Critics have said that Eric Bentley has given a new direction to theatrical history and represents the German avant-garde in drama. Brecht's most ambitious venture in verse drama, Saint Joan of the Stockyards (1933), was written in Germany shortly before Hitler came to power. Brecht left his homeland in 1993. Before he came to the United States in 1941, he was one of the editors of a short-lived anti-Nazi magazine in Moscow (1936--39). In 1949 his play Mother Courage and Her Children, which was a Marxist indictment of the economic motives behind internal aggression, was produced in the United States. Brecht found a large audience as librettist for Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, an adaptation of John Gay's Beggar's Opera. Brecht is considered a playwright who saw the stage as a platform for the presentation of a message. His aim was to transform the state from a place of entertainment to a place for instruction and public communication. He called himself an epic realist. In 1947, Brecht was summoned to Washington, D.C., by the on Un-American Activities Committee, before which he testified. He firmly denied that he had ever been a member of the Communist Party. How radical Brecht really was has been the subject of considerable controversy; but, for literary purposes, his politics need only be judged as they contributed to his artistry. In his final years Brecht experimented with his own theater and company-the Berliner Ensemble-which put on his plays under his direction and which continued after his death with the assistance of his wife. Brecht aspired to create political theater, and it is difficult to evaluate his work in purely aesthetic terms. It is likely that the demise of Marxist governments will influence his reputation over the next decade, though the changes are difficult to predict. Brecht died in 1956.
W. H. Auden, who was born in York, England, on February 21, 1907, is one of the most successful and well-known poets of the 20th century. Educated at Oxford, Auden served in the Spanish Civil War, which greatly influenced his work. He also taught in public schools in Scotland and England during the 1930s. It was during this time that he rose to public fame with such works as "Paid on Both Sides" and "The Orators." Auden eventually immigrated to the United States, becoming a citizen in 1946. It was in the U.S. that he met his longtime partner Chester Kallman. Stylistically, Auden was known for his incomparable technique and his linguistic innovations. The term Audenesque became an adjective to describe the contemporary sounding speech reflected in his poems. Auden's numerous awards included a Bollingen Prize in Poetry, A National Book Award for "The Shield of Achilles," a National Medal for Literature from the National Book Committee, and a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Numerous volumes of his poetry remain available today, including "About the House" and "City Without Walls." W.H. Auden died on September 28, 1973 in Vienna.