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He Who Says No,He Who Says Yes

Bertolt Brecht
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2009 / 12 / 27

Characters

The Teacher
The Young Boy
The Mother
The Three Students
The Great Chorus

Written 1929-30. Collaborators : E. Hauptmann, K. Weill.

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1.

The Great Chorus :
Waht we must learn above all is consent.
Many says yes, and yet there is no consent.
Many are not asked, and many
Consent to the wrong things. Therfore ;
What we must learn above all is consent.

[The teatcher in area 1, the mother and the young boy in area 2.]

The Teacher : I am the teacher. I keep a school in the city and I have a pupil whose father is dead ; he has only his mother to look after him. Now I will go and say good-bye to them, for I shall soon de seating on a journey to the mountains. [He knocks at the door]. May I come in ?
The Boy [enters area 1 from area 2] : Who is it ? Oh, it s the teacher. The teacher has come to visit us !
The Teacher : Whay have you not been to my school in the city for so long ?
The Boy : I have not been able to come because my mother has been ill.
The Teacher : I didn t know that. Please tell her at once that I am here.
The Boy [calls to area 2] : Mother, the teacher is here.
The Mother [sits on a wooden chair in area 2] : Ask him to come in.
The Boy : Please, come in.

[Both go into area 2.]

The Teacher : Ir is a long time since I was here. Your son tells me you too have fallen ill. Are you better now ?
The Mother : Do not worry about my illness. It is of no consequence.
The Teacher : I am glad to hear it. I have come to say good-bye for I am soon starting on a scientific expedition to the mountains. In the city beyond the mountains there are great teachers.
The Mother : A scientific expedition to the mountains ! Yes indeed, I have heard that great doctors live there, but I have also heard that the journey is dangerous. Will you take my child with you ?
The Teacher : It is not a journey that a young child could make.
The Mother : Well. I hope you return safely.
The Teacher : I must go now. Good-bye. [Goes to area 1].
The Boy [follows the teacher to area 1] : There is something I must say.

[The mother listen at the door.]

The Teacher : What have you got to say ?
The Boy : I want to go to the mountains with you.
The Teacher :
As I told your mother
We are going on a difficult and
Dangerous journey. You can
Not possibly come with us. Besides
How can you leave your mother
When she is not well ?
Stay here. It is utterly
Impossible that you should go with us.
The Boy :
Precisely because my mother si ill
I must go with you to get
Medicine and instruction for her from the great doctors
In the city across the mountains.
The Teacher : But will you consent to everything that may happen to you during the journey ?
The Boy : Yes.
The Teacher : I must speak again to your mother.

[He goes back to area 2. The boy listens at the door.]

The Teacher : I have come back. Your son says he is going with us. I told him he could not leave you when you were ill.
I told him it is a difficult and dangerous journey. I said it was quite impossible for him to go. But he said he must go to the city beyound the mountains to get medicine and instruction about curing your illness.
The Mother : I listened to his words. I do not doubt what the boy says - that he wishes to go with you on your dangerous journey. Come in. my son !
[The boy enters area 2.]
Since the day
Your father left us
I have had none
But you at my side.
I have not had you
Out of sight or mind
For longer than I needed
To cook your meals
To mend your clothes and
Earn money.
The Boy : All that you say is true. Yet nothing can move me from my purpose.
The Boy, The Mother, The Teacher :
I (he) wil go on the dangerous journey
And get medicine and
Insruction about curing your (her, my) illness
In the city beyond the mountains.
The Great Chorus :
They saw no plea
Could move him
Then the teacher and the mother
Said with one voice :
The Teacher, The Mother :
Many consent to wrong things ; he, however
Does not consent to illness, but holds that
Illness should be cured.
The Great Chorus :
Then the mother said :
The Mother :
I have no strenght left.
If indeed it must be
Go with the teacher
But return swiftly.





2.

The Great Chorus :
The men started
On their jeourney to the mountains.
The teacher and the boy
Were among them.
The boy was not equal to the exertion
He strained his heart
A quick return was called for.
At dawn at the foot of the mountains
He was hardly able to drag
His weary feet.

[The teacher, the three students and, last, the boy with a jar, enter area 1.]
The Teacher : We have climbed quickly. There is the first hut. We will stay there a little while.
The Three Students : We obey.
[They step up on the dais in area 2. The boy detains the teacher.]
The Boy : There is something I must say.
The Teacher : What have you got to say ?
The Boy : I am not feeling well.
The Teacher : Be still ! Such things may not be said by those who travel on errands like ours. Perhaps you are tired because you are not used to climbing. Stop and rest a while. [He steps up on the dais.]
The Three Students : The boy seems to be ill from climbing. We must ask the teacher about it.
The Great Chorus : Yes. Ask him.
The Three Students, [to the teacher] : We hear this boy is ill from climbing. What is the matter with him ? Are you anxious about him ?
The Teacher : He is not feeling well, but there is nothing wrong with him. He is only tired from climbing.
The Three Students : So you are not trouble about him ?

[Long pause.]

The Three Students, [among themselves ]:
Did you hear thet ? The teacher said
This boy was only tired from climbing.
But is he not looking very strange ?
Right behind the hut is a narrow ridge.
Only by gripping the sheer rock with hands
Can one traverse it.
We cannot carry anyone.
Ought we not to follow the Great Custom.
And hurl him into the valley ?
[They call down to area 1, with bands cupped at their mouths like megaphones.]
Are you ill from climbing ?
The Boy :
No.
You see I am standing.
Would I not sit down
If I were ill ?

[Pause. The boy sits down.]

The Three Students : We must tell the teacher. Sir, when we inquired before about the boy you told us he was only tired from climbing. But now he is looking very strange.
And he has sat down. Though we say it with dread, there has been from ancient times a Great Custom that those who fail should be cast into the valeey.
The Teacher : What, you would hurl this child into the valley ?
The Three Students : We would.
The Teacher : It is a mighty Custom. I cannot deny it. But the Great Custom also prescribes that one who has fallen ill should be asked whether the others should turn back on his account.
I have great sorrow in my heart for this creature. I will go to him and tell him tenderly of this Great Custim.
The Three Students : Pray go.
[They group themselves facing each other.]
The Three Students, The Great Chorus :
We will ask (they asked) him whether he wants us (wanted them)
To turn back on his account.
But even if he should want us (wanted them) to do so
We will (they would) not turn back
But hurl him into the valley.
The Theacher [has climbed down to the boy in area 1] : Listen carefully to me. It has been the law from ancient times that one who falls ill on such a journey as this should be hurled into the valley, - done suddenly to death. But the Custom also prescribes that one who has fallen ill should de asked whether the expedition should turn back on his account. And The Custom also ordains that one who has fallen ill should answer : You should not turn back. If I could take your place, how gladly I would die !
The Boy : I understand.
The Teacher : Do you ask us to turn back on your account ? Or do you consent to be hurled into the valley as the Great Custom demands ?
The Boy, [after a pause for reflection] : No. I do not consent.
The Theacher [calls from area 1 to area 2] : Come down ! He has not answered in accordance with the Custom !
The Three Students, [climbing down to area 1] : He has said no. [To the boy] : Why do you not answer in accordance with the Custom ? He who says A must also say B. When you were asked whether you consented to everything that might happen on the journey, you sais yes.
The Boy : The answer I gave was wrong, but your question was even more wrong. He who says A need not necessarily say B. He may realise that A was wrong. I wanted ti get medicine for my mother, but now I myself have fallen ill, so it is no loger possible. And because of the altered situation I want to turn back at once. I ask you too to turn back and to take me home.
Your studies can wait. If, as I hope, there is anything to be learned on the other side, it can only be that in a situation like ours must turn back. As for the old Great Custom, I see no rhyme or reason in it. What, I need is a new Great Custom to be introduced at once, to wit, the Custom of rethinking every new situation.
The Three Students, [to the teacher] : What are we to do ?
What the boy says is reasonable, though it is ont heroic.
The Teacher : I leave that to you. But I must tell you that shame and disgrace will be heaped on you if you turn back.
The Three Students : Is there anything disgraceful about his speaking his own mind ?
The Teacher : No, I see nothing disgraceful about it.
The Three Students : Then we will turn back and neither shame nor disgrace shall deter us from doing the reasonable thing, nor shall any old Custom prevent us from accepting an idea that is right.
Support your head on our arms.
Don t exert yourself.
We will carry you gently.
The Grat Chorus :
The friends took the friend
And initiated a new Custom
And a new law
And brought the boy back.
Side by side they walked together
Towards calummy
Towards ridicule, with their eyes open
None more cowardly than his neighbour.






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