The Caucasian Chalk Circle

by

Bertolt Brecht

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Michael Abashwili Character Analysis

The “noble child” who is at the very center of the play’s action, the role of Michael is a non-speaking one which is, in productions of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, often portrayed by a puppet or a doll. Michael is attended in his infancy by a staff of doctors who are constantly on-call and fuss over his every sneeze and cough. His mother, Natella, abandons him when she flees the capital, and the servant-girl Grusha takes Michael into her care, unwilling to leave him for the Fat Prince’s Ironshirts to find and kill. Michael is a burden to Grusha at first, but she soon resolves to raise him herself, and to do so the right way—with an emphasis on kindness and hard work. Brecht uses the fact that Michael, as a young child, can either be raised “right” or easily corrupted by wealth, greed, and power to signify the precipice he saw society facing at the time he wrote the play, with social and economic inequality on the rise. Michael thus represents the potential of the future of society, and his character arc ties in with themes of motherhood, justice vs. injustice, and corruption.

Michael Abashwili Quotes in The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The The Caucasian Chalk Circle quotes below are all either spoken by Michael Abashwili or refer to Michael Abashwili. 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:
Get the entire Caucasian Chalk Circle LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle PDF

Michael Abashwili Character Timeline in The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The timeline below shows where the character Michael Abashwili 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
...Governor was wealthy and prosperous, with a beautiful wife, Natella, and a healthy baby named Michael. (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...is fighting. The governor, flanked by Ironshirts—his soldiers and guards—approaches the church with Natella and Michael, who is pushed through the crowd in an ornate carriage. The crowd of peasants scrambles... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...the Fat Prince greets them, and wishes a happy Easter to Georgi, Natella, and their Michael, playfully tickling the child. Natella tells the Fat Prince of her husband Georgi’s plan to... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
The baby begins to cough, and Natella grows concerned. She turns to Michael’s doctors—who are with the family always—and the doctors vow to pay more careful attention to... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
While Natella, Michael, their servants, and the Fat Prince proceed into the church, the Governor is held behind... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...from the castle, surrounded by servants who carry her many belongings. One servant woman carries Michael in her arms. Natella asks Shalva if any news has come from the capital. Shalva... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...is time to leave. Natella continues rummaging through her trunks, and tells the servant holding Michael to put the child down and go retrieve a pair of saffron boots from her... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...her away. When Natella’s servant returns with the boots, she realizes that Natella has left Michael behind. She picks him up and holds him, then passes him off to Grusha so... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...in Grusha’s arms, and asks what she’s doing holding the child. Grusha tells her that Michael was left behind. One of the servants tells Grusha to put the child down and... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...Grusha and two women—one young, and one old—leave. The women both warn Grusha to leave Michael behind, but Grusha tells them that Natella’s servant girl is going to come back for... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
...Prince laments the fact that Natella took the “brat” away and says that he needs Michael “urgently.” The Fat Prince and his soldiers once again retreat through the palace gates and... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...spot.” Arkadi begins to sing. He describes in poetic words how Grusha hears the infant Michael calling to her for help and warns that those who ignore a cry for help... (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. The song tells of four generals who set... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
...peasant’s cottage. It is noontime, and, according to Grusha, time for a meal. She sets Michael down in the soft grass outside the cabin and knocks at the door. An old... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Grusha brings Michael to her breast, thinking that even though no milk will come the child might at... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Grusha arrives at another farm, telling Michael that she is going to leave him here. He has wet himself, and over the... (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 urges the peasant woman to hide the child, informing her that... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...understands the gravity of the situation. Grusha warns the woman that the soldiers will kill Michael on sight if he is discovered, so she begs the peasant woman to lie and... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
...and proclaims that being caught by the Ironshirts would be worse for both her and Michael than falling to their deaths. The merchants urge her to cross the bridge alone, so... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
...western side. The men know they cannot cross, and Grusha, from the eastern side, waves Michael above her head to taunt them. She walks on, and sings the child another small... (full context)
Act 3: In the Northern Mountains
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
...the while with the thought of how, when she reaches her brother’s house, she and Michael will be embraced and welcomed. (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 stay for... (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 in the... (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 about Grusha’s... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...afraid her son will die before they can marry him to Grusha. When she sees Michael, though, she hesitates, worried that bringing a woman who already has a child into her... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...back, and asks her where her child came from. He has more or less ignored Michael for a while, but now his patience has run out. He berates and belittles Grusha,... (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 some other children his age. The children play a game in which the... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...is not hers. Arkadi then sings Grusha’s private thoughts. He sings of how Grusha found Michael while Simon was away at war, and did not have the heart to abandon him,... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...imploring him to believe that the child is not hers. She hears the sound of Michael and the other children calling in the distance. In reply, she asks what the matter... (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... (full context)
Act 4: The Story of the Judge
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...enters the chamber, flanked by Ironshirts. One soldier informs Azdak that Natella is looking for Michael, who was last seen being carried into the mountains by a servant girl. Azdak assures... (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 he is... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...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 at Grusha, and notes... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
...then segue into discussing what the outcome of this trial will inevitably determine—that is, whether Michael will be the heir to his dead father’s estates. Azdak proclaims that he is “touched”... (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... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...was engaged to Simon, and she confesses that she married to keep a roof over Michael’s head while Simon was away at war. Azdak asks whether Grusha’s child comes from whoring,... (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... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
Shauwa enters with Michael, and Natella is appalled to see that he is dressed in commoner’s clothing. Grusha replies... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...use a piece of chalk to draw a circle on the floor, and to place Michael in the center. Shauwa does so. Azdak then instructs Natella and Grusha to stand near... (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 onto her side while Grusha looks on in horror, not having... (full context)
Motherhood as Leadership Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Chaos and Chance Theme Icon
...test once more. Grusha and Natella assume their position, but again only Natella pulls at Michael and yanks him out of the ring. Grusha, frustrated, asks whether she should be expected... (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 with the... (full context)