By Ronald Speirs (auth.)
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Additional resources for Brecht’s Early Plays
What distinguished Jhering from the majority of contemporary reviewers was his responsiveness to innovation and his relative lack of preconceptions and prejudices. Underlying the complaints about the alleged lack of unity in Drums in the Night one can detect the unease of the critics who, confronted with the novelty of Brecht's work, tried to assimilate it to themes, methods and developments with which they were familiar. The fact that many Expressionist "Drums in the Night'' plays had dealt with the themes of revolt and revolution, for example, created a predisposition to regard a play set against the background of the recent revolutionary disturbances in Germany as a "drama of revolution" -and then to complain that the action lacked clear and coherent significance as a political allegory.
His murder ofEkart both produces an immediate sense of shock in him and returns to haunt him in his dying minutes. Yet these "scruples" "Baal" are only introduced into the play in order to be trampled down. Taken as a whole, the play argues that moral considerations are simply a means of evading the imperative of the appetites, a form of weakness which must be overcome if the human animal is not to be prevented from living life to the full by the spurious illusions of communal bonds conjured up by his fear of existential isolation.
Because he knows that his dream cannot be realised his wanderings take the form of self-exposure to the fiercest ravages of transient experience so that its intensity may compensate him for the tranquillity he cannot have. The angry awareness of the limits ofhuman existence is only one element in Baal's consciousness. It is balanced by more relaxed moods when he calmly enjoys the richness of the world. The permanence of the sky which in the "Ballad of the Adventurers" was a goading reminder ofhuman transience is seen in the "Chorale of the Great Baal" as a reassuring symbol, a guarantee that the individual's life partakes for a while of eternity: nur der Himmel, aber i m mer Himmel deckte miichtig seine BloBe zu.