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Bertolt Brecht’s parable The Good Person of Szechwan is one of the playwright’s major plays, popular and regularly produced because of its universal themes. Fri 8 — Sat 9 Feb 2019, Barbican Theatre. THE GOOD PERSON OF SZEWCHAN. If the gods had not given her money, as they were initially inclined not to, Shen Teh would still have been good but not so pressured to do more than she already had been doing. No act of kindness on Shen Teh’s part has an ulterior motive or is regretted after the fact. marry money.” The policeman then writes an advertisement for Shen Te, further cementing the connection between marriage and business. Shen Teh uses the gods’ payment of a thousand silver dollars to buy a small tobacconist business. In scene five, Shu Fu asks the audience what they think about his way of trying to get Shen Teh to fall in love with him. Shen Teh agrees. To name just a few examples, Fuegi writes that she suffers from a “schizoid personality”; Cima worries that the impossibility of meeting the gods’ commandments to be good “dictat[es] within Shen Teh a feeling of failure”; Sue-Ellen Case diagnoses “an internal crisis of gender behavior.” But the parable designation can be oversimplified, too, leading to such groundless accusations as Herrmann’s—that Brecht “uses his woman figures to embody Communist Party policy.”, Good Person was written over a long period, primarily during Brecht’s exile in Scandinavia. When Shen Te, as Shui Ta, discusses the matter with a policeman, the policeman presents society’s idealized view, that sex for love is acceptable, but sex for money is not: “... love isn’t bought and sold like cigars, Mr. Shui Ta. Yang Sun even says that he will marry Shen Teh. It starts to rain, and Sun and Shen Teh seek shelter together. Shui Ta is running the shop when Yang Sun shows up. Shui Ta decides to confess, but only if the courtroom is emptied of everyone but the gods. FURTHER READING This English play is now thought to be based on an ear…, GEORGE BERNARD SHAW 1914 But the other character have suffered financial setbacks, and most are poor by the end of the play. The shift in identity brings a shift in expectations. For example, he appropriates tobacco belonging to the elderly couple’s relatives in order to start his tobacco factory business. "The Good Person of Szechwan All this raises the stakes for the moment, later in the scene, when Yang Sun reveals that he has no intention of taking Shen Teh to Peking with him. or reset password. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Everyone wants something more. Shu Fu, the barber, has enough money that he can leave Shen Teh a blank check for her charitable works. Though Shu Fu, the barber, is not poor like Wang, nor does he lose his business like the carpet dealer and his wife, several of his generous acts end up hurting him. F. “Over the Edge,” The Christian Century, January 30, 1957, p. 138. In other words, revealing the process by which she takes steps in Shui Ta’s manner and sings in his voice, the actor calls attention to the analogy between her activity and Shen Teh’s. and new scores were being written. When Wang and a police officer enter the shop, Shui Ta denies that Shen Teh witnessed the crippling of Wang. He donates several buildings on his property to her so that she can house the homeless. Secondly, Yang Sun has known from the beginning of his relationship with Shen Te that she has a shop. "The Good Person of Szechwan This jewel from Moscow came only briefly to London but it showed … CHARACTERS The songs have been purposely placed where they are to drive home to the audience an important moral or political issue that the play writer wants the audience to think about at that moment in time. Even though Brecht’s image of motherhood here is not exactly sweet and touching—Shen Teh says she’ll treat others like a “tiger and a wild beast”—and even though the image is distanced by an ironic reversal—becoming a bad man enables her to be a good mother—some critics point especially at this scene to nail Brecht with their charge of misogyny. Shen Teh promptly gives. Brecht has been described as the great poet whose plays no longer work, the dramatic genius whose theatrical theory doesn’t fit, the artist whose politics hardly matter, the idealist who decayed into an opportunistic creep. In the Good Person of Szechwan there are six songs, all of which are placed at the end of a particularly important scenes or in an interlude. After having the policeman state this view, however, Brecht immediately undercuts it as the policeman presents his solution to Shen Te’s need for money: “How is she to get hold of this rent?. We must find her a husband!” Marriage has been called by some “legalized prostitution,” and that is clearly the view that Brecht presents here. They offer no solutions to her problems. Shui Ta is not without a heart however. More important, our recognition of Shen Teh behind the mask of Shui Ta (and of an actor behind Shen Teh) encourages us to consider other points of view from which Shui Ta (and Shen Teh) might be presented. In scene four, Shen Teh enters their carpet shop, which is near her shop, to buy a pretty shawl. The gods want her to be good, but cannot tell her how to stay that way. Shin is not fond of Shui Ta, and seems to like Shen Teh more after meeting him. Afterward, the gods compensate her for her kindness, thinking they have found their one good person. His best plays crystallize some aspects of the modern consciousness in new dramatic modes; his lesser ones are explicit, didactic, linear and relatively unresonant.”, In the late 1990s, many critics noted that American productions of The Good Person of Szechwan were being adapted to contemporary, familiar settings, Lead Characters . Like Benedick’s stating the-obvious remark, “This looks not like a nuptial,” in Much Ado About Nothing, Shen Teh’s line pulls the scene away from the precipice of melodrama. Brecht once described the parable as “far more artful than other forms. Shu Fu, a wealthy barber, reinforces this notion that good deeds are … Shui Ta never comes and the couple do not marry. The gods are happy that she is still good, but provide no solutions to her problems. The mechanism that both retrieves and eventually undoes Shui Ta is Shen Teh’s pregnancy; it instigates Shen Teh’s most thorough—and least sustainable—transformation. By the mid-1950s, the importance of Brecht’s plays had been realized and they became popularly recognized. Sign Up with Apple. The play opens with a prologue in which Wang sets up some of the basics of the play. The production has fine touches of wit....”, A 1994 adaptation by well-known playwright/ director Tony Kushner was set at the California-Mexico border, with characters retaining Chinese names and with a score by Los Lobos. Because Shui Ta does not arrive with the money, the wedding does not take place. Shen Teh believes all is well until she realizes that Yang Sun and his mother are holding the wedding up for Shui Ta. In his play The Good Woman of Szechwan, Brecht turns this ideal on its head. Directed by Addie Gorlin '19. Shu Fu is a wealthy barber who runs a shop near Shen Teh’s tobacco business. Today: Tobacco companies are sued for false advertising as it has been revealed in court that they have known for many years that cigarettes cause cancer. This male alter ego is essentially the opposite of Shen Teh. Shui Ta later has them and their family arrested, and puts some of their family to work in her tobacco factory. And how do we acquire capital? (That Shen Teh so abandons herself to lust contradicts several critics who complain that Brecht denies this female character her “desire.”). It’s foolhardy to look for Brecht’s radicalism, and his potentially feminist deconstructions of gender, on the surface of a play’s story, as, for instance, David Z. Mairowitz does when he complains, “There is no challenge in Brecht to the arrangement of traditional sex roles.” Perhaps it would be easier to claim Brecht for our side if he’d written some plays with stories directly demonstrating how the social hierarchy relegates women to second-class status (and if he hadn’t treated women so execrably himself). Brecht, he wrote, “invigorated the modern theater by establishing a stage technique which does away with theatrical illusion and appeals directly to the imagination and the intellect.”. In the morning, the elderly couple’s family wonders where Shen Teh is. The Good Person … And the about-to-be-enacted costume change is a further reminder that Shen Teh’s gender is as provisional as it is providential. It has a great sense of humor, and it's one that I will be keeping on my shelf. Later, Mrs. Yang believes that Shui Ta saves her son when he hires Yang Sun to work in the factory. When the gods leave the next morning, Shen Teh tells them that it is hard to be good when poor. To insist that Shen Teh represents a misogynistic stereotype is also to overlook that the play is a parable. Out of generosity, they offer to lend her the 200 silver dollars against her stock, though they do not demand anything in writing. It’s no doubt possible that such an exercise could be used to reinforce notions of naturalized gender behavior—one can imagine an actor drawing the conclusion that his female colleague observes masculinity better than he does because it is so completely alien to her. Indeed, if one considers Brecht’s attitude toward identification and heroes, it seems downright ludicrous to look to him, as Iris Smith does, for “desiring and desirable behaviors modeled on stage... so that the feminist spectator could find herself there and project herself into the future.”. Shen Teh does not have the money, and it is only when she becomes Shui Ta that she can force a lesser fee on him. In any case, the doubles wind up noticeably complex when the play contextualizes them with authentic realism, … Mrs. Shin is the woman from whom Shen Teh buys her tobacco shop. Shen Teh finds it difficult to succeed at being a good person under these frustrating conditions. No longer will she sell herself or buy love. The first thing I did was give away my zither. She does not pay them back until after the carpet dealer has fallen ill, and the couple loses their shop when they cannot pay their taxes. This leads to bankruptcy for the carpenter, Lin To and his family move into the buildings that Shu Fu donates to Shen Teh, and later works for Shui Ta in his tobacco factory. Shen Teh also becomes pregnant by Yang Sun, and feels she must provide for her child. Shui Ta’s actions ensure Shen Teh and her baby will survive, though Shen Teh might not be around as often as she would like. Wang mentions that Shui Ta has been uncharitable, and the gods are not pleased with the cousin’s actions. Still, Shen Teh gives Wang her cart, one of the last things she owns, so that he can sell it and go to the doctor. A review of The Good Person of Szechwan, in The New Republic, March 13, 1976, p. 28. But that is to disregard the play’s theatrical dynamics. To the dramatist it offers the perfect solution, because it is concrete in abstraction: it makes the essential obvious.” Brecht’s reference to Lenin is aesthetically telling: the parable is not a traditional dramatic form or genre, but is taken from a kind of didactic literature. Shu Fu is a wealthy barber who runs a shop near Shen Teh’s tobacco business. The gods give her 1000 silver dollars, and. The Essential Brecht, Hennessey & Ingalls, 1972, p. 133. A director who sells out theatres in Moscow, Yury Butusov’s modern-dress version of Brecht’s parable play is punchy and vigorous, with a no-holds-barred performance by Alexandra … Two get in a fight and break some of her shelving. Un problème s'est produit lors du chargement de ce menu pour le moment. This essay provides a synopsis of, background information on, and critical reaction to The Good Person of Szechwan. If the part is played by somebody of the opposite sex, the sex of the character will be more clearly brought out.” In watching a female actor play a male role, for example, the male actor observes gestures, stances, movement, vocal intonation—all the attributes that typically compose a conventional idea of male-ness. Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, initially performed in 1943 in Switzerland, spins around the character of Shen Teh/Shui Ta, playing on the possibility of goodness. Like the freeloaders, we undergo a change. Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Good Person of Szechwan study guide. Sun’s mother, Mrs. Yang, approaches her, because Sun needs 500 silver dollars to get a pilot’s job. Later Shen Teh decides that if her child is to survive, she will have to become Shui Ta again. Even a prostitute’s customer, however, is likely to be paying, not only for sex, but also for some emotional intimacy and companionship, in other words, at least the illusion of love. Comparing the play to Voltaire’s Candide, Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times, wrote “It is strange in form, nonsentimental in theme, and stimulating from several points of view.” His sentiments were echoed by Tom F. Driver of Christian Century. Shui Ta is unlike Shen Teh, less compassionate and more ruthless or hard-nosed. To save herself, Shen Teh invents a cousin, Shui Ta, who is a hard-nosed businessman. 42–55. Shui Ta disposes of several business matters and has the elderly couple’s family arrested. . Their merriment is ended only when Shui Ta’s virtuoso performance is turned on them: he tells them to get out. And it has done so for the same reason that, more generally, Brecht in America has been reduced to two solid misconceptions: that he didn’t want any emotion in the theater and that his plays fail because they don’t convert anyone to Communism (or communism). Shen Teh for being too nice. That is, what stage persona commits the action of—in Brecht’s words—zeigen gestus (“handing over”) “The Song of Defenselessness”? The epilogue of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan apologizes for the lack of a true, closed ending to the play. Throughout his career, he surrounded himself with trusted female collaborators; he owes his career to brilliant women he treated as members of a harem—and screwed professionally as well. When Wang’s hand is broken by Shu Fu, the barber, Shen Teh is the only one to stand up for him, even though she would perjure herself. Their quest has led them to this city, the capital of Szechwan. / Your brother suffers violence and you close your eyes.” In the space of some 100 lines, Shen Teh’s giddiness (as she describes it) transforms into anger (as a stage direction puts it). “Brecht Play Is Staged by Eric Bentley,” The New York Times, December 19, 1956, p. 41. However, as soon as Shen Teh opens her tobacco shop, they appear at her door with six relatives and demand lodging. What happens in their little imitation is complicated. The United States officially entered the war on the side of the Allies, including Great Britain, in late 1941 after the Japanese, allies of Germany, bombed Pearl Harbor. But when Shen Teh emerges from the back room, Yang Sun manages to talk himself back into her affections, and Shen Teh admits she loves him, not the barber. Yet all her goodness drives her deeper and deeper into debt and despair. It is tempting to see this as a sign of growth in Shen Te, to suggest that she no longer sees love as a commodity. But what Kerr—and presumably the production—missed is the way these opposite levels of credibility are used within Brecht’s parable form, and how they are balanced with inverse proportions of empathic acting. Wang tells them that Shen Teh is in love with Sun, and has remained good. Robinson, Roderick. After the claimants leave—and more relatives of the freeloaders arrive—Shen Teh’s imposing guests have a facetious laugh over the mythical cousin, “the imposing Mr. Shui Ta.” The scene ends with more knocking on the door, threatening that still more relatives will overtake Shen Teh’s shop. When they are alone, Shen Teh takes off the masks and clothing that makes her Shui Ta. gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA). War was not officially declared against Japan until late in 1941. Each scene illustrates a sin that must be avoided if one is to make a buck—but each of these, of course, is really a virtue. Provide no solutions to her so that he can is this line here Indeed it hardly! Drives them all to desperation, and has no home to offer and into! Costume change is a good Person of Szechwan have been touched by them une moyenne simple survive, she lose. Had been realized and they became popularly recognized Wang seem to have some feelings for Shen is... Are left none the richer because of her kind nature start his tobacco factory, Penguin been! 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