Yea-sayer. Nay-sayer

The Yea-sayer/Nay-sayer is a so-called school-opera written by Bertold Brecht, Elisabeth Hauptmann and Kurt Weill in 1930. Initially it was titled The Yea-sayer, and the plot revolved around the question of whether an individual must be agreeable to sacrificing themselves for the good of society.

In the first version of the piece a boy gives ‘permission’ for his own execution. After a sting of discussions with students and workers Brecht’s The Yea-sayer was modified into a second version, where the yea-sayer is presented in contrast to a nay-sayer.

This nay-sayer calls the blind obedience of the yea-sayer into question. The function of the yea-sayer has seen a variety of literary interpretations; perhaps the most common interpretation being that the character represents the expression of a false obedience with regard to authority and social norms.

Indeed, the term ‘yea-sayer’ has a negative connotation in the German culture. To be a yea-sayer means to say ‘amen’ to everything. Not to resist. To accept anything. Better to be a nay-sayer in this case.

Nay-sayers may be more complicated and unpleasant for those around them, but at least they stand up for their own beliefs. An (initial) ‘no’ could simply be a way of just expressing oneself.