Brecht – Who Was He?

The now-famous man was born in Augsburg, Germany on the 10th of February 1898. He grew up in a middle-classed family with his brother Walter Brecht who was born a year after him. He had a standard childhood, he went to school and trained to become a doctor, during high school WWI broke out, he was enlisted.

WWI – In 1914 he was taken to the front line to work as a medical orderly where he was to look after and treat the injured as well as preparing dead bodies, he went out into no man’s land to pick up body pieces, where he would resemble them back to together. The things he saw and had to go through made him a firm disbeliever in wars.

After his terrible experience in war, he stopped practicing medicine and went towards art, poetry and music. His work was centered around the horrors of war, he stood strongly for anti-war, seeing it as a complete waste of human life, he produced a lot of anti-war material.

Although he fought in WWI, he didn’t fight in WWII, he fled Germany at the beginning of the second world war and headed to America. After WWII had finished he left the United States in 1947 and returned to East Berlin where he and his actress wife Helene Weigel formed their own theatre troupe, named the Berliner Ensemble, they were eventually given a state theatre to run. Brecht was the one that made people aware of the 4th wall, the one the audience uses to watch the actors, he was the first person to smash the boundaries that it held and speak directly to the audience.

He is also famous for making the audience think for themselves, he didn’t focus on realism, he liked abstract, having the audience look for what is trying to be said and decide for themselves, seeing what they make of it. A brilliant point to make, with so many people blindly following others into war, you can suggest he wanted people to become more critical with their thinking, to question the things they see and not take them at face value. He wanted to educate his audience not tell just them a fake story that they’ll forget after a couple of days. He also wanted each scene to exist independently, having the audience work out how they go together.

A lot of the women he was involved with helped write some of his plays, in some cases a lot of his plays, this could explain why the female roles were so well written, but he almost never gave them any credit for doing so. He’s written books like Jungle of Cities, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Galileo, along with plays like Mother Courage and Her Children, The Threepenny Opera, The Good Person of Szechwan and many more.

Brecht married twice, first to Marianne Zoff and then to Helene Weigel, he had 4 children over his lifetime, including two sons and two daughters, he also had at least two grandchildren, one of whom is definitely alive today, Johanna Schall who is also an actor who’s appeared in 24 films and TV shows.

Brecht’s story ended on the 14th of August 1956 in East Berlin but his legacy is far from over.

Image Credit

Oliver Walkey

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