|Born||Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht
10 February 1898
Augsburg, Bavaria, German Empire
|Died||14 August 1956
East Berlin, East Germany
|Occupation||Playwright, theatre director, poet|
|Genre||Epic theatre · Non-Aristotelian drama|
Eugen Bertolt Friedrich Brecht (//; German: [bʀɛçt]; 10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director of the 20th century. He made contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter through the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble – the post-war theatre company operated by Brecht and his wife, long-time collaborator and actress Helene Weigel.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Theory and practice of theatre
- 3 Impact
- 4 Brecht in fiction, drama and film
- 5 Collaborators and associates
- 6 Works
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Primary sources
- 10 Secondary sources
- 11 External links
Life and career
Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (as a child known as Eugen) was born in February 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria, the son of Berthold Friedrich Brecht (1869–1939) and his wife Sophie, née Brezing (1871–1920). Brecht's mother was a devout Protestant and his father a Catholic (who had been persuaded to have a Protestant wedding). The modest house where he was born is today preserved as a Brecht Museum. His father worked for a paper mill, becoming its managing director in 1914. Thanks to his mother's influence, Brecht knew the Bible, a familiarity that would have a lifelong effect on his writing. From her, too, came the "dangerous image of the self-denying woman" that recurs in his drama. Brecht's home life was comfortably middle class, despite what his occasional attempt to claim peasant origins implied. At school in Augsburg he met Caspar Neher, with whom he formed a lifelong creative partnership. Neher designed many of the sets for Brecht's dramas and helped to forge the distinctive visual iconography of their epic theatre.
When Brecht was 16, the First World War broke out. Initially enthusiastic, Brecht soon changed his mind on seeing his classmates "swallowed by the army". On his father's recommendation, Brecht sought a loophole by registering for a medical course at Munich University, where he enrolled in 1917. There he studied drama with Arthur Kutscher, who inspired in the young Brecht an admiration for the iconoclastic dramatist and cabaret-star Frank Wedekind.
From July 1916, Brecht's newspaper articles began appearing under the new name "Bert Brecht" (his first theatre criticism for the Augsburger Volkswille appeared in October 1919). Brecht was drafted into military service in the autumn of 1918, only to be posted back to Augsburg as a medical orderly in a military VD clinic; the war ended a month later.
Some time in either 1920 or 1921, Brecht took a small part in the political cabaret of the Munich comedian Karl Valentin. Brecht's diaries for the next few years record numerous visits to see Valentin perform. Brecht compared Valentin to Charlie Chaplin, for his "virtually complete rejection of mimicry and cheap psychology". Writing in his Messingkauf Dialogues years later, Brecht identified Valentin, along with Wedekind and Büchner, as his "chief influences" at that time:
- But the man he learnt most from was the clown Valentin, who performed in a beer-hall. He did short sketches in which he played refractory employees, orchestral musicians or photographers, who hated their employers and made them look ridiculous. The employer was played by his partner, Liesl Karlstadt, a popular woman comedian who used to pad herself out and speak in a deep bass voice.
Brecht's first full-length play, Baal (written 1918), arose in response to an argument in one of Kutscher's drama seminars, initiating a trend that persisted throughout his career of creative activity that was generated by a desire to counter another work (both others' and his own, as his many adaptations and re-writes attest). "Anyone can be creative," he quipped, "it's rewriting other people that's a challenge." Brecht completed his second major play, Drums in the Night, in February 1919.
Between November 1921 and April 1922 Brecht made acquaintance with many influential people in the Berlin cultural scene. Amongst them was the playwright Arnolt Bronnen with whom he established a joint venture, the Arnolt Bronnen / Bertolt Brecht Company. Brecht changed the spelling of his first name to Bertolt to rhyme with Arnolt.
In 1922 while still living in Munich, Brecht came to the attention of an influential Berlin critic, Herbert Ihering: "At 24 the writer Bert Brecht has changed Germany's literary complexion overnight"—he enthused in his review of Brecht's first play to be produced, Drums in the Night—"[he] has given our time a new tone, a new melody, a new vision. [...] It is a language you can feel on your tongue, in your gums, your ear, your spinal column." In November it was announced that Brecht had been awarded the prestigious Kleist Prize (intended for unestablished writers and probably Germany's most significant literary award, until it was abolished in 1932) for his first three plays (Baal, Drums in the Night, and In the Jungle, although at that point only Drums had been produced). The citation for the award insisted that:
[Brecht's] language is vivid without being deliberately poetic, symbolical without being over literary. Brecht is a dramatist because his language is felt physically and in the round.
In 1923, Brecht wrote a scenario for what was to become a short slapstick film, Mysteries of a Barbershop, directed by Erich Engel and starring Karl Valentin. Despite a lack of success at the time, its experimental inventiveness and the subsequent success of many of its contributors have meant that it is now considered one of the most important films in German film history. In May of that year, Brecht's In the Jungle premiered in Munich, also directed by Engel. Opening night proved to be a "scandal"—a phenomenon that would characterize many of his later productions during the Weimar Republic—in which Nazis blew whistles and threw stink bombs at the actors on the stage.
In 1924 Brecht worked with the novelist and playwright Lion Feuchtwanger (whom he had met in 1919) on an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II that proved to be a milestone in Brecht's early theatrical and dramaturgical development. Brecht's Edward II constituted his first attempt at collaborative writing and was the first of many classic texts he was to adapt. As his first solo directorial début, he later credited it as the germ of his conception of "epic theatre". That September, a job as assistant dramaturg at Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater—at the time one of the leading three or four theatres in the world—brought him to Berlin.
Weimar Republic Berlin (1925–33)
In 1923 Brecht's marriage to Zoff began to break down (though they did not divorce until 1927). Brecht had become involved with both Elisabeth Hauptmann and Helene Weigel. Brecht and Weigel's son, Stefan, was born in October 1924.
In his role as dramaturg, Brecht had much to stimulate him but little work of his own. Reinhardt staged Shaw's Saint Joan, Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters (with the improvisational approach of the commedia dell'arte in which the actors chatted with the prompter about their roles), and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author in his group of Berlin theatres. A new version of Brecht's third play, now entitled Jungle: Decline of a Family, opened at the Deutsches Theater in October 1924, but was not a success.
|In the asphalt city I'm at home. From the very start|
|Provided with every last sacrament:|
|With newspapers. And tobacco. And brandy|
|To the end mistrustful, lazy and content.|
|Bertolt Brecht, "Of Poor BB".|
At this time Brecht revised his important "transitional poem", "Of Poor BB". In 1925, his publishers provided him with Elisabeth Hauptmann as an assistant for the completion of his collection of poems, Devotions for the Home (Hauspostille, eventually published in January 1927). She continued to work with him after the publisher's commission ran out.
In 1925 in Mannheim the artistic exhibition Neue Sachlichkeit ("New Objectivity") had given its name to the new post-Expressionist movement in the German arts. With little to do at the Deutsches Theater, Brecht began to develop his Man Equals Man project, which was to become the first product of "the 'Brecht collective'—that shifting group of friends and collaborators on whom he henceforward depended." This collaborative approach to artistic production, together with aspects of Brecht's writing and style of theatrical production, mark Brecht's work from this period as part of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement. The collective's work "mirrored the artistic climate of the middle 1920s," Willett and Manheim argue:
with their attitude of Neue Sachlichkeit (or New Matter-of-Factness), their stressing of the collectivity and downplaying of the individual, and their new cult of Anglo-Saxon imagery and sport. Together the "collective" would go to fights, not only absorbing their terminology and ethos (which permeates Man Equals Man) but also drawing those conclusions for the theatre as a whole which Brecht set down in his theoretical essay "Emphasis on Sport" and tried to realise by means of the harsh lighting, the boxing-ring stage and other anti-illusionistic devices that henceforward appeared in his own productions.
In 1925, Brecht also saw two films that had a significant influence on him: Chaplin's The Gold Rush and Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Brecht had compared Valentin to Chaplin, and the two of them provided models for Galy Gay in Man Equals Man. Brecht later wrote that Chaplin "would in many ways come closer to the epic than to the dramatic theatre's requirements." They met several times during Brecht's time in the United States, and discussed Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux project, which it is possible Brecht influenced.
In 1926 a series of short stories was published under Brecht's name, though Hauptmann was closely associated with writing them. Following the production of Man Equals Man in Darmstadt that year, Brecht began studying Marxism and socialism in earnest, under the supervision of Hauptmann. "When I read Marx's Capital", a note by Brecht reveals, "I understood my plays." Marx was, it continues, "the only spectator for my plays I'd ever come across." Inspired by the developments in USSR Brecht wrote a number of agitprop plays, praising the bolshevik collectivism (replaceability of each member of the collective in Man Equals Man) and red terror (The Decision). As Herbert Lüthy commented on this period of Brecht's work:
Brecht was not attracted by the workers' movement—with which he was never acquainted—but by a profound need of total authority, of total submission to a total power, the immutable, hierarchical Church of the new Byzantine state, based on the infallibility of its chief— Herbert Lüthy, Du Pauvre Bertold Brecht. 1953
|For us, man portrayed on the stage is significant as a social function. It is not his relationship to himself, nor his relationship to God, but his relationship to society which is central. Whenever he appears, his class or social stratum appears with him. His moral, spiritual or sexual conflicts are conflicts with society.|
|Erwin Piscator, 1929.|
In 1927 Brecht became part of the "dramaturgical collective" of Erwin Piscator's first company, which was designed to tackle the problem of finding new plays for its "epic, political, confrontational, documentary theatre". Brecht collaborated with Piscator during the period of the latter's landmark productions, Hoppla, We're Alive! by Toller, Rasputin, The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik, and Konjunktur by Lania. Brecht's most significant contribution was to the adaptation of the unfinished episodic comic novel Schweik, which he later described as a "montage from the novel". The Piscator productions influenced Brecht's ideas about staging and design, and alerted him to the radical potentials offered to the "epic" playwright by the development of stage technology (particularly projections). What Brecht took from Piscator "is fairly plain, and he acknowledged it" Willett suggests:
The emphasis on Reason and didacticism, the sense that the new subject matter demanded a new dramatic form, the use of songs to interrupt and comment: all these are found in his notes and essays of the 1920s, and he bolstered them by citing such Piscatorial examples as the step-by-step narrative technique of Schweik and the oil interests handled in Konjunktur ('Petroleum resists the five-act form').
Brecht was struggling at the time with the question of how to dramatize the complex economic relationships of modern capitalism in his unfinished project Joe P. Fleischhacker (which Piscator's theatre announced in its programme for the 1927–28 season). It wasn't until his Saint Joan of the Stockyards (written between 1929–1931) that Brecht solved it. In 1928 he discussed with Piscator plans to stage Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Brecht's own Drums in the Night, but the productions did not materialize.
1927 also saw the first collaboration between Brecht and the young composer Kurt Weill. Together they began to develop Brecht's Mahagonny project, along thematic lines of the biblical Cities of the Plain but rendered in terms of the Neue Sachlichkeit's Amerikanismus, which had informed Brecht's previous work. They produced The Little Mahagonny for a music festival in July, as what Weill called a "stylistic exercise" in preparation for the large-scale piece. From that point on Caspar Neher became an integral part of the collaborative effort, with words, music and visuals conceived in relation to one another from the start. The model for their mutual articulation lay in Brecht's newly formulated principle of the "separation of the elements", which he first outlined in "The Modern Theatre Is the Epic Theatre" (1930). The principle, a variety of montage, proposed by-passing the "great struggle for supremacy between words, music and production" as Brecht put it, by showing each as self-contained, independent works of art that adopt attitudes towards one another.
Brecht formed a writing collective which became prolific and very influential. Elisabeth Hauptmann, Margarete Steffin, Emil Burri, Ruth Berlau and others worked with Brecht and produced the multiple teaching plays, which attempted to create a new dramaturgy for participants rather than passive audiences. These addressed themselves to the massive worker arts organisation that existed in Germany and Austria in the 1920s. So did Brecht's first great play, Saint Joan of the Stockyards, which attempts to portray the drama in financial transactions.
This collective adapted John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, with Brecht's lyrics set to music by Kurt Weill. Retitled The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) it was the biggest hit in Berlin of the 1920s and a renewing influence on the musical worldwide. One of its most famous lines underscored the hypocrisy of conventional morality imposed by the Church, working in conjunction with the established order, in the face of working-class hunger and deprivation:
Erst kommt das Fressen
First the grub (lit. "eating like animals, gorging")
The success of The Threepenny Opera was followed by the quickly thrown together Happy End. It was a personal and a commercial failure. At the time the book was purported to be by the mysterious Dorothy Lane (now known to be Elisabeth Hauptmann, Brecht's secretary and close collaborator). Brecht only claimed authorship of the song texts. Brecht would later use elements of Happy End as the germ for his Saint Joan of the Stockyards, a play that would never see the stage in Brecht's lifetime. Happy End's score by Weill produced many Brecht/Weill hits like "Der Bilbao-Song" and "Surabaya-Jonny".
The masterpiece of the Brecht/Weill collaborations, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny), caused an uproar when it premiered in 1930 in Leipzig, with Nazis in the audience protesting. The Mahagonny opera would premier later in Berlin in 1931 as a triumphant sensation.
Brecht spent the last years of the Weimar-era (1930–1933) in Berlin working with his "collective" on the Lehrstücke. These were a group of plays driven by morals, music and Brecht's budding epic theatre. The Lehrstücke often aimed at educating workers on Socialist issues. The Measures Taken (Die Massnahme) was scored by Hanns Eisler. In addition, Brecht worked on a script for a semi-documentary feature film about the human impact of mass unemployment, Kuhle Wampe (1932), which was directed by Slatan Dudow. This striking film is notable for its subversive humour, outstanding cinematography by Günther Krampf, and Hanns Eisler's dynamic musical contribution. It still provides a vivid insight into Berlin during the last years of the Weimar Republic. The so-called "Westend Berlin Scene" in the 1930 was an important influencing factor on Brecht, playing in a milieu around Ulmenallee in Westend with artists like Richard Strauss, Marlene Dietrich and Herbert Ihering.
By February 1933, Brecht’s work was eclipsed by the rise of Nazi rule in Germany.
Nazi Germany and World War II (1933–45)
Fearing persecution, Brecht left Germany in February 1933, just after Hitler took power. After brief spells in Prague, Zurich and Paris he and Weigel accepted an invitation from journalist and author Karin Michaëlis to move to Denmark in the spring. The family first stayed with Karin Michaëlis at her house on the small island of Thurø close to the island of Funen. They later bought their own house in Svendborg on the island of Funen. This house located at Skovsbo Strand 8 in Svendborg became the residence of the Brecht family for the next six years, where they often received guests including Walter Benjamin, Hanns Eisler and Ruth Berlau. During this period Brecht also travelled frequently to Copenhagen, Paris, Moscow, New York and London for various projects and collaborations.
When war seemed imminent in April 1939, he moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where he remained for a year. After Hitler invaded Norway and Denmark, Brecht left Sweden for Helsinki, Finland, where he lived and waited for his visa for the United States until 3 May 1941. During this time he wrote the play Mr Puntila and his Man Matti (Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti) with Hella Wuolijoki, with whom he lived in Marlebäck.
During the war years, Brecht became a prominent writer of the Exilliteratur. He expressed his opposition to the National Socialist and Fascist movements in his most famous plays: Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and Her Children, The Good Person of Szechwan, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, and many others.
Brecht also wrote the screenplay for the Fritz Lang-directed film Hangmen Also Die!  which was loosely based on the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Reich Protector of the German-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, number-two man in the SS, and a chief architect of the Holocaust, who was known as "The Hangman of Prague." Hanns Eisler was nominated for an Academy Award for his musical score. The collaboration of three prominent refugees from Nazi Germany – Lang, Brecht and Eisler – is an example of the influence this generation of German exiles had on American culture.
Hangmen Also Die! was Brecht's only script for a Hollywood film. The money he earned from writing the film enabled him to write The Visions of Simone Machard, Schweik in the Second World War and an adaptation of Webster's The Duchess of Malfi.
Cold War and final years in East Germany (1945–56)
In the years of the Cold War and "Red Scare", Brecht was blacklisted by movie studio bosses and interrogated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Along with about 41 other Hollywood writers, directors, actors and producers, he was subpoenaed to appear before the HUAC in September 1947. Although he was one of 19 witnesses who declared that they would refuse to appear, Brecht eventually decided to testify. He later explained that he had followed the advice of attorneys and had not wanted to delay a planned trip to Europe. On the 30th of October 1947 Brecht testified that he had never been a member of the Communist Party. He made wry jokes throughout the proceedings, punctuating his inability to speak English well with continuous references to the translators present, who transformed his German statements into English ones unintelligible to himself. HUAC Vice Chairman Karl Mundt thanked Brecht for his co-operation. The remaining witnesses, the so-called Hollywood Ten, refused to testify and were cited for contempt. Brecht's decision to appear before the committee led to criticism, including accusations of betrayal. The day after his testimony, on 31 October, Brecht returned to Europe.
In Chur in Switzerland, Brecht staged an adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone, based on a translation by Hölderlin. It was published under the title Antigonemodell 1948, accompanied by an essay on the importance of creating a "non-Aristotelian" form of theatre. An offer of his own theatre (completed in 1954) and theatre company (the Berliner Ensemble) encouraged Brecht to return to Berlin in 1949. He retained his Austrian nationality (granted in 1950) and overseas bank accounts from which he received valuable hard currency remittances. The copyrights on his writings were held by a Swiss company. At the time he drove a pre-war DKW car—a rare luxury in the austere divided capital.
Though he was never a member of the Communist Party, Brecht had been schooled in Marxism by the dissident communist Karl Korsch. Korsch's version of the Marxist dialectic influenced Brecht greatly, both his aesthetic theory and theatrical practice. Brecht received the Stalin Peace Prize in 1954.
Brecht wrote very few plays in his final years in East Berlin, none of them as famous as his previous works. He dedicated himself to directing plays and developing the talents of the next generation of young directors and dramaturgs, such as Manfred Wekwerth, Benno Besson and Carl Weber. At this time he wrote some of his most famous poems, including the "Buckow Elegies".
At first Brecht apparently supported the measures taken by the East German government against the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany, which included the use of Soviet military force. In a letter from the day of the uprising to SED First Secretary Walter Ulbricht, Brecht wrote that: "History will pay its respects to the revolutionary impatience of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. The great discussion [exchange] with the masses about the speed of socialist construction will lead to a viewing and safeguarding of the socialist achievements. At this moment I must assure you of my allegiance to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany."
Brecht's subsequent commentary on those events, however, offered a very different assessment—in one of the poems in the Elegies, "Die Lösung" (The Solution), a disillusioned Brecht writes:
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Brecht died on 14 August 1956 of a heart attack at the age of 58. He is buried in the Dorotheenstädtischer cemetery on Chausseestraße in the Mitte neighbourhood of Berlin, overlooked by the residence he shared with Helene Weigel.
According to Stephen Parker, who reviewed Brecht's writings and unpublished medical records, Brecht contracted rheumatic fever as a child, which led to an enlarged heart, followed by lifelong chronic heart failure and Sydenham's chorea. A report of a radiograph taken of Brecht in 1951 describes a badly diseased heart, enlarged to the left with a protruding aortic knob and with seriously impaired pumping. Brecht's colleagues described him as being very nervous, and sometimes shaking his head or moving his hands erratically. This can be reasonably attributed to Sydenham's chorea, which is also associated with emotional lability, personality changes, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and hyperactivity, which matched Brecht's behavior. "What is remarkable," wrote Parker, "is his capacity to turn abject physical weakness into peerless artistic strength, arrhythmia into the rhythms of poetry, chorea into the choreography of drama."
Theory and practice of theatre
From his late twenties Brecht remained a lifelong committed Marxist who, in developing the combined theory and practice of his "epic theatre", synthesized and extended the experiments of Erwin Piscator and Vsevolod Meyerhold to explore the theatre as a forum for political ideas and the creation of a critical aesthetics of dialectical materialism.
Epic Theatre proposed that a play should not cause the spectator to identify emotionally with the characters or action before him or her, but should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the action on the stage. Brecht thought that the experience of a climactic catharsis of emotion left an audience complacent. Instead, he wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective in order to recognise social injustice and exploitation and to be moved to go forth from the theatre and effect change in the world outside. For this purpose, Brecht employed the use of techniques that remind the spectator that the play is a representation of reality and not reality itself. By highlighting the constructed nature of the theatrical event, Brecht hoped to communicate that the audience's reality was equally constructed and, as such, was changeable.
Brecht's modernist concern with drama-as-a-medium led to his refinement of the "epic form" of the drama. This dramatic form is related to similar modernist innovations in other arts, including the strategy of divergent chapters in James Joyce's novel Ulysses, Sergei Eisenstein's evolution of a constructivist "montage" in the cinema, and Picasso's introduction of cubist "collage" in the visual arts.
One of Brecht's most important principles was what he called the Verfremdungseffekt (translated as "defamiliarization effect", "distancing effect", or "estrangement effect", and often mistranslated as "alienation effect"). This involved, Brecht wrote, "stripping the event of its self-evident, familiar, obvious quality and creating a sense of astonishment and curiosity about them". To this end, Brecht employed techniques such as the actor's direct address to the audience, harsh and bright stage lighting, the use of songs to interrupt the action, explanatory placards, the transposition of text to the third person or past tense in rehearsals, and speaking the stage directions out loud.
In contrast to many other avant-garde approaches, however, Brecht had no desire to destroy art as an institution; rather, he hoped to "re-function" the theatre to a new social use. In this regard he was a vital participant in the aesthetic debates of his era—particularly over the "high art/popular culture" dichotomy—vying with the likes of Adorno, Lukács, Ernst Bloch, and developing a close friendship with Benjamin. Brechtian theatre articulated popular themes and forms with avant-garde formal experimentation to create a modernist realism that stood in sharp contrast both to its psychological and socialist varieties. "Brecht's work is the most important and original in European drama since Ibsen and Strindberg," Raymond Williams argues, while Peter Bürger dubs him "the most important materialist writer of our time."
Brecht was also influenced by Chinese theatre, and used its aesthetic as an argument for Verfremdungseffekt. Brecht believed, "Traditional Chinese acting also knows the alienation [sic] effect, and applies it most subtly.... The [Chinese] performer portrays incidents of utmost passion, but without his delivery becoming heated." Brecht attended a Chinese opera performance and was introduced to the famous Chinese opera performer Mei LanFang in 1935. However, Brecht was sure to distinguish between Epic and Chinese theatre. He recognized that the Chinese style was not a "transportable piece of technique," and that Epic theatre sought to historicize and address social and political issues.
Brecht used his poetry to criticize European culture, including Nazis, and the German bourgeoisie. Brecht's poetry is marked by the effects of the First and Second World Wars. Many of the poems take a Marxist outlook, celebrating the defeat of a capitalist system.
Throughout his theatric production, poems are incorporated into this plays with music. In 1951, Brecht issued a recantation of his apparent suppression of poetry in his plays with a note titled On Poetry and Virtuosity. He writes:
We shall not need to speak of a play's poetry ... something that seemed relatively unimportant in the immediate past. It seemed not only unimportant, but misleading, and the reason was not that the poetic element had been sufficiently developed and observed, but that reality had been tampered with in its name ... we had to speak of a truth as distinct from poetry ... we have given up examining works of art from their poetic or artistic aspect, and got satisfaction from theatrical works that have no sort of poetic appeal ... Such works and performances may have some effect, but it can hardly be a profound one, not even politically. For it is a peculiarity of the theatrical medium that it communicates awarenesses and impulses in the form of pleasure: the depth of the pleasure and the impulse will correspond to the depth of the pleasure.
Brecht's most influential poetry is featured in his Manual of Piety (Devotions), establishing him as a noted poet.
Brecht's widow, the actress Helene Weigel, continued to manage the Berliner Ensemble until her death in 1971. Perhaps the most famous German touring theatre of the postwar era, it was primarily devoted to performing Brecht's plays.
Besides being an influential dramatist and poet, some scholars have stressed the significance of Brecht's original contributions in political and social philosophy.
Brecht's collaborations with Kurt Weill have had some influence in rock music. The "Alabama Song" for example, originally published as a poem in Brecht's Hauspostille (1927) and set to music by Weill in Mahagonny, has been recorded by The Doors, on their self-titled debut album, as well as by David Bowie and various other bands and performers since the 1960s.
Brecht in fiction, drama and film
- In the 1930 novel Success, Brecht's mentor Lion Feuchtwanger immortalized Brecht as the character Kaspar Pröckl.
- Brecht appears as a character in Christopher Hampton's play Tales from Hollywood, first produced in 1982, dealing with German expatriates in Hollywood at the time of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings on supposed Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry and the beginning of the Hollywood blacklist.
- The 2000 German film Abschied – Brechts letzter Sommer (The Farewell), directed by Jan Schütte, depicts Brecht (Josef Bierbichler) shortly before his death, attended to by Helene Weigel (Monica Bleibtreu) and two former lovers.
- In the 2006 film The Lives of Others, a Stasi agent played by Ulrich Mühe is partially inspired to save a playwright he has been spying on by reading a book of Brecht poetry that he had stolen from the artist's apartment. In particular, the poem "Reminiscence of Marie A.") is read.
- Brecht at Night by Mati Unt, transl. Eric Dickens (Dalkey Archive Press, 2009)
- In the Günter Grass play The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising (1966), Brecht appears as "The Boss", rehearsing his version of Shakespeare's Coriolanus against the background of worker unrest in Berlin in 1953.
- In the 1999 film Cradle Will Rock Brecht appears as an inspiration to Marc Blitzstein.
- The 2013 film Witness 11 draws upon historical events exploring the justice-thirsty courtroom through the eyes of Brecht as he is called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
- In the 2013 Italian film Viva la libertà the Brecht poem To a Waverer forms the text for an important and moving speech.
- In the 2014 novel Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon, Brecht appears as a cynical returnee to Soviet Berlin, lauded by the authorities as a symbol of communist German culture and willing to ignore moral issues to pursue his art.
Collaborators and associates
Collective and collaborative working methods were inherent to Brecht's approach, as Fredric Jameson (among others) stresses. Jameson describes the creator of the work not as Brecht the individual, but rather as 'Brecht': a collective subject that "certainly seemed to have a distinctive style (the one we now call 'Brechtian') but was no longer personal in the bourgeois or individualistic sense." During the course of his career, Brecht sustained many long-lasting creative relationships with other writers, composers, scenographers, directors, dramaturgs and actors; the list includes: Elisabeth Hauptmann, Margarete Steffin, Ruth Berlau, Slatan Dudow, Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Paul Dessau, Caspar Neher, Teo Otto, Karl von Appen, Ernst Busch, Lotte Lenya, Peter Lorre, Therese Giehse, Angelika Hurwicz, Carola Neher and Helene Weigel herself. This is "theatre as collective experiment [...] as something radically different from theatre as expression or as experience."
List of collaborators and associates
- Karl von Appen
- Walter Benjamin
- Eric Bentley
- Ruth Berghaus
- Ruth Berlau
- Berliner Ensemble
- Benno Besson
- Arnolt Bronnen
- Emil Burri
- Ernst Busch
- Paul Dessau
- Slatan Dudow
- Hanns Eisler
- Erich Engel
- Erwin Faber
- Lion Feuchtwanger
- Therese Giehse
- Alexander Granach
- Elisabeth Hauptmann
- Paul Hindemith
- Oskar Homolka
- Angelika Hurwicz
- Herbert Ihering
- Fritz Kortner
- Fritz Lang
- Wolfgang Langhoff
- Charles Laughton
- Lotte Lenya
- Theo Lingen
- Peter Lorre
- Joseph Losey
- Ralph Manheim
- Carola Neher
- Caspar Neher
- Teo Otto
- G. W. Pabst
- Erwin Piscator
- Margarete Steffin
- Carl Weber
- Helene Weigel
- Kurt Weill
- John Willett
- Hella Wuolijoki
- Stories of Mr. Keuner (Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner)
- Threepenny Novel (Dreigroschenroman, 1934)
- The Business Affairs of Mr. Julius Caesar (Die Geschäfte des Herrn Julius Caesar, 1937–39, unfinished, published 1957)
Plays and screenplays
Entries show: English-language translation of title (German-language title) [year written] / [year first produced]
- Baal 1918/1923
- Drums in the Night (Trommeln in der Nacht) 1918–20/1922
- The Beggar (Der Bettler oder Der tote Hund) 1919/?
- A Respectable Wedding (Die Kleinbürgerhochzeit) 1919/1926
- Driving Out a Devil (Er treibt einen Teufel aus) 1919/?
- Lux in Tenebris 1919/?
- The Catch (Der Fischzug) 1919?/?
- Mysteries of a Barbershop (Mysterien eines Friseursalons) (screenplay) 1923
- In the Jungle of Cities (Im Dickicht der Städte) 1921–24/1923
- The Life of Edward II of England (Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England) 1924/1924
- Downfall of the Egotist Johann Fatzer (Der Untergang des Egoisten Johnann Fatzer) (fragments) 1926–30/1974
- Man Equals Man also A Man's A Man (Mann ist Mann) 1924–26/1926
- The Elephant Calf (Das Elefantenkalb) 1924–26/1926
- Little Mahagonny (Mahagonny-Songspiel) 1927/1927
- The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) 1928/1928
- The Flight across the Ocean (Der Ozeanflug); originally Lindbergh's Flight (Lindberghflug) 1928–29/1929
- The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent (Badener Lehrstück vom Einverständnis) 1929/1929
- Happy End (Happy End) 1929/1929
- The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny) 1927–29/1930
- He Said Yes / He Said No (Der Jasager; Der Neinsager) 1929–30/1930–?
- The Decision/The Measures Taken (Die Maßnahme) 1930/1930
- Saint Joan of the Stockyards (Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe) 1929–31/1959
- The Exception and the Rule (Die Ausnahme und die Regel) 1930/1938
- The Mother (Die Mutter) 1930–31/1932
- Kuhle Wampe (screenplay, with Ernst Ottwalt) 1931/1932
- The Seven Deadly Sins (Die sieben Todsünden der Kleinbürger) 1933/1933
- Round Heads and Pointed Heads (Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe) 1931–34/1936
- The Horatians and the Curiatians (Die Horatier und die Kuriatier) 1933–34/1958
- Fear and Misery of the Third Reich (Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches) 1935–38/1938
- Señora Carrar's Rifles (Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar) 1937/1937
- Life of Galileo (Leben des Galilei) 1937–39/1943
- How Much Is Your Iron? (Was kostet das Eisen?) 1939/1939
- Dansen (Dansen) 1939/?
- Mother Courage and Her Children (Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder) 1938–39/1941
- The Trial of Lucullus (Das Verhör des Lukullus) 1938–39/1940
- The Judith of Shimoda (Die Judith von Shimoda) 1940
- Mr Puntila and his Man Matti (Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti) 1940/1948
- The Good Person of Szechwan (Der gute Mensch von Sezuan) 1939–42/1943
- The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui) 1941/1958
- Hangmen Also Die! (credited as Bert Brecht) (screenplay) 1942/1943
- The Visions of Simone Machard (Die Gesichte der Simone Machard ) 1942–43/1957
- The Duchess of Malfi 1943/1943
- Schweik in the Second World War (Schweyk im Zweiten Weltkrieg) 1941–43/1957
- The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Der kaukasische Kreidekreis) 1943–45/1948
- Antigone (Die Antigone des Sophokles) 1947/1948
- The Days of the Commune (Die Tage der Commune) 1948–49/1956
- The Tutor (Der Hofmeister) 1950/1950
- The Condemnation of Lucullus (Die Verurteilung des Lukullus) 1938–39/1951
- Report from Herrnburg (Herrnburger Bericht) 1951/1951
- Coriolanus (Coriolan) 1951–53/1962
- The Trial of Joan of Arc of Proven, 1431 (Der Prozess der Jeanne D'Arc zu Rouen, 1431) 1952/1952
- Turandot (Turandot oder Der Kongreß der Weißwäscher) 1953–54/1969
- Don Juan (Don Juan) 1952/1954
- Trumpets and Drums (Pauken und Trompeten) 1955/1955
- The Modern Theatre Is the Epic Theatre (1930)
- The Threepenny Lawsuit (Der Dreigroschenprozess) (written 1931; published 1932)
- The Book of Changes (fragment also known as Me-Ti; written 1935–1939)
- The Street Scene (written 1938; published 1950)
- The Popular and the Realistic (written 1938; published 1958)
- Short Description of a New Technique of Acting which Produces an Alienation Effect (written 1940; published 1951)
- A Short Organum for the Theatre ("Kleines Organon für das Theater", written 1948; published 1949)
- The Messingkauf Dialogues (Dialogue aus dem Messingkauf, published 1963)
Brecht wrote hundreds of poems throughout his life. He began writing poetry as a young boy, and his first poems were published in 1914. His poetry was influenced by folk-ballads, French chansons, and the poetry of Rimbaud and Villon.
Some of Brecht's poems
- A Bad Time for Poetry
- Alabama Song
- Children's Crusade
- Children's Hymn
- Contemplating Hell
- From a German War Primer
- Honored Murderer of the People
- How Fortunate the Man with None
- Hymn to Communism
- I Never Loved You More
- I want to Go with the One I Love
- I'm Not Saying Anything Against Alexander
- In Praise of Illegal Work
- In Praise of the Work of the Party
- Mack the Knife
- My Young Son Asks Me
- Not What Was Meant
- O Germany, Pale Mother!
- On Reading a Recent Greek Poet
- On the Critical Attitude
- Questions from a Worker Who Reads
- Radio Poem
- Reminiscence of Marie A.
- Send Me a Leaf
- Solidarity Song
- The Book Burning (The Burning of the Books)
- The Exile of the Poets
- The Invincible Inscription
- The Mask of Evil
- The Sixteen-Year-Old Seamstress Emma Ries before the Magistrate
- The Solution
- To Be Read in the Morning and at Night
- To Posterity
- To the Students and Workers of the Peasants' Faculty
- To Those Born After
- United Front Song
- War Has Been Given a Bad Name
- What Has Happened?
- Brecht, Random House Unabridged Dictionary
- "Brecht, Bertolt: definition of Brecht, Bertolt in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)".
- "Brecht", yourdictionary.com
- "Britannica". Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- The introduction of this article draws on the following sources: Banham (1998, 129); Bürger (1984, 87–92); Jameson (1998, 43–58); Kolocotroni, Goldman and Taxidou (1998, 465–466); Williams (1993, 277–290); Wright (1989, 68–89; 113–137).
- "Brecht-Weigel-Gedenkstätte-Chausseestraße 125-10115 Berlin-Akademie der Künste - Akademie der Künste - Berlin".
- Thomson (1994).
- Thomson (1994, 22–23). See also Smith (1991).
- See Brecht's poem "Of Poor B.B." (first version, 1922), in Brecht (2000b, 107–108).
- Thomson (1994, 24) and Sacks (xvii).
- Thomson (1994, 24). In his Messingkauf Dialogues, Brecht cites Wedekind, along with Büchner and Valentin, as his "chief influences" in his early years: "he," Brecht writes of himself in the third person, "also saw the writer Wedekind performing his own works in a style which he had developed in cabaret. Wedekind had worked as a ballad singer; he accompanied himself on the lute." (1965, 69). Kutscher was "bitterly critical" of Brecht's own early dramatic writings (Willet and Manheim 1970, vii).
- Thomson (1994, 24) and Willett (1967, 17).
- Willett and Manheim (1970, vii).
- Sacks (1994, xx) and McDowell (1977).
- McDowell (2000).
- Willett and Manheim 1970, x.
- Brecht (1965, 69–70).
- Quoted in Thomson (1994, 25).
- Herbert Ihering's review for Drums in the Night in the Berliner Börsen-Courier on 5 October 1922. Quoted in Willett and Manheim (1970, viii–ix).
- See Thomson and Sacks (1994, 50) and Willett and Manheim (1970, viii–ix).
- Herbert Ihering, quoted in Willett and Manheim (1970, ix).
- McDowell (1977).
- Culbert (1995).
- Thomson (1994, 26–27), Meech (1994, 54–55).
- Meech (1994, 54–55) and Benjamin (1983, 115). See the article on Edward II for details of Brecht's germinal 'epic' ideas and techniques in this production.
- Brecht was recommended for the job by Erich Engel; Carl Zuckmayer was to join Brecht in the position. See Sacks (1994, xviii), Willett (1967, 145), and Willett and Manheim (1970, vii).
- Ewen (1967, 159) and Völker (1976, 65).
- Thomson (1994, 28).
- Hayman (104) and Völker (1976, 108).
- According to Willett, Brecht was disgruntled with the Deutsches Theater at not being given a Shakespeare production to direct. At the end of the 1924–1925 season, both his and Carl Zuckmayer's (his fellow dramaturg) contracts were not renewed. (Willett 1967, 145). Zuckmayer relates how: "Brecht seldom turned up there; with his flapping leather jacket he looked like a cross between a lorry driver and a Jesuit seminarist. Roughly speaking, what he wanted was to take over complete control; the season's programme must be regulated entirely according to his theories, and the stage be rechristened 'epic smoke theatre', it being his view that people might actually be disposed to think if they were allowed to smoke at the same time. As this was refused him he confined himself to coming and drawing his pay." (Quoted by Willett 1967, 145).
- Willett (1967, 145).
- Willett and Manheim (1979, viii).
- Willett and Manheim point to the significance of this poem as a marker of the shift in Brecht's work towards "a much more urban, industrialized flavour" (1979, viii).
- Willett and Manheim (1979, viii, x).
- Willett and Manheim (1979, viii); Joel Schechter writes: "The subjugation of an individual to that of a collective was endorsed by the affirmations of comedy, and by the decision of the coauthors of Man is Man (Emil Burri, Slatan Dudow, Caspar Neher, Bernhard Reich, Elisabeth Hauptmann) to call themselves 'The Brecht Collective'." (1994, 74).
- Willett (1978).
- Willett and Manheim (1979, viii–ix).
- Willett and Manheim (1979, xxxiii).
- Schechter (1994, 68).
- Brecht (1964, 56).
- Schechter (1994, 72).
- Sacks (1994, xviii).
- Thomson (1994, 28–29).
- Brecht (1964, 23–24).
- Erwin Piscator, "Basic Principles of a Sociological Drama" in Kolocotroni, Goldman and Taxidou (1998, 243).
- Willett (1998, 103) and (1978, 72). In his book The Political Theatre, Piscator wrote: "Perhaps my whole style of directing is a direct result of the total lack of suitable plays. It would certainly not have taken so dominant form if adequate plays had been on hand when I started" (1929, 185).
- Willett (1978, 74).
- See Brecht's Journal entry for 24 June 1943. Brecht claimed to have written the adaptation (in his Journal entry), but Piscator contested that; the manuscript bears the names "Brecht, [Felix] Gasbarra, Piscator, G. Grosz" in Brecht's handwriting (Willett 1978, 110). See also Willett (1978, 90–95). Brecht wrote a sequel to the novel in 1943, Schweik in the Second World War.
- Willett (1998, 104). In relation to his innovations in the use of theatre technology, Piscator wrote: "technical innovations were never an end in themselves for me. Any means I have used or am currently in the process of using were designed to elevate the events on the stage onto a historical plane and not just to enlarge the technical range of the stage machinery. My technical devices had been developed to cover up the deficiencies of the dramatists' products" ("Basic Principles of a Sociological Drama" ; in Kolocotroni, Goldman and Taxidou [1998, 243]).
- Willett (1978, 109–110). The similarities between Brecht's and Piscator's theoretical formulations from the time indicate that the two agreed on fundamentals; compare Piscator's summation of the achievements of his first company (1929), which follows, with Brecht's Mahagonny Notes (1930): "In lieu of private themes we had generalisation, in lieu of what was special the typical, in lieu of accident causality. Decorativeness gave way to constructedness, Reason was put on a par with Emotion, while sensuality was replaced by didacticism and fantasy by documentary reality." From a speech given by Piscator on 25 March 1929, and reproduced in Schriften 2 p. 50; Quoted by Willett (1978, 107). See also Willett (1998, 104–105).
- Willett (1998, 104–105).
- Willett (1978, 76).
- The two first met in March 1927, after Weill had written a critical introduction to the broadcast on Berlin Radio of an adaptation of Brecht's Man Equals Man. When they met, Brecht was 29 years old and Weill was 27. Brecht had experience of writing songs and had performed his own with tunes he had composed; at the time he was also married to an opera singer (Zoff). Weill had collaborated with Georg Kaiser, one of the few Expressionist playwrights that Brecht admired; he was married to the actress Lotte Lenya. Willett and Manheim (1979, xv).
- Willet and Manheim (1979, xv–xviii). In Munich in 1924 Brecht had begun referring to some of the stranger aspects of life in post-putsch Bavaria under the codename "Mahagonny". The Amerikanismus imagery appears in his first three "Mahagonny Songs", with their Wild West references. With that, however, the project stalled for two and a half years. With Hauptmann, who wrote the two English-language "Mahagonny Songs", Brecht had begun work on an opera to be called Sodom and Gomorrah or The Man from Manhattan and a radio play called The Flood or 'The Collapse of Miami, the Paradise City', both of which came to underlie the new scheme with Weill. See Willett and Manheim (1979, xv–xvi). The influence of Amerikanismus is most clearly discernible in Brecht's In the Jungle of Cities.
- In this respect, the creative process for Mahagonny was quite different from The Threepenny Opera, with the former being durchkomponiert or set to music right through, whereas on the latter Weill was brought at a late stage to set the songs. See Willett and Manheim (1979, xv).
- Willett and Manheim (1979, xvii) and Brecht (1964, 37–38).
- "Barbara Brecht-Schall – About This Person". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- Brecht Chronology, International Brecht Society
- Walter Held "Stalins deutsche Opfer und die Volksfront", in der Untergrund-Zeitschrift Unser Wort, Nr. 4/5, Oktober 1938, S. 7 f.; Michael Rohrwasser, Der Stalinismus und die Renegaten, Die Literatur der Exkommunisten, Stuttgart 1991, p. 163
- GradeSaver. "Bertolt Brecht Biography - List of Works, Study Guides & Essays".
- Letter published in the Neues Deutschland, 21 June 1953.
- Brecht (2000b, 440). The poem was first printed in the West-German newspaper Die Welt in 1959 and subsequently in the Buckow Elegies in the West 1964. It was first published in the GDR in 1969 after Helene Weigel had insisted on its inclusion in a collected edition of Brecht's works.
- Parker S. (Apr 2, 2011). "Diagnosing Bertolt Brecht.". Lancet. 377 (9772): 1146–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60453-4. PMID 21465701.
- Squiers, Anthony (2015). "A Critical Response to Heidi M. Silcox's “What's Wrong with Alienation?”". Philosophy and Literature.
- On these relationships, see "autonomization" in Jameson (1998, 43–58) and "non-organic work of art" in Bürger (1984, 87–92). Willett observes: "With Brecht the same montage technique spread to the drama, where the old Procrustean plot yielded to a more "epic" form of narrative better able to cope with wide-ranging modern socio-economic themes. That, at least, was how Brecht theoretically justified his choice of form, and from about 1929 on he began to interpret its penchant for "contradictions", much as had Eisenstein, in terms of the dialectic. It is fairly clear that in Brecht's case the practice came before the theory, for his actual composition of a play, with its switching around of scenes and characters, even the physical cutting up and sticking together of the typescript, shows that montage was the structural technique most natural to him. Like Hašek and Joyce he had not learnt this scissors-and-paste method from the Soviet cinema but picked it out of the air" (1978, 110).
- Brooker (1994, 193). Brooker writes that "the term 'alienation' is an inadequate and even misleading translation of Brecht's Verfremdung. The terms 'de-familiarisation' or 'estrangement', when understood as more than purely formal devices, give a more accurate sense of Brecht's intentions. A better term still would be 'de-alienation'".
- Brecht, quoted by Brooker (1994, 191).
- Brecht (1964, 138).
- The quotation from Raymond Williams is on page 277 of his book (1993) and that from Peter Bürger on page 88 of his (1984).
- "Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic" Translated and Edited by John Willett, page 91
- "Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic" Translated and Edited by John Willett, page 92
- Hsia, Adrian (1983). "Bertolt Brecht in China and His Impact on Chinese Drama". Comparative Literature Studies (Penn State University Press) 20 (2): 231–245.
- "Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic" Translated and Edited by John Willett, page 95
- "Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic" Translated and Edited by John Willett, page 96
- Jan Bucquoy, La vie est belge; Le paradis, là, maintenant, tout de suite!, (2007), p. 98: "Sans illusion car j'avoue que mon but dans la vie c'était de monter Mère Courage de Berthold Brecht au théâtre de l'Odéon à Paris. Au lieu de ça ce sont les escaliers du Dolle Mol que j'ai plutôt bien descendus. C'est le destin." English translation: "It was my destiny that I never would bring Mother Courage and Her Children to the Odéon Theatre in Paris."
- Ritwik Ghatak first translated Brecht into Bengali, before then making use of some of his key theories in the later films Cloud-Capped Star and Subarna-Rekha. See Banglapedia: Film, Feature. Retrieved 27 July 2006. Archived 4 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- Squiers, Anthony (2014). An Introduction to the Social and Political Philosophy of Bertolt Brecht. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN 9789042038998.
- Abschied – Brechts letzter Sommer at the Internet Movie Database
- Jameson (1998, 10–11). See also the discussions of Brecht's collaborative relationships in the essays collected in Thomson and Sacks (1994). John Fuegi's take on Brecht's collaborations, detailed in Brecht & Co. (New York: Grove, 1994; also known as The Life and Lies of Bertolt Brecht) and summarized in his contribution to Thomson and Sacks (1994, 104–116), offers a particularly negative perspective; Jameson comments "his book will remain a fundamental document for future students of the ideological confusions of Western intellectuals during the immediate post-Cold War years" (1998, 31); Olga Taxidou offers a critical account of Fuegi's project from a feminist perspective in "Crude Thinking: John Fuegi and Recent Brecht Criticism" in New Theatre Quarterly XI.44 (Nov. 1995), p. 381–384.
- The translations of the titles are based on the standard of the Brecht Collected Plays series (see bibliography, primary sources). Chronology provided through consultation with Sacks (1994) and Willett (1967), preferring the former with any conflicts.
- Note: Several of Brecht's poems were set by his collaborator Hanns Eisler in his Deutsche Sinfonie, begun in 1935, but not premiered until 1959 (three years after Brecht's death).
Essays, diaries and journals
- Brecht, Bertolt. 1964. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. Ed. and trans. John Willett. British edition. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-38800-X. USA edition. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-8090-3100-0.
- 2000a. Brecht on Film and Radio. Ed. and trans. Marc Silberman. British edition. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-72500-6.
- 2003a. Brecht on Art and Politics. Ed. and trans. Thomas Kuhn and Steve Giles. British edition. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-75890-7.
- 1965. The Messingkauf Dialogues. Trans. John Willett. London: Methuen, 1985. ISBN 0-413-38890-5.
- 1990. Letters 1913–1956. Trans. Ralph Manheim. Ed. John Willett. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-51050-6.
- 1993. Journals 1934–1955. Trans. Hugh Rorrison. Ed. John Willett. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. ISBN 0-415-91282-2.
Drama, poetry and prose
- Brecht, Bertolt. 1994a. Collected Plays: One. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. Bertolt Brecht: Plays, Poetry, Prose Ser. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-68570-5.
- 1994b. Collected Plays: Two. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-68560-8.
- 1997. Collected Plays: Three. Ed. John Willett. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-70460-2.
- 2003b. Collected Plays: Four. Ed. Tom Kuhn and John Willett. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-70470-X.
- 1995. Collected Plays: Five. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-69970-6.
- 1994c. Collected Plays: Six. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-68580-2.
- 1994d. Collected Plays: Seven. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-68590-X.
- 2004. Collected Plays: Eight. Ed. Tom Kuhn and David Constantine. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-77352-3.
- 1972. Collected Plays: Nine. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. New York: Vintage. ISBN 0-394-71819-4.
- 2000b. Poems: 1913–1956. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-15210-3.
- 1983. Short Stories: 1921–1946. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. Trans. Yvonne Kapp, Hugh Rorrison and Antony Tatlow. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-52890-1.
- 2001. Stories of Mr. Keuner. Trans. Martin Chalmers. San Francisco: City Lights. ISBN 0-87286-383-2.
|This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (April 2015)|
- [Anon.] 1952. "Brecht Directs". In Directors on Directing: A Source Book to the Modern Theater. Ed. Toby Cole and Helen Krich Chinoy. Rev. ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1963. ISBN 0-02-323300-1. 291- [Account of Brecht in rehearsal from anonymous colleague published in Theaterarbeit]
- Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. "Brecht, Bertolt" In The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43437-8. 129.
- Benjamin, Walter. 1983. Understanding Brecht. Trans. Anna Bostock. London and New York: Verso. ISBN 0-902308-99-8.
- Brooker, Peter. 1994. "Key Words in Brecht's Theory and Practice of Theatre". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 185–200).
- Bürger, Peter. 1984. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. of Theorie der Avantgarde (2nd ed., 1980). Theory and History of Literature Ser. 4. Trans. Michael Shaw. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1068-1.
- Calabro, Tony. 1990. Bertolt Brecht and the Art of Dissemblance. Longwood Academic.
- Calandra, Denis. 2003. "Karl Valentin and Bertolt Brecht". In Popular Theatre: A Sourcebook. Ed. Joel Schechter. Worlds of Performance Ser. London and New York: Routledge. 189–201. ISBN 0-415-25830-8.
- Calico, Joy. Brecht at the Opera. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
- Cohen, Robert, "Bertolt Brecht, Joseph Losey, and Brechtian Cinema." "Escape to Life:" German Intellectuals in New York: A Compendium on Exile after 1933. Eckart Goebel and Sigrid Weigel (eds.). De Gruyter, 2012. 142-161. ISBN 978-3112204160
- Counsell, Colin. 1996. Signs of Performance: An Introduction to Twentieth-Century Theatre. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-10643-5.
- Culbert, David. 1995. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (March). [Bibliographic information on this article is missing at present – need article title, is this the author of article?, and page numbers]
- Davies, Steffan; Ernest Schonfield (2009). Davies, Steffan and Schonfield, Ernest, ed. Alfred Döblin: Paradigms of Modernism. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-021769-8.
- Demčišák, Ján. 2012. "Queer Reading von Brechts Frühwerk". Marburg: Tectum Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8288-2995-4.
- Demetz, Peter, ed. 1962. "From the Testimony of Berthold Brecht: Hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 30 October 1947". Brecht: A Collection of Critical Essays. Twentieth Century Views Ser. Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-081760-0. 30–42.
- Diamond, Elin. 1997. Unmaking Mimesis: Essays on Feminism and Theater. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-01229-5.
- Eagleton, Terry. 1985. "Brecht and Rhetoric". New Literary History 16.3 (Spring). 633–638.
- Eaton, Katherine B. "Brecht's Contacts with the Theater of Meyerhold". in Comparative Drama 11.1 (Spring 1977)3–21. Reprinted in 1984. Drama in the Twentieth Century ed. C. Davidson. New York: AMS Press, 1984. ISBN 0-404-61581-3. 203–221. 1979. "Die Pionierin und Feld-Herren vorm Kreidekreis. Bemerkungen zu Brecht und Tretjakow". in Brecht-Jahrbuch 1979. Ed. J. Fuegi, R. Grimm, J. Hermand. Suhrkamp, 1979. 1985 19–29. The Theater of Meyerhold and Brecht. Connecticut and New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-24590-8.
- Eddershaw, Margaret. 1982. "Acting Methods: Brecht and Stanislavski". In Brecht in Perspective. Ed. Graham Bartram and Anthony Waine. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49205-X. 128–144.
- Ewen, Frederic. 1967. Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art and His Times. Citadel Press Book edition. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1992.
- Fuegi, John. 1994. "The Zelda Syndrome: Brecht and Elizabeth Hauptmann". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 104–116).
- Fuegi, John. 2002. Brecht and Company: Sex, Politics, and the Making of the Modern Drama. New York: Grove. ISBN 0-8021-3910-8.
- Giles, Steve. 1998. "Marxist Aesthetics and Cultural Modernity in Der Dreigroschenprozeß". Bertolt Brecht: Centenary Essays. Ed. Steve Giles and Rodney Livingstone. German Monitor 41. Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi. ISBN 90-420-0309-X. 49–61.
- Giles, Steve. 1997. Bertolt Brecht and Critical Theory: Marxism, Modernity and the Threepenny Lawsuit. Bern: Lang. ISBN 3-906757-20-X.
- Hayman, Ronald. 1983. Brecht: A Biography. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-78206-1.
- Jameson, Fredric. 1998. Brecht and Method. London and New York: Verso. ISBN 1-85984-809-5.
- Jacobs, Nicholas and Prudence Ohlsen, eds. 1977. Bertolt Brecht in Britain. London: IRAT Services Ltd and TQ Publications. ISBN 0-904844-11-0.
- Kolocotroni, Vassiliki, Jane Goldman and Olga Taxidou, eds. 1998. Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-0973-3.
- Krause, Duane. 1995. "An Epic System". In Acting (Re)considered: Theories and Practices. Ed. Phillip B. Zarrilli. 1st ed. Worlds of Performance Ser. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-09859-9. 262–274.
- Leach, Robert. 1994. "Mother Courage and Her Children". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 128–138).
- Giuseppe Leone, "Bertolt Brecht, ripropose l'eterno conflitto dell'intellettuale fra libertà di ricerca e condizionamenti del potere", su "Ricorditi...di me" in "Lecco 2000", Lecco, giugno 1998.
- McBride, Patrizia. "De-Moralizing Politics: Brecht's Early Aesthetics." Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 82.1 (2008): 85–111.
- Meech, Tony. 1994. "Brecht's Early Plays". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 43–55).
- Mitter, Schomit. 1992. "To Be And Not To Be: Bertolt Brecht and Peter Brook". Systems of Rehearsal: Stanislavsky, Brecht, Grotowski and Brook. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06784-7. 42–77.
- McDowell, W. Stuart. 1977. "A Brecht-Valentin Production: Mysteries of a Barbershop." Performing Arts Journal 1.3 (Winter): 2–14.
- McDowell, W. Stuart. 2000. "Acting Brecht: The Munich Years". In The Brecht Sourcebook. Ed. Carol Martin and Henry Bial. Worlds of Performance ser. London and New York: Routledge. 71–83. ISBN 0-415-20043-1.
- Müller, Heiner. 1990. Germania. Trans. Bernard Schütze and Caroline Schütze. Ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Ser. New York: Semiotext(e). ISBN 0-936756-63-2.
- Needle, Jan and Peter Thomson. 1981. Brecht. Chicago: U of Chicago P; Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 0-226-57022-3.
- Pabst, G. W. 1984. The Threepenny Opera. Classic Film Scripts Ser. London: Lorrimer. ISBN 0-85647-006-6.
- Reinelt, Janelle. 1990. "Rethinking Brecht: Deconstruction, Feminism, and the Politics of Form". The Brecht Yearbook 15. Ed. Marc Silberman et al. Madison, Wisconsin: The International Brecht Society-University of Wisconsin Press. 99–107.
- Reinelt, Janelle. 1994. "A Feminist Reconsideration of the Brecht/Lukács Debate". Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 7.1 (Issue 13). 122–139.
- Rouse, John. 1995. "Brecht and the Contradictory Actor". In Acting (Re)considered: A Theoretical and Practical Guide. Ed. Phillip B. Zarrilli. 2nd ed. Worlds of Performance Ser. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26300-X. 248–259.
- Sacks, Glendyr. 1994. "A Brecht Calendar". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, xvii–xxvii).
- Schechter, Joel. 1994. "Brecht's Clowns: Man is Man and After". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 68–78).
- Smith, Iris. 1991. "Brecht and the Mothers of Epic Theater". Theatre Journal 43: 491–505.
- Sternberg, Fritz. 1963. Der Dichter und die Ratio: Erinnerungen an Bertolt Brecht. Göttingen: Sachse & Pohl.
- Squiers, Anthony. An Introduction to the Social and Political Philosophy of Bertolt Brecht: Revolution and Aesthetics. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 2014. ISBN 9789042038998.
- Szondi, Peter. 1965. Theory of the Modern Drama. Ed. and trans. Michael Hays. Theory and History of Literature Ser. 29. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8166-1285-4.
- Taxidou, Olga. 1995. "Crude Thinking: John Fuegi and Recent Brecht Criticism". New Theatre Quarterly XI.44 (Nov. 1995): 381–384.
- Taxidou, Olga. 2007. Modernism and Performance: Jarry to Brecht. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-4101-7.
- Thomson, Peter. 1994. "Brecht's Lives". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 22–39).
- Thomson, Peter. 2000. "Brecht and Actor Training: On Whose Behalf Do We Act?" In Twentieth Century Actor Training. Ed. Alison Hodge. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-19452-0. 98–112.
- Thomson, Peter and Glendyr Sacks, eds. 1994. The Cambridge Companion to Brecht. Cambridge Companions to Literature Ser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41446-6.
- Völker, Klaus. 1976. Brecht: A Biography. Trans. John Nowell. New York: Seabury P, 1978. Trans. of Bertolt Brecht, Eine Biographie. Munich and Vienna: Carl Hanser Verlag. ISBN 0-8164-9344-8.
- Willett, John. 1967. The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects. Third rev. ed. London: Methuen, 1977. ISBN 0-413-34360-X.
- Willett, John. 1978. Art and Politics in the Weimar Period: The New Sobriety 1917–1933. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996. ISBN 0-306-80724-6.
- Willett, John. 1998. Brecht in Context: Comparative Approaches. Rev. ed. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-72310-0.
- Willett, John and Ralph Manheim. 1970. Introduction. In Collected Plays: One by Bertolt Brecht. Ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. Bertolt Brecht: Plays, Poetry and Prose Ser. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-416-03280-X. vii–xvii.
- Weber, Carl. 1984. "The Actor and Brecht, or: The Truth Is Concrete: Some Notes on Directing Brecht with American Actors". The Brecht Yearbook 13: 63–74.
- Weber, Carl 1994. "Brecht and the Berliner Ensemble – the Making of a Model". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 167–184).
- Williams, Raymond. 1993. Drama from Ibsen to Brecht. London: Hogarth. ISBN 0-7012-0793-0. 277–290.
- Witt, Hubert, ed. 1975. Brecht As They Knew Him. Trans. John Peet. London: Lawrence and Wishart; New York: International Publishers. ISBN 0-85315-285-3.
- Wright, Elizabeth. 1989. Postmodern Brecht. Critics of the Twentieth Century Ser. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02330-0.
- Youngkin, Stephen D. 2005. The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2360-7. [Contains a detailed discussion of the personal and professional friendship between Brecht and classic film actor Peter Lorre.]
- Wizisla, Erdmut. 2009. Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht – The Story of a Friendship. Translated by Christine Shuttleworth. London / New Haven: Libris / Yale University Press. ISBN 1-870352-78-5. ISBN 978-1-870352-78-9 [Contains a complete translation of the newly discovered Minutes of the meetings around the putative journal Krise und Kritik (1931)].
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- Brecht's works in English: A bibliography: The bibliography of Bertolt Brecht's works in English translation aims to present a comprehensive listing of Brecht's works published in English translation.
- Works by or about Bertolt Brecht at Internet Archive
- The Brecht Yearbook
- The International Brecht Society
- FBI files on Bertolt Brecht
- A history of Mack the Knife by Joseph Mach at Brechthall
- Bertolt Brecht at Find a Grave