A trio of gods have come to Earth on a fact-finding mission to see if there are any good people left in existence, or if they will need to re-write their commandments and re-make the world. Their journey brings them to the city of Szechuan, where they meet the kind-hearted prostitute Shen Te. As a reward for her goodness, the gods gift her with money that she uses to buy a small tobacco shop, and which sends her life into a spiral of moral ambiguity. As her neighbours seek to take advantage of her generous nature and new-found fortune, Shen Te invents an alter ego: the ruthless Shui Ta. While she masquerades as Shui Ta, Shen Te can protect her life and her business, while also protecting her reputation as a good and charitable person. However, even this persona cannot protect her from her infatuation with a malcontent pilot named Yang Sun, who is determined to use her money to his advantage, even if it ruins her. In the end, it seems that only a literal Deus Ex Machina can save Shen Te from both her good and bad deeds.
One of Brecht’s most challenging “Parable Plays,” The Good Person of Szechuan is a cutting critique of Capitalism and the ways in which money and power impact a society’s morality. Shen Te’s struggle to be good in the face of economic and personal hardship is no less meaningful today than when the play was first performed in 1944.
The Good Person of Szechuan guide sections