CORRUPTION/GREED AND MATERIALISM
Corruption mainly refers to lack of integrity or honesty and is mainly manifested by accepting bribes. Corrupt individuals use their privileged positions they have been entrusted with to make illegitimate gains, thus undermining their moral integrity. They are usually driven by greed. Forms of corruption vary and can include bribery, extortion, nepotism, and general embezzlement of mainly of public funds.
George Abashwili is materialistic. As he makes procession to enter the church fort Easter service, many beggars and petitioners try in vain to reach out to him. We learn through his wife Natella that the governor plans to tear down the slums to create room for the garden of the East Wing of palace. “All those wretched slums are to be torn down to make room for the garden.” (pg 15)
After the coup and the beheading of the governor, we see Natella in a hurry to collect her dresses and shoes. She abandons her son Michael as she runs for her safety. Later we learn that the main reason she is claiming her son Michael from Grusha is to get inheritance of the vast governor’s estates.
The Ironshirts are corrupt. They use their privileged positions to execute others and in the process make illegitimate gains. One Ironshirt says, “.......This morning they strung up the city judge. As for us we beat them to pulp. We are paid one hundred piasters per man, you understand?” The iron shirts follow Grusha and Michael since a good price is offered.
Azdak, the judge, is overly corrupt and his greed unstoppable. He openly takes bribes in the court before listening to a case. He begins by saying, “I accept,” meaning that he is willing to be bribed. As Azdak executes his duties, his deeds do not measure up to the expected standards. He makes controversial judgements that put his integrity into questions. He sits on the statue book when delivering justice. A pointer to his contempt for what is just. He also takes wine in public as he executes his duties.
ABUSE OF POWER
The governor, George Abashwili, is said to be as rich as Croesus. He has so many horses in his stable and yet there are so many beggars on his door step. This shows that he amasses so much wealth for himself at the expense of his subjects. They pile along the gate carrying thin children and holding petitions. They cry for mercy and reduction of the high taxes. (pg 14).
The governor has hired two doctors to look after his son Michael-the apple of his eyes. (pg 15). This is in contrast to the starving and suffering common men who push and shove to see the governor’s heir.
The governor plans to tear down the slums to start building the East Wing garden for his son Michael. It does not matter to him that those slums are people’s homes.
The soldiers also abuse power. “...........soldiers push the crowd back lashing at them with thick whips.” (pg 14) When the crowd pushes to have a peep at their heir-baby Michael- the crowd is pushed back by the iron shirts using thick whips.
The Fat prince abuses power when he conspires and overthrows the governor from power. He (The Fat prince) then orders the governor to be beheaded and his head hanged at the entrance of the palace for all to see. He then orders the iron shirts to follow Grusha and get Michael back; he intends to kill him too. The fat prince also abuses power by practising nepotism, where he intends to have his nephew, Bizergan Kazbeki, to be bestowed as the new judge. “.............so I’ve bought along my dear nephew Bizergan Kazbeki, He’ll be the new judge, hm?” (pg 71)
The judge, Azdak abuses power openly by accepting bribes. Before considering any case he utters a short statement- I accept- to mean he is ready to take a bribe. All the cases he judges are in favour of the suffering poor. He fines the wealthy like the farmers heavily, in this way he abuses power to help the poor.
The playwright explores the theme of love and friendship through various characters in the play. This is mainly portrayed through the parental love between the governor and his son Michael, Grusha, the kitchen maid and Michael, Grusha’s romantic love with Simon Shashava and finally between Grusha and her brother Lavrenti Vashnadze.
Michael does not experience the motherly love from his biological mother Natella Abashwili. Fortunately, his father, the governor of the Caucasian City bestows on Michael fatherly love. Michael is attended to by two doctors who never mover from his side to keep him in good health. The Fat prince also notices the child on their way to church and comments that, “And little Michael is a governor from head to foot!” (pg 15). Natella, Michael’s biological mother, is jealous of the attention Michael is given by his father. She says it is impossible for them to live in the slum but her husband would build the East Wing for Michael since he is the apple of the governor’s eye. “..............will only build for little Michael...........Michael is all.......... (pg 18-19). Finally she abandons him.
Grusha loves Michael. She has to overcome a strong tide of opposition from the other servants before she rescues Michael. The groom tells her, “Better put him down, I tell you. I’d rather not think what’d happen to anybody who was found with the baby.” (pg 27) The older woman tells her, Grusha, you’re a good soul, but you are not very bright, and you know it. I tell you, if he has plague he couldn’t be more dangerous.” (pg 27). Grusha watches over Michael the whole night and by morning as the writer puts it, the seduction between Grusha and Michael i complete, “.............till morning the seduction was complete.......she crept away,”(pg 29). She also saves the child from being killed by several iron shirts. Just like a mother who loves her child, she makes several sacrifices. She is forced to buy him milk at an exorbitant price using her meagre weekly pay. She risks her life to save Michael by hitting a corporal with a wooden log and crosses over to the Northern Mountains using a broken bridge. She has to marry a “dying man”- Jussup- for Michael’s sake and thus risks her engagement with Simon Shashava.
The climax of Grusha’s love for Michael is shown at the trial scene. Grusha defends for her love towards Michael by saying that she brought him up and that she married because of Michael. When Azdak, the judge, asks for Michael so that he can choose his true mother, Michael’s love for Grusha is seen when he smiles at her. After drawing the Chalk Circle, Azdak orders the two women to pull the child out of the circle. Meanwhile, Grusha refuses to pull portraying her motherly love and finally she says, ‘I brought him up! Shall I also tear him to bits? I can’t.” (pg 98)
As Grusha flees to the north, she comes across a bridge on the glacier. She is determined to cross but the merchants caution her against risking her life and that of Michael, The merchant woman tells her, ‘But you can’t take the child on that bridge. It’s sure to break. And look! (pg 41) The next man warns her to think of the baby, “I think of the baby. Risk your life not a child’s (pg 41). This shows their love and compassion for Michael.
The love relationship between Grusha and Simon is romantic. It is already sealed through an engagement. They exchange intimate words and inquire about each other’s background. Simon removes a chain from his neck and tells Grusha, “...........my mother gave me this cross.....please wear it.” (pg 22). Grusha promises Simon that she would wait for him. She says, “Simon Shashava.....it is just as it was.” (pg 23). Grusha is introduced to the idea of getting married to Jussup due to the illegitimacy of the child. However, deep within her, she loves Simon and wishes that the union would not last long so that she may re-unite with her fiancé whom she thinks would willingly take care of Michael. This turns out to be true.
True love unfolds when Simon testifies at the court that he is Michael’s father. “I am the father, your honour.” (pg 93). The climax of the sincere love for each other is portrayed when Grusha informs Simon that, “Now I can tell you: I took him because on that Easter Sunday I got engaged to you. So he’s a child of love. Michael, let’s dance.” (pg 99). This she does after the judgement where she wins the child.
When Grusha runs to the North and arrives at her brother’s house, her brother sympathises with her and gives her a roof and even makes arrangements for her to get married to the “dying” man, Jussup. After the marriage, Jussup takes in both her and the child without asking questions, It is her compassion for Michael that makes her to agree to be married yet she is engaged to Simon.
NEGLIGENCE OF DUTY /IRRESPONSIBILITY
Negligence refers to failure to give somebody or something enough care or attention. It also refers to failure to perform one’s duty which impacts negatively on others.
Georgi Abashwili is the Governor and therefore responsible for the welfare of those under him. Although he is rich, he has so many beggars from the gateway, holding up thin children, crutches and petitions. Although they have come for help, he does not attend to any. It is Easter and therefore one would expect he would be compassionate enough to listen to their grievances. They complain of taxes being high. One petitioner laments: “The child is starving in my arms (pg 14). Although there is a servant collecting their grievances and another distributing coins from a purse, none of their petitions is attended to and eventually they are driven back with whips.
Despite being in a high position and being responsible for the welfare of the people, we are surprised to learn that, he knows nothing about the approaching war and therefore no safety measures have been put in place. When asked about the war, he indicates lack of interest.
The Governor has ignored the plight of his subjects. There are so many of them in the slums. To make matters worse he has decided to tear down the slums to make room for a garden for the East Wing he is about to construct. People are complaining of hunger, yet his child has two doctors, The two doctors are also irresponsible in that none wants to take responsibility over the discomfort of the child. They blame each other over luke warm bath water used to bath the child.
The governor is informed by his Adjutant that an injured young rider has come as a messenger from the capital, bringing him confidential papers. He neglects his responsibility to see him and after waiting in vain the messenger mutters a curse and leaves. We are not surprised when we learn that the plotting against the Governor by The Fat Prince happened in the capital therefore we can guess that the messenger comes to warn him. Eventually, the governor loses his life.
It is strange that the Governor refuses to talk to the wounded Rider when he appears again but prefers to confer with the architects. The Adjutant says of him, “The governor does not wish to receive military news before dinner- especially if it’s depressing (pg 19). Because of his irresponsibility in choosing his priorities, he is caught unawares and is beheaded. That is why the singer laments over the blindness of the great who, “...........go their ways like gods....sure of hired fists. Trusting in their power. But long is not forever.” (pg 20)
It is the height of irresponsibility when Natella Abashwili takes her time choosing the dresses and shoes to carry. She finally leaves and forgets her child whom she had directed to be laid on the floor. She is busy rummaging through clothing when the Adjutant is busy pleading that they should run for their lives. She does not care about the many people she is exposing to danger by her delay, Maro, a servant, realizes that, only beasts can leave children behind. She says, “They left it behind, the beasts” (pg 26)
Lavrenti, Grusha’s brother, is irresponsible and neglects her when he fails to look after her. He marries her off to a total stranger and “a dying man” it becomes a double tragedy when Jussup does not die and Grusha does not know what to do with a total stranger who is unaware of her plight and yet she cannot marry her lover Simon. As an older brother of Grusha, Lavrenti fails in his responsibility to support her.
The monk hired to officiate the wedding is irresponsible. He agrees to join a girl to “a dying man.” We are surprised that, the monk, a man who should be a role model is upholding morals in a society is called from a tavern. He is drunk.
DECEIT, RELIGIOUSITY AND HYPOCRISY
Religion refers to having or showing belief in and reverence for a deity on the other hand hypocrisy is deception by pretending to entertain on set of intentions while acting under the influence of another. In “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” cases of religious hypocrisy are common.
Act one of the play begins with Governor Georgi Abashwili going for Easter mass. He is accompanied by his wife Natella, and Michael, their child. Although he would like to pass as a devoted Christian, his regime has oppressed the people it serves. As they enter the church, beggars and petitioners cry over all sorts of problems that bespeaks of a people who have been living in an oppressive regime. They lament, “Mercy! Mercy, your Grace! The taxes are too high. –I lost my leg in the Persian war....The child is starving in my arms....the water inspector takes bribes...... (pg 14)
As for the Fat Prince, hypocrisy reigns supreme. He attends church, wishes the Governor a happy Easter Sunday and bows before Michael. He tickles the child after commenting, “I love a gay sky.....little Michael is a Governor from head to foot!” (pg 15). He also tells the governor there is good news after so much bad. This is total deception that he is loyal to the Governor’s family. Plans to behead the Governor and end Michael’s life are already in place. While he directs the soldier to fasten the Governor’s head in the middle, he displays his hypocrisy when he says, “This morning at the church....Abashwili...I love a gay sky....prefer the lightning that comes out of a gay sky.” (pg 28)
The Monk who is supposed to be religiously inclined is portrayed as hypocritical. He presides over the wedding between Jussup and Grusha while drunk. He is found in the tavern (perhaps taking alcohol) by Grusha;s mother-in-law who threatens to expose him. He is also paid to do the same. Even when Jussup fails to take the vows and instead his mother does it on his behalf, he goes hiding and he has to be looked for by the mother-in-law. Being a religious person, his character should be beyond reproach.
It smacks of religious hypocrisy for Jussup to go through the rigorous of a wedding, a much valued religious ceremony, yet he knows he is pretending to be a dying man. Grusha is hypocritical because she is not committed to the marriage as she does it for own expediency.
The mourners are also hypocritical. They gobble down the cake without being seriously mournful. They seem to expectantly look forward to the death of Jussup. They are sincerely not sad, only greedily wolfing down the funeral cakes.
Aniko pretends to have religious principles that she does not possess. In fact, her hypocritical nature is displayed in her meanness. Lavrenti says she is very sensitive, “People need only mention our farm and she is worried.” (pg 48). Her servants seem to suffer under her as she shouts orders all over. The maid may not be well paid. She once goes to church with a hole in her stocking. Ever since, Aniko has worn two pairs of stockings in church. She is truly hypocritical, feigning to be concerned about Grusha yet she is not. She has false appearance as a devout woman. Lavrenti is afraid of her. He tells Grusha, “You can’t stay here long with the child. She id religious, you see.” (pg 46). Aniko id painted as really heartless. She is the exaggerated embodiment of certain aspects of religious opinions.
Lavrenti is also hypocritical. He also makes Grusha who is honest to be dehumanized by leading her to engage in a fake wedding. He cannot stand up for his sister but sings to the whims of Aniko, “You need a place to go......because of the child.....have a husband, so people won’t talk.....can find you a husband.” (pg 48)
The mother-in-law is hypocritical. She deceives the mourners that Grusha is a bride to Jussup. She pretends that Grusha came from the city to find Jussup alive. The first woman confidentially seems to know Jussup is faking illess and near death to avoid conscription to the war. Another feels it would be a blessing if he does not suffer too long; so she wishes he dies especially now he is of no use as a farmer as the corn is ripe and there is no one to harvest.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL TURBULENCE
Bertolt Bretcht has profoundly raised the issue of political intolerance that has consequently resulted to social instability. The ruling class has no regard for the woes of the have- nots. Poor leadership has led to violence and suffering of both the nobles and the masses.
First, we are presented with a desperate and deplorable Caucasian village due to war. It is described as war ravaged and is in ruins, “That’s where we stopped three Nazi tanks but the apple orchard was already destroyed......Our beautiful daily farm: a ruin.” (pg 97) The number of villages have declined and people have relocated to other areas. We are told by a wounded soldier, “Comrade, we haven’t as many villages as we used to have. We haven’t as many hands.” (pg 8) The village has been ruined with almost everything being rationed. “All pleasures have to be rationed. Tobacco is rationed and wine.” (pg 8)
People’s normal lifestyle is affected as evident when the Goat Herding commune is forced to relocate on orders from the government. They fight to reclaim the land for they are not satisfied with their new grazing land. An old man comments, “You can’t live there. It doesn’t even smell of morning in the morning.” (pg 8)
Political intolerance has brought fear and insecurity. The girl Tractorist notes that plans to rehabilitate the disputed valley had been conceived during days and nights when they have to take cover in the mountains. She says, “Often we hadn’t even enough ammunition for our half-dozen rifles. We could hardly lay our hands on a pencil. (pg 10)
The effects of political and social turbulences are not restricted to the Caucasian village only. From Arkadi’s performance, we learnt that the war in Persia has spilled to the Grusinian people. Under the leadership of the Grand Duke and Governor Georgi Abashwili majority of the poor people have been rendered beggars. The Governor is confronted by many petitioners who are not comfortable in the state of affairs, The children are emaciated. Some people are in clutches while others have been crippled due to the war. They complain about the high taxes and bribery from senior people like the water inspector. The same people cannot win the governor’s eye and soldiers cause further suffering when they lash at them with thick whips. The state of the poor is deplorable as evident when the Governor contemplates bringing down their slums in order to create room for his gardens.
The political class especially the nobles have no regard to the masses. Michael-The Governor’s heir and son- is served by two doctors, He is the apple of the Governor’s eye. The governor is not perturbed by the suffering of the people. He is contemptuous even to the people who have to provide him with security briefs from the capital. A rider with confidential papers has to wait until the Governor attends the Easter Sunday service and the latter ‘attends’ his visitors-architects- at dinner. It is this indifference that leads the princes to stage a coup and subsequently orders for his execution. The coup comes with numerous harrowing effects. The singer comments: “when the house of a great one collapses many little ones are slain.” (pg 20) . The servants panic and fear for their lives as illustrated when they ask, “what about us? We’ll be slaughtered like chickens. As always.’......There is bloodshed in the city, they say? (pg 21)
Coup results to people being internally displaced as seen when the Grand Duke flees and seeks refuge at Azdak’s place. The Governor’s wife is also relocated to safer grounds while Grusha disappears to the Northern Mountains to protect Michael whom the soldiers desperately want to kill.
Political instability has bred inhuman and sadistic characters. The soldiers who behead the governor also fasten his head on the wall with nails. Moral conscience is lost among people like the old man who cannot sympathize with Michael. Grusha has to plead to get milk for the baby. He tells her, “milk? We have no milk. The soldiers from the city have our goats. Go to the soldiers if you want milk. (pg 31)
Grusha is forced to pay two piasters for a drop. The peasant woman whom Grusha thinks will hide the baby from the Iron shirts betrays her by denouncing Michael. She tells the soldiers, “Soldier, I didn’t know a thing about it. Please don’t burn the roof over our heads.....I had nothing to do with it. She left it on my doorstep. (pg 38) The fabric that holds the society together has therefore been dismantled by political instability.
A conflict is a disagreement that arises when two or more parties dispute or fail to agree. The Caucasian Chalk Circle addresses a number of these disputes.
In the prologue there is a conflict between two land owners over the valley-The Goat Herders Collective Farm and the Fruit Growing Commune. They are arguing over the ownership and usage of the valley. The Goat Herders claim they are the original owners of the valley but have been forced to flee by the government because of war. They have come back because the land they have relocated to is not favourable for their goats. Unfortunately the Fruit Growers have laid elaborate plans for the valley which they will irrigate. They purpose to establish fruit and vine orchards. The delegate from Tiflis helps settle the difference between the two communes.
There is a conflict between the princes and the Grand Duke. The princess want to take over power and leadership from the Duke and his Governors. The conflict leads to staging of a coup where the Grand Duke is exiled and the Governor of Nuka-George Abashwili- is beheaded. The judge of the Supreme Court is hanged and Azdak made the judge.
There is conflict between Grusha-Governor’s kitchen maid- and Natella Abashwili. They both claim motherhood rights to Michael. Natella claims that she is the biological mother while Grusha claims right over the child since she picked him and nurtured him for two years. The mother claims him out of greed for property. The conflict id resolved by judge Azdak who draws a circle round the child and asks the two to pull the child from the circle. Grusha hesitates twice and the judge rules in her favour.
Another conflict develops between Grusha and Jussup. When Grusha gets to her brother’s home in the Northern Mountains, Lavrenti- her brother schemes to have her married to a “dying man” ironically it turns out that Jussup has all along feigned illness to evade war and when news breaks out that the war is over he ‘recovers’ and Grusha is horrified. She had engaged herself to Simon Shashava and cannot imagine cheating on him. Jussup complains that she is not fulfilling her matrimonial duties. He argues, “Can’t the peasant do it herself? Get the brush.....you are my wife and you’re not my wife......God has given you sex.. (pg 56-57). The dispute is settled when Azdak gives Grusha a divorce and then she is free to marry Simon.
There is conflict between Grusha and Simon when the latter returns from war and finds her at the river washing lines. When he sees Michael, he thinks that she has been unfaithful to him. He gets emotional and walks away. He later on realizes that the baby belonged to Natella. He comes to help her acquire the child during the famous chalk circle. He even lies that he is the father to Michael.
Other examples of conflict are between:
SELF-SACRIFICE AND SELFLESSNESS
This is the act of giving up what one has or wants so that other people can have what they need. It is acting with less concern for yourself than for the welfare or success of others. One cares more about the needs and happiness of other people than their own.
Grusha is the best example. When the governor’s wife and her personal servant forget Michael, Grusha takes care of him. Other servants advise her to abandon the child for her own good. One old woman tells her, “Grusha you’re a good soul, but you are not very bright and you know it. (pg 27) Grusha tries to leave Michael but realizes she cannot. The singer tells us that after looking at the baby, Grusha hears as if it is telling her, “woman” it said,’ Help me” (pg 28)
Despite the danger in town, Grusha watches over the baby the whole night and the next day takes him with her. On the way she has to buy the baby milk. When the old man sells to her the milk so expensively, she decides not to buy, but on realizing the baby needs it so badly and the journey is long she goes back and buys the milk.
The baby’s weight weighs on her back but she moves on. She decides to save the baby from starving by leaving it outside the door of a Fat peasant woman. She tells Michael, “The peasant woman is kind, and can’t you just smell milk” (pg 34) She hides behind the tree and observes the woman carry the baby into the house.
She risks her life when she hits the corporal to save the baby. “Again looking round in despair, she sees a log of wood, seizes it, and hits the corporal over the head from behind” (pg 39). It is during her escape that she decides to adopt the baby.
Grusha risks both their lives on order to get away from the Iron shirt. This is when she reaches Janga-Tau Glacier. No amount of warning can stop her and she crosses the dangerous bridge after turning the offer by the merchant woman to hide the baby for her. “I won’t, we belong together.....live together, die together.” (pg 41)
Grusha has to bear the discomfort of her brother’s home. She makes another sacrifice as she has to live with a hard to please sister-in –law. To survive she has to be crafty. She tells Michael they have to be “As small as cockroaches.. the sister-in-law will forget we are in the house.” (pg 47)
Grusha, who is alredy engaged to Simon and has promised to await his return ends up getting married to a ‘dying man’ –Jussup-to make Michael have a legitimate father. This is another sacrifice that she makes.
She endangers her life by following the Ironshirts who have taken Michael. She is a wanted person for having attacked and injured a corporal. What matters to her is Michael. She goes through the court procedure for Michael. It is out of her self-sacrifice that eventually Grusha wins the case.
Other characters that make sacrifices for the welfare of other people are;
SOCIAL CLASS INEQUALITY
There is existence of social classes in the society described in the Caucasian Chalk Circle. There is unfair difference between groups of people in this society. Some are wealthier than others and enjoy a high status or opportunities as opposed to others. The diverse lifestyle enjoyed by the governor and his family is in contrast to the object poverty the lowly citizen has to endure. Georgi Abashwili is “rich as Croesus” (pg 13) “had a healthy baby ...so many horses in his stable (pg 13-14) In sharp contrast “so many beggars in his door step so many petitioners his courtyard.....He enjoyed his life” (pg 14)
The governor and his beautiful wife go to church guarded by extremely many soldiers who are at his service. Beggars and petitioners pour from the church gateway with complains. They display thin children to the governor, others hold up crutches and petitions. They are a pitiful sight. The social difference is due to the poor governance. The governor’s family is expensively dressed. Natella derides the poor, For instance on page 18 she says “It’s impossible to live in such a slum....” When she enters the court, she is relieved that there are no common people: “I can’t stand their smell. It always gives me a migraine.” (pg 88)
From the onset, she dislikes Azdak and on pg 89 she says, “I disliked that man from the moment I saw him” Natella’s behaviour is characterized by false pride and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. She does not have time for the poor beggars and her servants and only identifies herself. Her contempt for the poor is seen in the court when he sees Michael and laments that he is in ‘rags.’
The class of people conscripted to fight the Persian war have been maimed, yet they have not been compensated. The down trodden have suffered injustice while they are innocent, “My brother is innocent, your Grace “misunderstanding”-worse still they suffer from hunger.
To betray is to hurt people who trust you especially by not being loyal or faithful to them.
When the governor is being arrested, the iron shirts of the place guard who are supposed to guard the governor refuse to obey. They stare coldly and indifferently at the Adjutant and refuse to obey him when he commands them. The doctors betray the Abashwili family immediately they realize the governor has been arrested. (pg 21) “on that little brat’s account”
The Fat Prince is with the Governor at the church and even wishes him a happy Easter, yet he is the one who leads the iron shirts in arresting the Governor.
Grusha is betrayed by the peasant woman whom she had trusted not to reveal presence of the child. She is also betrayed by her brother. She has been asked by Simon where she would hide and she confidently says she would run to her brother in the Northern Mountains. When she arrives there, her brother cannot host her with the child because he says his wife is religious and cannot host her. Instead of being given a warm welcome, Grusha stays like a fugitive in her brother’s house. In order to get her out of his house he gets her ‘a dying’ husband and when he ‘resurrects’ she finds herself with a husband she does not love.
Jussup betrays his fellow young men, the government and his mother when he pretends to be seriously sick so that he doesn’t get drafted to war.
Simon feels betrayed by Grusha as she has promised to wait until he returns after giving company to Natella and guarding her on the way to the loyal guards. When he comes, she is apparently married and has a child. He does not know the circumstances that lead her to get married or the nature of the marriage. He feels so betrayed that he cannot even get his cross back but directs Grusha to throw it into the stream.
Natella betrays her own child and her husband when she escapes leaving Michael in the courtyard. She orders a servant to put down the child in order for the servant to run for her little saffron coloured boots to match with a green dress. The baby is left behind.
In Caucasian Chalk Circle the writer explores on the beauty of fair and reasonable treatment of people. Through the legal system used to punish people is not perfect the people who have committed crimes are somehow brought to justice. Justice is a fundamental thematic concern in the prologue. The meeting between the Goat Herders and the Fruit Growers is meant to determine which people deserve to own the valley. The Goat Herders who formerly owned the land had vacated at the approach of Hitler’s armies. Their intended resettlement encounters opposition from Collective Fruit Farmers. With their delegates they sit in a circle signalling their determination to negotiate between themselves in order to reach a fair and reasonable decision without perverting the cause of justice. A delegate from Tiflis presides over the case. Both sides present their arguments as to the reason why they are deserving owners of the valley. They arrive at a consensus through the voice of reason rather that by the rule of law.
The petitioners and beggars bitterly cry for justice. The governor demurs to heed to their pitiable calls for fair treatment. However, reason does not prevail; the soldiers are guilty of abstracting justice by lashing at the pitiful petitioners. They are heavily taxed and expect the water inspector who takes bribes to be brought to justice.
Due to the injustice the people suffer, they are somehow rewarded when the Fat Princes and soldiers plan a coup d’état. The grand Duke and hid governors are overthrown. Although the legal system use to punish people like the Governor and the Fat prince is crude, the people engage in administering justice are convicted that they are justified to put the criminals to the gallows for their heinous crimes.
The singer voices the importance of acceptable and appropriate handling of fellow human beings. Although Azdak is a criminal, he argues that he should not be arrested for stealing only a rabbit. He expresses the opinion that Shauwa is a worse criminal for catching people and will be judged by God. Later Azdak denounced himself for committing an unpardonable crime of ignorantly letting the Grand Duke escape. He persuades Shauwa to chain him and take him to be judged in Nuka. He begs to be shred to pieces because he is conscience-stricken. This way justice will prevail.
Azdak dispenses justice although not in a fastidious or meticulous manner. It is justice in his own fashion. He harbours a soft heart for the vulnerable and down trodden. He encounters no restrictions of the statute book which he seats on instead of making reference to it. The period of his judging is described as “a brief golden age, almost an age of justice.” (pg 99). However, he does not acquaint himself with the legal system of the statute book. He carries not, the professional demeanour of a judge.
He presides over a number of cases some are handled simultaneously; Most of the accused are acquitted though proved guilty. The plaintiffs are condemned and fined. Azdak rules in favour of the doctor who is guilty of professional negligence. Azdak turns justice upside down to the relief of the vulnerable. His ruling is controversial. He declares to the Doctor; you have perpetrated an unpardonable error in the practice of your profession; you are acquitted. (pg 77) Ludovica is accused of committing an intentional assault yet she is the victim of rape by the stable man who is not sentenced.
He acquits the old woman guilty of theft and drinks with the thief, bandit –Irakli whom he addresses as pious man. He offers to sit on the floor and offers the judge’s chair to the old woman. Shauwa’s official designation is prosecutor, however he doubles up as a sweeper. This displays lack of seriousness in court. Sometimes the judge’s chair is carried to the tavern where Azdak carries judgement while drinking wine. The singer comments “Azdak broke rules to save them” (pg 82). He renders verdict to save the poor “The poor and the lowly.” He dispenses justice in his fashion.
When the landowners take law into their hands to get revenge for not getting justice from Azdak, it is his previous human treatment of the Duke that saves him from the gallows. Justices prevails to favour Azdak who is reappointed judge by the order and authority of the Grand Duke who has returned. This dramatic turn of events offers more room for Azdak to preside over other cases such as the famous Chalk Circle.
The writer uses Grusha as a vehicle of justice. She fearlessly condemns Azdak for being corrupt. Azdak asks her, “You want justice, but do not want to pay for it.” (pg 94). Grusha comments sarcastically, “A fine kind of justice” (pg 94) I’d tell you what I think of your justice, you drunken onion!” (pg 95). Grusha is rewarded for her human nature.