The parable that opens the play sets the structure. The entire prologue is absolutely communist in its message. Any capitalist society would argue that land belongs to those who own it but Brecht stresses on the fact that it should go to those who can use it in a better way.
It presents Brecht’s ideas before even the play starts due to which audience get moral of the play even without watching it and it is only after giving his message he allows the play to start.
The play opens with a scene in which two groups goat breeding kolchos and fruit growing kolchos fight over a piece of land. An expert comes from the capital in order to resolve their fight.
The goat breeding kolchos argue that the land belongs to them and was away during the revolt. At the same time, the fruit growing kolchos came and assumed themselves as owners.
The fruit growing kolchos argue that the land was in worst condition due to overgrazing. They worked hard on the land and made it green. The expert passes judgment in the favour of fruit growing kolchos. A singer comes and starts narrating an old story.
A Rich Governor
A governor lives along with his wife and their young prince, Michael. They are quite rich and have no worries. However, the condition of the subjects is worst this can be seen in the opening lines.
‘the taxes are beyond our means’, ‘I lost my leg’, ‘My brother is innocent’, ‘My son is starving’, ‘The water Inspector is corrupt‘ etc.
It seems that the Governor has no sympathy for his subjects but on the other hand he leaves no stone unturned for the comfort of his son. “He is coughing! Georgi, did you hear that?”
A young man called Fat Prince is also accompanying them who seems to be quiet haughty. The noble party returns to the palace. The protagonist Grusha comes with a goose for the meal. Simon Soldier teases her by saying that he has seen her while she was taking a bath. She is enraged.
Soon the city is attacked by Fat Prince. The Governor is beheaded and the royal party prepares to flee. Grusha meets Simon who is going to the war. Simon proposes her for marriage and asks her to wait for him until he returns back.
Meanwhile, the governor’s wife is preparing for escape. She remains busy with her possession in spite of the warning of the upcoming danger. In the end, she takes away everything and forgets to take her child.
Grusha Finds Child
Grusha finds the child in the cradle and decides to save him from being killed although all others warn her of the terrible consequences. All run away leaving her alone with the child. Seeing the ironshirts roaming around she too flees towards the mountains where her brother lives.
On the way Michael gets hungry. She begs for milk to an old man who charges her too much. She boards a cart in which some rich ladies are travelling. They decide to spend the night at an inn.
The condition of the room is worst and the price is very high. Gurusha tries to put things in order. The ladies become aware of the fact that she is a servant and start screaming. Grusha spends the cold night in the open sky.
Ironshits Out for Killing Michael
The next day she keeps Michael at the door of a hut and soon meets some ironshirts who are searching for Michael in order to kill him.
The old lady in the hut reveals the identity of Michael and they prepare to murder him. However, Grusha hits one of them hard and runs away with the child.
On the way, she crosses a broken bridge though some merchants try to stop her from doing so. Reaching the house of her brother she is not welcomed as she thought. Her sister in law is very religious and becomes intolerable to allow a lady with a child in her house.
In order to escape gossiping against him Grusha’s brother marries her to a man (Yussup) who is supposedly about to die. During the marriage/funeral ceremony, the priest charges high amount. It is announced that peace is restored in the city.
Yussup Recovers from Illness
Yussup who pretended to be ill for a year rises miraculously and surprises everybody. He goes to take a bath and forces Grusha to rub soap on his body. Grusha is trapped. The scene shifts to some months later. Michael grows up and is seen playing with some other children on the river bank.
The game played by them resembles the plot of the drama. Gurusha who is accompanying him sees Simon. Simon is deeply hurt upon knowing that she is married and leaves.
Grusha Taken to City
Immediately some ironshirts appear and tell Grusha that Michael’s mother has sent them to bring him back. Grusha tries to flee with the child but is captured and taken to the city.
The singer then tells another story of a person who is a drunkard. Azdek (symbol of Marxism) is introduced. He mistakenly saves Grand Duke from the police. Upon knowing he accepts his crime and voluntarily presents himself for the punishment.
The ironshirts tell him that the judge is dead. Azdek tries to tell about justice and is ridiculed by the soldiers. Meanwhile, the Fat Prince arrives and announces that he is going to make his nephew as the new judge. Azdek, in order to check his justness, resumes the role of accused.
The soldiers seeing his logic and sense in his talking make him judge instead. After becoming judge Azdek passes all his judgments in the favour of poor and soon becomes famous.
Azdek – the New Judge
The scene again shifts to the present. Fat Prince is killed and Grand Duke exceeds the throne. Azdek is in the chains and the ironshirts give him hard blows. A rider comes and announces that Azdek who saved Grand Duke is appointed as the new judge.
Azdek takes his position. The governor’s wife arrives. Grusha and Michael are also brought. A couple is already there who want a divorce. Azdek unable to make any decisions take the case of governor’s wife.
The governor’s wife is accompanied by two lawyers. Both of them argue against Grusha and request Azdek to return Michael to the governor’s wife as she cannot access the Royal Palace without the heir. Grusha has no argument keeps on saying that Michael belongs to her because she has brought him up.
Soon Grusha falls into an argument with Azdek calling him a bribe-taker. Simon is also there and he too supports Grusha. Azdek fines them for their rude behaviour. In the end, unable to reach any conclusion, orders to draw a chalk circle and keeps Michael in it on the ground.
Caucasian Chalk Circle
It is announced that one who would successfully pull the child out would be the true mother. Governors wife pulls the child out every time. Azdek asks Grusha why she did not pull Michael. She answers that she has brought him up and can’t bear to hurt him.
Azdek at once hands over the child to Grusha and orders governor’s wife to go away. He also orders Yusuf to divorce Grusha. Simon and Grusha decide to live together and adopt the child. Music is played. Azdek disappears and is never seen again.