THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE BY BERTOLT BRECHT GUIDE

SETTING

THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE BY BERTOLT BRECHT GUIDE. The Caucasus is a region that bridges Europe and Asia. The Caucasus is divided by the Caucasian mountain ranges into two regions:


The northern slopes of the mountains reach into Chechnya and other border states of the former Soviet Union

On the southern side of the mountains are the modern-day countries Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.


Grusinia, where The Caucasian Chalk Circle takes place, is a fictionalized version of the modern day countries; Georgia and Azerbaijan towards the end of the WWII in 1944.

The play was translated to English by Eric Bentley.

The play is a comedy, with a happy ending.

The play is based on communism i.e. whoever can make the best use of resources in order to provide for others deserves to get the best of the resources.


Brecht shows communism through three stories;

  1. The ownership of a piece of land between goat herders and fruit farmers. In the end through arbitrators, the fruit farmers get the valley because they will use the land better.
  2. The story about Grusha the kitchen maid, through the use of Solomonic law: Solomon and the baby (from the bible). Grusha gets the baby because she deserves him.
  • The story about Judge Azdak. His fair judging in favour of the peasants made him very popular especially among the poor.

THE TITLE


The Caucasian Chalk Circle is derived from a circle Judge Azdak orders Shauwa to draw, “………….get  a piece of chalk and draw a circle on the floor.” (pg 97). Its purpose is to determine Michael’s real mother. Both Natella Abashwili and Grusha Vashnadze desire custodian of the child. Shauwa is directed to place the child in the circle and the mother to hold him by the hands and pull him out. Whoever pulls him out of the circle would retain him.


It is ironical that Natella, Michael’s biological mother, is denied custody of the child when she pulls him out. Grusha declines to tear the child and consequently ends with the child. The title symbolically signifies the possibility of surrendering what might be rightfully yours for better utilization.


The play infers from both a Chinese play (Circle of chalk written in 1300 AD) and a biblical story (The judgement of Solomon- 1 Kings 3: 16-28)


In the Chinese story, a young girl, HAi-tang, bears a child as the second wife of a wealthy man. His first wife claims the child is her own. However, the second wife is judged the true mother when she refuses to pull the child apart in the test of the Chalk Circle.


In the biblical story, two women live in the same house and both bear a child. One baby dies in the night and its mother swaps him for the living baby. Both claim the living child is their own. Solomon orders that the child be cut in two and each half be given to each mother. The real mother of the child gives up the child rather than see him harmed and is judged to be the true mother.


The agriculturist and herders are seated in circles as they negotiate and in the end the herders agree to surrender their claim on the valley of Rosa Luxemburg since they would put it to better use.


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