Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brecht preferred to adapt the work of other dramatists

Brecht never showed much interest in the invention of original plots: he seemed to prefer to adapt the work of other dramatists. In the case of Edward II, ... There is nothing left of the structure of Marlowe's Edward II, from this point of view the finest of his plays. In Brecht's play one event succeeds another ...

Bertolt Brecht’s modern response to Marlowe in his 1922 Edward II provides a useful introductory comparison.
Brecht seems to have been drawn to Marlowe’s play not so much for its political as for its personal relevance, in particular for its portrayal of the doomed bond between Edward and Gaveston – the kind of bond Brecht had just written about in The Jungle.
Brecht was indeed trying to improve on, or at least to outdo, Marlowe’s bleak play. With a ‘savage pessimism’, he rewrote Marlowe to create a world where, as his Edward says, ‘There is nothing in life besides the touch of men’s bodies, and even that is minimal and vain.’
What interests me about Brecht’s play however is that it is not only about the difficult closeness between two men but – as adaptation, collaboration, and partly cribbed translation – it is also the product of such closeness. Edward II was the first of the collaborative ventures that were to serve Brecht so effectively as catalysts for creativity throughout his career.

In many respects, the story of “Edward II” parallels that of Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” the historical drama that tells of the troublesome reign of Edward's great-grandson. But Marlowe and, to an even greater extent, Brecht are also concerned with Edward’s homosexuality.
Gaveston, the king’s lover, is disposed of by Brecht in the first act, but the playwright then concentrates on the gradual stripping down (figuratively and literally) of Edward from king to tortured prisoner, a pathetic victim of the machinations of his wanton wife, Queen Anne, and her consort, the cold, epicene Mortimer.
Brecht seizes on some of the political implications of Edward’s struggle, but this is not a blatantly propagandistic drama. It is, instead, a series of extremely theatrical, throat-grabbing scenes, rife with high passion and climaxing with Edward’s horrible death.

Design & Direction: Robin Das
At Abhimanch, from to 21st to
26th May 2010 at 7.00 p.m.
Additional shows: 22nd &
23rd May 2010 at 3.00 p.m.
National School of Drama,
Bahawalpur House
Bhagwandas Road, New Delhi - 110 001  Enquiries : 011 -23073236

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