Ibsen and Brecht the Live Theater Has Essay

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Ibsen and Brecht

The live theater has a way of bringing the audience into the play like no other medium. Watching the actors on stage, the audience members all become voyeurs, who witness the secrets of lives behind closed doors. This is a wonderful thing when telling mysteries or comedies where the audience is asked to become part of the story. In dramas however, the playwright needs the audience to relate to the characters but to do so in a way that the message of the story has more merit than the characters themselves. To accomplish this, the playwright has to use certain techniques that will ensure the audience does not get so involved in the minutiae of the story that they lose the message of the larger picture. Playwrights Bertolt Brecht in "The Good Woman of Szechwan" and Henrik Ibsen in "Hedda Gabbler" use different techniques to achieve the same ends. In Brecht's work, he utilized distancing the audience from the smaller elements of the story and the individual characters in order to send the message of the given social issue expressed to the viewer of the play. Ibsen, antithetically, believed that by drawing the audience into the world of the characters, he could relate his position on a given social issue in a more palatable context.

The moral lesson of Bertolt Brecht's "The Good Woman of Szechwan" is the question about goodness in the world. Specifically, what happens when you find a genuinely good person in a world full of impurity and evil? Can real decency and goodness survive in a world where goodness is unappreciated and, when it is found, it is abused and overused to the point where the person has nothing left? In
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China, a group of gods are searching for goodness in the universe. The only place they have found even a trace of decency and a sense of charity is in the prostitute Shen Te. Only this woman who has almost nothing to offer, except for some shelter and a small amount of food, is willing to share anything at all. Those with the most to give to others are most often the people who are the least likely to share them with the less fortunate. To reward Shen Te and test the nature of her goodness, the gods give her a small amount of money with which she opens a tobacco shop in her village (Brecht). The gods want to see what will happen if you give reward to an individual who has never had disposable income. Being a truly good person, Shen Te uses the tobacco shop to help other people. She allows people to sleep there and she feeds the people who have nothing to eat. What eventually happens is that more and more people go to the tobacco shop to abuse Shen Te's generosity to the point where she has to create a fictional male cousin to get rid of some of the downtrodden. There is much confusion and Shen Te winds up on trial for her own murder. The ending of the play is left completely ambiguous. It is unknown whether or not Shen Te will be punished for the invention of a sterner personality or whether she can even…

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Works Cited:

Brecht, Bertolt. The Good Woman of Szechwan. 1943. Print.

Ibsen, Henrik. Hedda Gabbler. 1891. Print.

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