The Caucasian Chalk Circle

by Bertolt Brecht

Other authorsEric Bentley (Editor)
Paper Book, 1965






New York, Grove Press [1966, c1965]


Few authors have had such a dramatic effect as Bertolt Brecht. His work has helped to shape a generation of writers, theatergoers, and thinkers. His plays are studied worldwide as texts that changed the face of theater.The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a parable inspired by the Chinese play Chalk Circle. Written at the close of World War II, the story is set in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. It retells the tale of King Solomon and a child claimed by and fought over by two mothers. But this chalk circle is metaphorically drawn around a society misdirected in its priorities. Brecht's statements about class are cloaked in the innocence of a fable that whispers insistently to the audience.No translations of Brecht's work are as reliable and compelling as Eric Bentley's. These versions are widely viewed as the standard renderings of Brecht's work, ensuring that future generations of readers will come in close contact with the work of a playwright who introduced a new way of thinking about the theater.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
This play was great! I never knew Brecht could be such a humanist! I liked how it seemed like a real adventure, and you could imagine it taking place in a real painted wooden outdoors instead of on a stupid set. I liked how there were twists and turns and heartwarming young lovers with the politics! My favourite character was Azdak, though. The ending was a big challenge for me--if you're pro-revolution, you have to be okay with people getting their shit taken away, and not all those people will be the enemy--some will be the ones Brecht mentions, the ones who shelter under the big people's wings. I mean hell, that's me, and ... you? If you work a job in this economy and want to live your politics, instead of just talk about them, you're playing with fire.* And yet fire's all that warms our tired proletarian hearts! Gee whiz, Brecht really brings it all home with this one. Gewöhnungseffekt.

*(An alternative metaphor, given the subject matter of the play, would have been "stealing a baby.")
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LibraryThing member jorgearanda
One of the weaker works of Brecht. Good writing spoiled by a demagogic treatment of the topic.
LibraryThing member bhowell
Despite the content of this play, I can't help but feel romantic about this treasured little book of which we have two. On one of my first dates with my husband in 1980 we went to this play and I found when we moved in together we had the same copy of this book. As you can see I have kept them. The play is brilliant of course, and considered today , how history has changed!… (more)
LibraryThing member ex_ottoyuhr
I think everyone who's read this book knows Brecht, and everyone who hasn't read it should. _The Caucasian Chalk Circle_ is of course a play -- 'book' is a little inaccurate -- which, in the process of being extremely good, shows just how much greater Brecht the writer was than Brecht the theoretician. Epic theater, to hear Brecht describe it, sounds downright inaccessible and unfriendly; to hear him _write_ it, it's like a dream, infinitely _superior_ to the naturalistic plays of earlier modern times.

(And I may never get an answer to this, at least in this context, but did anyone else pick up a massive 'early SNES RPG' vibe from this book? _This_ is the style and atmosphere that the likes of _Final Fantasy 4_ and _A Link to the Past_ were *trying*, and failing, to produce...)
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LibraryThing member Alabala
The start of the play was so boring. The actual interest started after the narration of the story of the tale about the child. I liked the judgement and the judge , but my winner character is Grusha. The simple hearted girl who took care of the baby so well against all odds. I really get amused at the narration of the character of governor's wife Natella , her love for gowns and i also derived fun from the description of her doctors. I do not understand the implication of the "caucasian" in the title. Never mind, I liked the plot and treatment too.… (more)
LibraryThing member AliceAnna
Brilliant, but nonetheless not even remotely my cup of tea. The main characters are compelling yet two-dimensional characters. More or less purely symbolic with little of interest to me.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
When the sharks the sharks devour
Little fishes have their hour.

This might be the Master at his finest, remarkably both modern and ancient, timeless parables are bracketed in the struggle against fascists with an all too human squalor that likely made Stalin squeal.

The play within the play is apparently from an ancient Chinese tale, it proved unexpectedly surprising. Grusha is a wonderful, highly developed protagonist, unlike the Portia of Venice, her motivation isn't guile but an almost childish concept of loyalty and justice. No doubt Brecht embraced this unlikely refuge even as the world around him was collapsing into barbarism. The title refers to the Chinese story of a judge placing a child in a chalked circle and the two women claiming to be the mother are asked to remove the child, the nominal reason being that only the true parent could extricate the young one. As the reasoning goes the judge awards the child to the woman who didn't attempt to remove the child for fear of harming it. This is replicated by Brecht with certain human caveats about the stewards of justice and the greasing of palms.
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