The Caucasian Chalk Circle

by

Bertolt Brecht

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A village scrivener—or writer and handler of official and legal documents—who by a twist of fate is appointed judge in Nuka during the play’s second half. After unwittingly sheltering the Grand Duke in the days following the Princes’ coup, Azdak is so ashamed at having protected the reviled leader that he travels to Nuka, accompanied by his friend Shauwa, to turn himself in for treason. Once there, Azdak realizes that all the public officials have been killed, and the judge has been hanged. After squaring off against the Fat Prince’s nephew in a mock trial to determine who was better suited to be the judge, Azdak is appointed judge by the Ironshirts despite the Fat Prince’s nepotistic desire to appoint his own nephew. As a judge, Azdak becomes known throughout the country as an iconoclast who stands up for the poor. Although Azdak regularly accepts bribes from the rich, he rarely rules in favor of the wealthy, and often steps outside the bounds of law and precedent. In the trial between Grusha and Natella, Azdak accepts a bribe from Natella’s sycophantic lawyers, but still rules in favor of Grusha after she passes the test of the chalk circle. At the end of the play, Azdak invites all present at the trial to join him for drinking and dancing, but while the others lose themselves in revelry, Azdak stands alone and inert, “lost in thought.” Similarly, Azdak stands alone in the world of the play, a singular figure whose dedication to justice is, to many, difficult to understand or pin down. Azdak’s arc ties in most directly with themes of corruption and justice vs. injustice, though he is certainly an arbiter of chaos and chance as well.

Azdak Quotes in The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The The Caucasian Chalk Circle quotes below are all either spoken by Azdak or refer to Azdak. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Minnesota Press edition of The Caucasian Chalk Circle published in 1999.
Act 4 Quotes

“If you don’t treat it with respect, the law just disappears on you.”

Related Characters: Azdak (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Statute Book
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5 Quotes

AZDAK: “I’ve noticed you have a soft spot for justice. I don’t believe he’s your child, but if he were yours, woman, wouldn’t you want him to be rich? You’d only have to say he wasn’t’ yours, and he’d have a palace and horses in his stable and beggars on his doorstep and soldiers in his service. What do you say—don’t you want him to be rich?”

Grusha is silent.

ARKADI: “Hear now what the angry girl thought but did not say: Had he golden shoes to wear, he’d be cruel as a bear. Evil would his life disgrace. He’d laugh in my face.”

Related Characters: Azdak (speaker), Arkadi Tscheidse (speaker), Grusha Vashnadze, Michael Abashwili
Related Symbols: The Saffron Boots
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Caucasian Chalk Circle LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle PDF

Azdak Character Timeline in The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The timeline below shows where the character Azdak appears in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3: In the Northern Mountains
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...case, noting that the city is “in flames,” or in great ruin. A man name Azdak, Arkadi says, will be in the judge’s seat. (full context)
Act 4: The Story of the Judge
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi calls upon the audience to listen to the story of Azdak the judge and learn “what kind of judge he was.” Arkadi sings that on the... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Azdak helps an elderly beggar into his home. He feeds him some cheese, and asks the... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
The old man tells Azdak that he will pay him a hundred thousand piasters a night to stay hidden in... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
The old man hides in the corner while Azdak answers the door. A policeman named Shauwa is there, and Azdak asks him what he... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Azdak argues with Shauwa, warning him that one day God will pass judgement on him for... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Azdak wonders aloud if this old man is being hunted for the right reasons, or whether... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Azdak arrives in Nuka in chains, shouting aloud about his guilt in having helped the Grand... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
A group of nearby Ironshirts ask Azdak whether his neighbors back in his village judged him for sheltering the Grand Duke. Shauwa... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak references a time in Persia when “everybody” was hanged, and peasants and foot soldiers took... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...offered one hundred piasters for each rebel they kill. The Ironshirts discuss amongst themselves whether Azdak is a troublemaker who has come to the capital to get mixed up in revolt.... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
The Ironshirts ask Azdak if he would like to put his name in the running for the position of... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
The Fat Prince accepts Azdak’s proposal, but again whispers to his nephew that the proceedings are “a mere formality.” Azdak,... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi sings of how Azdak remained the judge for two years, ruling justly as “cockroaches crawled out of every crack”... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak sits in his judge’s chair, peeling an apple. As there are so many cases before... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Azdak travels to the country to hear the case of an innkeeper who wishes to bring... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi and his chorus sing of Azdak’s continuing travels throughout the countryside. He gains renown as “the poor man’s magistrate.” In yet... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
...watching the old woman give her testimony, begins sobbing, afraid he will be caught. However, Azdak sentences the three plaintiffs to pay a fine for not believing in miracles, and invites... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Arkadi and his chorus sing of how Azdak “broke the rules” to save the local populace, and gave out “broken law like bread.”... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...Nuka, as did the Governor’s wife, Natella. The Fat Prince was beheaded and deposed, and Azdak became seized by fear. Back in the court of justice in Nuka, Azdak confers with... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak calls for Shauwa to bring him his Statute Book, and begins looking through it to... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Shauwa announces that someone is approaching the chamber. Azdak plans to beg on his knees for mercy, as he is very afraid of death.... (full context)
Act 5: The Chalk Circle
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...palace. Grusha stands with the former governor’s cook, who tells her that she’s lucky that Azdak is the one trying her case, since he is not a “real judge,” but a... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...the child’s father. Grusha thanks him. Two Ironshirts arrive, asking where the judge is. Apparently, Azdak is not present. The cook says she hopes nothing has happened to Azdak, as Grusha’s... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak and Shauwa are brought into the courtroom wearing chains. Three farmers are behind them. An... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak dresses himself in his torn judge’s robes and the Ironshirts unchain him. Azdak orders Shauwa... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Natella’s lawyers approach Azdak, and pass him a bit of money. Azdak counts the money and puts it away.... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
...daughter. He paints Natella as a bereaved mother who has been “robbed of her young.” Azdak interrupts the lawyer to ask Grusha what her answer to the lengthy statement is, and... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
...will inevitably determine—that is, whether Michael will be the heir to his dead father’s estates. Azdak proclaims that he is “touched” by the lawyers’ mention of estates, and sees it as... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak asks Grusha why she married in the mountain village if she was engaged to Simon,... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak announces that he will not listen to any more lies from either side. Grusha accuses... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha goes on a tirade, admonishing Azdak by asking him how he dare speak to her so cruelly and calling him a... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak adjourns court for fifteen minutes, telling Grusha that he has momentarily lost interest in her... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Azdak proclaims that he needs someone to go and fetch Michael. He then calls Grusha to... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak announces that as he has been unable to come to a decision about who the... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Natella’s lawyers object, but Azdak ignores them and orders the women to pull. Natella yanks Michael out of the circle... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak tells her to stop trying to influence the court, but agrees to let the women... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Azdak removes his judge’s gown, stating that it has gotten too hot for him to wear... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...the cook, and the old couple who had wanted a divorce dance with each other. Azdak stands alone, “lost in thought.” (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi intervenes one final time to announce that after that night Azdak was never again seen in Grusinia. No one forgot about him, and all remembered his... (full context)