For the hundredth anniversary of Bertolt Brecht's birth born February 10, in Augsburg, died August 14, in Berlin , the theatrical world on all continents celebrates one of twentieth century society's most implacable critics as well as one of the most influential poets, dramatists, and essayists of our time. Born into a bourgeois family and afforded its social advantages, Bertolt Brecht followed the usual educational path reserved for members of his class. Yet he abandoned his medical studies, especially after his service as a medical orderly in a military hospital in , an experience which turned him into a radical opponent of war and the nationalistic attitudes associated with it, which he saw also as manifestations of capitalism thinly disguised. Instead, he became a poet and dramatist who saw the theater as the cultural forum most public and thus most well-suited to effecting changes within society. Although Brecht's early plays such as Baal , Drums in the Night , and In the Jungle of Cities show traces of earlier and contemporary literary influences-most notably those of the Expressionist movement and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche - and thus are heir to ideas celebrating the individual and individual agency, they already foreshadow his later obsession with the political manifestations of his age and the inextricable links which weld individuals to their historical circumstances.
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I cannot tell what occured: Goodness to others and to myself could not both be achieved. The play was extremely depressing in the beginning but gradually it grew on me. The drudgery of society and it's people is portrayed brilliantly. A "good" woman who is forced to survive through any means necessary. Shen Teh's growth as. Shen Teh's growth as an individual was interesting to watch. Of course if you want a happy ending, you should keep in mind it is a modernist play.
Otherwise it is a short and interesting read. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving….
Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Eric Bentley Translator. In , Hannah Arendt hailed Bertolt Brecht as "beyond a doubt the greatest living German poet and possibly the greatest living European playwright.
During the thirties, the subversive nature of his work sent Brecht from Germany to Scandinavia and later to the United States. The Good Woman of Setzuan, written during Brecht's exile and set in Communist China, is a parable of a young woman torn between obligation and reality, between love and practicality, and between her own needs and those of her friends and neighbors.
Adhering closely to the original German text, this is a performance-friendly translation of one of Brecht's most popular plays. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published November 15th by University of Minnesota Press first published More Details Original Title. Wang , Shen Te , Shui Ta. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about The Good Woman of Setzuan , please sign up. Is this book abridged or unabridged version? See 1 question about The Good Woman of Setzuan…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Good Woman of Setzuan. Opening with a monologue from a water seller Wang , who is waiting for the Gods on the impoverished streets of a city outskirts, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that not only is this a Brecht play, but also it's setting is the far east Chinese Culture being something that fascinated him.
Taking you inside the too often unexamined lives of common folk, petty criminals and outcasts living out a life of brutalising poverty is nothing new to him. But with The Good Person of Setzuan, there is an artistic adventurousness that adds something different to the melting pot. The play, like other works of his, still remains pessimistic, but dazzles nonetheless.
Coming from an era when the author was creating parables for the stage, productions that invite you to consider such issues as how economics affect life decisions and how power is surrendered and wielded.
With a perception that everyone requires such a dual or split personality to survive an ever present harsh world environment. This is a story of the streets, not the sort of streets I would want to wander around any time soon.
Most of the action taking place in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. The prostitute, Shen Tei, has a soul like that of a blossoming flower. She wants to become something beautiful, to someone or something. But her kindness is not predicated on giving as good as she gets. Rather, she gives because sharing is a natural art, just like when she paints her mouth bright red to attract male clientele.
She is the only one in Szechwan who offers the Gods a place to stay after Wang assures them that Szechwan is just the kind of town that will refute their notion that a good person is a rare thing. As a reward, the Gods give their hostess a small amount of money.
With it, Shen Tei opens a modest tobacco shop and life seems to take shape for the better. But always lurking is a battle of faith, and of good and evil, that tips the apple cart. How can she survive as a new and honest person, play straight in a corrupt world of ruthlessness, without her former hard self to help get her through?. Brecht insisted the mechanics of making theatre should always be exposed, so audiences would be made aware of how the theatre sought to manipulate them. He rejected with contempt the popular notion that the chief aim of the theatre was to create empathy.
He wanted his audience to think and act critically about their situation, inside the theatre and beyond it's walls. Critiquing capitalism is an underlying theme here, and the tightly-knit text made for a thought-provoking read.
The briskly paced bare bones nature that cuts to the gist of the story in this and his other plays, was always likely to provoke a response and get people talking from whomever attended it's theatrical production, just as Brecht would have wanted it. The fact he stuck the finger up to Nazi repression and carried on regardless makes me like him that extra bit more.
Not only as a Playwright, but as a person. The world we are introduced to in The Good Person of Szechwan is a grim one, and the premise is almost allegory: Is it possible to be a good and selfless person when everyone else is bad? Pragmatism and idealism clash in this work, in a way that questions them both. Three unnamed gods are looking for a good human being.
If we can find only one good person, a person that is able to live a decent life, they tell us, then the world is saved. And they seem to find one: Shen Te, a poor woman living i The world we are introduced to in The Good Person of Szechwan is a grim one, and the premise is almost allegory: Is it possible to be a good and selfless person when everyone else is bad?
And they seem to find one: Shen Te, a poor woman living in Szechwan. They decide to give her some money and keep an eye on her to see how she gets along.
The only thing Shen Te wants, is to be unconditionally good. This inevitably leads her to be tricked and exploited.
But even when she sees it coming, she can't help herself. If somebody asks her for something, she gives it. She borrows money for her rent but ends up giving it away. She feeds more people than she can afford to, without them giving back in any way. She finds joy in helping others, and suffers when they suffer.
But the world she lives in does not condone that type of goodness. It is a world of poverty, pollution and exploitation. You cannot be good and live a decent life here - not when you have to choose between stealing or starving. You can only build up a decent quality of life for yourself by being pretty strict and ruthless to others. Even Shen Te expresses fatigue with trying to be good, and loses her faith in people.
First, she is good because she believes in the good in others. Later on, she is good or tries to be , in spite of knowing that people will just take advantage. As she gets exploited time and time again, Shen Te needs to deal with it somehow.
This is when she view spoiler ["invents" a cousin, Shui Ta, to swoop in and take care of all the dirty work. Dressing up as a man, and inventing another persona for herself, meek, idealistic Shen Te is suddenly capable of being stern and pragmatic.
Her plan is to use this alter ego only when it is absolutely necessary, but unfortunately, it often is. Shui Ta tells people to pay back what they owe, to get a job, or just to scram. His ruthlessness makes it possible to slowly achieve something in life, instead of just giving stuff away. One must not only be a good person, but make a decent living for oneself being that good person.
And neither Shen Te, nor Shui Ta, can do both. What Brecht alludes to throughout the play, is the premise or condition - the kind of world we are living in.
In Shen Te's world, goodness and selflessness cannot to survive and prosper.
The Good Woman of Setzuan
Although Brecht worked on the idea behind the play as early as the late s, it was primarily written from in various European countries and the United States while in exile from his native Germany during World War II. Brecht tried to get Good Person produced in the United States in , but the play did not make its debut until February 4, , at the Schauspielhaus Zurich, in Zurich, Switzerland. The play was produced throughout Europe in the s. Paul , Minnesota, in Many American colleges and universities put on the play after this date. The play has continued to be performed throughout the world to the present day, in part because it seems to be a modern parable about a basic human issue: how to be a good person in an imperfect, money-centered, class-divided society.
The Good Person of Szechwan
The play begins with a monologue by Wong , the water seller. He explains to the audience that he has heard that a few of the highest-ranking gods are on their way to the city of Setzuan. They have heard the people of the world complaining about life, so they are coming to deal with it. He is waiting at the gate of the city to greet them when they arrive. Soon, the three gods appear and Wong recognizes them immediately. He tries to find them a place to stay, but everyone keeps rejecting them. Finally, Shen Te the prostitute agrees.
The Theatre: “Good Person of Szechwan”
Most, if not all, traditional theatre grows out of conflict and hidden or spoken intentions, most of them bad—the better to generate some kind of narrative thrust, truth-telling, and, at the end of the play, comeuppance. But her kindness is not predicated on giving as good as she gets. Rather, she gives because sharing is as natural to her as her red, painted mouth. Indeed, Shen Tei is the only one in Szechwan who offers the Gods Vinie Burrows, Annie Golden, and Mia Katigbak a place to stay after Wang, the water seller David Turner , assures them that Szechwan is just the kind of town that will refute their notion that a good person is a rare thing. As a matter of fact, the Gods—resplendent in white wigs and white summer dresses and picture hats—had despaired of ever finding such a person until they met Shen Tei who, being good, objects to most praise.