BRECHT IN PRACTICE
Haltung

Haltung (plural: Haltungen) is the German word for both ‘attitude’ and ‘posture’. Brecht liked this doubling of meaning to convey a physicalized attitude towards a person, a thing or an idea. (I have retained the German word to combine the two separate meanings in English.)

Haltung is to be seen in combination with Gestus in its meaning as an actor’s onstage physical connection to society. Haltung thus varies the base Gestus and shows how a figure responds differently to different situations.

Consider Sophocles’s Oedipus, for example. He is a king, and his basic Gestus would be defined by this social position. He begins the play of the same name as a kind of detective; he is trying to understand why his city has been ravaged by plague. But once a messenger has made some important revelations, he realizes that he is the cause of the plague because he has killed his father and slept with his mother. His Haltung will change at this turning point. In other plays, however, scenes themselves may have one or more turning point or change of situation, and figures would similarly alter their Haltung to reflect the ebbs and flows.

Haltung is an important concept. It clearly shows relationships in an Arrangement and, more crucially, how external changes affect individual figures. The mutability of any figure reveals its dependence on situation, constructing an active relationship between individual and society, suggesting that changing society might change individuals, too.

 


BRECHT IN PRACTICE - Copyright 2017 © Prof. David Barnett | All Rights Reserved

David Barnett
Professor of Theatre
University of York

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