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By Ronald Speirs (auth.)

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Sample text

In the course of it his disillusionment carried him to the opposite extreme of distrusting all idealism as a guide to life. He now insisted that ideals were merely ridiculous attempts to erect defences against the harsh realities of life; in the hands of the strong, ideals were a means of exploiting the weak; a task ironically made easier by the need of the weak for ideals to prop up their unsteady lives. Baal is a vision of a life lived entirely 19 Bertolt Brecht without the support of any belief in a saving ideal.

And the sparkle in the eyes of two insects who want to eat one another 4 BAAL In conceiving Baal as a larger-than-life, mythical figure, Brecht was making full use of the Expressionist writer's 21 Bertolt Brecht licence to overstep the limits of psychological probability. What unites the play is not a traditional plot, nor the empirical sequence of a biography, but an Expressionist vision of life's essence as a struggle between the forces of vitality and decay. The 'open', episodic structure of this type of drama was later to become one of the defining features of Brecht's Epic Theatre.

Epic and alienating features were already incorporated by Brecht into the texts of his plays before these were tried out, and in all likelihood revised repeatedly, in the theatre. In Epic Theatre the narrative voice that interposes itself between the audience and the events enacted on stage takes on so many forms at the level both of the large- and small-scale organisation of the plays, that Brecht could quite properly claim that the 'general gesture of showing accompanies each of the particular gestures shown' 49 Bertolt Brecht (GW 16, 697).

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