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"The Marxist Notion Of Law As The Handmaid Of Exploitation Is Everywhere In Evidence" (Keith Dickson). Discuss This View Of Der Kaukadische Kreidekreis.

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Ð''The Marxist notion of law as the handmaid of exploitation is everywhere in evidence' (Keith Dickson). Discuss this view of Der kaukasische Kreidekreis.

Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, like many of Brecht's plays, is, at its heart, a platform for the dissemination of Marxist ideology and a critique of bourgeois values and institutions. The key Marxist message of the play is that resources should be distributed to those able to make best use of them; as demonstrated by the prologue, in which one kolchos relinquishes its valley to another kolchos for the good of the Soviet state. This prologue is mirrored by the battle for the guardianship of a child in the main thread of the play.

It is Brecht's criticism of the bourgeois judicial system, however, which has lent itself better to evaluation by scholars of the social sciences. Close analysis of the play may clarify Brecht's opinion of the law, but there are a multitude of ways in which the content can be interpreted.

In this essay, I will interpret the depiction of the law in Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, relating my interpretation to Keith Dickson's assertion that "the notion of law as the handmaid of exploitation is everywhere in evidence." In doing so, I will touch upon the history of Brecht's Marxist beliefs, as they provide a framework by which one might better understand the motivation behind the play.

Brecht held socialist and anti-bourgeois tendencies from a young age. It was not until the mid to late 1920s, however, that he would adopt a firmly Marxist belief system whilst studying under the tutelage of the radical socialist, Karl Korsch. The concepts of class struggle, revolutionary justice and democratic socialism passed onto Brecht by Korsch were of great influence to the subject matter of his future productions and the further development of the epische Theater and LehrstÐ"јcke. Brecht aimed to provide an alternative to traditional bourgeois theater, forcing his audience to think critically about what was being enacted in front of them. As he asked in a 1939 essay on experimental theater:-

"How can theater be entertaining and at the same time instructive? Ð'... and transformed from a place of illusion to a place of insight?"

In essence, Brecht believed theater should be utilized as a means to improve society through the education of his audience, as opposed to being merely a mere form of entertainment.

In the case of der kaukasische Kreidekreis, Brecht asks the audience to consider the concepts of morality, revolution, legality, rights of ownership and the corruption of the ruling classes. All of this is within the framework of a play featuring many of the classical aspects of fairytale and Broadway theater, albeit with a healthy dose of epic theater thrown into the mix. Although further analysis of each of the Marxist themes within the play would prove to be infinitely interesting, the purpose of this essay dictates that I shall now focus purely on the concept of legality.

Now, any person with a prior knowledge of Brecht's opinions on the judiciary system could make the claim that der kaukasische Kreidekreis enforces the Marxist notion that the law is a mechanism for the exploitation of the lower classes. This was a cornerstone of Marxist belief and so Brecht, as a Marxist, would have a good chance of subscribing to this view. Dickson, however, is a serious scholar of Brecht and there is ample justification for his claim within the play itself.

It is the final two scenes of the play which provide the most ample justification of Dickson's claim. Although, much has happened before this point, for the purposes of this essay it is enough to give only a brief outline:

In the first scene of the play, the GroÐ"ÑŸfÐ"јrst of Grusinien and his governor, Georgi Abaschwili are deposed by a coup, instigated by the fat prince, FÐ"јrst Kazbeki. Whilst the governor is executed, the GroÐ"ÑŸfÐ"јrst and the governor's wife go into hiding. Unfortunately, the governor's wife leaves her child, Michel, behind: she is more concerned with collecting her expensive collection of dresses. Gruscha, a conscientious maid, flees with the child in order to prevent him being executed like his father.

After carrying Michel to safety, Gruscha mothers the child diligently for several years. It eventually transpires that the GroÐ"ÑŸfÐ"јrst has returned to power: Gruscha and Michel are taken to the court of the capital city as the governor's wife wants to regain guardianship of her child. This trial will be presided over by Azdak, a most idiosyncratic judge, appointed to power the day after the initial revolution by virtue of a string of improbable events.

Azdak is the means by which Brecht can highlight the injustices of the judiciary system and the disparity between the law, judgment and true justice. He is entirely unqualified to hold the post of judge, is relatively cowardly, readily accepts bribes and his only use for the book of law is as a cushion for his throne. Why then, is his two year reign as judge declared by the SÐ"¤nger narrating the play as a short ""Goldenen Zeit" beinah der Grechtigkeit" ? The answer to this is that despite Azdak's bizarre practices, he is the first judge of Grusinien to favour the working classes in his judgments, as shown through three separate cases in scene 5.

The case which best demonstrates Azdak's style of judgment is the case of the poor old woman, accused by a pair prosperous farmers of the theft of a cow and some ham. The woman claims that the ham and cow were gifted miraculously to her by the mythical Sankt Banditus. It is patently clear to everyone, however, that the cow and ham were stolen from the farmers by the woman's brother in law, the bandit Irakli. Nevertheless, Azdak rules in favour of the old woman, fining the prosperous farmers 500 piastres. We see in this example, the way in which Azdak bends the law in order to achieve an unusual form of justice for the poor.

Brecht

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