Article Title

Brecht's Alienated Actor in Beckett's Theater


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

The relationship between Brecht and Beckett is a study of correspondences rather than of influence or ready imitation. As J. H. Matthews has recently suggested, one can speak of precedence and possible borrowing, similarities in the orchestration of dramatic structure, but not similar reasons for manipulating it in oomparable ways.1 The interplay flows from Brecht to Beckett, from Beckett back to Brecht again. Before he died in 1956, Brecht wanted to adapt Waiting for Godot by socially anchoring the characters and their lines; in the Marxist counterplay Gogo would become a worker, Didi an intellectual, Pozzo a large landowner.2 In 1971 Peter Palitsch, once Brecht's student, finally produced a Brechtian Godot, complete with gestus and estrangement.3 The round poem which Didi recites at the opening of Act II is not only recycled by Beckett into The Unnamable, but used as an acting exercise by Brecht as well:

A dog went into the kitchen

And stole an egg from the cook.

The cook took his cleaver

And cut the dog in two.

The other dogs came

And dug him a grave

And put on it a headstone

With the following epitaph:

A dog went into the kitchen...

Substituting an egg for Beckett's crust of a bread and a cleaver for Didi's ladle, Brecht's version of the traditional eight-liner is to be recited each time as it might be said by a different character in a different situation. The exercise of repeating the Rundgedichte, wrote Brecht, might be useful in learning the fixation of a method of portrayal.4

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