The Caucasian Chalk Circle | Study Guide

Bertolt Brecht

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The Caucasian Chalk Circle | Symbols


The Chalk Circle

The chalk circle symbolizes truth. Because the chalk circle is drawn in the courtroom of an unconventional judge (Azdak), the audience can expect Brecht's interpretation of truth to be unorthodox.

During the trial Azdak struggles to clearly define motherhood, therefore making his custodial decision murky. He's pulled between two definitions: Natella is Michael's biological mother, and Grusha is Michael's foster mother. By placing Michael in the chalk circle, Azdak seeks to find the true answer to the question of whether motherhood is defined by biology or by love. Natella risks Michael's physical safety by yanking him out of the circle, whereas Grusha protects him by refusing to pull. In this way, the truth is revealed: motherhood is an act of selfless love. Azdak awards Grusha custody of Michael.


The gardens Natella plans to build around her palace represent the corruption of greed. The governor and his wife, Natella, love the power of belonging to the ruling class. As governor, Georgi Abashvili has a responsibility to care for his citizens. Instead of using tax money to do so, he and his wife greedily expand their palace and gardens but help no one. While Natella outlines her plans for the gardens, she is literally pushing through crowds of suffering people. Her humanity has been so corrupted by greed that she no longer sees the humanity of her poor neighbors. Later in the play, Natella complains about the stench of the poor and complains that Michael has "been in a pig-sty." To build the gardens, Natella wants not only to use tax money, but also to tear down the "slums" where the poor live.

At the end of the play, Brecht references this corrupt mindset when Azdak rules that he will use Michael's inheritance to build "The Garden of Azdak"—a playground for Nukha's children. In this way, Azdak, like the legendary Robin Hood, steals from the rich to give back to the poor, though he does keep some for himself.

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