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By Ronald Speirs (auth.)

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And the sparkle in the eyes of two insects who want to eat one another 4 BAAL In conceiving Baal as a larger-than-life, mythical figure, Brecht was making full use of the Expressionist writer's 21 Bertolt Brecht licence to overstep the limits of psychological probability. What unites the play is not a traditional plot, nor the empirical sequence of a biography, but an Expressionist vision of life's essence as a struggle between the forces of vitality and decay. The 'open', episodic structure of this type of drama was later to become one of the defining features of Brecht's Epic Theatre.

It is evident, for example, in the types of play Brecht habitually chose. Although still relatively free of the direct narrational devices found in his later work, the productions of Drums in the Night and Baal at the beginning of the 1920s prompted reviewers to describe them as 'scenic ballads' or 'ballad-like', while his adaptation of Marlowe's Life of Edward II was felt to be descended from a particular kind of ballad, the lurid Morita t, often sung at the fairgrounds which the young Brecht was fond of frequenting, by a balladeer who pointed with a stick at a series of tableaux illustrating scenes from the versified, often moralising, story he was reciting.

Without the inherent dynamic of an unfolding action and counter-action to carry him from scene to scene, the spectator watching Mother Courage, say, has to tune into the consciousness of the implicit narrator (whose presence becomes explicit in the captions introducing each scene) in order to grasp the unity of the events being enacted; in the case of Mother Courage this unity is constituted by an argument about the nature of war and the role played in it by ordinary people. By placing the onus on the spectator to re-construct by inference the viewpoint of the narrator, this method of construction has the strongly suggestive effect of drawing the spectator into the perspective of the narrator.

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