Without naming it as such, Ebert touched on the social critique of art that Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin outline with epic theater.
Whereas dramatic theater "wears down his [the spectator's] capacity for action," the epic theater "arouses his capacity for action.
Thus, the epic theater "mustn't be judged by its success in satisfying the audience's habits but by its success in transforming them.
Summarizing in her introduction Brecht's early familiarity with and rejection of Wagnerian music drama, she concludes that "modernist theater, of which epic theater
has long been the standard-bearer, may be the illegitimate child of opera" (p.
The epic theater therefore forces its spectators to "take decisions" and become consciously critical observers, rather than becoming passive receptors of theatrical sensation.
In the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Brecht noticed a precursor to this epic theater.
To talk about Heywood's as an epic theater allows us to make sense of elements of the Ages that have infuriated traditional critics and have consistently proven difficult for readers, allowing us to grasp how Heywood was attempting to redefine the history play for a specific group of playgoers.
32) The Brechtian theater does not strive to depict individuals directly or realistically, but instead posits an approach where the actor, through interpretive, fragmented, and oblique examples, presents his character to the audience rather than attempting to become that personage: the epic theater "facilitates a new style of acting" where "the actor would have to find quite a different way of drawing attention" to [the] event he portrays.
54) Interestingly, the 1600 quarto of Henry V, devoid of the chorus and significantly more episodic than the more familiar Folio, more fully corresponds to what Brecht later outlined as epic theater.