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great work of art. With him the hereditary impulse
to evil, which may lie in the blood, does not do away
with moral responsibility. In this way Die Ahnfrau is
distinguished from the rest of the fate-tragedies as well
as from the heredity-plays of the present. Moreover,
it is not a question with him, as with his predecessors,


of revealing former events; on the contrary, an action
developing with astonishing rapidity in the presence
of the spectators compels the attention of all. And thus
Die Ahnfrau, which quickly made Grillparzer 's name
famous all over Germany, has also justly outlived the
vogue of the fate-tragedies.

His second tragedy, Sappho (1818), forms the strong-
est contrast to Die Ahnfrau. In the latter he borrowed
the material from the field of the robber-and-ghost-
romances and the passionate pathos from Schiller's
early dramas; in the former Goethe's Iphigenie was
his model and he endeavored to attain to classic and
refined beauty. His characters are just as noble as
those of Goethe but their movements are more animated
and their acts proceed rather from the accidental con-
ditions of a peculiar personality. The heroine, Sappho,
is to perish because of the variance between her calling
as an artist and the longings of her passionate woman's
nature. And yet the poet did not succeed in giving
this conflict convincing form, for in the catastrophe
she is in reality only a jealous woman in love and ab-
sorbed in her passion, a woman who loves a younger
man. Phaon, deceiving himself, believes he loved the
admired artist but recognizes his mistake when the
lovely Melitta comes into his ken. In this couple we
see, for the first time in Grillparzer 's works, an awaken-
ing through love out of a dreamy existence to a life
full of action. Though Die Ahnfrau, because of its
affinity to the fate-tragedies and in spite of its success,
did meet with opposition from the critics, the poet was
now recognized because of Sappho as the greatest among
those who had appeared since the classic writers.

A brilliant future seemed to be opening up before him


and with glad heart he began the creation of a third
work, Das goldene Vliess, which was to far surpass
the two preceding in range and importance. The ex-
tended treatment necessitated three parts, although
Grillparzer himself recognised that the mutual depend-
ence of one part on the others would give to the whole
something of an epic effect, by means of which it would
probably gain in individuality but lose in truth and

When the first part, Der Gastfreund, and the first
three acts of the second, Die Argonauten, had been fin-
ished in the brief period between Sept. 29 and Nov. 3,
1818, the suicide of his mother interrupted the activities
of the poet for a long time and only in 1820 was the
work completed by the addition of the last part, Die
Medea. In spite of this, the long-drawn-out composi-
tion possesses a complete, well-knit, intrinsic unity. The
fleece, as an outward sign of what is desirable and
eagerly sought after but unrighteously gained, ruins
all its possessors, not, however, as the result of a curse
attached to it, but as Jason says:

"Nicht gut, nicht schlimm ist, was die Gotter geben,
Und der Empfanger erst macht das Geschenk.
So wie das Brot, das uns die Erde spendet,
Den Starken starkt, des Kranken Siechtum mehrt,
So sind der Gotter hohe Gaben alle,
Dem Guten gut, dem Argen zum Verderben."

Medea, the heroine of the trilogy, develops from a
naive child of nature, in whom savagery and tenderness
form a peculiarly fascinating mixture, into a deserted
woman thirsting for revenge. She murders her own
children in order to take vengeance on Jason, an out-
wardly pleasant but unimpassioned egoist. The con-


trast between barbaric, unbridled impulse and Hellenic
culture forms the background and is another source of
the tragic fate of the heroine.

Once more only did Grillparzer go back to classic
antiquity, in the tragedy, Des Meeres und der Liebe
Wellen (1831), when he made the same subject which
Schiller had treated in his ballad, Hero und Leander,
the basis of a drama. While Schiller makes the bold
youth who ventures everything for the possession of his
loved one the hero, Grillparzer glorifies in Hero love
itself. This constitutes the conflict and the tragic sub-
ject. In Hero all is bright and unconscious. Not a mo-
ment does she reflect on the righteousness of her action ;
the most gracious charm encircles her; her nature is
thoroughly transparent and sensible, but in her soul
there glimmers an uncertain, ominous light. The style
approaches that of the comedy with its many finely
executed touches and its outward calm, which makes
the fear of approaching fate flare up at certain points
only the more threateningly.

This same mixture, even if in a somewhat different
proportion, is shown in the fairy-play, Der Traum ein
Leben (1834). The technique of the scenes, passing by
in vehement rapidity, is successfully caught from a
dream and the whole dipped in the gay colors of
Oriental splendor. Greatness is recognised as danger-
ous, Fame as an idle game :

" Was er giebt, sind nichts als Schatten,
Was er nimmt, es 1st so viel."

How deeply this conviction was rooted in Grillparzer 's
breast, is shown by his peculiar plan for the continuation
of the first part of Goethe's Faust. After Gretchen's


terrible catastrophe Faust was to take thought with
himself and so find in what happiness really consists;
in self-limitation and peace of mind. This draft re-
mained undeveloped but Konig Ottokars Gluck und
Ende (1825) promulgated the same doctrine of the
ruin which follows unbridled desire. Beside Ottokar,
who in many of his characteristics reminds one of
Napoleon, there appeared as his superior opponent,
Rudolf Hapsburg, the founder of the Austrian Imperial
dynasty. With warm patriotism Grillparzer pictured
him in his simple, capable, unassuming manliness and
thus to the injury of the drama diverted interest from
the fate of Ottokar. Here alone has he pictured that
passion, otherwise treated most frequently by modern
dramatists, viz: lust for power. Those conflicts ap-
pealed more strongly to him which interfered rather
with the fine emotions and the solution of which is
dependent upon the peculiar nature of the characters

For this reason the character and moral conflict of
the Palatine Bankbanus had an attraction for him.
But in spite of all the charm which the problem and its
psychological treatment possesses in the play, Ein treuer
Diener seines Herrn (1828), there is after all something
painful and whimsical in it, because the servant's faith-
fulness gains the victory over more worthy human char-
acteristics and because one can only with difficulty put
himself in the place of Bankbanus. And yet the poet
succeeded in the delineation of two figures, the beautiful
female character Ernys and the arrogant mad Otto von
Meran, which are counted among the most original in
all German dramatic literature. The drama was played
in Vienna, Feb. 28, 1828, amid storms of applause, but


immediately afterwards forbidden, probably because a
popular revolt is described, and in spite of the fact that
the spirit of Metternich's time, the spirit of implicit
obedience, found in the play its most brilliant artistic

No wonder that creative work became distasteful to
the poet. Finally he desisted entirely from offering his
contemporaries new gifts when his comedy, Weh' dem,
der liigt, at its first production in 1838 was rejected
by the stupid audience of the Burg-theater at Vienna.
In place of the usual shallow drollery of comedy there
appears in this work a theme of serious importance to
humanity, and the treatment is bright and masterly.
The conditional nature of all human action, which must
not make claim to perfection, is seen in the examples
of the bold, lovable, wily scullion Leon and of the wise
and extremely kind but unsophisticated Bishop Gregory
von Tours. Once more the worlds of culture and of
barbarism are contrasted with each other. The rude
ludicrous tricks, by which the boorish Germans are
characterized, excited for a long time the greatest sur-
prise, until the genuine poetry and great merit of this
comedy were recognized, for it stands alone in its class.

Grillparzer had still more than a generation to live,
but the few works which were produced in this period
remained locked up in the poet's desk because he did
not wish to expose himself to the fickle judgment of a
public which had made him uncertain of himself. In
his will he devised that two of his most valuable dramas
should be burned after his death; Ein Bruderzwist in
Habsburg and Libussa. Granted that the first of these
works is rightly considered ineffective, the author has
at least produced in Emperor Rudolf II his most finely


conceived tragic figure. Libussa must, as symbolic
poetry, win more and more recognition, the farther the
knowledge extends that the greatest problems of poetry
lie entirely within the field of the symbolic. What was
prominent before in Das goldene Vliess and in ]V< k '
dem, der lilgt significant indeed but not a chief theme
the representation of mankind in the transition from
unconscious, instinct-impelled existence to conscious will-
ing and doing, this is in this play in the dress of the
fairy-story, so developed that the pain of departing
from a purely natural existence and the blessings of
the new and richer life of a more highly evolved human-
ity appear in the same warm pure light of historical

The Judin von Toledo, too, did not become known
until after the death of the author. Having its origin
in a play by the Spaniard, Lope de Vega, whom Grill-
parzer honored very highly in his old age, he repre-
sented the youthful, well-trained king as consumed by
passion for the cold, sensual, mendacious Jewess who
is endowed with all the charms of an original unex-
hausted nature. He is completely enslaved. But he
soon awakens sobered from his excesses. He is ashamed
of his weakness and when the Jewess, murdered by the
queen and her partisans, lies lifeless before him, her
charm is also completely destroyed. And yet the king
recognizes that in her was Truth, "for everything that
she did proceeded from herself, suddenly, unexpectedly
and without precedent."

The Jiidim von Toledo takes rank deservedly with the
earlier female characters of Grillparzer, charming be-
cause of their unconsciousness. That the seeds of evil
and of crime grow in such a creature under the cover-


ing of a most attractive lovableness was to be made
manifest in Esther. Only the beginning of this drama
was worked out by Grillparzer, but the great love-scene
between Esther and King Ahasuerus is reckoned among
the most beautiful in all poetry.

Grillparzer considered it the goal of his dramatic
authorship to be varied and life-like down to the smallest
detail, and yet at the same time never to lose sight of
the underlying thought. In his diary he once called
himself ' ' that middle thing between Goethe and Kotzebue
which the times need" and if, at his own valuation,
he does place himself too low, he has indeed and in
truth, without allowing the great main lines of humanity
to vanish entirely, observed better than the classic
writers the small curiously drawn arabesques of per-
sonages and times, while at the same time he acceded
to the demand for external theatrical effect. For this
reason his work is far more closely related to the tenden-
cies of the authors of the present day, especially in his
later dramas, than he himself suspected; also in this,
that it is influenced most strongly by his native city
Vienna and by the art of its people.

The latter also, shows the same fresh appeal to the
senses, the same delight in little carefully observed
characteristics, the same lack of productive energy.
But the pleasure-loving Viennese were entirely hostile
to anything over-subtle and did not want to know any-
thing of the great problems of life.



The theater in the suburb, Leopoldstadt, was the
home of the folk-writers of Vienna, who incarnated the
gay naive disposition of the lower classes in scenes from
the life of their beautiful Imperial city. Following
the old traditions of the Renaissance tragedy and the
opera they made gods and spirits appear at the same
time in their plays. Everything was calculated for
comic effect ; longer than anywhere else in Germany the
clown here prolonged his dominion.

For this stage FERDINAND RAIMUND wrote his plays.
He was the son of a turner, born June 1, 1790, received
a brief schooling and was then apprenticed to a con-
fectioner. At eighteen he went on the stage and from
1817-1830 played comic parts in the theater of the
Leopoldstadt. As actor, he won for himself from the
first general popularity. He first supplemented and
revised the plays in which he acted. Then he composed,
entirely in the style of the old Viennese extravaganza,
his first play, Der Barometermacher auf der Zauberinsel
(1823). The next was already somewhat more inde-
pendent, Der Diamant des Geisterkonigs (1824). His
attempt to give a somewhat greater seriousness to the
form of the fairy-play produced something new and
more valuable in das Mddchen aus der Feenwelt oder der
Bauer ah Millionar (1826). This is a picture of a
typical destiny deduced from a character likewise of the
nature of a type. Grillparzer was right in congratulat-
ing Austria that the healthy sense of the nation could
produce such graceful plays. He says pertinently that
Raimund's half unconscious gift has its root in the
spirit of the masses.


Grillparzer ascribes it to the injudicious zeal of well-
meaning friends that Raimund attempted to leave the
broad ground of the popular play. But the ambition
of the artist, with all his personal modesty, his great
respect for higher culture, for him no longer attainable,
and his serious, indeed, gloomy disposition had cer-
tainly the chief part in the change that now took place
in his creations.

When Raimund, after a severe illness, put Die
gefesselte Phantasie (1826) and Moisasurs Zauberfluch
(1827) on the stage, he clothed serious problems in the
usual gay magical scenes and sought to attain the style
of great tragedy. But it was not a success, because
a labored unnatural style had taken the place of natural
simplicity and the cheery element indispensable to
folk-pieces had been forcibly repressed. Therefore
Raimund turned again to the manner of his first plays
and with ripened powers wrote his best works: Der
Alpenkomg und der Menschenfeind (1828) and Der
Verschwender (1833). The self -tormenting misanthrope
had already shown the increasing melancholy of the
author who ended his life by suicide, Sept. 5, 1836.
With him came to an end also the old Viennese folk-
play with its innocent, cheerful mirth and its soulful
poetry ; even in Raimund 's day a talented but unscrupu-
lous author had arisen in JOHANN NESTROY who now for
thirty years ruled the stage of Vienna's suburbs and
made it a wrestling place for sharp satire, bold parody,
frivolous sensuality and the greatest absurdities.


PLAY AND COMEDY (1800-1830)

When in 1800 Schiller and Goethe offered a prize
for a bright play suitable for the stage, thirteen works
were sent in. Not a single one could be used, the
greater number were beneath criticism. Each and
every author who provided for the daily needs of the
stage was a follower of Kotzebue. For the most part
they were players and directors of theatres, such as
KARL TOPFER, who wrote Hermann und Dorothea (1820),
Des Ko'nigs Befehl (1821), Der Pariser Taugenichts
(1839), Rosenmiiller und Finke (1850) ; Pius ALEXAN-
DER WOLFF, the follower of Goethe in Preziosa (1821) ;
KARL BLUM, who imported the short opera, called vaude-
ville, from France, and composed numerous comedies
in Kotzebue 's manner, such as Ich bleibe ledig (1835),
Der Ball zu Ellerbrunn (1835), Erziehungsresultate

More successful than all the stage writers of the
male sex in their day were the two actresses, JOHANNA
The wretched plays and comedies of the former with
their disguises and intrigues, their airy speeches and
sentimentality were long in highest favor with the
public. The latter, after great success on the stage,
turned her attention from 1828 to dramatising popular
novels and stories, as for example, Der Glockner von
Notredame after Victor Hugo (1837), Dorf und Stadt
after Berthold Auerbach, Die Waise aus Lowood after
Charlotte Bronte (1856), Die Grille, after George Sand
(1860). With most unerring judgment she took from
her "copy" everything that would contribute to out-
ward effect on the stage and wrote most acceptable


roles for the players. She understood how to make her
plays affecting and exciting, just such as the great
body of the public demanded, and thus won triumphs
which in duration and number are scarcely to be sur-

At all times the folk-play and the lower type of drama
have occasionally used dialect to produce comic effect.
Through the influence of the Romanticists, dialect, so
long despised, once more attained a high degree of
literary importance and the drama now began to make
use of it, no longer exclusively for the purpose of
amusement but also as a means of delineating character.

DANIEL ARNOLD wrote in the Strassburg dialect his
Pfingstmontag (1816), a work which Goethe justly ad-
mired. KARL MALSZ sketched the rough peculiarities
of the Frankfort people in numberless local plays with
stock-figures, as Der alte Bilrgerkapitdn (1820). Louis
ANGELY delineated the people of Berlin in the twenties
just as inoffensively and kindly as Raimund did the
Viennese, though with more modest poetic talent, e. g.,
Das Fest der Handwerker (1828) ; JURGEN NIKLAS
BARMANN composed his Hamburg Burenspillen, and his
fellow-countryman, JAKOB HEINRICH DAVID, wrote local
farces which were long popular, such as Eine Nacht
auf Wache (1835). All the writers named contented
themselves with cautiously avoiding all offence to the
higher classes and sketching good and bad in their
fellow countrymen. The critics ventured at most to
attack municipal authorities and regulations. Just in
this very thing can be seen how portentous for the drama
was the oppression which, after the War of Liberation,
was exercised in Germany. The play was supervised
more solicitously than any other class of literature.


And yet the theatre meant then, as always in times
of political decadence, compensation to the educated
classes for the part denied them in public life. That
enthusiasm which was not allowed to take an active
part in public affairs was kindled and consumed in
the enjoyment of inferior writings and of the perform-
ances of actors whose importance was vastly over-rated.
When one reads the criticisms of Tieck and Ludwig
Borne, one is astonished at the lack of critical judgment
against which they had continually to fight. The great
works of Schiller and Goethe appeared but rarely and
like those of Shakespeare became the sport of the "star"
actor who, lacking all reverence, destroyed the very
framework of these noble productions for the sake of
external effect.

The efforts of managers of artistic taste, such as
Schreyvogel in Vienna and Immermann in Diisseldorf,
were but little honored even in individual cases and
had no influence at all upon other theatres, in spite of
the fact that the means for a proper artistic staging
were now oftener at hand because of the establishment
of numerous court and city theatres.


There was no place in these theatres for such a
fantastical genius as that of CHRISTIAN DIETRICH
GRABBE. He was born at Detmold, Dec. 1, 1801, brought
up in poor circumstances as the son of the superintend-
ent of a house of correction and while a student wrote
his first work, Herzog Theodor von Gothland (1822).
When completed he sent it to Tieck and demanded that
he brand him publicly as an impertinent and wretched


poetaster if he found his tragedy similar to the products
of the usual writers of the day. In this utterance is
seen his mania for departing from the customary and
it put its stamp upon his first as well as on all his
later dramas. They are alive with bold cynicism, un-
tamed caprice but also with great and genuine passion.
There is also the play of brilliant humor, profound
contempt for the world and insolent arrogance in the
comedy, Schcrz, Satire, Ironie und tiefere Bedeutung
(1822), and it cannot be staged at all.

In his birthplace Grabbe got a small position and
in new work rose to clearer heights. Don Juan und
Faust (1824), a bold attempt to contrast with one
another these two representatives of the strongest sen-
sual and intellectual desires, was free from the earlier
outbreaks of affected titanism. In the two tragedies,
Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa (1829) and Kaiser Hein-
rich VI (1830), he succeeded, with far greater ability
than his numerous competitors, in comprehending the
spirit of history and the mighty figures of the rulers from
the race of the Hohenstaufens. But here already is
seen the style of presenting a series of scarcely con-
nected and hastily sketched gigantic frescoes instead
of a uniform dramatic picture.

This manner amounts to the grotesque in Grabbe 's
most important work, Napoleon oder die hundert Tage
(1831). He makes whole battlefields his stage and de-
spises all the requirements of dramatic writing, but he
gives historic pictures of true grandeur and great dis-
tinctness. What Grabbe later composed, Hannibal,
Aschenbrodel, Die Hermannsschlacht, shows that the
vice of drink had already deranged his mind even
though in many places traces of his original power were


still visible. His early death, Sept. 12, 1836, released
him from an existence which was a failure because of
an unfortunate disposition and lack of will-power.

In his article on Shakespearomania (1827), in opposi-
tion to the blind admirers and imitators of Shakespeare,
Grabbe says, "The German nation wants the greatest
possible simplicity and clearness in language, form and
plot, it wants to feel in tragedy an unbroken inspira-
tion, it wants to find true and deep emotion, it wants
a national and at the same time a genuinely dramatic
historical play, it wants not English but German char-
acters, it wants strong language and good verse and
in the comic scenes, it demands, not peculiar turns or
witticisms, which except for the form of expression
have nothing witty in them, but sound common sense, a
wit that strikes every time like lightning, a poetic and
moral power." Finally he mentioned Schiller as the
writer who best answered to these requirements. One
sees, however, how unreliable Grabbe 's judgment is when
he calls Milliner's Schuld and Konig Ingurd the most
satisfactory works since Schiller's death.

Grabbe did not attempt in any way to meet in his
own dramas the requirements he mentions. With his
striving after a faithful reproduction of reality and his
contempt of all ideals, he may be considered one of
the precursors of that trend which later took a position
hostile to classic and romantic poetry.

Grabbe had as contemporary GEORG BUCHNER, who.
as a naturalist, proclaimed the absolute necessity of all
that happens being considered as under the dominion
of the laws of nature, as for instance in his drama
Dantcm's Tod (1835), in his posthumous comedy Leonce
und Lena and in the fragment Wozzek. Everywhere


he aimed at transferring the world of reality without
change into his artistic production. Like most natural-
ists he was attracted only by the dark sides of life
which he reproduced with the keenest powers of observa-
tion in all their particulars, even the most repulsive.
Later ALBERT DULK pursued a similar course in his
dramas Orla (1844), Simson (1859) and Jesus der
Christ (1865) ; also ROBERT GRIEPENKERL in Maximilian
Robespierre (1851) and Die Girondisten (1852).


The musical drama was created in Italy at the end
of the sixteenth century, for the purpose of reviving, by
the use of an elevated recitative, the solemn effect of
the Greek tragedy, but it soon became the prey of stars

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Online LibraryGeorg WitkowskiThe German drama of the nineteenth century → online text (page 3 of 17)