Dramatization of Self-Interests and Duties of
Love in “The Threepenny Opera 

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GERM 1027 Essay #2 Length: Approximately 1,250-1,500 words Citation Format: MLA Tutorial: Email your thesis statement and outline to your TA by the Feb. 22 tutorial Due Date: March 8 ( submit via Brightspace) Here are some possible essay questions. Choose one. You are allowed to come up with your own question, but be sure to clear it with me first. Essays should be around five pages (not including the bibliography). As with the essay samples that I have included on Brightspace, you do not need a title-page; instead, you just need to include your name, your student number, the course number, my name, your TA’s name, and the date in the top right hand corner of the first page. Your essay should have a title that reflects not only your topic but your argument about that topic; an introductory paragraph that introduces your topic, suggests how it will be approached in regards to the text, and closes with a clear and specific thesis statement; supporting paragraphs organized around points that support your thesis and that open with a strong topic sentence; specific evidence from the primary text itself; and a strong conclusion that reinforces your thesis and suggests something about its wider implications. The essay samples on Brightspace are very clear in regards to what I am looking for, so be sure to look over these before and while writing. Be specific, be organized, and be sure to make good use of the text when making your case. When it comes to quoting from the text, be sure to comment on the quotes you use and incorporate them into your larger argument. If you have any questions while writing your essay, or if you would like me to look over a draft of your essay, please let me know. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. How does Brecht explore the corruption of society and the brutality of humanity? How does he tie these to capitalism? To what ends? Describe the thin (or even non-existent) line between the lawful and the unlawful in the play, and the possible reason(s) for why this is so. How does Brecht dramatize the struggle between the demands of self-interest and the duties of love? To what ends? How does Brecht explore (and satirize) such themes as morality, immorality, and amorality? Likewise, in what ways are moral righteousness, moral arbitrariness, and moral ambiguity prominent in the play? To what ends? As a Marxist, Brecht was highly critical not only of the modern world but of the middle-classes and of the capitalist system more widely. How are the flaws and crookedness of capitalist society explored in the play? To what ends? As a dramatist, Brecht was heavily intrigued by the dramatic (and political) possibilities of exploiting irony on the stage. Discuss. The Threepenny Opera Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg on 10 February 1898 and died in Berlin on 14 August 1956. He grew to maturity as a playwright in the frenetic years of the twenties and early thirties, with such plays as Man Equals Man, The Threepenny Opera and The Mother. He left Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933, eventually reaching the United States in 1941, where he remained until 1947. It was during this period of exile that such masterpieces as Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and her Children and The Caucasian Chalk Circle were written. Shortly after his return to Europe in 1947, he founded the Berliner Ensemble, and from then until his death was mainly occupied in producing his own plays. Other Bertolt Brecht publications by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama Brecht Collected Plays: One (Baal, Drums in the Night, In the Jungle of Cities, The Life of Edward II of England, A Respectable Wedding, The Beggar or the Dead Dog, Driving Out a Devil, Lux in Tenebris, The Catch) Brecht Collected Plays: Two (Man Equals Man, The Elephant Calf, The Threepenny Opera, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, The Seven Deadly Sins) Brecht Collected Plays: Three (Lindbergh’s Flight, The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent, He Said Yes/He Said No, The Decision, The Mother, The Exception and the Rule, The Horations and the Curiatians, St Joan of the Stockyards) Brecht Collected Plays: Four (Round Heads and Pointed Heads, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, SeñoraCarrar’sRifles, Dansen, How Much Is Your Iron?, The Trial of Lucullus) Brecht Collected Plays: Five (Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and Her Children) Brecht Collected Plays: Six (The Good Person of Szechwan, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Mr Puntila and His Man Matti) Brecht Collected Plays: Seven (The Visions of Simone Machard, Schweyk in the Second World War, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Duchess of Malfi ) Brecht Collected Plays: Eight (The Days of the Commune, The Antigone of Sophocles, Turandot or the Whitewashers’ Congress) Berliner Ensemble Adaptations –publishing 2014 (The Tutor, Coriolanus, The Trial of Joan of Arc at Rouen 1431, Don Juan, Trumpets and Drums) Bertolt Brecht Journals, 1934–55 Brecht on Art and Politics Brecht on Film and Radio Brecht on Performance – publishing 2014 Brecht on Theatre – publishing 2014 Brecht in Practice – publishing 2014 The Craft of Theatre: Seminars and Discussions in Brechtian Theatre Brecht, Music and Culture – publishing 2014 Brecht in Context The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht Brecht: A Choice of Evils Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life – publishing 2014 A Guide to the Plays of Bertolt Brecht BERTOLT BRECHT The Threepenny Opera translated by RALPH MANHEIM and JOHN WILLETT Original work entitled Die Dreigroschenoper with commentary and notes by NON and NICK WORRALL Contents Bertolt Brecht: 1898–1956 Plot Commentary Who was Bertolt Brecht? Brecht’s views on theatre Historical background to The Threepenny Opera Theatrical background to The Threepenny Opera The Beggar’s Opera Kurt Weill, music, and song Performance history Further Reading THE THREEPENNY OPERA Additional Texts Notes by Brecht Note by Kurt Weill Conversation between Brecht and Strehler Notes Questions for Further Study Bertolt Brecht: 1898–1956 Brecht’s life falls into three distinct phases: From 1898 to 1933 he is in Germany. From 1933 to 1947 during the Hitler years, he is in forced exile from Germany in various parts of the world. In 1947 he returns to Europe, first of all to Switzerland and then to East Berlin in the German Democratic Republic (the former East Germany). Germany 1898 Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht born on 10 February at Augsburg. Father employee, later director, of the Haindl paper mill. 1908 Goes to Augsburg Grammar School. Caspar Neher (later his designer) is one of his closest friends. 1913 Begins to contribute poems and essays to student newspaper. 1914 Begins to write poems, stories, reviews and essays for the literary supplement of a local newspaper. Outbreak of First World War. 1915 Caspar Neher volunteers for military service. Brecht writes to him regularly. 1916 Almost expelled for unpatriotic essay on the title: ‘It is a sweet and honourable thing to die for one’s country’. 1917 Enrols as medical student at Munich University. Also attends Arthur Kutscher’s theatre seminar. Samples bohemian literary life of the city. 1918 Conscripted into the army and serves as a medical orderly at Augsburg Military Hospital. Writes Baal and does theatre reviews for local newspaper. Becomes more involved in socialist political organisations. 1919 1920 1921 1922 Writes Drums in the Night. Meets the comedian Karl Valentin, the theatre director Erich Engel and actresses Elisabeth Bergner, Blandine Ebinger, Carola Neher and Marianne Zoff. Brecht and Neher work to establish as many artistic and literary contacts as possible. Visits Berlin. His mother dies; he writes ‘Song of my mother’. Brecht and Neher in financial difficulties. Preoccupied, Brecht fails to register for university course and is dropped from the university roll. Ends up in hospital suffering from malnutrition. New friendship with Arnolt Bronnen, a playwright, leads him to change the spelling of his name to Bertolt or Bert. Brecht summarises his life so far in a letter to Herbert Jhering on October 17: I first saw the light of the world in 1898. My parents hail from the Black Forest. Elementary school bored me for four years. In the nine years of my pickling at the Augsburg Realgymnasium I made no great contribution to my teachers’ advancement. They never wearied of pointing out my penchant for idleness and independence. At the university I read medicine and learned to play the guitar. At secondary school I went in for all kinds of sports and developed a heart condition, which familiarised me with the secrets of metaphysics. During the war, I served as an orderly in a military hospital. After that I wrote a few plays, and in the spring of this year I was taken to the Charité hospital because of undernourishment. Arnolt Bronnen was unable to help me substantially out of his earnings as a sales clerk. After twenty-four years in the light of the world I have grown rather thin. (Letters 1913–1956, p. 71) 1923 1924 Marries Marianne Zoff in Munich. Writes In the Jungle of the Cities. First performance of Drums in the Night at the Deutsches Theater, Berlin. Daughter, Hanne, is born. The activities of Hitler’s National Socialists are hotly discussed in Brecht’s Munich circle. First productions of In the Jungle of the Cities and Baal take place in Munich and Leipzig respectively. Meets Helene Weigel, the actress, for the first time. Directs Marlowe’s Edward II which he and Lion Feuchtwanger – celebrated novelist and playwright as well as being dramatic adviser to the Kammerspiele in Munich – had 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 adapted. Brecht was already using certain devices (plot summaries before scenes, white face make-up to indicate fear) to induce critical detachment in actors and audience. Finally settles in Berlin. Is taken on as dramaturg (literary adviser) at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater. Helene Weigel bears him a son, Stefan. Meets Elisabeth Hauptmann who becomes his constant collaborator. Writes poems, visits Marianne Zoff and Hanne. Congratulates G.B. Shaw on his seventieth birthday, commending his ‘keen intelligence and fearless eloquence’. Completes manuscript of Man equals Man which he presents to Elisabeth Hauptmann as thanks for her unstinting and unpaid work. Joins ‘Group 25’, aiming to co-ordinate the interests of younger authors not represented by literary groups dominated by the older generation. Man equals Man premiered at Darmstadt and Düsseldorf. Works on a play (never finished) called Joe Fleischhacker, which was to deal with the Chicago Wheat Exchange; leads him to the study of Marx as the only adequate method of analysing the workings of capitalism. Divorces Marianne Zoff. Works with Erwin Piscator, the pioneer of communist political theatre in Germany, on a dramatisation of Hašek’s novel, The Good Soldier Schweik. First collaboration with Kurt Weill, on Mahagonny – with Lotte Lenya and designs by Neher. The Threepenny Opera, music by Kurt Weill, words by Brecht (based on a translation of John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera by Elisabeth Hauptmann), opens at Theater am Schiffbauerdamm – hit of the season. Brecht had transferred bourgeois manners to a Soho criminal setting. Marries Helene Weigel. The Baden-Baden Cantata staged at Baden-Baden Music Festival, music by Hindemith. The Brecht/Weill Berlin Requiem broadcast on the radio. Premiere of Hauptmann/Brecht/Weill musical Happy End. Daughter Barbara born. His Lehrstück or didactic play, The Measures Taken, with music by Hanns Eisler, is given its 1931 1932 Exile 1933 1934 first performance in Berlin. The communist didactic plays for amateur performance were intended to clarify the ideas of the performers as much as the audience. The first performance of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, an opera with words by Brecht and music by Kurt Weill, causes a riot as the Nazis voice their criticism at Leipzig. In his notes on the opera, Brecht lists the differences between the traditional dramatic (or Aristotelian) and the new epic (or non-Aristotelian) theatre at which he is aiming.

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