The Caucasian Chalk Circle

By Bertolt Brecht, Eric Bentley

6,286 ratings - 3.8* vote

Few authors have had such a dramatic effect as Bertolt Brecht. His work has helped to shape a generation of writers, theatergoers, and thinkers. His plays are studied worldwide as texts that changed the face of theater. The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a parable inspired by the Chinese play Chalk Circle. Written at the close of World War II, the story is set in the Caucasus M Few authors have had such a dramatic effect as Bertolt Brecht. His work has helped to shape a generation of writers,

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Book details

Paperback, 136 pages
November 15th 1999 by Univ Of Minnesota Press

(first published 1945)

Original Title
Der kaukasische Kreidekreis
0816635285 (ISBN13: 9780816635283)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


When the sharks the sharks devour
Little fishes have their hour.

This might be the Master at his finest, remarkably both modern and ancient, timeless parables are bracketed in the struggle against fascists with an all too human squalor that likely made Stalin squeal.

The play within the play is apparently from an ancient Chinese tale, it proved unexpectedly surprising. Grusha is a wonderful, highly developed protagonist, unlike the Portia of Venice, her motivation isn't guile but an almost childish concept of loyalty and justice. No doubt Brecht embraced this unlikely refuge even as the world around him was collapsing into barbarism. The title refers to the Chinese story of a judge placing a child in a chalked circle and the two women claiming to be the mother are asked to remove the child, the nominal reason being that only the true parent could extricate the young one. As the reasoning goes the judge awards the child to the woman who didn't attempt to remove the child for fear of harming it. This is replicated by Brecht with certain human caveats about the stewards of justice and the greasing of palms.


What I learnt from this book: rich people suck, poor people suck, war sucks, society sucks, socialism isn't bad and fruit farms are the future.

Czarny Pies

Bertolt Brecht considered himself to be a great author which is not terribly surprising as most people are at least partially self-delusion. What is more surprising is how many people agreed with Brecht's high opinion of himself during the middle decades of the Twentieth Century.

In fact Brecht had a wicked sense of humour and a great instincts on how to use the space on the stage to best effect. As a result he produced a number of highly entertaining plays that had audiences laughing in the four corners of the world.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle is an amusing fairy tale set in the Georgian Caucasus about the judgements rendered by the village idiot that an invading army has installed as a magistrate as a joke. Not too surprisingly the village idiot proves to an excellent judge during his very short term.

If properly staged, the Caucasian Chalk Circle is extremely funny and offers a great evening at the theatre. You might want to consider taking in a performance if the opportunity ever presents itself.


This is another one I performed during my years as a drama geek. To be honest, I think I was too young to appreciate Brecht's work properly.

You have to comprehend symbolism, or this all ends up kind of dull. The whole story of the mums fighting over the kids is interesting but short, while the rest of the play is a comment on society.

I'd have to go back to give a worthy review, but it honestly just didn't interest me enough.

✰ Liz ✰


Tackling a Brecht script takes a lot of patience and time! His writing is complex and fluid and yet the embedded symbolism takes time to unravel and reflect on!

This is one play I would love to see on the stage!


This book is really hard to understand because the language of this book is really complicate. But after reading this book twice it made this book a lot easier to understand. This book uses really hard words and some words are not even in English. I really enjoy the prologue. I really like how it foreshadows the story.


I saw a production of this but I have not read it yet. Brecht's ideas are abstract and they kept me wondering about the fairy-tale like quality. Grusha, a servant working for a snobbish aristocratic woman (Natella), cares for the child (Michael) who Natella left behind. Grusha is selfless and she gives everything she can to him. When the case is brought to court with the judge named Azdak, the chalk circle is drawn to put the child in. Brecht's ideas intrigued me here. Grusha and Natella are asked to pull at him to see who is the real mother. Grusha is the true mother because she could not bear to hurt the child she raised and cared for. This play is not about emotions. It is supposed to be unsentimental. I liked it for its historical context and its ideas, because it was meaningful. The play was originally written in German and it premiered in the United States in 1948.


Perhaps the best Brecht play I have read so far (though they have all been good). There is something particularly engaging about the two main characters, Grusha and Azdak. Although the message of the play is supposedly very straightforwardly "Socialist" I always feel that Brecht is never quite so obviously simple as that. The writing is amazing and the songs always add to the impetus rather than detract from it.

Ana Sanz

I finished reading this a couple weeks ago for my Theatre class and yes, it's that genius Brecht whom everyone has heard of yet no one quite understands. Brecht's works and techniques aiming to completely and utterly emotionally isolate the audience of his plays create confusion as to how the characters should act or whether they should act at all and they SHOULD. The Caucasian Chalk Cirle threads together two conflicts regarding the ownership of farmed land after the second world war, and uses sly morals to show how power drives people to do insane things as in the ancient Chinese tale "The Circle of Chalk" (Brecht's plays usually used ideas from ancient fables). By confusing you with things like having the characters refer to themselves in third person, the sudden gestures and expressions (gestus), Brecht truly accomplishes a state of uneasiness, making the reader (audience, better put) question what they're seeing and encouraging a thought process that evaluates the nature of our system. This man is suave af.

Michael Reffold

Has its moments but it's far longer than it needs to be and only a handful of characters are fleshed out in any way.