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Breech’s Theory of Epic Theatre



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    Breech wanted audiences to find political lessons in his drama through the conflict of viewpoints, rather than any blatant ‘message’. Does he achieve this in Mother Courage?! Breeches idea that man and society could be intellectually analyses that led him to develop his theory of “epic theatre. ” Breech believed that theatre should appeal not to the spectator’s feelings but to his reason. While still providing entertainment, it should be strongly didactic and capable of provoking social change.

    In the Realistic theatre of illusion, he argued, the spectator tended to identify with the characters on stage and become emotionally involved with them rather than being stirred to think about his own life (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 1995). Although, the structure of the question must be opposed to due to the political lessons which lead to social, economic and moral issues, are mentioned through conflicting viewpoints that are created from blatant messages and clear transmutation.

    In Breech’s conceptualization of theatre in war he does achieve his didactic view within Mother Courage through the notions of his theatre such as: alienation between the action and the audience to emphasis the importance f movement and dialogue in relation to his view of politics, the emotional detachment set towards the caricatures to understand their oppression on a larger societal scale and the dramatic props and deliberate stage movements to declare forceful reasoning of what Breech is trying to point out.

    These combinations of blatant messages and conflicting viewpoints form an umbrella of political lessons that revolve around the impassive selfishness within the authority figures that lead to an imploding society. ! Breech develops an economical struggle in war from the political oppression in the plays society. He achieves a contrast in scene 2 between the two main individuals in this scene, The General and Life, to distinguish the benefits of having a high hierarchal status in an army and disadvantages of soldiers who merely follow politics.

    By using expensive wine as a prop that expresses the General’s recognition of Lifeless ‘good deed’; and rotten beef which is purposely staged across the sequence, Breech blatantly implies business in war and how an oppressed individual would achieve such admission. Although Lifeless ‘good deed’ was the theft of an oxen from a peasant village, Breech portrays a valued reception of epic theatre by forcing the audience into the reasoning of Lifeless act.

    He does this by having the chef cook this beef for the starving soldiers which causes the audience to resent the idea of being emotionally involved with only the peasant people and instead understand the struggle that the mediocrities as a whole are inclined to. But he does not express this balance of emotion for every caricature; the General is despised by the audience and is not disregarded of the same emotional standpoint that Life is given.

    Instead, his self-flattering, selfishness and ignorance of his soldiers is combined with his hierarchal status o expose the benefits of being important in politics and the unnecessary advantages these individuals don’t deserve. By displaying the differing social classes and placing the caricatures that represent these classes at an opposition within this sequence, Breech has clearly shown the conflicting viewpoints that emphasizes the political lesson of greed and how privilege becomes abused.

    This leads into a shattered society of apathetic leaders and a struggling economy.! Breech focuses on the qualities of epic theatre that make this unconventional way of transmutation effective in resonating with an audiences’ understanding of his diacritics rather than to emotionally connect and lose sight of the message. Voucher (2007) says modern drama is an international movement that is directly against the conventions and institutions of nineteenth century drama.

    Breech upholds this argument in scene 3, where the Cook, Mother Courage and the Chaplain are conversing over their observations of politics. Courage expresses that the authority claims they wage war for “Almighty God and all things bright and beautiful”, but they are actually, “out for all they can get. ” These statements differ extraordinarily by providing he false argument that politics use to draw individuals into the concept of war and, simultaneously, emphasizes the true position of politics in war ? profit.

    In order for the audience to understand this idea, Breech places Mother Courage in a sequence that shows her bargaining in war; the dialogue, “I’m not buying any army goods,” expresses her initial viewpoint that the commodities of war and money making relations involved are unimaginable. But this viewpoint is evidently destroyed due to her fall into the economics of war as she contradicts, “… Well not at that price. These statements assist the audience in visualizing to only an individuals involvement in the business of war, but a societies (and governments) fall into the deprivation that war brings. This is the most important aspect of Breech’s play: that little people cannot profit from a war which runs only for the profit of the greater authorities (Rollways 2005). Once Breech’s didactic view of war, he constantly administers his caricatures to alienate the audience into reasoning with the conditions of the character and to analyses exactly what they are saying and the meaning behind it. By comparing the social classes of war, Breech emphasizes the idea of the minority versus greater authorities and the emotional capacity that these differing classes expend during this era. Within scene 10, near the end of the play, the scene serves as a parable where Breech expects the audience to understand his didactic story and learn the principles involved in the sequence. As Quatrain and Courage pull their cart over near the house of a village peasant, they listen to ‘song of homes’ that the lady sings by her window.

    Specifically, in the second verse, the lyrics read, “when winter winds are freezing… Our home is warm and pleasing” and “happy are those with shelter when winter winds are reeking. ” These lines, written in alliteration and rhyming couplets to be visually and auditorium appealing, are sung as a concept in epic theatre to express the struggle/ issue without engaging in too much emotional attachment and instead focus on the importance of what is said by the caricature.

    In order to contrast the social classes, a diversity between this poverty-stricken woman and the General from scene 2 is evoked for the audience to witness the other side of politics (the damned and desperate of war) and how their behavior in this era is to be thankful for the possessions that remains with them. This creates a grotesque glimpse of the capabilities of political oppression, but more importantly, the individuals affected by these capabilities.

    This scene perpetuates empathy for all of the minorities that face grief but continue to hold their heads high. Moreover, at the extent of this sequence, Quatrain and Courage remain silent after listening to the song which leaves the audience to ponder: what are they thinking? By relating to the woman’s economic and personal struggle by also being poverty- stricken and being forced into the progress and attitude of war (struggle and posing self-morals) their characters are not meant to react, but rather reflect.

    This idea ripples to the society Breech lived in and modern society to appreciate what we have as it could all be taken away so easily. ! It is obvious that Breech has approached political lessons through conflicting viewpoints within Mother Courage and has developed a massive contrast between two social classes on either spectrum of the political movements and the affect they had on the continuation of war. By assessing these classes, Breech has holistically provided the audience with his didactic view of war ? he deprivation of society and the conquest of greed.

    Opposing, to attract an audiences logic and reasoning, Breech amplifies the effects of epic theatre by blatantly providing sequences that express viewpoints which are left to the audience to question or agree with. Breech has described “The Modern Theatre Is the Epic Theatre” in a theoretical piece of his own and is justified when a conscious expression in society manifested into a reaction which, universally, affects all human phases, thoughts and actions (Goldman 2014).

    Breech’s Theory of Epic Theatre. (2018, May 23). Retrieved from

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