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BERTOLT BRECHT AND THE NOH DRAMA IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO ASSERT unequivocally that a certain writer has been influenced by another writer or by a certain school of writing. Indeed, it is not sufficient to discover even the most striking similarities in the works under consideration; it is necessary to establish beyond the level of simple hypothesis that the later writer knew at least a part of the production of the earlier writer or writers and, even better, that he held it in high regard or showed a special interest in it. Otherwise even the most fundamental similitudes cannot be related in terms of influence but only in terms of comparison.! The difficulty is further compounded when not a simple relationship between two writers is at stake, but a triangular sequence of influence. Thus, at least one critic has suggested the French writer Paul Claudel (and, to a lesser extent, the Berlin stage director Piscator) as the link between the German playwright Bertolt Brecht and the Japanese Noh. John Willett points out that Claudel's 'Opera' Christophe Colomb, first performed in Berlin in 1930, shows an unmistakable influence of the Noh, which the author had come to know during his six years service in Japan as French Ambassador.2 It is about the same time (1928-1930) that Brecht wrote his didactic works: Der Flug der Lindberghs (The Flight of the Lindberghs), in which Willett notes significant similarities with Christophe Colomb (though not with the Noh), and two plays clearly inspired by the Japanese theater: D'er ] asager (He Who Says Yes) and Die Massnahme (Measures Taken). Since the dates seem to preclude a direct influence of the French work on the German, Willett seems to suggest that the transmission of the interest in the Noh might have followed an earlier if more devious path, that ! We do not mean to imply that a comparison between otherwise unrelated writers is devoid of interest. On the contrary, in some cases it may lead to valuable and original interpretations of similar themes and parallel evolutions. An entire division of comparative literature is devoted to this type of studies. For a recent example of such a comparative approach dealing in part with the Noh plays, see John Lovell, Jr., "Some Common Ground between American and Japanese Drama," The Theatre Annual, 1964, XXI, 29-39. 2 John Willett, The Theater of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from eight Aspects, Methuen & Co. (London, 1959), pp. 116-117. Other critics are content to mention the Noh's influence on Brecht, without trying to tie it to an intermediary influence : cf. Martin Esslin, Brecht (New York: Doubleday, 1961), p. un; Reinholt Grimm, Bertolt Brecht und die Weltliteratur (Niirnberg, Hans Carl, 1961), p. 19; Walter Weideli, The Art of Bertolt Brecht, trans!' by Daniel Russell (New York: New York University Press, 1963), pp. 45-46. 122 1968 BRECHT AND THE NOH 123 is from Claudel to his collaborator Darius Milhaud, then on to the latter's friends Hindemith and Weill, and finally to their collaborator Brecht. As for Piscator, it is true that his interest in things Oriental is m'anifested at that time by his 1930 directing of Plivier's Des Kaisers Kuli (The Emperoys Coolie), where an epic staging was mixed with the exotic subject matter.s Willett's argument is not convincing. No one questions Piscator's influence on Brecht, but nothing indicates that it specifically included an encouragement to find "epic" models in the Noh. The striking parallelism between Claudel and Brecht assuredly deserves to be further explored, yielding perhaps some new evidence of one-way or mutual influence, but the involved triangular, or rather hexagonal, sequence, N oh-Claudel-Milhaud-Weill/Hindemith-Brecht, seems doomed to remain in the realm of hypothesis, barring some new testimony . Besides, there was really no need for bringing in these intermediaries in order to explain Brecht's interest in the Noh. His own readings, his works, and his dramatic theory, however much they might have been influenced by other writers, show a direct relationship which may be profitably examined on its own merits. Indeed, while it is not known exactly when Brecht first became interested in the Oriental...


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