36 Momentous Bertolt Brecht Quotes

Last updated on Feb 9th, 2022

36 Momentous Bertolt Brecht Quotes

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht, known as Bertolt Brecht, (born February 10, 1898, Augsburg, German Empire – died August 14, 1956, East Berlin, East Germany) was a German theatre director, playwright, and poet, considered one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century.

Among others, his most important works include: The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper, 1928), Mother Courage and Her Children (Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, 1941), Life of Galileo (Leben des Galilei, 1943), The Good Person of Szechwan (Der gute Mensch von Sezuan, 1943), The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, 1948), Mr Puntila and his Man Matti (Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti, 1948), and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui, 1958).

Brecht’s style has inspired many directors over the years, and his influence is still present in many theatres.

War is like love: it'll always find a way. - Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children Quotes)
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War is like love: it’ll always find a way.Scene 6, Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)

Do not fear death so much, fear an inadequate life! - Bertolt Brecht (The Mother Quotes)
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Do not fear death so much, fear an inadequate life!Scene 10, The Mother (1930)

What's breaking into a bank compared with founding a bank? - Bertolt Brecht (The Threepenny Opera Quotes)
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What’s breaking into a bank compared with founding a bank?Act III, Scene 9, The Threepenny Opera (1928)

People remain what they are even if their faces fall apart. - Bertolt Brecht (In the Jungle of Cities Quotes)
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People remain what they are even if their faces fall apart.Scene 9, In the Jungle of Cities (1923)

Unhappy the land where heroes are needed. - Bertolt Brecht (Life of Galileo Quotes)
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Unhappy the land where heroes are needed.Scene 13, Life of Galileo (1939)

The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don't understand it. - Bertolt Brecht (The Threepenny Opera Quotes)
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The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it.Act III, Scene 7, The Threepenny Opera (1928)

If art reflects life, then it does so with special mirrors. - Bertolt Brecht (A Short Organum for the Theatre Quotes)
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If art reflects life, then it does so with special mirrors.Paragraph 73, A Short Organum for the Theatre (1949)

The man who laughs has simply not yet had the terrible news. - Bertolt Brecht (To Those Born Later Quotes)
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The man who laughs has simply not yet had the terrible news.To Those Born Later, Later Svendborg Poems and Satires (1936-1938)

No one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand. - Bertolt Brecht (The Good Woman of Setzuan Quotes)
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No one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand.Scene 1, The Good Woman of Setzuan (1938)

Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good. - Bertolt Brecht (The Decision (The Measures Taken) Quotes)
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Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good.Scene 3, The Decision (The Measures Taken) (1930)

What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone? - Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children Quotes)
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What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?Scene 6, Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)

It may be mistaken to mix different wines, but old and new wisdom mix very well. - Bertolt Brecht (The Caucasian Chalk Circle Quotes)
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It may be mistaken to mix different wines, but old and new wisdom mix very well.Scene 1, The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1944)

The defeats and victories of the fellows at the top aren't always defeats and victories for the fellows at the bottom. - Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children Quotes)
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The defeats and victories of the fellows at the top aren’t always defeats and victories for the fellows at the bottom. Scene 3, Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)

Though the rich of this earth find no difficulty in creating misery, they can't bear to see it. - Bertolt Brecht (The Threepenny Opera Quotes)
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Though the rich of this earth find no difficulty in creating misery, they can’t bear to see it.Act III, Scene 7, The Threepenny Opera (1928)

Whenever there are great virtues, it's a sure sign something's wrong. - Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children Quotes)
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Whenever there are great virtues, it’s a sure sign something’s wrong.Scene 2, Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)

Someone who doesn't know the truth is just thick-headed. But someone who does know it and calls it a lie is a crook. - Bertolt Brecht (Life of Galileo Quotes)
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Someone who doesn’t know the truth is just thick-headed. But someone who does know it and calls it a lie is a crook.Scene 9, Life of Galileo (1939)

I've no idea what a man is. All I have learnt is his price. - Bertolt Brecht (The Decision (The Measures Taken) Quotes)
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I’ve no idea what a man is. All I have learnt is his price.Scene 5, The Decision (The Measures Taken) (1930)

Food is the first thing. Morals follow on. - Bertolt Brecht (The Threepenny Opera Quotes)
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Food is the first thing. Morals follow on.Act II, Scene 6, The Threepenny Opera (1928)

Man is too durable. That's his main fault. He can do too much to himself. He's too hard to destroy. - Bertolt Brecht (In the Jungle of Cities Quotes)
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Man is too durable. That’s his main fault. He can do too much to himself. He’s too hard to destroy.Scene 9, In the Jungle of Cities (1923)

One of the main reasons why the sciences are so poor is that they imagine they are so rich. It isn't their job to throw open the door to infinite wisdom but to put a limit to infinite error. - Bertolt Brecht (Life of Galileo Quotes)
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One of the main reasons why the sciences are so poor is that they imagine they are so rich. It isn’t their job to throw open the door to infinite wisdom but to put a limit to infinite error.Scene 9, Life of Galileo (1939)

The rain never falls upwards. When the wound stops hurting what hurts is the scar. - Bertolt Brecht (The Impact of the Cities Quotes)
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The rain never falls upwards. When the wound stops hurting what hurts is the scar.Poems Belonging to a Reader for Those who Live in Cities, The Impact of the Cities (1925-1928)

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. General, your bomber is powerful. It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant. But it has one defect: It needs a mechanic. General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think. - Bertolt Brecht (General, Your Tank Is a Powerful Vehicle Quotes)
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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. General, your bomber is powerful. It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant. But it has one defect: It needs a mechanic. General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think.General, Your Tank Is a Powerful Vehicle, Later Svendborg Poems and Satires (1936-1938)

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 (When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain Quotes)
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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.When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain, The First Years of Exile (1934-1936)

Everything changes. You can make a fresh start with your final breath. - Bertolt Brecht (Everything Changes Quotes)
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Everything changes. You can make a fresh start with your final breath.Everything Changes, American Poems (1941 - 1947)

Yes, insurance can help when praying has been no use. So you no longer need pray to God when it looks like thunder, but you do have to be insured. - Bertolt Brecht (The Mother Quotes)
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Yes, insurance can help when praying has been no use. So you no longer need pray to God when it looks like thunder, but you do have to be insured.Scene 10, The Mother (1930)

There are some with brains and some without. It makes for a better division of labour. - Bertolt Brecht (Baal Quotes)
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There are some with brains and some without. It makes for a better division of labour.Baal (1918)

Society cannot speak with one voice so long as it is split into warring classes. - Bertolt Brecht (A Short Organum for the Theatre Quotes)
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Society cannot speak with one voice so long as it is split into warring classes.Paragraph 55, A Short Organum for the Theatre (1949)

The finest plans have always been spoiled by the littleness of them that should carry them out. Even emperors can't do it all by themselves. - Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children Quotes)
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The finest plans have always been spoiled by the littleness of them that should carry them out. Even emperors can’t do it all by themselves.Scene 6, Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)

When there are obstacles the shortest line between two points may be a crooked one. - Bertolt Brecht (Life Of Galileo Quotes)
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When there are obstacles the shortest line between two points may be a crooked one.Scene 14, Life Of Galileo (1939)

The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What's left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars. - Bertolt Brecht (Lucullus's Trophies Quotes)
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The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.Lucullus's Trophies (1939)

Since time immemorial, the theatre's business has been to entertain people, just like all the other arts. This business always gives it its particular dignity; it needs no other passport than fun, though this it must have. - Bertolt Brecht (A Short Organum for the Theatre Quotes)
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Since time immemorial, the theatre’s business has been to entertain people, just like all the other arts. This business always gives it its particular dignity; it needs no other passport than fun, though this it must have.Prologue, A Short Organum for the Theatre (1949)

What they could use around here is a good war. What else can you expect with peace running wild all over the place? You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization. And when do you get organization? In a war. Peace is one big waste of equipment. Anything goes, no one gives a damn. See the way they eat? Cheese on rye, bacon on the cheese? Disgusting! How many horses they got in this town? How many young men? Nobody knows! They haven't bothered to count 'em! That's peace for you!! I been places where they haven't had a war in seventy years and you know what? The people can't remember their own names! They don't know who they are! It takes a war to fix that. In a war everyone registers, everyone's name's on a list. Their shoes are stacked, their corn's in the bag, you count it all up – cattle, men, et cetera – and you take it away! That's the story: no organization, no war! - Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children Quotes)
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What they could use around here is a good war. What else can you expect with peace running wild all over the place? You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization. And when do you get organization? In a war. Peace is one big waste of equipment. Anything goes, no one gives a damn. See the way they eat? Cheese on rye, bacon on the cheese? Disgusting! How many horses they got in this town? How many young men? Nobody knows! They haven’t bothered to count ’em! That’s peace for you!! I been places where they haven’t had a war in seventy years and you know what? The people can’t remember their own names! They don’t know who they are! It takes a war to fix that. In a war everyone registers, everyone’s name’s on a list. Their shoes are stacked, their corn’s in the bag, you count it all up – cattle, men, et cetera – and you take it away! That’s the story: no organization, no war!Scene 1, Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)

A man asked Mr. K. whether there is a God. Mr. K. said: "I advise you to consider whether, depending on the answer, your behavior would change. If it would not change, then we can drop the question. If it would change, then I can at least be of help to the extent that I can say, you have already decided: you need a God." - Bertolt Brecht (Stories of Mr. Keuner Quotes)
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A man asked Mr. K. whether there is a God. Mr. K. said: “I advise you to consider whether, depending on the answer, your behavior would change. If it would not change, then we can drop the question. If it would change, then I can at least be of help to the extent that I can say, you have already decided: you need a God.”Stories of Mr. Keuner (1958)

We attacked a foreign people and then treated them like rebels. As you know, it's all right to treat barbarians barbarically. It's the desire to be barbaric that makes governments call their enemies barbarians. - Bertolt Brecht (A Question of Taste Quotes)
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We attacked a foreign people and then treated them like rebels. As you know, it’s all right to treat barbarians barbarically. It’s the desire to be barbaric that makes governments call their enemies barbarians.A Question of Taste, Stories Written in Exile (1933–1948)

When something seems 'the most obvious thing in the world' it means that any attempt to understand the world has been given up. - Bertolt Brecht (Brecht on Theatre Quotes)
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When something seems ‘the most obvious thing in the world’ it means that any attempt to understand the world has been given up.Part II (1933-1947), Chapter 20. Theatre for Pleasure or Theatre for Instruction, Brecht on Theatre

Love is the desire to give, not to receive, something. Love is the art of producing something with the other's talents. - Bertolt Brecht (Stories of Mr. Keuner Quotes)
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Love is the desire to give, not to receive, something. Love is the art of producing something with the other’s talents. Love of Whom?, Stories of Mr. Keuner (1958)