Epic Existentialism In Bertolt Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle

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Epic Existentialism in Bertolt Brecht 's "Caucasian Chalk Circle" On the heels of Friedrich Nietzsche 's infamous statement "God is dead," which seemed to be affirmed by the horrors of World War II, some scientists and philosophers have attempted to explain away the idea of an almighty, benevolent God. With the sudden unpopularity of religious belief, some intellectuals began to theorize alternative meanings for life, suffering and the desire for justice. One such theory, known as existentialism, was conceptualized by Jean-Paul Sartre, and adopted by artists like Bertolt Brecht. The premise of existentialism is that human beings give meaning to their own lives by their actions. It is the belief that there is no external force manipulating …show more content…
Sokalski cites "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" as one of the few Brechtian plays which purposefully evokes strong emotions from the audience. When Brecht wrote this play, he had begun to see the effectiveness of using emotion to evoke thought, though he did not see emotional reactions as an end in itself. Therefore, in "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," Brecht creates complex characters, whose attitudes and behavior are consistent in their inconsistency. These characters are recognizable as abstract archetypes but are not necessarily likeable. Additionally, Brecht devises a chorus whose repetition of lines remind the audience that the voice of a poet speaks through the actors. Perhaps most importantly, "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" reflects the abuse of money, power and law in Brecht 's society following World War II. Rather than offering concrete solutions to avarice, violence, and vanity, the structure and devices of the play encourage critical thinking in the audience. While watching characters experience universal emotions, the audience may reflect on some of the ways they could change their own lives, by changing their behaviors. The goal of Brechtian theatre is to move observers to think critically about social justice issues, and to act in accordance with the conclusions they reach. The first device Brecht uses to provoke thought in his play "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" is called …show more content…
This traitorous assassination marked the beginning of the war, yet none of the children seem to understand the social, political and familial ramifications of the event. In fact, the youngest child Michael Abashwili, is completely unaware that the "man" he pretends to "behead" is in actuality his late father, Georgi. Michael 's adoptive mother, Grusha looks on fondly as the children play. It is apparent that she has no qualms about her son playing make-believe war, even though he unwittingly re-lives the very events which endangered his own life, and that of his family. It is important to note that Brecht 's audience in 1944 would be acutely aware of the real war occurring in their own country. Thus, this scene serves to remind the audience that fictional stories depicting war are in many ways a crude tribute to (even a parody of) tragic real-life events. Brecht does not offer the audience an escape from the hardships and horrors of the war. Instead, Brecht forces war to the forefront of his play, adding a Storyteller and a Chorus to comment on the action as it

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