Caucasian Chalk Circle:Scene Six: The Chalk Circle
Summary of Scene Six: The Chalk Circle
The Singer announces this is the famous test of the chalk circle to establish the true mother of the child. In Nukha, the Ironshirts lead Michael into court, and Grusha follows. The old cook comes with her and tells Grusha she is lucky because Azdak is not a real Judge: “He’s drunk and doesn’t understand anything . . . he mixes everything up” (p. 83). The cook says she doesn’t know why Grusha hangs on to the child. Grusha replies: “It’s mine. I brought it up” (p. 83). The cook promises to swear anything to support Grusha, and Simon Chachava, Grusha’s former fiancé, comes to tell her he will swear to being the boy’s father.
Azdak has temporarily disappeared, and only the boy and two old people are waiting in the court. Two Ironshirts go to look for the missing Judge. A third Ironshirt turns around, and Grusha screams. It is the Ironshirt she hit, and he has a scar across his face. He denies knowing Grusha because he would incriminate himself as having tried to kill the child. Natella Abashvili has two lawyers with her, who tell her things will be taken care of. She says, “At least the common people aren’t here” (p. 85). The lawyer warns her to be careful of what she says around this Judge.
Azdak is led in by Ironshirts in chains, and is followed by Shauva in chains. The farmer landowners are yelling for him to be hanged. He is beaten bloody by Ironshirts and dragged to the noose. Just then a rider comes with a proclamation from the Grand Duke thanking Azdak for saving his life and re-appointing him as the Judge. Azdak faints but is cleaned up, his robes restored, and with a bottle of wine, he begins the trial.
Natella’s lawyers are worried with Azdak in charge and backed by the Duke. Azdak asks for something for his backside, and Shauva brings him the Statute Book to sit on. He announces, “I receive!” Natella’s lawyers are relieved and begin to hand him a lot of money. Then he says he is going to “demand the absolute truth” (p. 88) from everyone, especially Grusha. The lawyers say that Grusha stole the child and won’t give it back. They talk about the sacred bond of mother and child between Natella and Michael. Azdak interrupts them and asks Grusha her reply.
Grusha explains what she has done for the child, has brought him up and taught him what she knows. The lawyer points out that Grusha is not claiming any blood tie with the child. Natella then starts to proclaim her agony at losing her child. She is interrupted by the outraged second lawyer who points out that Natella is not even able to enter the old palace because all the property is tied up with the heir. She herself has no rights. The cook testifies that Natella was only thinking of what dresses to take for the escape and forgot about the child. Grusha tells how she had to take Michael on foot to the mountains, how she married to give him a roof and food while her fiancé was in the war. Azdak asks Grusha what kind of a child it is, a street child or a noble child? She says it is “an ordinary child . . . He had a nose in his face” (pp. 90-91).
Azdak is impressed with this answer, but says he will cut the case short because he doesn’t want to listen to any more lies. He knows the lawyers are swindling him too. Grusha gets angry and says no wonder he wants to cut it short considering how much he was bribed. Azdak asks did he receive anything from her? She says no because she has nothing.
Simon then defends Grusha by arguing with Azdak in proverbs. Azdak fines Simon for speaking grossly in court. Grusha says that Natella is too refined to know how to change Michael’s nappies. She accuses Azdak of not knowing about justice. He fines her for contempt of court. Grusha then scolds him for being the servant of rich people while she is poor and frightened of him.
Azdak suddenly asks the old couple to come forward. The old couple says they have lived together for forty years but they don’t like each other and want a divorce. Azdak says he will rule on their case when he’s finished with the first case. He calls forth the child and asks Grusha wouldn’t she want Michael to be rich and have nice things? Grusha does not answer, but the Singer tells her thoughts: “He who wears the shoes of gold/ Tramples on the weak and old” (p. 93).
When Michael comes in Natella exclaims, “It’s in rags!” She calls Grusha a criminal and wants her flogged. Azdak calls for the chalk circle test. He explains, “The true mother is she who has the strength to pull the child out of the circle, towards herself” (p. 94). Natella pulls the child out of the circle. Azdak accuses Grusha of not pulling. He orders the test again, and again, Grusha lets go. She explains, “I’ve brought him up! Am I to tear him to pieces?” (p. 95).
Azdak makes his ruling: Grusha is the true mother, but he tells her to take the child and get out of town. He tells Natella that the court takes her estates and that a playground for children will be made there, called the Garden of Azdak. Natella faints and is carried out. He then signs the divorce papers. Shauva points out to him he has made a mistake. He has divorced Grusha from her husband instead of the old couple. Azdak apologizes but says he never retracts a judgment. Everyone retires to a dance on the meadow, Azdak’s farewell party. Simon takes the child on his back, becoming Michael’s father, and free to marry Grusha. Everyone dances, and Azdak disappears among them and is never seen again. The Singer concludes that the people of Grusinia never forgot Azdak and his brief Golden Age.
Commentary on Scene Six: The Chalk Circle
Azdak is the lucky folk hero who is plucky and wins against the rich and powerful. No one can predict what he will do next. It seems hopeless for both Azdak and Grusha at the beginning of the scene. Azdak is on the point of being hanged but redeemed by his good act of saving the life of the Grand Duke. He cleans himself up from the beating and becomes the Judge again, an event in Grusha’s favor, but it appears that it could go against her. First, Natella gives a very large bribe, and secondly, Grusha and Simon insult Azdak instead of trying to win his support. Grusha is the only one that has called Azdak to account, and he seems to admire her courage and her fearless telling of the truth.
In the play only Azdak and Grusha speak the truth about social conditions. Grusha’s long scolding of Azdak is a radical and revolutionary statement summarizing everything that is wrong with a system of justice that allows the rich to stay in their houses while the common men are dragged into their wars. Officials are just bribe-taking servants of the rich.
Grusha calls Azdak the “cracked Isaiah on the church window” (p. 92). Isaiah was an Old Testament prophet who warned the people of destruction unless they turned back to God. She accuses Azdak of talking like a prophet but of taking bribes. Azdak is impressive in this scene, because he does not respond either to the money and power of the rich, nor to personal insults. With his usual sleight of hand, he finds the just and impartial answer. By sitting on the Statute Book, he demonstrates that justice is not in the book. It is in the human heart. He sees that Grusha and the child deserve one another, and the birth mother only wants Michael to get the estate. Her class prejudice comes out when she speaks of the common people as smelling bad. Instead of running to her lost child, she can only see he is dressed poorly.
Azdak gives the Governor’s property back to the people, a response that looks forward to the Communist country of Georgia in the future. The Singer concludes with the moral that brings the action full circle to the decision made in Scene One: “what there is shall belong to those that are good for it . . . children to the maternal . . . the valley to the waterers, that it shall bear fruit” (p. 97),