Bertolt Brecht - Playwright Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Bertolt Brecht - Playwright

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Bertolt Brecht was born on the 10 February, 1898, in Ausburg. He left Germany in 1933 at the rise of the Nazis, and lived in the USA from 1941-47, before returning to Europe. He died on the 14 August, 1956, in Berlin.

Brecht is most well known for his work as a dramatist and playwright. The inventor of the alienation technique in theatre, Brecht strongly held that the joy of theatre was in watching a performance, something created just for the audience; therefore the Brechtian school of acting requires that the audience be constantly reminded that they are watching a play not that real life is being portrayed.

His plays are almost all political, and Brecht believed avidly that theatre has the power to influence and move people, and that a play should carry a strong message. His plays include:

  • The Threepenny Opera
  • Life of Galileo
  • Mother Courage and Her Children
  • The Good Person of Szechuan
  • The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
  • The Caucasian Chalk Circle
  • The Duchess of Malfi

Only recently has Brecht been recognised as one of the greatest European poets of the twentieth century, but his poetry has now largely been translated into English, and, whilst they probably lose a little in comparison to the original German, many of his poems retain their power in translation, carried through by the strength of his convictions and the depth of the feelings he expresses.

Here is just a tiny selection of Brecht's shorter poems - the majority of his poems are far longer, some stretching to pages, and in many parts.


In the early hours
The fir-trees are copper
That's how I saw them
Half a century ago
Two world wars ago
With young eyes.

The Lovely Fork

When the fork with the lovely horn handle broke
It struck me that deep within it
There must always have been a fault. With difficulty
I summoned back to my memory
My joy in its flawlessness.


Were a wind to arise
I could put up a sail
Were there no sail
I'd make one of canvas and sticks.


In a dream last night
I saw a great storm
It seized the scaffolding
It tore the cross-clasps
The iron ones, down.
But what was made of wood
Swayed and remained.

Only a Fleeting Glance

'Only a fleeting glance
Could take her in
So it was merely chance
Made me her man.'

'Only in passing I
Entered his life
So, unregardedly
Became his wife.'

Both let the time go by
Till it was spent
Put on our overcoats
Embraced, and went.

And I Always Thought

And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone's heart must be torn to shreds.
That you'll go down if you don't stand up for yourself
Surely you see that.

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