Brecht's Dramatic Technique in Galileo

Brecht's theory of theatre known as 'Epic Theatre' is an anti-illusionist theatre that runs counter to the Aristotelian 'Theatre of Illusion'. It is in the light of this 'Epic Theatre' that we need to understand his dramatic technique. By using long pauses, harsh lightening, empty stages, episodic plot, placards announcing the change of scenes, concept of anti-hero, alienation effect or estrangement, narrative form and violation imposed by traditional dramatic form.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Brecht's dramatic technique is intended to create an effect of estrangement among the audience by making the characters declare boldly that whatever the audience is watching is only play-an illusion not reality. The audience is urged to remain intellectually vigilant and not identify with the characters of the play. The audience will have to maintain a critical stance. The long pauses in the play obstruct the smooth flow of the plot. Use of harsh lighting won't allow anything to be hidden so that the façade of illusion is dismantled. Empty stage makes the audience stop and think curiously about what is to follow. Unity of plot is not emphasized. The play cannot be seen as a whole where the parts serve to create an organic whole. Parts can stand on their own self. Their significance is judged in isolation and their existence doesn't depend on their contribution to the whole. This idea of the episodic plot gives against the Aristotelian idea of unity of plot. Use of placards to announce the change of scene helps to remind the audience of the illusion of theatrical performance. Galileo is an anti-hero because he acts like a coward fearing the instruments of torture. He doesn't fulfill our expectations from a hero as we have traditionally understood him. He doesn't have the courage and the power to prove himself as a great figure. Rather, he acts like a person who runs away from the threats and dangers. He, in short, is very anti-heroic. Aristotelian theory of theatre laid a great emphasis on the adherence to the unities of time, place and action. In Galileo, there is a violation of these unities. The events of the plot cover decades and are shown to have taken place in places that are far away from one another. The hero is not a person pursuing a single action with commitment. The play talks about many actions that do not coalesce into a single uniform action. Galileo uses narrative form in that it takes past events as a material for dramatization. The play is a dramatization of past events and thus carries a sense of historical facts being narrated. It is opposed to the idea of imaginary present of drama which unfolds before us as if it were happening in front of us for the first time. The play Galileo demands the special relationship between the characters and the audience. The audience is not demanded to show empathy towards the characters and be lost in sentimentality. They are urged to maintain a distance between themselves and what happens on the stage. A greater sense of detachment and critical response is demanded of them.