Term of Graduation

Spring 1972

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in German


World Languages and Literatures




Brecht, Bertolt, 1898-1956. Gute Mensch von Sezuan.



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 123 leaves, 28 cm.)


Perhaps Bertolt Brecht's most obvious intention in connection with the theater was to help change the economic conditions, under which the people in a capitalistic society live. But, according to him, this could only be possible if the people were to develop a critical attitude and awareness of the contradictions that exist in such a society, in which "exploiters exploit the exploited", to put it in Brecht's straightforward terminology. It was his goal in the theater to help the spectator achieve this critical attitude. However, it was his opinion that this could only be done by rejecting the traditional theater of illusion, in which the spectator identifies completely with the characters and is "manipulated" by the supposed feelings of the hero and by the supposed necessity in the order of occurrences and by the supposed necessity of the occurrences themselves. To be critical means, of course, that not only are the feelings of the spectator involved, but also his thoughts. In order to introduce thought into the spectator, it was necessary for Brecht to break the spectator's illusion that he was participating in the actions on stage and that these actions were real. This led to the most significant of Brecht's theater contributions, which in English is perhaps, best called alienation. Actually, it is more accurate to say that his particular use of this element was his contribution. That is to say that his application of certain illusion-destroying techniques was not simply for aesthetic purposes, but rather for societal purposes. Each of Brecht's "alienations" leads in fact, in the ideal theater situation, to a revealing of some contradiction in the depicted societal conditions. It was my goal in this thesis to analyze the "alienation" as a countermovement to the theatrical illusion. In order to do this, it was necessary to analyze the theatrical illusion as well, which comprises the first part of the thesis. The second part is concentrated on "alienation". On a critical basis of acceptance and rejection of two selected thinkers on the subject of illusion I was able to arrive at a concept of illusion, which would also encompass Brecht's own writings concerning the topic. Since Brecht did not research the concept of illusion in a systematic manner, it was discovered in the course of researching his writings that Brecht was referring to two different phenomena with the same word, "illusion" Further, I discovered that it was possible to divide his "alienation" techniques into two different types, which corresponded to the limitation and hindrance respectively of the two types of illusion. I also attempted to construct a step-by-step process, through which the spectator goes whenever an "alienation" appears in a drama by Brecht. This "alienation-process" begins with application of the "alienation" and proceeds to the hoped for change in society. In the third and last part of the thesis I analyzed the main medium of "alienation" which is the language itself. This was done with the purpose in mind of researching Brecht's "alienation" method where it would be most fruitful. And since I was limited to the written text (a live presentation would reveal less of Brecht than of the director of the play), it was obviously the most appropriate research object for this purpose. In order to simplify it for the reader, I limited by references to specific dramas as much as possible to one play, namely "The Good Woman of Sezuan".


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