Quotations by Brecht, Bertholt


General, your tank
is a powerful vehicle
it smashes down forests
and crushes a hundred men.
but it has one defect:
it needs a driver.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“General, Your Tank Is a Powerful Vehicle,” in “From a German War Primer,” The Svendborg Poems (1939) [tr. Baxandall]
Added on 10-Dec-15 | Last updated 10-Dec-15
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Little changes are the enemies of great changes.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“Quotation [Zitat]” (1930s) [tr. Morley]
Added on 3-Dec-15 | Last updated 3-Dec-15
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All the gang of those who rule us
Hope our quarrels never stop
Helping them to split and fool us
So they can remain on top.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“Solidarity song [Solidaritätslied]” (1931) [tr. Willett]
Added on 12-Nov-15 | Last updated 12-Nov-15
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Oh why do we not say the important things, it would be so easy, and we are damned because we do not.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“Song about my mother [Lied von meiner Mutter],” from “Thirteen Psalms” (1920) [tr. Middleton]
Added on 5-Nov-15 | Last updated 5-Nov-15
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The man who laughs has simply not yet had the terrible news.

[Wer jetzt noch lacht, hat die neuesten Nachrichten noch nicht gehört.]

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“To Those Born Later,” Svendborg Poems (1939)

Alt. trans.: "He who laughs last has not yet heard the bad news."
Added on 17-Dec-15 | Last updated 17-Dec-15
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When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard.
The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“When evil-doing comes like falling rain [Wenn die Untat kommt, wie der Regen fällt]” (1935) [tr. Willett]
Added on 19-Nov-15 | Last updated 19-Nov-15
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General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“General, Your Tank Is a Powerful Vehicle,” in “From a German War Primer,” The Svendborg Poems (1939) [tr. Baxandall]
Added on 7-Jan-16 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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MACHEATH: You may proclaim, good sirs, your fine philosophy
But till you feed us, right and wrong can wait!

[Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.] 

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Die Dreigroschenoper [The Three-Penny Opera], Act 2, sc. 3 (1928)

Alt. trans.:
  • However much you twist, whatever lies you tell / Food is the first thing, morals follow on." [used by the Pet Shop Boys, "What Keeps Mankind Alive?", Can You Forgive Her (1993)
  • Food first, then morality.
  • Food comes first, then morals.
  • First comes a full stomach, then comes ethics.
Added on 23-Oct-08 | Last updated 5-Aug-14
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POLLY PEACHUM: The law is simply and solely made for the exploitation of those who do not understand it or of those who, for naked need, cannot obey it.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Die Dreigroschenoper [The Three-Penny Opera], Act 3, sc. 1 (1928)

Alt. trans.: "The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don't understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it."
Added on 1-Oct-15 | Last updated 1-Oct-15
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Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white.
Just a jack-knife has MacHeath, dea,r
And he keeps it out of sight.

[Und der Haifisch, der had Zähne
Und die trägt er im Gesicht
Und MacHeath, der had ein Messer
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht.]

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Die Dreigroschenoper [The Three-Penny Opera], Prologue, “The Ballad of Mackie the Knife” (1928)

English lyrics to "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" (Weill, Kurt / Berthold Brecht / Marc Blitzstein)

Alt: translation: "And the shark he has his teeth and / There they are for all to see / And MacHeath he has his knife but / No one knows where it may be."
Added on 1-Aug-08 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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ANDREA: Unhappy the land that has no heroes! …
GALILEO: No, Unhappy the land that needs heroes.

[ANDREA: Unglücklich das Land, das keine Helden hat! …
GALILEO:  Nein, Unglücklich das Land, das Helden nötig hat.]

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Life of Galileo [Leben des Galilei], sc. 13 (1939)

Alt trans. [tr. Laughton (1961); cited as sc. 12]:
ANDREA: Unhappy the land that breeds no heroes.
GALILEO: No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.

Added on 31-May-10 | Last updated 5-Aug-14
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ANDREA: Science has only one commandment: contribution.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Life of Galileo [Leben des Galilei], sc. 13 (1939)

Alt. trans.: "Science knows only one commandment -- contribute to science." [tr. Brenton (1980)]
Added on 15-Oct-15 | Last updated 15-Oct-15
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ANDREA: The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set some limit on infinite error.
Brecht - science and infinite error - wist_info

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Life of Galileo [Leben des Galilei], sc. 13 (1939)
Added on 22-Oct-15 | Last updated 22-Oct-15
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CHAPLAIN: War is like love, it always finds a way.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Mother Courage and Her Children, sc. 6 (1939)
Added on 29-Oct-15 | Last updated 29-Oct-15
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FIRST GOD: Show interest in her goodness — for no one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
The Good Person of Sezuan [Der gute Mensch von Sezuan], Scene 1a (1943) [tr. Bentley]
Added on 14-Jan-16 | Last updated 14-Jan-16
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It’s all right to hesitate if you then go ahead!

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
The Good Woman of Setzuan, Prologue (1938-40) [tr. Bentley (1947)]
Added on 29-Oct-10 | Last updated 29-Oct-10
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PELAGEA VLASOVA: Don’t be afraid of death so much as an inadequate life.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
The Mother (1930)
Added on 8-Oct-15 | Last updated 8-Oct-15
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