Bertolt Brecht is known for developing a new style
of theatre, a theatre of, what he termed, alienation. He wanted to
distance his audience from the empathy they felt in dramatic theatre
so that they would always remain conscious of the problems the dramatist was
exploring. By keeping them from stepping in the place of the characters, he
felt he could make the human being the object of inquiry.
But there is no easy way to define that style and
no set of consistent characteristics. Richard Gilman in the Making of Modern
Governing everything was Brecht's wish to move the
theatrical spectator away from empathy or identification with the play's
characters, for this put him in the presence of what he already knew and
left consciousness unchanged. Brecht sketched this confirming action of
convention drama and his own developing theater's counteraction in this
The dramatic theater's spectator says: "Yes,
I have felt like that too - just like me - it's only natural - it'll never
change - the sufferings of this man appall me because they are inescapable
- that's great art; it all seems the most obvious thing in the world.
I weep when they weep, I laugh when they laugh.
The epic theatre's spectator says: "I'd never
have thought of it - that's not the way - that's extraordinary, hardly
believable - it's got to stop - the sufferings of this man appall me because
they are unnecessary - that's great art: nothing obvious about it. I laugh
when they weep. I weep when they laugh.
Brecht's style was highly "theatrical." It
attempted to remind the audience they were in a theatre watching a play. He
used signs to let people know where the action took place; he had short self-contained
scenes; he covered vast amounts of time and jumped from location to location
and kept the audience from every seeing the familiar. It celebrated the theatre
itself and made the audience aware that they were watching rather than being
a part of the action. However, many of his plays succeeded because he was
unable to accomplish what he had set out to do - he infact moved the audience
in ways he had not intended.
The introduction in your book points out an important
point: Brecht was not an accurate historian. As Bently says: "History
can be (or appear to be) chaotic and meaningless; drama cannot." For
the purpose of drama is to communicate the vision of the artist - not the
history of a period as it necessarily occurred. And so, Galileo says more
about Brecht than it does about Galileo.
Brecht has strong ideas about the nature of inquiry,
the nature of science and the role of the scientist. As you will read in the
following introduction, his ideas changed and so he wrote his play twice;
once with the idea of celebrating Galileo for his pursuit of truth in the
face of authority which tried to stop him; later vilifying Galileo for betraying
his ideals and not seeing his responsibility as a man of morality and courage.
He gives up his fight and admits to his smallness in the second writing, and
for that, Brecht cannot ever forgive him.
Read Introduction to Galileo