The Chalk Circle

  1. The Chalk Circle

Grusha is in the capital awaiting the arrival of the Judge who is going to determine her fate and that of Michael. She is accompanied by the Governor’s former cook who has come to offer her support. While waiting for the judge, Grusha notices the Corporal whom she had hit on the head and is afraid that he might remember her. The Corporal remembers the incident but cannot confront Grusha because he does not want it to be known that he wanted to kill the child. Simon, who is also present, offers to help Grusha by declaring that the child is his.

Natella is accompanied by her lawyers who assure her that the case will be judged by another judge because the Grand Duke was back and he was expected to appoint a new judge to replace Azdak. Shortly, Azdak is brought in badly beaten, bloodied and in chains. The ironshirts manhandle him and remove the gown on his back. Suddenly, a messenger arrives with information that the Grand Duke has reappointed Azdak.

Azdak resumes his position as judge and takes the case of Grusha and Natella as his first assignment. Natella’s lawyers present her case first by emphasizing that blood is thicker that water and so Michael belongs to her biological mother. Grusha, on the other hand, explains all the troubles that she had undergone for Michael’s sake. One of Natella’s lawyers, unfortunately, reveals that the Governor’s estate was tied to Michael and that Natella could not access it without the child. This revelation throw into light the real reason why Natella wants Micheal.

Judge Azdak orders Shauwa to draw a circle with a piece of chalk on the floor of the courtroom and then directs that the child be placed in the middle of the chalk circle. The two women are told to pull the child from the circle and that whoever wins would get the child. Natella’s lawyers argue that Grusha was likely to win because she is younger and as a maid – stronger. The judge ignores his argument and the two women start to pull. The women are given two chances and Natella wins both. Grusha is unable to pull for fear that she might tear the child whom she has spent a long time trying to protect.

The judge rules that the child be given to Grusha and she is advised to leave the city. Azdak also grants Grusha a divorce from her husband Jussup instead of the Old Couple that had wanted it. Natella is told to go and the Governor’s land which she wanted is given to the city to use as a play ground for children. The play ends with a party where everybody is invited and they help Judge Azdak to disappear from the scene.

Discussion points

  • Do you agree with Azdak’s judgment in this case? Why or why not?
  • What is the importance of having a lawyer in a court of law?

Characterization and Role in The Caucasian Chalk Circle

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