History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/German Realist< History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now
Realism and naturalism developed in Germany in parallel to developments in Scandinavia. Witkowski (1909) described the essence of naturalism as follows: "Naturalism chooses its material exclusively from the life of the present day and preferably from the domain of the lowly, the ugly and the morally objectionable, which up to the present has been excluded from artistic treatment. Instead of plots it offers accurately observed scenes and individual incidents which are to be considered typical of the conditions of society. In addition, abnormal morbid qualities are assigned to the characters introduced which, however, likewise claim a typical significance as the results of the unnatural conditions of modern life. Everything is derived from mythological and pathological causes. The law of causality holds unconditional sway, represented by scientific hypotheses, such as heredity and the influence of suggestion upon the will and by socialistic theories. Instead of strong utterances of passion, conversation alone serves as the means of sketching character and of disclosing the progress of events. Involuntary suggestions, instead of intentional communications, seeming equalization of what is essential and non-essential, avoidance of the monologue and of everything serving merely for the enlightenment of the spectator, and the must accurate prescriptions for everything external are to produce complete illusion without any assistance from the imagination of the spectator. The single aim is ostensibly to do battle against lying, hypocrisy and whatever is antiquated in art and life. At the same time, judgment is mostly given from the standpoint of youthful inexperience and of extreme political and social endeavor which would like at one stroke to put a new order of society and a new art in the place of the old, and to which therefore everything is welcome which makes light of prevailing views."
Clark (1914) describes the realist/naturalist movement as follows: "The Naturalist movement in literature, in which Tolstoy, Zola, Ibsen, and Strindberg were the leaders, bore fruit in France with the Theatre Libre, founded by Andre Antoine in 1887, and in the German theater abovementioned. The new movement aimed at two things: the delineation of character in as truthful a manner as possible, and the presentation of problems and theses directly affecting the society of the day. These ideas were by no means new, but the combina-tion of greater adherence to external details—usually "unpleasant" and often brutally shocking—and purposefulness was decidedly novel." It often includes the unemphatic ending. He further says: "This is quite a common practice nowadays, and the reason for it is chiefly that it heightens the illusion. In life, the exciting is mingled with the commonplace, and one of the most interesting and dramatic things in life is the strange contrast between the sublime and the commonplace, between the tragic and the comic. Therefore, in place of ending his act or his play with a scene of great tension or high emotion, the dramatist seeks to reproduce parts of life, makes a still more lifelike and exciting scene, and places one of these contrasted moments at one of the most critical points of his act or play: the last."
Among major figures of late 19th century German-speaking drama are Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), famous for the gritty proletarian play, "Die Weber" (The weavers, 1892) and "Der Biberpelz" (The beaver coat, 1893).
Witkowski (1909) described the importance of "The weavers" as follows. "Earlier dramatists had never tried to sketch any but individual natures. When it had been a question of using the masses in a drama as co-acting factors, then either individual representatives would be picked out, as in Shakespeare's "Julius Ceasar" (1599) or Goethe's "Egmont" (1788), and treated according to the principles of individual psychology, or the chorus of Greek tragedy gave the model and the feeling of unity was indicated, as in that by some few general human impulses which are present in all. Beginnings of a "psychology of the masses" are to be discerned in Kleist's "Robert Guiscuard" (uncompleted), in Hebbel's "Judith" (1841), and in Ludwig's "The Maccabees" (1852). Here is already shown something of that immense strengthening force which every impulse receives because of a number feeling it in common, of those sudden transitions which arise therefrom and of the blind passion of the excited popular mind, which is swayed by quite different laws than affect the individual. But still no one before Hauptmann had attempted to make this knowledge fruitful to the drama. In Schiller's "William Tell" (1804) the people spoke and acted just as every Swiss would have spoken and acted for himself. In "The weavers", on the other hand, the representatives of the class described there form a harp, all the strings of which begin to give out at the same time, when the air-waves strike them, low complaining or loud screaming notes, so that the individual voices together form a mighty accord, in which the peculiar quality of each is indeed discernible, but none prevails over and sounds above the other."
Of the same play, Clark (1914) remarks: "Hauptmann may be said to have created a new form of drama in "The weavers," and that form is what may be designated as the tableau series form, with no hero but a community. As the play is not a close-knit entity, the first act is casual, and might open at almost any point; and since it starts with a picture, or part of a picture, there is hardly anything to be known of the past. The result is that no exposition is needed. The audience sees a state of affairs, it does not lend its attention and interest to a story or the beginning of a plot or intrigue. This first act merely establishes the relation between the weavers and the manufacturers.There is no direct hint given in the first act as to what is to come in the second ; the first is a play in itself, a situation which does not necessarily have to be developed. It does, however, prepare for the revolt, by showing the discontent among the downtrodden people, and it also enlists the sympathy of the audience. Act two is another picture, this time that of the homes of the weavers; the effect produced is one of blackest misery and unrelieved poverty. Two points should be noticed: first, the dramatist develops some characters, like Mother Baumert and Ansorge, but only to a certain extent, for fear of their overshadowing the chief business of the play, which is the presentation in concrete form of the oppression and struggles of the weavers; and second, the plot—such as it is—is started by Jaeger. But this plot is not permitted to absorb the interest of the audience, it is rather brought in almost as an incident, and does not attain to great proportions until a large number of the weavers participate, later on. And when that happens, the plot and characters have an equal claim upon our attention. This act does look forward; it throws out tentacles of interest, for when Ansorge says: " We'll stand it no longer ! We'll stand it no longer Come what may," the audience knows that trouble is ahead, and wants to see its result. The third act carries the plot forward, and gives a further picture of the life of the weavers, this time a little less sordid than in the foregoing acts. The change of scene is made primarily in order to give variety to the whole picture, and also to furnish a likely gathering place for the in- stigators of the rebellion. The end of the act brings the plot to a higher degree of development, and increases the suspense; Hornig'swords,"It'll not surprise me if this ends badly," are clearly prophetic, and prepare for the next act. Between the third and fourth acts the rebellion has come to a head, and the weavers start on their warpath of depredation. The contrast in settingisagaingood; this time we are in the luxuriously furnished home of the capitalist. We are aware of the presence of the wild crowd outside, and know that the revolt is making quick headway. The entrance of Jaeger as a prisoner, his subsequent release by the mob, the evacuation of the house by its owners, the entrance of the weavers, the despoiling of the rich furnishings, all supply excellent dramatic action. By the end of the act, the weavers are like wild animals, whom nothing can curb. Here, then, is the culmination oftheaction: the climax. What more is expected? Clearly,the result of what has happened. Will the weavers conquer? The last act must terminate the rebellion, but the mere ending, in the defeat of the strikers, is not sufficient to fill an entire act; there must be something further. Hauptmann has therefore in- troduced an incident that will supply the need. The "reactionary" weaver is accidentally shot. The purpose of this is doubtless to drive home the irony of fate, in this case the uselessness of revolt. This bit of action is very skilfully interwoven, and leaves us with a keen appreciation of the wrongs of the weavers, by reason of its vividness—also because it is the last incident of the play. While it is true that we sympathize with the weavers as a class up to the last act, we lack the personal ele- ment. For example, we may read in a newspaper that five thousand people die of the famine, but until we see the mother dying in an effort to feed her child, or the father killing his family outright rather than see them starve—until we see these things individually—they will not touch us.."
Time: 1840s. Place: Silesia, Germany.
In Dreissiger's shop of fustian-weavers, the manager, Pfeifer, hears several complaints. The workers want to be paid in advance. "People who are industrious, and understand their work, and do it in the fear of God, never need their pay in advance," answers Pfeifer. What about bad pay for bad work? "If you want to live well, then be sure to weave well," answers Pfeifer. But the workers are underfed. One boy in the shop faints from hunger. To get meat, Baumert had to kill his dog. For complaining too loudly, Becker is dismissed. When one of her neighbors asks for food, Mother Baumert answers: "There's not so much as a handful o'salt in the house, not a bite o' bread, nor a bit o' wood for the fire...The best thing as could happen to the likes o' us, Jenny, would be if God had pity on us an' took us away out o' this weary world." Because of her mother's rheumatic pains, Bertha says: "We've to dress her in the mornin' an' undress her at night, an' to feed her like a baby." Says the mother about the women workers: "Their feet never off the treadle from year's end to year's end...An' with it all they can't scrape together as much as'll buy them clothes that they can let theirselves be seen in; never a step can they go to church, to hear a word o' comfort." Although the oven smokes in their house, Baumert knows there is no use complaining to the cottager, Ansorge. "One word of a complaint an' out we go. He's had no rent from us this last half-year," he says. When an old friend, Jaeger, now a soldier, drops by with a roast for him, Baumbert is unable to hold it in. He vomits then cries in rage. "We don't need no meat." Jaeger comments sarcastically. "The manufacturers eats it for us." "Things was different in my young days," Ansorge reminisces. "Then the manufacturers let the weaver have his share. Now they keeps everything to theirselves. An' would you like to know what's at the bottom of it all? It's that the fine folks nowadays believes neither in God nor devil." In the common-room of a public-house, expensive funerals are spoken of, the pastor profiting by large funerals. Says Hornig, the rag-seller, to Wiegand, the joiner: "When you see the rows o' little children's graves, you pats yourself on the belly and says you: this has been a good year; the little brats have fallen like cockchafers off the trees." Jaeger and Becker enter arm in arm, singing. "They're goin' to Dreissiger's to make him add something on to the pay," explains Baumert to the rest. In Dressiger's private room, Pastor Kittelhaus is disturbed at hearing strains of the "Weavers' Song". For his pains, Jaeger is arrested. Dreissiger also complains of the present times. "Most certainly that is what they used to be- patient, easily managed, well-behaved and orderly people." he says. "They were that as long as these so-called humanitarians let them alone. But for ever so long now they've had the awful misery of their condition held up to them." At the sight of Jaeger tied up as a prisoner, the crowd becomes rowdy and free him. "They've set Moritz Jaeger free- they've thrashed the superintendent and driven him away- they've thrashed the policeman and sent him off too- without his helmet ... his sword broken ... Oh dear, oh dear!" exclaims Pfeifer in a panic. An old soldier with a lost arm, Hilse, weaving in his own workroom, does not agree with this uprising "If we've no butter, we can eat dry bread- when we've no bread, we can eat potatoes- when there's no potatoes left, we can eat bran," he declares. Hornig describes the damage caused by the workers at Dreissiger's home: "They've wrecked his house from the cellar to the roof," he says. But this situation does not worry Schmidt, the surgeon. "The troops will be on them in no time," he says with confidence. Hilse's son-in-law, Gottlieb, is glad at least of what the workers have gained. "We're to have our half-pound o' meat on Sundays, and now and again on a holiday sausage with our cabbage. Yes, things is to be quite different, by what he tells me." Hilse maintains his point of view. "They've let themselves be tempted by Satan, an' it's his works they're doin'," he grumbles. In contrast, Luise, his daughter, does not agree and joins the rioting weavers. "How many hundred nights has I lain an' racked my head to think what I could do to cheat the churchyard of my little one? What harm has a baby like that done that it must come to such a miserable end- eh? An' over there at Dittrich's they're bathed in wine an' washed in milk," she says. When police officers shoot at the workers, a stray bullet strikes Hilse in his own house. His blind wife does not understand why he is so silent, crying out in distress: "Come now, father, can't you say something? You're frightenin' me."
"The beaver coat"Edit
Time: 1890s. Place: Berlin region, Germany.
Adelaide has some town news to relate to her mother, Mrs Wolff. "Mrs. Krueger has bought a fur-coat that cost pretty near a hundred crowns. It's a beaver coat," she specifies. When Mr and Mrs Motes arrive to settle an account, Mrs Wolff hides and clears away everything that could in any degree suggest her husband had poached a stag. Mrs Motes shows her several wire-snares, evidence of poaching. Mr Motes was once a forester, but he was shot in the eye and is now a free-lance writer. "Forester Seidel has nabbed a poacher again. He'll be taken to the detention prison tomorrow. There's an officer with style about him. If I hadn't had my misfortune, I could have been a head forester today. I'd go after those dogs even more energetically," he declares. Mrs Motes pretends to laugh off news that they were forced to move away from the Krueger premises. At this, her husband reddens in rage: "The reason why I moved away from that place? You'll find it out some day. The man is a usurer and a cutthroat," he says. After they leave, Mrs Wolff has an idea for her husband concerning the Kruegers where Leontine works as a servant: "An' if I was to say: all right, you abuse my children, I'll take your wood- a nice face you'd make," she says. "I wouldn't do no such thing ... I don't give a--! I c'n do more'n eat, too. I'd like to see! I wouldn't stand for nothin' like that. Beatin'!" he says. He goes out to steal the wood as Constable Mitteldorf arrives, announcing that he is badly seen by Justice of the Peace Wehrhahn: "I ain't keen enough after the people," he says. Motes reports to Wehrhahn the liberal opinions expressed by Krueger and his boarder, Dr Fleischer. "Under the protection of my honourable predecessor, the sphere of our activity has become a receptacle for refuse of various kinds: lives that cannot bear the light- outlawed individuals, enemies of royalty and of the realm. These people must be made to suffer," the judge comments. Motes hands over to him the snares. Krueger arrives to tell the judge that his wood was stolen in front of his garden after Lenontine refused to take it in. "And when I insisted on her doing it, she ended by running away. I intend to bring suit against her parents. I intend to claim full damages," he says. Asked about Leontine's behavior, Mrs Wolff complains about her having to carry so heavy a load so late in the evening. She will never pay for the wood and will no longer be his washerwoman. Later, Adelaide tells her mother she knows where the new wood comes from, at which she cuffs her head. Fleischer reports to Mrs Wolff that Mrs Krueger's beaver coat was stolen and that the new washerwoman fired because of it. As Fleischer leaves her house, Krueger arrives. Mrs Wolff tries to hide the stolen wood, but he does not notice it as his. He wants to forget their difference by hiring her and her daughter back, to which she agrees. In the court-house, Mrs Wolff warns the boatman, Wulkow, that he should not be seen wearing his beaver coat. She brings to Wehrhahn's attention that Adelaide found a green waist-coat that belongs to Krueger. Fleischer then enters to report he saw a slovenly boatman at a distance suspiciously wearing a new beaver coat. Hating Fleischer, Wehrhahn takes no notice of that bit of news. Krueger then arrives to complain that the judge takes no interest of the robberies, presenting Mrs Wolf, Fleischer, and Wulkow as cases in point. In regard to a boatman with beaver coats, Wulkow declares: "There ain't nothin' suspicious about that, your honour. There's many as has fine coats. I got one myself, in fac'." Krueger accuses Motes of trying to inveigle a Mrs. Dreier into committing perjury against Fleischer for insulting the emperor. But the judge's mind is fixated against the liberal Fleischer. "And as surely as it is true when I say: Mrs. Wolff is an honest woman; so surely I tell you: this Dr. Fleischer of yours, of whom we were speaking, is a thoroughly dangerous person," concludes Wehrhahn while addressing himself to Mrs Wolff.
Also of note in the Germans-speaking drama is the Austrian playwright, Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) for "Reigen" (Hands around, or La Ronde, 1897).
Time: 1890s. Place: Austria.
A prostitute proposes to a soldier to come to her room. He has no money, but for him she'll yield for free. He objects her room is too far. They copulate in the bushes. She then asks at least for carfare, but he refuses. In an amusement park, the soldier tries to seduce a chambermaid. He sees another couple near. "Others are like us," he points out, but she refuses to take the hint till he rubs himself on her. She complains she cannot see his face, but he considers that unimportant. They copulate in the dark. She then wants him to take her home, but he refuses, at which he cries out: "Oh I know you, now it's the pie-faced blonde's turn!" Nevertheless, she'll wait for him as he goes to dance. The next day, the chambermaid serves a glass of water to a young gentleman. He comments favorably on her blouse, opens it, and kisses her breasts. Although the doorbell rings, they copulate. He then gruffly goes out to a cafe. The young gentleman has a rendez-vous with a heavily veiled married lady. She has qualmsabout their relation. "You tormented me so. But I didn't want to do it. God is my witness--I didn't want to do it?" she specifies. "Yesterday I was absolutely determined . . . Do you know, I even wrote you a long letter last night." He knows she is unhappy. She is pleased to answer yes. She puts a candied pear on his lips. They go to bed, but he is unable to achieve a lasting erection. He tells of Stendhal story about cavalry officers, who when in presence with the woman the love most are impotent. She is about to go, but he manages to take her to his bed to copulate. She then worries about not having any excuse to invent to her husband because of the late hour. Back home, the married lady hears her husband say: "If we hadn't sometimes forgotten . . . during the five years we've been married . . . that we were in love with each other, we certainly wouldn't be now." He adds: "That's why it's such a wise thing from time to time to live together like good friends." Curious to know about his past, she asks whether there was a married woman among those he slept with. The question disturbs him. He asks her to promise this: "That you'll never have anything to do with a woman who is the least bit under suspicion of not . . . not leading a quite spotless life." He adds: "One can only love where one finds purity and truth." They copulate. "If only you'd always-" she regretfully exclaims afterwards. "One can't always be the lover, one has to enter the battle of life now and then, to fight and struggle," he declares. The next day, the husband treats a sweet young girl to a meal in the private room of a restaurant. She has not had a sweetheart for six months and accepted his invitation because he looks a little like him, and with the same name. He was a rotter, leaving her in the lurch. Her head is swimming, he presses her. They copulate. "Honest, I'm not like this . . . Honest to God- if you thought that of me . . ." she specifies anxiously. She guesses that he is married and that his wife is doing the same thing. He protests. "Well, then- if you really want to be my sweetheart- mine alone- something can be arranged- even if I do live in Graz most of the time," he assures her. The next day, the sweet young girl is invited in a poet's room. Since she is hungry, he suggests a private room in a restaurant, to which she repeats the same story as she did to the husband. They copulate, an experience the poet considers " transcendental bliss". He reveals that the name he gave her is not his own. "I'm not Biebitz, but Biebitz is a friend of mine. I'll introduce him to you sometime. Well, on Sunday Biebitz's play is being given. I'll send you a ticket and then I'll pick you up at the theatre afterwards. You'll tell me how you liked the play, won't you?" Later, the poet and an actress enter a room at a country inn. To his consternation, she kneels and prays, enjoining him to pray with her. Then she asks him: "I suppose you'd like to have an affair with me, wouldn't you?" They copulate. She then tells him she considers him a caprice. But yet she has fevers out of longing for him. "A hundred and four degrees!" she specifies. "That's pretty high for a caprice," he notes, to which she replies: "A caprice, you call it? I'm dying of love for you and you call it a caprice?!" Later, in the actress's bedroom, a count meets with her. "Last night you were literally showered with flowers and wreaths," he says. "They're all in my dressing-room still.," she answers. "I took only your basket home with me." "I'm never in the right mood till after supper," he specifies, but he finds the room hot. "Do you think so?" she asks, "And it's dark, too, almost as dark as night. It is evening...it is night... close your eyes if it's too light for you. Come! ...Come!" The count resists no longer. In a poorly furnished room, the count wakes up next to the prostitute. "Well, good luck to you. The wine's still got me. Really, that beats everything...I come to a female like this and don't do anything but kiss her eyes, because she reminds me of somebody. Tell me, Leocadia, does that happen to you often, a man going away like this?... I mean, men being with you- and not wanting anything from you?" he asks. "No," she admits, "It's never happened to me before." She adds: "The maid's up already. You might give her something when you go out. The street door is open, too, so that'll save you the janitor's tip." "Well...it would have been beautiful if I'd only kissed her eyes," he murmurs. "That would have been an adventure, almost...but I guess it wasn't to be...Ah, here, take this...Good night." "Good morning," she corrects him. "Oh yes, of course . . . Good morning . . . good morning," he echoes.
Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) is another important playwright, especially for "Frühlings Erwachen" (Spring awakening, 1891) and "Erdgeist" (Earth-spirit, 1895).
Lewisohn (1922) described the importance of Frank Wedekind as follows. "The exact character of Wedekind's power over the younger generation can be best observed in the plays of Carl Sternheim and Georg Kaiser. Both have richer natures. But what Wedekind taught them was how to attain dramatic range through speed. He broke up the dramatic continuity which he considered as but productive of a futile illusion and sought sweep, variety, and also concentration by lifting his characters at crucial and frankly isolated moments out of the darkness into a strong and sudden light. Within these apparently random scenes hurled on the stage he likewise makes no effort to produce an illusion of reality. All gestures become symbols; all speech races toward its ultimate significance. A terrible yet hopeless avidness after the meaning of life dominates this drama, and under its cold cynicism you feel a stifled moan of pain." Of his play, "Spring awakening", he writes: "Wedekind set himself the task of describing and interpreting the sexual difficulties of adolescence. Partly by the force of his own temperament, partly on account of the difficulties of his theme, he abandoned the massive and continuous technique of naturalism. The play consists of a large number of scenes, unrelated as far as external structure goes, but each giving us a swift and sudden insight into the souls and bodies of his characters. These scenes do not, in any ordinary sense, develop a fable; they do succeed, in their totality, in presenting a highly complex condition that manifests itself variously through the medium of various souls. Each scene, moreover, though of a haunting reality of impression, is lifted above the physical crassness of its incidents by a strange remoteness of speech and gesture that clings to all the characters. Thus even the incredibly daring incident in the reform school fills one with compassion rather than with disgust. It is not hard to disengage in fairly exact terms the thoughts to which the shifting scenes of the play correspond: The youth of the race is seized at a certain period by inevitable instincts and passions. Society is so organized, however, and conventions are so fixed, that youth attains no clarity concerning these instincts, but struggles with them in the lurid twilight of ignorance and of fantastic guilt. Thus bodies are corrupted and souls perverted by the mysterious degradation of the race's very condition of continuance. A morbid importance then surrounds the instinct of sex; it penetrates all the recesses of the nature; it becomes unclean; it gives rise to practices that deepen the evil and unnatural sense of guilt. These facts no sane observer of society will deny. In Wedekind's play they are rendered objective in a manner that will deeply stir the mature mind to compassion and reflection."
Time: 1890s. Place: Germany.
Schön has been Lulu's benefactor since her childhood and has arranged her present marriage with Dr Goll, who asks an artist named Schwarz to paint her portrait. As Goll leaves them, Schwarz can control his lust no longer, chasing her about the studio until a knock at the door is heard. It is Goll returning. Deeply suspicious, the husband knocks the door down and suddenly dies of a heart attack. Schwarz then marries Lulu, but she quickly becomes bored with him, regretting to be unable to resume her career as a a dancer. He is blind to her escapades. Schön advises Schwarz to be firmer and to use authority over his flighty wife, especially when one considers her background. Schwarz is devastated at hearing about her background. In despair of ever changing her, he goes to the adjoining room and cuts his throat with a razor. This enables Lulu to return to a dancing career. Backstage during one of her performances, Prince Escarny asks her whether she would be interested in leading a quiet life at his mansion in Africa. As she returns onstage, Lulu has a fainting fit. As Schön rushes backstage to find out what happened, she says her weakness was caused by seeing him with another woman. She then mentions Escarny's offer. From this and other reasons, Schön realizes he cannot do without Lulu and so marries her. It does not take long before Schön become suspicious about his wife's activities. He takes a gun on his way to spy on her. Countess Geschwitz, a lesbian friend of Lulu's, also decides to spy on her. One fateful day, Lulu welcomes Schigolch, once known as her father, together with a friend, Rodrigo, and Hugenberg, a student. Schön's son, Alwa, comes in to join them. On his knees, a despairing Alwa reveals his love to Lulu. From his hiding place, Rodrigo notices Schön with a gun aimed at his head. He points his finger towards Alwa, signifying that the husband should shoot the lover, not he. As Schön walks in to speak with his son and they leave together in the adjoining room, a nervous Rodrigo looks about to change his hiding place, but on lifting the table-cloth, he sees Hugenberg under the table and finds another place to hide. Schön returns alone to find Geschwitz. Despairing over his wife's infidelities, he calls Geschwitz "avenging angel", "inexorable fate", "hangman's noose", requesting her to commit suicide. Instead of that, she shoots him to death. As policemen knock at the door, Hugenberg fears he may be expelled from school.
Time: 1890s. Place: Germany.
At fourteen years of age, Wendla insists on not wearing her mother's choice of a long dress. While preparing for school-work, Melchior and Moritz speak of adolescence. Moritz asks him to complete his education by writing about it. Martha reveals to her fellow-students, Wendla and Thea, that she is not allowed a blue ribbon through the top of her chemise: "Mamma pulled me out of bed by the hair...Then papa came in. Rip- he tore off my chemise. Out of the door I went...I had to sleep all night in a sack." she reveals. "If I ever have children, I will let them grow up like the weeds in our flower garden." Moritz has secretly found out he has been promoted: "Lord, but I'll grind from today on!- I can say so now- whether you believe it or not- It's all the same now- I- I know how true it is; if I hadn't been promoted I would have shot myself." In the woods, Wendla reveals to Melchior what Martha said to her about her parents' strictness. On seeing him casually holds a switch, she goads him. "Would you like to beat me with it once?" she asks. Instead, he beats her with his fists while tears stream down his cheeks, then he springs away. Back in his study, he continues ro speak of intimate subjects to Moritz, who says he imagines a woman's pleasure in love as being greater than a man's. After being made an aunt three times, Wendla asks her mother: "How does it happen?- How does it all come about?- You cannot really deceive yourself that I, who am fourteen years old, still believe in the stork." "To have a child, one must love the man to whom one is married, love him, I tell you, as one can only love a man. One must love him so much with one's whole heart, so- so that one can't describe it! One must love him, Wendla, as you at your age are still unable to love- now you know it!" Despite his past behavior, Melchior meets Wendla in a haymow and kisses her, avowing that love does not exist, just selfish interests. She pleads for him to stop his advances, but in the end, yields to his desires. Moritz fails in class. Despite an encouraging letter from Mrs Gabor, Melchior's mother, he contemplates suicide. He meets Ilse, a poor girl leading a bohemian life. She knows a friend, Heinrich, who put a gun to his mouth. "Is Heinrich living yet?" he asks. "How do I know!" she answers. "Over the bed was a large mirror set into the ceiling. The room seemed as high as a tower and as bright as an opera house. One saw one's self hanging down bodily from heaven. I had frightful dreams at night- O God, O God, if it were only day!" He tells her he must go, burns Mrs Gabor's letter, and commits suicide. After finding a text in Melchior's room, the rector avers to his colleagues that he must be held partly responsible for this death. "It grieves us deeply, gentlemen," says he, "that we are not in a position to consider the other qualifications of our guilt-laden pupil as mitigating circumstances. An indulgent treatment, which would allow our guilty pupil to be vindicated, would not in any conceivable way imaginable vindicate the present imperiled existence of our institute. This manuscript, in the form of a dialogue entitled “The nuptial sleep”, illustrated with life-size pictures full of shameless obscenity, has twenty pages of long explanations that seek to satisfy every claim a profligate imagination can make on a lewd book." He is expelled. While spreading anemones over his grave, Ilse says the reason Moritz gave why he shot himself was a parallelepipedon. She will keep his pistol as a souvenir. Mrs Gabor is against her husband's determination of sending Melchior to a house of correction, threatening to divorce him, but when she discovers her son's letter to Wendla concerning their sexual relation, she changes her mind. Wendla is sick in bed during her pregnancy and reprimands her mother for not telling her everything about sex. Melchior escapes from the reform school and discovers Wendla's grave, killed by abortives. Moritz' ghost then enters, his head under his arm. The dead "laugh at tragedies", see lovers as "deceived deceivers". Wishing to guide Melchior onward, a masked man commands Moritz away, who submits. "I will go back to my place, right my cross, which that madcap trampled down so inconsiderately, and when everything is in order I will lie down on my back again, warm myself in the corruption, and smile," Moritz promises.
Also of note is Max Halbe (1865-1944) for "Jugend" (Youth, 1893). Of "Youth", Lewisohn (1922) says: "What glorifies the play, for I can use no lesser word, is the exquisite picture of young love, consciously touched with tragedy, but irresistible, the loveliness of a sane instinct unblunted, unvitiated by the wrongs, the sins, the violences of life. Thus love may have come and almost thus been tasted in some morning of the world. Yet the reality of the scene and of the passion is complete. For a few days these two young creatures forget society, or strive to forget it: Hans, his necessary career, Annchen, her social asset of chastity. That is all. Any other way of ending the play would have served equally well. The lyric cry that may be at the heart of the homeliest reality, the hymn of love that may be heard by the simplest souls, has been uttered."
Time: 1890s. Place: Rosenau, West Prussia.
Since the time both of her parents died, Anna has been keeping house at the parsonage of Reverend Hoppe, her uncle, and taking care of her mentally handicapped half-brother, Amandus, much dependent on her. Amandus picks up the first radish of the spring from a dungheap and places it on the living-room table. While Rev Hoppe and Anna talk, he stares at it for some time and then devours it with great relish. Anna gently scolds him. “Youth ! They are in such a rush,” comments Rev Hoppe. “They would like best of all to build Rome in a day. Later, when one gets along in years-” muses the uncle. He receives a letter announcing a visit from Hans, his nephew, whom Anna knew as a child, on his way to the University of Heidelberg as a student. Seeing Anna glad of his arrival, Father Schigorski reminds her of his wish for her to enter a convent, all the more to expiate the sin of her mother, who bore her out of wedlock, though she is reluctant to do so. When Hans arrives suddenly, she welcomes him in blushing confusion. Together alone, they very quickly sympathize. In a spontaneous rush of feeling, he flings himself over her and kisses her madly while she throws her arms around him and returns his kisses. As they hold each other, they are spotted by Amadeus, peering through a crack of the door, and is ushered out by Anna. As Hans embraces her again, they are interrupted by Father Schigorski, who takes in the awkward situation. Amandus returns but hides behind the linen press, then rushes out the door. Expecting a visit of at least one month, she is disappointed when Hans declares he is going in two days. Next morning, Anna scolds Amandus for being rude to their cousin. When she boasts of her cousin’s intelligence, Amandus points out that he is stronger. A nettled Anna retorts that it is so when he trips him from behind as he did that morning. Amadeus rages in a fit of jealousy. Looking gloomier than ever, Father Schigorski warns her of her cousin. “Listen before it is too late. There is recklessness in your family. Think of your mother, Pannie,” he says. As Amandus looks out of the window at Hans carrying his uncle’s gun, he rises as if aiming it, his eyes sparkling. “Bing! Bang! Dead!” he cries. Hans enters with the gun and puts it down. Amandus looks it over. When reminded that Hans is going the next day, Anna avers absent-mindedly that he will not and fetches the cakes she baked for him. Alone together again, she pleads for him to stay at least five more days, or why not forever? “You stay here and learn Polish and help uncle look after things,” she suggests. “We have enough to do here, too, if we want to. And afterward you get your parents to give you some money, and buy a large estate here. And then you will not go away at all, then we shall always be together.” As she heads towards the drawing-room with Rev Hoppe and Father Schigorski to play music, a grinning Amandus approaches Hans with the gun. When Hans asks for it, he quickly goes out. That night, Anna enters Hans’ room, spied on by Amandus. The next morning, she sits at the living room in limp misery. Hans promises to stay by her, but he also wants to go to the university as planned. Father Schigorski announces that he has read the mass for her mother's soul, at which she sobs, having forgotten it. Amandus gobbles down several cakes prepared for Hans. When Anna scolds him, he throws them at her feet. “Will be revenged,” he growls maliciously. “Tell everything, give everything away.” Sure enough, he tells about Hans' nighttime visit to his half-sister's room late at night to Father Schigorski, who in turn reveals it to Rev Hoppe. Father Schigorski rips up the letter from the mother superior announcing that she may enter the convent and refuses henceforth to act as her confessor. Rev Hoppe is stunned at the mention of the letter, for which he was not consulted, and dismisses the father from his service. Recognizing the importance of Hans’ university studies in his career, the reverend proposes that he should go at once, at which the student reluctantly agrees. But before he can go, Amandus, gnashing his teeth, advances with the gun again and levels it at him. Anna steps between the two and is shot to death.
Hermann Sudermann (1857-1928) for "Heimat" (Home, 1893). Of Sudermann's play, "Home", Clark (1914) remarks: "Magda is one of the finest technical accomplishments in all modern drama practically every element of the well-made play—unity, clearness, and a well-defined struggle—is here skilfully adapted to a modern theme. The entire first act is exposition, exposition of the best kind. The important characters are introduced, or—as in the case of Magda herself so constantly spoken of that they are well known before they appear; the history of the past is unfolded, the spirit of the " home " makes itself felt almost immediately, and the struggle between the old and the new, between Schwartze and Magda, set in movement. Note that the play actually starts, the wheels are set going, the moment Schwartze tells HefFterdingt, "Then God's will be done.. While the opening act sets the scene, as it were, for the subsequent action, the second is concerned with Magda's homecoming and her reception ; also her resolution to stay with her family. But, in the scene between her and Heffterdingt, more past history is revealed ; it will be used later in the play. This is preparation. Yet one thing further is accomplished by this scene : the stipulation that Magda shall not be questioned as to her past life. The family agree to this, and all goes well—up to the very last page of the act, where Heffterdingt (" Struck by a new thought ") says, "Yes,I am sure she will confess everything herself." This line is sufficient to arouse the sus- picions of a careful auditor or reader.—Will she confess? And if she does, what will be the result? The contrast between the old and new orders, —between the old German idea of home and the new idea of individual development, begun in the first act, is continued throughout the play; in the first act, the spirit of the old was brought before us by means of conversation, in the second, it is set forth in the struggle between two persons Schwartze and Magda—and in the third it is both discussed and "acted." Magda's playful banter, the little humorous touches in her scene with the servants, the provincial wonderment of Franziska and Mrs. Schwartze, all contribute to the central idea. In addition, the first few pages of the third act form an interlude between the rising action of the second and the tension that is to increase later in the third act. The scene between Magda and Marie is a "bridging section" or connecting link between the "interlude" and the Heffterdingt-Magda and the Schwartze-Magda colloquies, which are followed by further scenes of varying tension, through that between Magda and Von Keller, to the culminating point in the act, in which Schwartze and his " erring " daughter go into the former's room, each having " something to say " to the other. So far, the end of each act has been emotionally higher than the beginning, as well as tenser than the end of the preceding. The first, second, and third acts have each culminated in a crisis ; while the end of the third act was the greatest crisis—that fraught with the utmost importance to the chief characters—in the play that was: the beginning of the climax. But the actual climax occurs off-stage in the interval between the third and fourth acts. This is a more effective method than as if the clash had occurred upon the stage, because we see the beginning, imagine the struggle, are ignorant for a few moments of its outcome, and when the curtain rises on the last act, are still in suspense. In this way, there is no relaxation of pressure. The climax started in one act, is carried over into the next and does not end until Schwartze enters, as we see, defeated."
Time: 1890s. Place: Germany.
Twelve years ago, Leopold Schwartze wanted his daughter, Magda, to marry Pastor Heffterdingt, but she refused. As a result, he angrily forbid her his house. After some difficult times as a small-time singer, Magda wrote back to her father, but the breach was complete. She eventually became a very successful opera singer. Now a retired army officer recovering from a stroke, Leopold learns from Franziska, his wife's sister, as well as the pastor, that she has been invited for a reception at the governor's house, but he refuses to see her. The pastor reprimands him. "My dear Colonel, I might ask, what speaks in you? A father's love? You could make no pretence to that. Your rights? I think rather it would be your right to rejoice in the good fortune of your child," he says. At last, he agrees to see her. On arriving, Madga is greeted by Franziska, her stepmother's sister, who assures her she forgives her. Magda answers sarcastically. Leopold takes it for granted that she will live in his house and intends to take her financial affairs in hand. When meeting the pastor after all this time, she admits she has always hated him for driving her away from home. But when he mentions he was the one mainly responsible for helping her father recover from his stroke, she softens and agrees to stay at home rather than her hotel. Augusta, her stepmother, and Franziska comment on Magda's expensive clothes, the latter most disagreeably. When Franziska sits with some importance to hear about her life, Magda sends her on her way to do something useful, which angers her considerably. Magda then learns from her younger sister, Marie, that she and her suitor cannot marry because Franziska, his aunt, refuses to give them the money they need. Magda generously offers Marie enough money to marry, to her joy and Franziska's disgust. On meeting some of her family's friends, Magda's opinions on several subjects rub them the wrong way, especially after hearing one woman express the sentiment that "one must have one's real home." She answers: "Why? One must have a vocation. That seems to me enough." Madga next meets Councillor Von Keller, a man who made love to her and then abandoned her. He is astonished on learning that she had a son by him, to which she airily comments: "Who are you? You're a strange man who gratified his lust and passed on with a laugh." Leopold begins to suspect something has happened between Keller and his daughter, but the former curtly replies to his searching questions: "Pardon me, if you wish to know anything, I beg you to ask your daughter." When he does, Leopold learns the truth. On informing his daughter what he expects of her, he emphasizes that her refusal is likely to annul her sister's marriage plans: "No one will marry a sister of yours," he assures her, to her distress. He marches out to discover Keller's intentions. Meanwhile, the pastor strongly reinforces his friend's views. She falters in growing agony but nevertheless blurts out: "I will not, I will not. This house is not my home. My home is with my child." Leopold returns without having found him. He takes out a pistol-case and opens it, takes a pistol, cocks it with difficulty, examines the barrel, and aims at a point on the wall. His arm trembles violently. He strikes it angrily and lets the pistol drop. Keller returns, guessing that Leopold knows everything. He agrees to marriage, but when alone with Magda, he high-handedly makes it known that he expects her to forget about her career and abandon their son, at least till he grows of age when he can be safely adopted. Magda's entire being revolts at these suggestions. She wants to continue her career, to which Keller sarcastically responds: "Shall I turn over your music, or take the tickets at the box-office?" When Magda's father returns, he promises Keller he will force her if necessary to this marriage. To goad him out of his promise, she replies: "Well, then, are you sure that you ought to force me on this man, that, according to your standards, I am altogether worthy of him? I mean- that he was the only one in my life?" He feels for the pistol-case and takes the pistol out. "You jade!" he cries out, then falls stricken with a second stroke and dies. Bewildered, she wonders why she ever came and whether she should stay. "No one will hinder you from praying on his grave," the laconic pastor answers.