The Caucasian Chalk Circle

by

Bertolt Brecht

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Grusha Vashnadze Character Analysis

The protagonist of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and an emblem of goodness, righteousness, and justice, the servant-girl Grusha represents Brecht’s desire for a society built on the success and triumph of the lower classes over their wealthy and powerful overlords, as well as his desire for a world built on lovingkindness and compassion. When Grusha discovers that the noble infant Michael Abashwili has been abandoned by his mother Natella during the coup, Grusha reluctantly realizes that she must take the infant into her care if he is to survive. She flees with him into the mountains, pursued by the Fat Prince’s soldiers, and though the child is a burden to her at first and she initially attempts to abandon him with a peasant-woman and her husband, Grusha realizes once again that she is the only one who can properly care for the child. Grusha is deeply concerned that Michael should grow up “right”—she wants to keep him away from the corruptive forces of wealth and power, and raise him to be just, good, and hardworking. When the Fat Prince’s regime is overturned and Natella sends soldiers to take Michael away from Grusha, Grusha stands trial against Natella and is eventually proclaimed the child’s true mother after she refuses to cause him bodily harm during the test of the chalk circle. Azdak, a judge who stands up for society’s poor, recognizes the depth of Grusha’s commitment to Michael and her desire to keep him from corruption, and devises a test which (it is implied) he knows she will pass. Thus the play concludes with the triumph of the lower class as Grusha is reunited with her son as well as her betrothed, the soldier Simon Shashava. The play’s narrator, Arkadi, thus proclaims “that what there is shall go to those who are good for it: children to the motherly, that they prosper.” The play’s overtly moralistic conclusion highlights the ways in which Grusha’s character symbolizes not only motherhood in general, but the idea that responsibility should be given to those who have the greatest capacity for care and compassion.

Grusha Vashnadze Quotes in The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The The Caucasian Chalk Circle quotes below are all either spoken by Grusha Vashnadze or refer to Grusha Vashnadze. 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 1 Quotes

“Know, woman, he who hears not a cry for help but passes by with troubled ears will never hear the gentle call of a lover nor the blackbird at dawn nor the happy sigh of the tired grape-picker.”

Related Characters: Arkadi Tscheidse (speaker), Grusha Vashnadze, Michael Abashwili
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

“Fearful is the seductive power of goodness!”

Related Characters: Arkadi Tscheidse (speaker), Grusha Vashnadze, Michael Abashwili
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

“She who carries the child feels its weight and little more.”

Related Characters: Arkadi Tscheidse (speaker), Grusha Vashnadze, Michael Abashwili
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

“Deep is the abyss, son, I see the weak bridge sway. But it’s not for us, son, to choose the way. The way I know is the one you must tread, and all you will eat is my bit of bread. Of every four pieces, you shall have three. Would that I knew how big they will be!”

Related Characters: Grusha Vashnadze (speaker), Michael Abashwili
Page Number: 41-42
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

“While you fought in the battle, soldier, the bloody battle, the bitter battle, I found a helpless infant. I had not the heart to destroy him. I had to care for a creature that was lost. I had to stoop for breadcrumbs on the floor. I had to break myself for that which was not mine, that which was other people’s. Someone must help! For the little tree needs water. The lamb loses its way when the shepherd is asleep and its cry is unheard!”

Related Characters: Grusha Vashnadze (speaker), Arkadi Tscheidse (speaker), Michael Abashwili, Simon Shashava
Page Number: 61
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:
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Grusha Vashnadze Character Timeline in The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The timeline below shows where the character Grusha Vashnadze appears in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: The Noble Child
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...the city from the river with a bundle in her arms. The girl’s name is Grusha Vashnadze. The soldier, Simon Shashava, teases her about not attending church. She tells him that... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Simon appears, and searches for Grusha. He finds her and asks her what she plans to do. She tells him that... (full context)
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Simon stops Grusha from leaving and asks if she still has living parents—Grusha tells him that it is... (full context)
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Simon shows Grusha a cross on a chain made of silver, and asks her to wear it. He... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...left Michael behind. She picks him up and holds him, then passes him off to Grusha so that she can run after Natella and Shalva and perhaps call them back to... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...emerge from the palace, and tell the rest that it is time to clear out. Grusha asks what has befallen the Governor, and one of the servants mimes a throat-cutting. A... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
All the servants except for Grusha and two women—one young, and one old—leave. The women both warn Grusha to leave Michael... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha pokes her head out of the palace to look around and screams when she sees... (full context)
Act 2: The Flight into the Northern Mountains
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
As Grusha flees into the Northern Mountains, she sings Michael a song—The Song of the Four Generals.... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Grusha comes upon a peasant’s cottage. It is noontime, and, according to Grusha, time for a... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Grusha brings Michael to her breast, thinking that even though no milk will come the child... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi and his chorus sing about Grusha’s journey. The Fat Prince’s soldiers are after her, and her “pursuers never tire.” Two Ironshirts... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Grusha arrives at another farm, telling Michael that she is going to leave him here. He... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi and his chorus sing a small song expressing Grusha’s competing happiness and sadness at having left the child behind. After walking for a short... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha returns to the cottage, where the peasant woman has placed Michael in a crib. Grusha... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha looks out the window, and sees the soldiers approaching. The peasant woman looks, too, and... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
The Ironshirts knock at the door, then let themselves into the cottage. The Ironshirts ask Grusha why she ran away, and she replies that she suddenly remembered she had left milk... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...task, and the peasant woman, overcome with nerves, gives everything away, telling the soldiers that Grusha told her to lie and say the child was hers. The Corporal orders his soldiers... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Grusha and the chorus sing a song in which Grusha announces that she has finally decided... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha comes to a glacier which is passable only by way of a “rotten” bridge in... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Grusha looks down into the two-thousand-foot-deep abyss, and proclaims that being caught by the Ironshirts would... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Grusha crosses the bridge just as the Ironshirts and their Corporal—whose head is bandaged—appear on the... (full context)
Act 3: In the Northern Mountains
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Arkadi sings of Grusha’s journey across the glacier. She traverses its icy surface and makes her way down the... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
When she finally arrives at her brother Lavrenti’s house, Grusha is so pale and weak that she has to be held up by a servant... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Grusha nearly faints, and Lavrenti rushes to her side. He tells his wife that she is... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
When Aniko leaves the room to check on dessert, Grusha hands Michael to her brother. Lavrenti holds the child, but tells Grusha that she cannot... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Time passes. Grusha and Michael stay with Lavrenti and his wife through the winter. One day, while weaving... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Lavrenti enters the basement, and, after checking to make sure that Grusha and Michael are not too cold, begins to tell Grusha that Aniko is very concerned... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Lavrenti tells Grusha that he has made some inquiries, and has found a man who can be her... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi changes the scene to the cottage of a peasant woman and her dying son. Grusha’s new mother-in-law pulls Grusha into the cabin quickly, afraid her son will die before they... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha asks Lavrenti to promise her that he will send Simon right to her, if Lavrenti... (full context)
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...in which he proclaims that all the wedding guests also stand before a funeral bed. Grusha’s mother-in-law laments having hired such a cheap and tactless priest. Meanwhile, Grusha’s new husband sits... (full context)
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...over Grusinia. Thus, the war is over, and all the soldiers will soon return home. Grusha, overhearing the news, drops a cake pan on the ground. (full context)
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha, stunned, sits down and asks weakly if the news is true. A guest assures her... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
While Jussup eats cake, Arkadi sings about the awkwardness of the situation. Grusha is newly married, even as her lover, the soldier Simon, is on his way home... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...time has passed. Jussup takes a bath, aided by his mother, but he calls for Grusha, stating that the task of bathing him is now his wife’s work. He demands that... (full context)
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi, signaling the passage of even more time, sings a song in which he describes Grusha waiting and waiting for Simon to come for her, but he never does, and with... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha washes linens in a stream while, nearby, an older and more grown-up Michael plays with... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Simon and Grusha greet each other happily but with a stiff formality. Grusha thanks God that Simon has... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi sings the things that Simon and Grusha cannot say out loud to one another. He sings the story of Simon’s time in... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Simon tells Grusha to give him back the cross he gave her on the day of their engagement.... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Two Ironshirts appear, with Michael held captive between them. The soldiers ask Grusha if Michael is her child, and she tells them that he is. At this, Simon... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Arkadi sings again, narrating that, as the Ironshirts take the child back to the city, Grusha follows them back to the “dreaded” Nuka to fight against Natella for custody of the... (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
Grusha and Michael arrive back in Nuka, but Grusha is kept away from the child as... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Simon appears behind Grusha and offers to swear in court that he is the child’s father. Grusha thanks him.... (full context)
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Grusha worries aloud that she will run into the Ironshirt she hit over the head. Just... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...money and puts it away. Natella’s lawyers proclaim that the “ridiculous” case is centered around Grusha, who has abducted Michael and now refuses to return him to his mother. Azdak looks... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
...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 Grusha replies very simply that the... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Natella’s lawyers explain that after Michael was left behind under “unfortunate” circumstances, Grusha stole him away. The cook, Grusha’s friend, speaks up to defend her. She says that... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...again speaks up and adds that she used to watch the child for Simon and Grusha. One of Natella’s lawyers states that Simon’s testimony is suspicious and biased, as he is... (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, and she... (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 Azdak of accepting a bribe from the opposing side, but Azdak tells her that... (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... (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 case. Natella’s lawyers tell her that they... (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 him, and asks her discreetly why she wouldn’t want the child to grow up... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...with Michael, and Natella is appalled to see that he is dressed in commoner’s clothing. Grusha replies that Natella couldn’t even be bothered to dress her baby—on the contrary, she abandoned... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...and to place Michael in the center. Shauwa does so. Azdak then instructs Natella and Grusha to stand near the circle at opposite ends, and to each take the child by... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...the women to pull. Natella yanks Michael out of the circle onto her side while Grusha looks on in horror, not having made a move to pull on Michael at all.... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...to influence the court, but agrees to let the women take the test once more. Grusha and Natella assume their position, but again only Natella pulls at Michael and yanks him... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...checks the divorce document, he sees that Azdak has divorced the wrong couple—he has divorced Grusha from Jussup rather than divorcing the elderly couple. Before leaving, Azdak reminds Grusha and Simon... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Simon, Grusha, and Michael rejoice at being all together at last. Grusha dances with Michael, Simon dances... (full context)