“The Seven Deadly Sins” is one of the most famous works by the composer, professor and playwright Bertold Brecht. It can be defined as a didactic play whose text was later used by Kurt Weill to compose a ballet with song accompaniment as well. Written around the twentieth century, it takes up the canons of the morality plays used at the beginning of the development of medieval literature. This is because its primary purpose was precisely that of teaching and educating the common people, even if modern compared to the one of the Middle Ages, with morally correct values. On the contrary, however, also to distance them from what instead were vices and sins. It should be specified that Bertold Brecht had been educated with Christian values from an early age, therefore the teachings he promotes follow the Christian doctrine. All of this, Bertold Brecht manages to do it thanks to characters who embody these ideals, and to a plot that ends precisely with a “moral” type of teaching.
The story tells of a girl, named Anna, whose two sides of her personality are illustrated to us as Anna I and Anna II. The first would represent the most instinctive and passionate part of Anna, the one that lets herself be guided by her heart, and sometimes lets herself be carried away by desires and temptations. The second instead represents the more rational Anna, the one who fights the instinctive part, and who we could define as more responsible. For all the duration of the work there will be a continuous war between Anna I and Anna II, which began when the protagonist is sent to America by her family. In fact, she has always wanted to have a house in Louisiana, but their financial resources do not allow it. Therefore Anna is sent to try her luck there, but during her long journey, Anna will face a constant struggle with herself as well as with her family.
She is warned several times by them not to fall into temptations, and not to become a victim of the seven deadly sins: wrath, avarice, lust, envy, pride, gluttony, sloth; seven of the worst vices that Christian culture has opposed to virtues. Even of thought her rational part admonishes her constantly, her passions distract her and her desires and the seven deadly sins tempt her anyway. Anna will have to fight constantly against herself to figure out which decisions are best ones for her, but also for the her family. The purpose of Anna’s journey is in fact to bring home some money. The fact that for her this will also become a personal journey of self-discovery is a consideration that we, the external public, can make due to a series of particular elements. The most important is the fact that it is implied that the real purpose of the story is not to tell a story.
The importance of the plot does not come precisely from recounting Anna’s trip to America, or from the described objective of bringing home some money for the house in Louisiana. It comes instead, from the continuous discussion between the rational part of Anna and the more instinctive one. The more rational part, however, in the end, will prove not to want to protect the protagonist in any way. It is just a metaphor that Bertold Brecht uses to describe how the standards of society at the time were: materialistic, consumerist, and just focused on profit.
The author manages to criticize these aspects by highlighting song after song, how what should be the “resistance to the seven deadly sins”, is nothing more than a mechanism to demolish a person’s values. A cunning way, a deceptive propaganda that promised to make people better. In reality, however, it destroyed the singularity of each person and made everyone enter the gears of capitalism. Fighting anger made you indifferent to injustices. Having to fight against hunger and the sin of gluttony, suited you to the market and commerce of the time. Having to fight against your pride, seeing it in a negative way, only taught you to be subjugated by the higher echelons of society. Having to squander your money many times in order not to seem greedy made you a cog in consumerism, and so on. So we see how Anna, a girl who left with dreams, hopes, passions, returns home as a completely different person. Her continuous struggle against the seven deadly sins deprived her of her purity, of her inner passion, and made her a classic woman ready to enter the society of the time. A society founded on demolishing everyone’s abilities, to make them a pawn like the others.
So, by all these informations, we can see how important the “Seven deadly sins” is as a didactic play, because it comunicate noble values and also make us reflect about the