Ronald Speirs (auth.)

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Additional info for Bertolt Brecht

Sample text

Brecht's attack on Expressionism was conveyed not only through the hero's explicit rejection of the claims of an 'idea' on his loyalty, but also through the form and style of Drums in the Night. Instead of the abstract settings and symbolic figures of the Expressionist drama, Brecht set his play in contemporary Berlin and described the difficulties of an ordinary soldier in adjusting to what he encounters there. His play was also cast in the familiar five-act form, and had a conventional love triangle for its plot.

Within the framework of acknowledged artifice Brecht expected the actors to speak and gesture in a way that they themselves felt to be naturalistic, only occasionally asking for an 'exaggerated form of Expressionism' in certain of Edward's long tirades. 14 Possibly because of the intimate scale of the Kammerspiele stage, Brecht's general prefer- 29 Bertolt Brecht ence was for small, understated gestures, which, precisely because they left things unsaid, were suggestive in effect. Brecht mostly cultivated an indirect approach to emotional matters, often balancing elements of pathos and bathos (as in the hanging of Gaveston) against one another, but this avoidance of Expressionist over-statement had the effect of making the horror of events more rather than less palpable (as the same technique still does in the 'comedies' of Friedrich Diirrenmatt).

Although dashed off quickly to earn some money, The Threepenny Opera was the most popular work Brecht wrote in the Twenties (it still remains very popular today - particularly in the GDR), much more so than the experimental works in which he had invested greater effort and thought. Once he became a Marxist, particularly at first, his experimental plays once again tended to lose touch with the things that keep an audience in their seats. The achievement of the plays of the later Thirties and Forties was to recover the endangered sense of fun and vitality of his early work and harness it to his ideological aims.

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