The Life of Galileo Bertolt Brecht

Topics: Galileo Galilei, Life of Galileo, Bertolt Brecht Pages: 86 (35877 words) Published: October 28, 2012
The Life of Galileo Bertolt Brecht Foreword Two SCENES, numbered 5 and 10 in the original version, are omitted from this edition of The Life of Galileo to reduce it to manageable length for students. A reader can follow the theme of the play clearly enough without them; on the other hand, what they contribute to its background, in the panic-stricken atmosphere of the plague and the wild hilarity of the carnival, needs stage presentation, even more than most of the other scenes, for its full effect. Like nearly all plays, this one is written to he seen and heard. The best way to treat the text is to give it a first reading straight through, trying to visualize the scenes as they follow each other. This should give a clear impression of its main intention. The commentary will then fill in the information that is needed to understand it more fully. For miscellaneous information in the commentary and textual notes, the editor is indebted chiefly to Ronald Grey’s Brecht in the ‘Writers and Critics’ series (Oliver & Boyd, 1961), to The Copernican Revolution by Thomas S. Kuhn (Random House, New York, 1959), and to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and for some useful suggestions to David McCutchion, Reader in Comparative Literature at the University of Jadavpur. A.G. S.

A NOTE ON BERTOLT BRECHT was born at Augsberg in 1898. He was educated, like most middle-class German boys, at primary and secondary school, and studied science for less than a year at Munich University before he was called up in 1918 for service as a medical orderly in the First World War. He came home in 1919 to a Germany that was defeated and badly disorganized. From the beginning his sympathies were with the communists. Even more .certainly, if we are to judge from his work, he was against the rising Nazi BERTOLT BRECHT

movement; but he was a creative artist more than a politician-Like Shakespeare, Brecht was a man of the theatre from the beginning of his career. In 1920 he was a kind of dramatic adviser to a leading Munich theatre, and worked with some of the greatest and’ most original producers of the century. He produced several plays of his own, which always met with angry criticism because of their political pessimism, but The Three penny Opera, in 1928, was an outstanding success. This play is an up-to-date version of The Beggars’ Opera, a famous eighteenth-century English musical play by John Gay. Gay had used the highwaymen and shady characters of the London underworld to satirize leading politicians: Brecht turns the play into a skit on capitalist society. It is both grim and gay. With catchy tunes and quotable phrases Brecht celebrates the attitude of the unheroic ordinary man—half exasperated, half amused, and altogether disillusioned—when times have been too hard and political morality too low for too many years. His next plays were more pointedly communist in flavour. The Mother (1932) is based on a novel of Maxim Gorky’s about a working-class woman in the Russian revolution. It was too effective for the Nazis, who came to power early in the following year. All Brecht’s work was banned in Germany, and he himself and his family had to get out of the country. In 1933 he settled in Denmark, but in 1939, when the Second World War was beginning, he got a visa for the United States, and went there, travelling eastward so as to take a look at the U.S.S.R. on the way. He lived in the U.S.A. till the war was over and Europe was beginning to recover; then, in 1949, he settled down in East Germany, and stayed there, except for occasional visits abroad, for the rest of his life. In Berlin he built up a dramatic company, the Berliner Ensemble, to try out his own ideas of dramatic production, and in 1954 the authorities gave him the use of a theatre to experiment in. In 1956, just when his company had arranged a visit to London, he died in Berlin of coronary thrombosis. Brecht wrote in German, and not all his work has yet been translated into English. He...
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