The-Good-Person-of-Szechwan

Yes, it is I. Shui Ta and Shen Te, I am both.

Your first decree

To be good and to live

Split me, like lightning, in two. I

Don’t know how it happened: to be good to others

And to myself was not possible for me,

to help others, and myself, was too hard.

Ah, your world is hard. Too much need, too much despair!

The hand you extend to the poor

is torn from your arm! Help the lost,

and you’re lost yourself. Who

Can long avoid evil, when people eat, and there’s no food?

Where could I find everything that was needed? Only

From out of myself! But in doing good, I died!

The burden was too much, it buried me alive.

Then when I did evil, I was respected, feared, I

Ate very well. Something is wrong with your world.

Oh, in me there’s a great yearning to be rich and spoiled.

But there’s a secret knowledge, too. My foster mother

Washed me with gutter water, and

From that I got my sharp eye. Pity hurt me so terribly,

I fell into ravening anger, the minute I saw misery.

Then I felt myself change, my lips curled back,

My teeth became fangs. The good word tasted

Like ash in my mouth. I would like to have been

The angel of the outskirts, very much. I lusted to give.

A pleasant face and I walked on air.

Condemn me: All my crimes

I did to help my neighbors

To love my lover and

To save my child from want.

For your great plans, oh Gods,

This person was too poor and too small.

—  Bertolt Brecht, The Good Person of Szechwan (trans. Kushner)
Ladies and gentlemen, don’t feel let down:
We know this ending makes some people frown.
We had in mind a sort of golden myth
Then found the finish had been tampered with.
Indeed it is a curious way of coping:
To close the play, leaving the issue open.
Especially since we live by your enjoyment.
Frustrated audiences mean unemployment.
Whatever optimists may have pretended
Our play will fail if you can’t recommend it.
Was it stage fright made us forget the rest?
Such things occur. But what would you suggest?
What is your answer? Nothing’s been arranged.
Should men be better? Should the world be changed?
Or just the gods? Or ought there to be none?
We for our part feel well and truly done.
There’s only one solution that we know:
That you should now consider as you go
What sort of measures you would recommend
To help good people to a happy end.
Ladies and gentlemen, in you we trust:
There must be happy endings, must, must, must!
—  The epilogue to The Good Person of Szechwan, by Bertolt Brecht. (trans. John Willett)
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Someone needs to come see this with me late Feb. Do it. Now. Come with me. I love the Lisps. And always wanted to see something at La MaMA.