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throughout. Nowhere does the absolute, free Ego ap-



OTTO LUDWIG 99

pear as with Schiller and his successors. The people
are closely bound up in the prejudices and peculiarities
of their race and age. This is shown especially and
conclusively in that the nation places itself blindly
under the dominion of the god which it created for
itself after its own image. From this belief comes the
strength of Judah and his family but also their de-
struction. The tragic fate of the great and simple hero
Judah arises from the fact that he cannot free his
people from the confining limits of this blind belief.

It is hard to see why Ludwig placed the mother
beside Judah as a martyr to the true faith, unless one
thinks of the history of the origin of the play. As it
now stands, one's sympathy vacillates undecided be-
tween the two chief characters and the action is forced,
picking its way with difficulty from the one to the other.
At the same time one also feels that in the dramatist's
mind the fate of the nation stands above their personal
fate as the more important. Here is another of those
beginnings of dramatic psychology of the masses such
as we find in Kleist's Robert Guiskard and Hebbel's
Judith. In his dissection and combination of the sum
total of instincts and feelings by means of single
speakers Ludwig is at least the equal of both. The
style of the Makkabder allowed him to dispense with
the little devices of the Erbforster. The great tragic
effect would appear in its purity, were it not clouded
by the unevenness of the composition which arises from
the organic weakness of the drama. To this cause alone
is it to be ascribed that Ludwig 's great work is so rarely
permitted to appear on the stage. Its subject, its
mature quiet beauty of form, its easily comprehended
fundamental motives of patriotism and of family in-



100 GERM AX DRAMA

stinct, the simple heroism of Judah, the motherly devo-
tion and passionate pride of Leah all these are effective
on the stage, easily comprehensible, and should arouse
enthusiasm, although Ludwig avoided the cheap effects
of the average dramatists of his time.

Excessive reflection, which caused him repeatedly to
destroy what he had written, restrained Ludwig from
publishing other dramatic works. The numerous seem-
ingly finished plays and incomplete sketches found
among his papers are a sad proof of how he wore out
his powers in his struggle with this opposing element.
If, for example, like Hebbel, he makes Agnes Bernauer
the heroine of a tragedy, he first deduces her fate from an
intrigue of her tricky lover so that she appears as a sort
of Genoveva ; then he hesitates whether the unequal mar-
riage is to be unfortunate in itself or whether the power
of the state and politics is t6 shatter the union ; then
again he decides to picture Agnes as blinded by vanity
and ambition and only when the husband does not know
what to think of her, does he let her purer love develop ;
finally he has this soul-union destroyed by higher state-
interests, that is, he reached apparently the same solu-
tion as Hebbel. But while the latter, like the lion in
the fable, only springs once upon the prey, whether
he overpowers it or not, Ludwig circles round and round
the desired object and keeps repeating his attack be-
cause he lacks confidence in his own strength and a
simple accurate conception of his aim.

In vain have such competent editors as Ernst von
Wildenbruch, Wilhelm Buchholz, Josef Lewinsky and
Christian Otto attempted to save for the stage the
seemingly completed drama, Das Frdulein von Scudery.
The organic defect that, as in Die Makkabder, the inter-



OTTO LUDWIG 101

est passes from the real hero to another character and
also the epic nature of the short story by E. T. A.
Hoffmann from which Ludwig got his material have
destroyed the effect which the fine psychological motiva-
tion of the romantic incident deserved.

The question arises how Ludwig came to choose by
preference just such subjects. The explanation lies in
the fact that he was incited to replace by a greater
variety of elementary motives that rich superficial life
which through Schiller's influence had prevailed on the
German stage, to its hurt it has been said, and which,
because of the weakness of puny imitators and the
influence of French models, had more and more sup-
planted character-drawing, deeper motivation and genu-
ine dramatic life.

Just because Ludwig wished to make an improvement
in this direction, he chose his subjects preferably from
the same fields as his opponents; Wallenstein and
Marino Falieri, Friedrich II and King Alfred of Eng-
land, Mary Stuart and many similar historic and heroic
figures, finally Tiberius Gracchus, all appeared to his
vision but they did not take on any distinct form in
spite of all the author's admonitions to himself, when
he cried out, "Straight as a string, most simple and
compact, concise, above all no ramifications to infinity,
etc. ' ' In vain did he try to give life to those characters
which had their origin in reflection, in vain did he
continue to read Shakespeare so as not to fall into "the
microscopical " ; he could not rid himself of the ' ' dotting
and pointing" and at the same time he lost sight of the
lines of direction. Ludwig really possessed but half
of the special gifts which make the dramatist, but just
that very portion which is for the most part less de-



102 GERMAN DRAMA

veloped in German writers. He knew only too well
the technical conditions but when the sum total of these
conditions presented themselves to him in the moment
of creation, he lost the necessary directness and plastic
accuracy. Although he was a genuine and original
dramatist, he belonged after all to the representatives
of decadence who are not able to give art new thought
and new forms. Like Moses he saw his people wander-
ing in the wilderness and tried by never-ending self-
observation to find the guide in his own breast, but the
signs failed repeatedly and he finally clung in despair
to the image of Shakespeare, which, as he believed, gave
him the firmest hold. Others also might certainly have
found support there but when his Shakespeare-Studien
appeared in 1871, no one seized the outstretched hand.

"THE SEVENTIES"

When German unity had been won back on the battle-
fields of France and the Empire been proclaimed again
at Versailles, people were hoping that for the stage
also, through a strong development of the national spirit,
a new period of prosperity would grow out of the same
enthusiasm which had revealed itself so overpoweringly
in battle. But the low condition of artistic education,
the preponderance of coarse materialism which cele-
brated its orgies in the years immediately following the
war and the complete exhaustion which, after the great
commercial crisis of 1873, lamed all effort, but above
all the demoralisation of the actor's art caused these
hopes to come to nought.

The plays of Goethe and Schiller were still given be-
cause of a sort of feeling of propriety, or to offer travel-



"THE SEVENTIES" 103

ling "stars" an opportunity to make use of their arts
but there was in these performances a lack of any loving
care, or any entering into the spirit of the writings
while everything was ruthlessly cut out which did not
give promise of an immediate outward effect.

At no time was there greater justice in the complaint
of the more ambitious dramatists that the managers of
the various theatres blocked their admittance. When
here and there individual court-theatres opened their
doors to works of the nobler class, this unusual favor
was owing almost always to personal connection or to a
hazy liking for the 'ideal on the part of the manager
and therefore it mostly benefited only the amateurs.

Only very rarely did a greater talent arise and suc-
ceed in forcing his way through. ALBERT LINDNER won
applause for his powerful Roman drama, Brutus and
Collatinus (1866), and the Schiller-prize founded by
King Wilhelm I of Prussia, but the expectations which
this work aroused were not fulfilled afterwards and the
author's life closed in insanity, a victim of vain effort.

ADOLPH WILBRANDT possessed a stronger nature and
greater flexibility. He showed his fine artistic sense in
pleasant comedies like Die Maler (1892), which were
written in a form suitable for the stage. In the trage-
dies Arria und Messalina (1874) and Nero (1876) he
portrayed, in the same style as his contemporary Makart,
the real representative of the art of this period, scenes
from luxurious Rome of Imperial days and in this way
won the public that sought from the stage only sensuous
charm.

Full of spirit but aiming too much at outward effects
was the painter and poet, ARTHUR FITGER, in his Hexe
(1876). Because of the boldness with which free



104 GERMAN DRAMA

thought, which was indeed not deep, was contrasted with
dogma, the play caused a sensation and in certain cir-
cles was enthusiastically received. The colors are just
as harsh as in Fitger's following works, Von Gottes
Gnaden (1884) and Die Rosen von Tyburn (1888),
which had no success on the stage.

With seeming psychological depth and outwardly
modern expression RICHARD Voss delineates by prefer-
ence in his numerous dramas women of abnormal dispo-
sition: Magda (1875), Mutter Gertrud (1885), Alex-
andra (1886), Eva (1889). The clever construction and
accurate calculation of effect could not, however, in the
long run delude people into overlooking the painful
character of his subjects and their innate unreality. In
regard to his choice of subjects and his method of treat-
ment Voss was strongly influenced by the French play
of manners. The defeated of 1871 became the rulers
on the German stage. Society of the Second French
Empire had been reflected in that dramatic class whose
chief representative was Alexander Dumas fils. Be-
ginning with La Dame aux Camelias he had written a
long succession of plays in which he delineated the
upper circles of Paris with their moral unscrupulous-
ness, their race after money and pleasure, their elegant
men and women. With their halo of beauty and un-
merited misfortune the fallen woman and the adulteress
are glorified and as a problem of the highest impor-
tance for this society Dumas discusses from continually
new standpoints the relation of monde and demi-monde.
He generally puts his views in the mouth of an expe-
rienced man of the world who, with a superior air, looks
down upon the doings of the rest and guides the action
which is usually not very comprehensive but always



"THE SEVENTIES" 105

exciting. The brilliant varnish of witty dialogue dis-
guises the dramatic faults of the pictures which are
mostly grouped about one large scene in which the op-
posing forces come together with a loud crash.

The skilful make-up of these plays, their frivolity,
their esprit and their apparent freedom from narrow
middle-class ethics exercised the greatest charm upon
the audiences of German theatres. In Berlin and
Vienna special theatres were built for them and in these
there grew up a new and elegant style of dramatic art
which, however, could not make up for the moral mis-
chief produced by these glorifications of a degenerate
and pleasure-loving society.

The operettas which crossed the Rhine were also filled
with the same spirit. Their master, Offenbach, satu-
rated the insinuating melodies with a bold contempt for
everything noble and with the careless mirth of Pa-
risian life. This class was also hailed with joy in Ger-
many and fostered with great success in its own "tem-
ples of art." French plays and French operettas won
the lion's share of all triumphs in the seventies until
Johann Strauss of Vienna created in his Fledermaus
(1876) the Viennese operetta which, in the same spirit,
contributed to the lightest kind of entertainment, but
was better suited to German taste.

The efforts to do the same for the play resulted in
failure, chiefly because luckily there was in Germany
no society in the French sense, though in the larger cit-
ies some tendencies in that direction were growing up
in the circles of the newly-rich.

PAUL. LINDAU was most successful in sketching pic-
tures from this society, with outlines in French style.
In his first play, Marion (1869), the scene of which is



106 GERMAN DRAMA

laid in France, the defender of an honorable system of
ethics is answered ' ' Ethics ! Ethics ! Contact with the
parvenues of the middle classes is poisoning our whole
society." But in truth the types which he afterwards
introduced on German soil in Maria und Magdalena
(1872) and Ein Erfolg (1874) are after all for the most
part only parvenues, who are supposed to represent a
new plutocracy. The cleverness of the light conversa-
tion deluded people for a long time into overlooking the
worthlessness of these plays and later also Lindau
achieved in the same way many more momentary suc-
cesses. So also could HUGO LUBLINER obtain recogni-
tion, at a time when art had sunk to its lowest depths,
with his more harmless but also less clever plays, Der
Frauenadovkat (1874), Die Frau ohne Geist (1879).

Hardly ever has there been in a highly civilized nation
in an epoch of great national triumphs a stage that was
so degenerate as the German of the seventies. As a
proof the new works may be cited which appeared in
the two best theatres of Berlin and Vienna in the year
1875. In the Royal theatre in Berlin these were :

Die Modelle des Sheridan, play in four acts by Lub-
liner.

Die Hermannsschlacht, by Kleist, revised for the stage
by Genee.

Liebe filr Hebe, play in four acts by Spielhagen.

Was ist eine Plaudereif "A bit of gossip" in one
act by Gensichen.

Bogadil, comedy in one act by Murad Effendi.

Der Hauptmann von Kapernaum, farce in three
scenes by Winterfeldt.

Der verlorene Solin. comedy in one act by Ring.

Der Frauenadvokat, play in three acts by Lubliner.



"THE SEVENTIES" 107

Der Feind im Hause, tragedy in five acts by 0. Ro-
quette.

Komtesse Dornroschen, "family life" in one act by
Duke Elimar von Oldenburg.

Marius in Minturnd, play in one act by Marbach.

Der Seelenretter, comedy in one act by Hedwig Dohm.

Der Zankapfel, farce in one act by Paul Lindau.

Die Frau fur die Welt, play in five acts by Wichert.

Tante Therese, play in four acts by Paul Lindau.

Im Altertumscabinett, comedy in one act by 0. Sigl.

Citronen, farce in four acts by Rosen.

In the same year the Imperial Burg-theatre in Vienna
offered the following:

Die Versucherin, comedy in one act by G. von Moser.

Uber die Mauer, comedy in one act by Najac.

Eine Geschichte aus Kentucky, comedy in two acts
by W. Marr.

Liebe fur Liebe, play in four acts by Spielhagen.

Parisina, tragedy by Mosenthal.

Das Trauerspiel des Kindes, play in two acts by
Schlesinger.

Ein passionierter Rancher, farce in one act by Duke
Elimar von Oldenburg.

Nero, tragedy in five acts by Adolf Wilbrandt.

Tante Therese, play in four acts by Lindau.

The number and still more the merit of these pieces
is frightfully small and confirms unquestionably the
statement made above.

In the year 1863 the "Schiller prize," intended for
the best drama of the last three years, could still be
given to an important work, Hebbel's Nibelungen, in
1866 it was assigned to Lindau 's Brutus and Collatinus,
a drama in which artistic purposes and power were at



108 GERMAN DRAMA

least recognisable. In 1869 it was given to Geibel's
Sophonisbe, a play quite worthless from a dramatic
standpoint, in 1872 and 1875 it could not be assigned
at all and in 1878 Wilbrandt, Nissel and Anzengruber
received it, not for definite plays but in acknowledg-
ment of their pre-eminent talents.

LUDWIG ANZENGRUBER

In the list of authors of new plays for 1875 one looks
in vain for the name of LUDWIG ANZENGRUBER, the third
writer rewarded with the Schiller prize in 1878. Al-
though he was the most gifted and the sanest dramatist
of the seventies his plays were not given in the high-
class theatres because, without the deceiving brilliance
of traditional and beautiful form, they delineated life-
like characters from the people and had their origin in
the world of the suburban theatres of Vienna.

Anzengruber was descended from the peasantry of
Upper Austria. Born in Vienna, Nov. 29, 1839, at
five years of age he lost his father, himself a gifted
writer, and grew up in poor circumstances under the
care of his mother. He tried to make his way in the
book-trade but the theatre attracted him with ever-
increasing strength and for ten long years from the
winter of 1859 he wandered through the Austrian prov-
inces as an actor, experiencing on the trips all the
misery connected with the calling of a strolling come-
dian. Then he found a modest post in the Vienna
police-office and made up his mind to give up all am-
bition to become an artist and author, because all his
efforts to find a shelter for the children of his muse had
been without success.



LUDWIG ANZENGRUBER 109

But just at that time the religious agitation follow-
ing the Vatican Council aroused anew in him the forci-
bly repressed desire to create and in 1870 he wrote Der
Pfarrer von Kirchfeld. Afterwards he gave up his
official position and lived in Vienna as author and jour-
nalist, unhappily married, severely tried by bodily suf-
fering, without obtaining fitting recognition or the cor-
responding material rewards. When his friends were
preparing to celebrate his fiftieth birthday and when the
consciousness of his importance was beginning to dawn
upon larger circles, he fell ill and was carried off by
sudden death, Dec. 10, 1889.

In vain did Anzengruber attempt to accomplish any-
thing in the traditional forms with plays in iambic meas-
ure or with middle-class drama in the High German.
His talents and originality unfolded only in the environ-
ment of dialect, in the peasant- and folk-play. The peas-
ant-play had long before become a popular offshoot of
lower-class drama which, without any artistic purpose
and with cheap expedients, aimed at outward success
(cf. p. 54). With its mixture of rude jest and melo-
drama it served for light entertainment.

In Anzengruber as in lofty drama the great problems
of humanity are discussed. The garments, in which be-
fore him only theatrically correct dummies had been
seen, now clothe people of such genuine nature that in
them great tragic conflicts can arise. He himself tells
at the close of his capital peasant novel, Der Sternstein-
hof, why he chose the peasant costume. "This is not
the result of the simple belief that by this means peas-
ants are to be won as readers, nor with the speculative
purpose of paying court to a tendency that is coming
more and more into vogue, but merely for the reason



110 GERMAN DRAMA

that the narrow sphere of action of country life has less
effect upon the naturalness and originality of the char-
acters; that the passions, expressed without reserva-
tion or but clumsily concealed, are more comprehensible,
and that the evidence of how characters grow or de-
teriorate under the influence of destiny, or how they
fight against it and decide their own and others' fate
is easier to produce in a mechanism that lies open to the
day, as it were, than in one enclosed in a double case,
covered over with traceries and an ornamental dial :
just as in the oldest, simplest and most effective stories
heroes and princes were breeders of herds and land
owners and their Treasurers and Chancellors swine-
herds."

He understood most accurately the nature of the folk-
play and would not allow himself to be deprived of the
right to reform and instruct. "For what does a per-
son work, pray," he wrote to a friend, "especially in
the field of the folk-play, if he does not wish to in-
struct, to enlighten and to inspire? Let the tragedian
and comedian of higher style follow after the beautiful
alone, after the artistic ideal without any accessories.
But the folk-play as far as I know, have read and seen,
has at all times, according to the standard of prevail-
ing opinion, combined the purpose of teaching with that
of entertainment."

This tendency is always dominated in Anzengruber's
works by the loftier search for truth. He considers
himself the priest of a religion which has only one God-
dess, Truth, and only one myth, that of the Golden
Age, not away back in the past, an object of vain dreams
and longing, no! reaching into and lighting up all the



LUDWIG ANZENGRUBER 111

future, the single goal of all joyous anticipation and
of all active effort."

For Anzengruber truth is found where goodness is
found. Men are bad if selfishness or prejudice blinds
them or if mistaken reverence for old out-worn institu-
tions hinders their aspirations after freedom, truth and
purity. According to the degree of hurtfulness, the bad
appears in the mirror of literature as harmless and com-
ical or pernicious and tragic. In the most of Anzen-
gruber 's scenes both are intermingled, full of signifi-
cance and mirth-provoking as in life, in Shakespeare and
in Moliere.

In his wanderings he had learned exactly the nature
of theatrical effects. He satisfied the desire of the
actors for effective roles and knew how to employ ac-
curately all the little stage-expedients. Of the dialect
of the locality which is the scene of his plays he
makes use only so far as it does not prevent the man of
a different part of the country from understanding.
With justice Berthold Auerbach praises the remarkable
combination of natural and theatrical courage in An-
zengruber.

Outwardly his plays are similar to the earlier Aus-
trian peasant-comedies and Vienna folk-plays, but in
reality he made his own forms. He knows only ex-
emplars but no model, no school but merely teachers, no
imitation but only a glad, free aspiration. The earlier
authors always sketched the peasants and townspeople
from one side only according as they required them for
the needs of the conflicts which had their course in the
narrow circle of ordinary feeling. Love, hate, mag-
nanimity, avarice, shrewdness, narrowness, each for it-
self and without any personal coloring, are embodied



112 GERMAN DRAMA

and contrasted in definite figures and come into out-
ward collision. Anzengruber, on the other hand, en-
dowed his characters with a far richer and more
complicated life, conditioned by the peculiar nature of
each individual, which stood out prominently in a super-
abundance of special characteristics. He did not shut
his peasants off from the world by a range of moun-
tains. Everything that was stirring in the religious,
social and political life of the present, made its way
into the villages also and there excited storms similar
to those at the centres of public life. But from be-
hind the storm-clouds there shone out the sun of a firm
belief in mankind, throwing its warm rays even into
the souls of the unfortunate and despised.

Anzengruber banished pessimism. Almost every one
of his dramas shows the way to happiness by the exer-
cise of firm courage and clear judgment. The solution
is affected as in the old style of folk-play, that is, the
good are rewarded, the evil reformed ; the outward course
of the plot, however, is not the cause of the change,
but that inherent fate which purifies men and leads
them to self-knowledge.

With great effectiveness Anzengruber unites universal
human qualities with class-attributes and the other for-
tuitous influences, so that the effect of each of the three
factors is clearly distinguishable and all in common
modify the course of destiny.

Because of all these excellencies, Anzengruber 's best
works have a claim to stand beside the writings of the
greatest dramatists and yet he will certainly not be
granted this place. As the son of a time which was
hostile to the great, he sought to veil what was genuine
and deep in his work with a touch of playfulness ; he had



LUDWIG ANZENGRUBER 113

to represent himself as less important than he really was
and to endeavor to please a perverted public. It was
Anzengruber 's misfortune that he tried this repeatedly
and yet after all retained so much of his original nature
that he did not descend low enough for the spectators.
Only after his death was his great aim recognised
through the mask made necessary by his unhappy times.

Up to that time only his first work, Der Pfarrer von
Kirch f eld, had become known, the great and lasting
success of which was due more to accident than to the
real merit of the play. It had its origin in the excite-


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Online LibraryGeorg WitkowskiThe German drama of the nineteenth century → online text (page 8 of 17)