The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The Caucasian Chalk Circle Summary and Analysis of Act Two

Act Two

The next act, Act Two, follows Grusha as she flees with Michael and saves him from the soldiers who want to kill him. She enters the stage singing "The Song of the Four Generals." When she is done singing, she spots a peasant's cottage and goes there to buy some milk. The peasant charges her two piasters, the equivalent of a week's wages for her.

She keeps heading north, all the while being followed by several Ironshirts who want to kill Michael. She soon arrives at the River Sirra and comes across a farmhouse. When she sees that the peasant woman has milk, she decides to leave Michael on the doorstep since she knows that the peasants can feed him. She then goes to hide behind a tree in order to watch what happens.

The peasant woman finds the child at her door and brings Michael into the house. Her husband tells her to give it to the local priest, but she indicates that she will take care of it. Grusha hurries off in the opposite direction. However, before she gets very far she encounters the Ironshirts who are chasing her. The Corporal makes several crude sexual comments to her before becoming serious and demanding to know where Michael is. Panic-stricken, Grusha turns around and rushes back to the cottage where she left the child.

She runs inside and tells the peasant woman to hide Michael in order to keep him safe. The woman tentatively agrees, but she is frightened by the soldiers. The Corporal arrives and demands to know why Grusha ran. When he turns to the peasant woman, the woman falls to her knees and reveals that Grusha left the child on her doorstep. She is led outside by the other soldier, and the Corporal goes to take a look at Michael. Grusha, in despair, seizes a log and hits him over the head with it, knocking him out. She then grabs Michael and rushes out of the house.

She eventually reaches a glacier that has a deep ravine in it. The only way across is a broken rope bridge where one rope has snapped and is hanging down the abyss. Several merchants are using a stick to try to grab the broken rope in order to repair the bridge. Grusha tells them that she must get across because Ironshirts are pursuing her. They try to stop her, telling her that the drop is two thousand feet and that she cannot possibly get across with the baby. Grusha ignores them and steps onto the ropes. She succeeds in getting across and triumphantly laughs at the Ironshirts when they arrive on the other shore and realize they cannot catch her.


The amount of money used is an important issue in the play, both in this act and in subsequent ones. For instance, Grusha is forced to pay two piasters for milk. Notice that this is an entire week's salary that she is sacrificing for Michael. This is a huge sum for her. However, contrast that amount of money with the later acts. Azdak, in Act Four, is offered 100,000 piasters for one night's lodging. This drastic difference is meant to highlight the inequalities between the rich and the poor. It is Brecht's way of denouncing the capitalist society that focuses on money rather than on kindness.

Grusha goes through ten developmental steps that start in this act. Each of these steps requires that she sacrifice a part of herself to Michael. She does this financially, emotionally, in terms of her promises to Simon, and in terms of her life. The first step occurs when she gives up her money for the child, paying two piasters for milk. The second is when she decides to go back for Michael after leaving him with the peasant woman. The third is when she hits the Ironshirt over the head. Four is when she adopts Michael, "the helpless girl adopted the helpless child." Five is when she is offered the chance to leave the baby with the merchant woman so that she can cross the bridge and save herself. Six is when she risks her life and Michael's life to cross the bridge. The remaining developmental steps occur in the next act.

As was mentioned earlier, each of the seven sacraments is performed at one point in the play. Another sacrament occurs here, that of Baptism: "I'll wash you, son, and christen you in glacier water." This is a secularized version of baptism, meaning that it has been stripped of all its religious significance.