The Good Women of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht

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When looking at the story of The Good Woman of Setzuan, written by Bertolt Brecht, it is not easy to tell whether it is a tragedy or a comedy. Although the play has many comedic elements, the general storyline is quite sad and most of the characters end up worse off than they were at the start of the play; although the elements of comedy that Brecht does choose to include are an essential part of the play. Each piece of comedy serves a specific function to broadening the understanding of the message of the play. Through the alienation effect “Brecht desire[s] to make his productions truculently didactic” (Silcox). Brecht feels that when an audience was watching a play they were too complacent and were not absorbing the true meaning of the play. This is why he created the genre of epic theatre. Brecht attempts to alienate the audience through use of stage directions, the element of surprise and through the use of song. This typically works out for although there are instances where this technique falls flat.

Reading Brecht’s stage directions is almost as entertaining as reading the play itself. They are specific and often humorous. This however, is an element of comedy that will only be apparent to the person reading the script as opposed to the usual multimedia elements that are used to alienate the audience. Not always but frequently the reader of a Brecht play is someone who has read other plays and is familiar with typical stage directions. These typical stage directions habitually consist of “spins around in chair” (Wilder 69) and “going back to his bench” (Shaffer 68), while as in The Good Woman of Setzuan they can be long paragraphs and are often snarky. For example, Brecht gives the stage directions to Yang Sung sa...

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...ay. Only rarely do they back fire on him and cause the audience to be so detached from the play that they don’t want to be there anymore. When this is not the case, comedy is a very useful tool to alienate the audience and ultimately get an important message across.

Works Cited

Arts Online. Ministry of Education, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Brecht, Bertolt. The Good Woman of Setzuan. Trans. Eric Bently. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 1999. Print

"Brecht and Artaud." Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT, n.d. Web. 26
Feb. 2014.

Moore, Andrew. "Studying Bertolt Brecht." Universal Teacher: n. pag. Print.

Shaffer, Peter. Equus. New York: Scribner, 2002. Print.

Silcox, Heidi. "What's Wrong with Alienation?" John Hopkins University Press: n. pag. Print

Wilder, Thorton. The Matchmaker. Toronto: Samuel French, 1985. Print.

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