Brecht's Concept of Character


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

From the beginning, Brecht was unable to accept the concept of dramatic character as the ultimate, absolute, and fatedetermining quality which it had been for the traditional European drama, "the drama of Renaissance and classicism," as Peter Szondi called it. He had to reject it because that concept is rooted in the religious and metaphysical idea of an indivisible and eternal soul. As early as the middle '20's man, for Brecht, does not exist as an individual, i.e. as an indivisible and essentially unchangeable person, a point that A Man is a Man tries to make. Yet even earlier, "the student of the natural sciences," as Brecht called himself, had been willing to see the world not as a sum of eternal substances, but as a web of processes. Man could be comprehended not by his soul but by the sum total of his modes of behavior. For the 22-year-old Brecht, character is the sum of the gestures and acts of the figure. For him to know a character meant to view his successive gestures at one and the same time. "When he is to drink beer in your play," the young Augsburg playwright and drama critic advises himself, "then you also have to know how he would eat eggs, read the papers, sleep with his wife and kick the bucket."

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