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Appears in Collections:eTheses from Faculty of Arts and Humanities legacy departments
Title: A study of thematic and stylistic expressions of conflict in the plays of Bertolt Brecht, 1918 - 1929
Author(s): Speirs, Ronald
Issue Date: 1975
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis is the first to examine chronologically the earliest published versions of all the full-length plays wrilten by Bertolt Brecht in the years 1918-1929. The evidence of these early unrevised versions and of hitherto unpublished material throws new light on this first period of his career as a dramatist which is seen as being principally characterised by the lack of any attempt to resolve the conflicts in which these early plays abound. The analysis of these conflicts involves in the first place an examination of the antagonisms between characters and the tensions within the mind of individual characters. This study of motive and interaction draws attention to the co-existence of existential and social sources of conflict in these early dramasq and outlines the changing relative importance of existential and social factors in each of the plays under consideration. Whereas in Baal (1918), Im Dickicht (1922) and Leben Eiduards des Zweiten (1924) there is great emphasis on the existential dimension of conflict, Trommeln in der Nacht (1919)9 Mann ist Mann (1926) and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1929) pay more regard to its social significance. From the dates of these plays alone it is clear that to make such a distinction is to point to differences oI stress in individual plays rather than to a clear and straightforward development within the period under consideration. Howeverg allowing that existential and social factors continue to be of equal importance throughout the Twenties, a trend towards paying more attention to the social determinants of behaviour becomes apparent in works written from 1926 onwards. Brecht's presentation of conflict in these early plays is invariably ambivalent a fine balance being constantly maintained between the respective merits and negative aspects of different facets of conflict: vital enjoyment of struggle is offset by horror at the suffering caused, the claims of the transient individual clash with the demands of morality, the attractions of self-destruction vie with those of survival, the claims of passion with those of prudence. Formally, this ambivalence is reflected in the frequent mixture of comedy with tragedy, in sudden shifts from one stylistic level to another, and in the use of techniques of presentation, some of which encourage empathy with the characters, while others promote a more distanced attitude to events. The concluding chapter examines briefly the re-emergence of unresolved conflicts in plays written after Brecht's turn to Marxism.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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