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This chapter explores in particular the 'greek presence' in the small organon, as manifested in the form of greek tragedy and/or its theorist aristotle. This is embedded within a broader analysis of this key work as a fundamenal contribution to theatre theory. New archival material in the form of brecht's type-written inserts into his personal copy of aristotle's 'poetics' is published for the first time and discussed in detail.
The brechtian tragic is inconceivable without the brechtian comic. Virtually no brecht play lacks a strong comic dimension, covering the whole range of the genre (parody, commedia, slapstick, clown etc.). Brechtian tragi-comedies call for special attention in this context, and this chapter contains detailed analyses of the resistible rise of arturo ui as well as the fragmentary, aristophanes-inspired pluto revue.
This wide-ranging, detailed and engaging study of Brecht's complex relationship with Greek tragedy and tragic tradition argues that this is fundamental for understanding his radicalism. Featuring an extensive discussion of The Antigone of Sophocles (1948) and further related works (the Antigone model book and the Small Organon for the Theatre), this monograph includes the first-ever publication of the complete set of colour photographs taken by Ruth Berlau. This is complemented by comparatist explorations of many of Brecht's own plays as his experiments with tragedy conceptualized as the 'big form'. The significance for Brecht of the Greek tragic tradition is positioned in relation to other formative influences on his work (Asian theatre, Naturalism, comedy, Schiller and Shakespeare). Brecht emerges as a theatre artist of enormous range and creativity, who has succeeded in re-shaping and re-energizing tragedy and has carved paths for its continued artistic and political relevance.
The significance of the model book, which developed out of the 1948 production of the antigone, far exceeds its immediate context. Like the production which it is based on, it is an exemplary case study for brecht's novel kind of theatre in its dramaturgical, actorial and directorial dimensons. The diverging format of the two editions of the model book and their significance are discussed. The chapter concludes with a plea for re-inventing the model book format.
Natualism is the closest other for brecht and therefore required the strongest differentiation. As a particularly empathy-driven form of theatre, it provoked particularly polemical responses from him which in turn also helped brecht to articulate his own ideas more clearly.
This chapter situates brecht's conception of greece relative to his notions of asia and his use of the asian theatre traditions, in particular japanese noh theatre. This other other supplied brecht with crucial technical ideas but also served as the pure and uncompromised theatre tradition which was uniformly positively connoted.
The 'genius' shakespeare has a unique position for brecht and continues to be one of his (few) life-long artistic companions. Of particular interest here is brecht's adaptation of shakespeare's coriolanus, including his translation, which shows remarkable poetic skills but also points to ways of overcoming the tragic impasse and traditonal tragedy's (unproductive) focus on the (disposable) individual by showing the transformational power of collectives.