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The Good Woman of Setzuan

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  7,955 ratings  ·  249 reviews
In 1952, Hannah Arendt hailed Bertolt Brecht as "beyond a doubt the greatest living German poet and possibly the greatest living European playwright." His plays, widely taught and studied, are searing critiques of civilizations run amok.During the thirties, the subversive nature of his work sent Brecht from Germany to Scandinavia and later to the United States. The Good Wo ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published November 15th 1999 by University of Minnesota Press (first published 1953)
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Steven Godin
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Opening with a monologue from a water seller (Wang), who is waiting for the Gods on the impoverished streets of a city outskirts, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that not only is this a Brecht play, but also it's setting is the far east (Chinese Culture being something that fascinated him). And he may have been one of the most innovative and influential playwrights of the 20th century, but Brecht’s main concern was getting an audience to think first, rather than engaging them easily on an ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, plays
The world we are introduced to in The Good Person of Szechwan is a grim one, and the premise is almost allegory: Is it possible to be a good and selfless person when everyone else is bad? Pragmatism and idealism clash in this work, in a way that questions them both.

Three unnamed gods are looking for a good human being. If we can find only one good person, a person that is able to live a decent life, they tell us, then the world is saved. And they seem to find one: Shen Te, a poor woman living i
Celebrity Death Match Special: Der gute Mensch von Sezuan versus Superman

[A bar in the Chinatown area of Metropolis. CLARK KENT and SHEN TE, at opposite ends of the counter, both staring disconsolately at half-empty glasses]

CLARK KENT: [Sighs] Women!

SHEN TE: [Sighs] Men!

[They look up, noticing each other for the first time]

CLARK KENT: Hey, don't get me wrong. I shouldn't complain. I have a swell job. I work with some great people and there's nothing I enjoy more than helping them. It's just, you
Ahmad Sharabiani
Der gute mensch von sezuan‬ = The Good Person of Szechwan = The Good Woman of Setzuan, Bertolt Brecht
The Good Person of Szechwan (German: Der gute Mensch von Sezuan, first translated less literally as The Good Woman of Setzuan) is a play written by the German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht, in collaboration with Margarete Steffin and Ruth Berlau. The play was begun in 1938 but not completed until 1941, while the author was in exile in the United States. The play is an example of Brecht's "n
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I want to go with the one I love.
I do not want to calculate the cost.
I do not want to think about whether it's good.
I do not want to know whether he loves me.
I want to go with whom I love.

Brecht is brutal here, situating his play in China, dangling the Gods who swing between Divine Indifference and Hypocrisy and filling the ranks with all the avarice and sloth that floats from our unctuous species. Some (may) find exception with the titular heroine and her Manichean solution to the query --
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
I read this in school.

That's a long time ago, and yet, I remember it better than many novels I read last year (or last month). I remember it despite the fact that I must have had a typical teenage brain at the time. It is just such a fundamental truth of injustice that it remained with me until this day, consoling me when I am frustrated, reminding me that at least the annoying topic made it into the realm of art.

If you are good, you are exploited.

That is the message, and I don't think anyone i
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Taught this play a few times, when Oedipus was required earlier. Contrast how despite altars and consulting the god of Delphi, the gods are not on stage as the Greek play begins, whereas that's precisely how Brecht begins. I would ask what kind of a voice a god has: I'd do a local Fall River accent, a Boston accent, and a deep, resonant male voice, ask a girl student to speak as a female god. In Good Woman, three anticipated gods show up in oldfashioned dress and dusty feet, looking for a place ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars.

In as far as studying this play while placing it in a particular historical and political context is concerned, I realise its significance, but otherwise this just wasn't for me. In my opinion Brect's Mother Courage is far, far better.
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: course

He who gives help to the lost is lost for his own part

Such great lines.

"Your original order, to be good while yet surviving, split me like lightning into two people.I cannot tell what occured: Goodness to others and to myself could not both be achieved.”

The play was extremely depressing in the beginning but gradually it grew on me. The drudgery of society and it's people is portrayed brilliantly. A "good" woman who is forced to survive through any means necessary.Shen Teh's growth as

Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really like this book. Sometimes when it seems to me that I've done something wrong I remember these two characters - Shen De and Shui Da. Brecht shows us that a person cannot be only a good man or only a bad man. When Shen De does something generous and fogets herself doing positiv things, she suffers. Other people are becoming bad, cruel and insult her. Her shop doesn't bring money and so on. When Shui Da does a bad thing, others just hate him. But his own trade is going perfectly well.
To m
Jun 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: comedy, fiction
it's a pretty famous play. i recommend acting it out with friends, not just reading it. ...more
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Every character was annoying as heck in here. I just wanted to yell at them to get off their butts and do something DAMMIT. But I suppose that was Brecht's intention. Sigh. Effective, but still infuriating. ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
I don't like this play as much as I like Mother Courage, but it is a pretty good play. Although the message of the play is ostensibly that it is difficult if not impossible to be good and to be financially secure, I'm more interested in the implicit message that undermines the Epilogue's plea for a changed world. The gods repeatedly complain that Shen Te is the only good person they can find, which implicitly means (especially for Brecht, who wanted audiences to see their own social/political/ec ...more
➸ Gwen de Sade
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, 2015
When my boyfriend and I were talking about books, he was more than shocked to find out, that I haven't read anything from Brecht so far, since he is his favorite author. So I went straight to the library and got myself a copy of The good Woman of Setzuan. And wow how I regret that I didn't read anything from him sooner! This play is now one of my favourites! Brecht is absolutely amazing and in my eyes a complete genius. The play is about the question whether and how a person can be good in a cap ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german-lit
Tavleen Kaur (Travelling Through Words)
'The Good Person of Szechwan' by Bertolt Brecht is an interesting play all about whether there are good people left in the world and how if one is a good person, they just get taken advantage of. It is set in a society that is being torn by war and everyone is looking out for themselves. The poor and middle class is struggling.

The main character Shen Teh is an interesting character. She has to fend for herself by prostituition but later becomes a business woman. Being a 'good' person, she gets
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"When I was little once I was carrying a bundle of sticks and fell. An old man helped me up and even gave me a penny. I have often thought of it. Those who have least to eat give most gladly. I suppose people just like showing what they are good at; and how can they do it better than by being friendly? Crossness is just a way of being inefficient. Whenever someone is singing a song or building a machine or planting rice it is really friendliness." ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, school, 2019, classic

I still can't believe that my teacher made me read this. Not that it was bad but... I'm not a fan of Brecht's epic theatre.
[3.5 stars]

The Good Person of Szechuan is a parable play, which means that readers and audiences must expect morality as a central concern therein. However, given that the play is one of Brecht's, there is also an attempt to engage audiences cerebrally rather than emotionally.

Emotional and cerebral is also how one may choose to describe the prostitute Shen Tei — the eponymous good person, who is discovered by three gods in what seems like pre-Communist China, and provided money to start anew as
Momina Masood
Apr 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays, german-lit
I have very mixed feelings about this play. Shen Te makes Jean Valjean look like a dream: can't you both be rich and good? Not all of the good suffer and not all of the evil ones prosper, or do they? And if all of us decide to become Shen Te, wouldn't all of us be happy? The dilemma arises when the good are outnumbered by the greedy and the selfish. Then, like in Setzuan, the exploitation of the virtuous begins which gives birth to the Shui Tas of society. Goodness stops being useful.

Another th
Mar 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
first play that i've ever read in full. not sure how it happened on my bookshelf, and have mixed feelings and intuitions about how it got there. surely it was planted there, by an ex-partner who was both, amazed and annoyed by my optimism and hope for others.

indeed, i related to the main character, Shen Te, and found myself (unusually) anxious and speeding to get to the end. i needed to know: how do/can things work out for Shen Te? i won't spoil the story.

i was amused with the other actors' ra
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have heard all sorts of disparaging remarks made about Brecht and how he used collaborators but never credited them, how he claimed to have written work that wasn't his, etc... I don't know how true these claims are but I've always enjoyed the work that comes labelled under his name. The Threepenny Opera is one of my favourite ever theatrical experiences.

The Good Woman of Szechwan is an intriguing piece. The theme is the following question: is it possible to survive and flourish in this world
Miss Bookiverse
Had to read it in school in 13th grade and actually read it. It was quite funny in an unwanted way I think (some formulations). At the beginning easy to read but as it went on it got more confusing because of the many different characters and what they really wanted and only pretended to want. Plus we've talked about in school for about 20 weeks too long, it just got annoying. Brecht himself is quite an interesting topic though. ...more

Okay, I'll admit that I always found Brecht boring in school. It wasn't because of the content, no, it was because he was so schematic. You could literally analyse his works to death, and that's exactly what we did with this one.

Well, at least I aced all the tests about "Der Gute Mensch von Sezuan". Analysing things to death was kind of my specialty. Guess that's why I became a lawyer. ;-)
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: plays
2.5 stars. I like the concept, but not so much the ending. The characters weren't interesting to me, and I just wanted to slap most of them. However I like what this play tried to do, and I don't regret having read it, even if it was for uni. ...more
Jennifer Clay
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in theater
the premise - that good REQUIRES evil to survive in this world. At least, in Brecht's world. ...more
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The qualities of allegory and parable are so strong in this piece. I love the part of Wang -- and the 3 gods and their journey through the piece too. A truly timeless story.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost the only piece of Brecht with a reasonable portion of humor. Made me think of Molière, for some reason. More human than the other pieces of Brecht.
Karlo Mikhail
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Written in the midst of the Great Depression, this Brecht play comments on the way Capitalism makes goodness an impossibility.
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Bertolt Brecht (born Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director. A seminal theatre practitioner of the twentieth century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble—the post-war theatre company operated by Brecht a ...more

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“I want to go with the one I love.
I do not want to calculate the cost.
I do not want to think about whether it's good.
I do not want to know whether he loves me.
I want to go with whom I love...”
“How can one remain free of every weakness, above all of the most deadly, of love?” 3 likes
More quotes…