Brecht's The Life of Galileo: Overturning 'Naturalist' Theatre College
Brecht’s development of epic theatre challenged many aspects of the popular conventions of naturalism and expressionism that were prevalent during his rise to prominence in the 1920s. In The Life of Galileo, elements of epic theatre such as the use of song and verse, and, most notably, the presentation of arguments and reasoning as opposed to emotion and feeling, would have disconcerted an audience predominantly exposed to naturalistic concepts. This is due to the radically different way in which one must observe and react to the drama. In this essay, I will evaluate the profound variances between the conventional naturalistic or ‘dramatic’ theatre, and the new ‘epic’ theatre formulated by Brecht.
Brecht and his contemporaries were exposed to the naturalistic drama of playwrights such as Gerhardt Hauptmann, prior to the development of Brecht’s own practice of epic theatre. Audience expectation included the principle of the suspension of disbelief, whereby the audience would forget they are watching a play and become complicit in the action. Characters were explored and developed in depth in order to connect the audience on a sympathetic level; the morals, sympathies and judgments were handed directly to the audience rather than...
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