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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

NATURALISM                                        9

superiors. He is shown to be dangerously in love with a pictur-
esque maiden who helps his quaint old housekeeper with the
housework; but he is in complete control of himself, though his
kindly treatment of the girl is misconstrued. The play is a discus-
sion of the moot topics of the day: marriages between Protestants
and Catholics are shown to be natural, and above all the action
drives home the moral that it is cruelty to priests to forbid them
to marry. Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld is, therefore, at once a problem
play, pointed social criticism, and an attack on dogma. Where it
lags behind is in the naive technique; this is frankly melodramatic,
but with its strange atmosphere as of a world of dream it is far
removed from vulgarity. The peasants speak an easily intelligible
dialect, and speak it naturally; here, too, Anzengruber is a pioneer.
The characters of Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld are charming but child-
like; the following plays show an advance in intensity of character-
ization. The hero of Der Meineidbauer (1871) is a kind of village
Richard III; there are sensational scenes, but the action grips; and
the belief of the Meineidbauer that he is safe in sin carries him
along in an inevitable course to destruction. Das vierte Gebot (1878)
comes nearest of Anzengruber's plays to the naturalistic formulas,
and was acknowledged by the naturalists as a masterpiece.1 It is as
much an arraignment of existing morals as Sudermann's Sodoms
Ende: a turner and his bawdy wife bring up their daughter as a
whore, and their son ends as a murderer; another character sells
his daughter to a rascal; such is the world in which people are
bidden to obey the fifth2 commandment.

There is the Shakespearian blending of comedy in Anzengruber's
tragedies; in the comedies proper fun runs riot, and the quaint
characters - they are like nothing on earth, but in their Tyrolese
setting they are as real as goitre - are a perpetual delight. Die
Kreu^elschreiber (1872) are villagers who have been persuaded to
affix their crosses - they cannot write - to a document which is in
intent an attack on Holy Church; the priest now orders the wives
to withhold marital rights, and peace is only restored by the mother-
wit of Steinklopferhanns, who tells the wives that their husbands
are to make a pilgrimage to Rome - with the unmarried women of

1 It was far too modern for the Vienna of 1877 (the censor mangled it),
and only began its victorious career when produced by the Freie Bicbne in
Berlin in 1890.

2 The Lutheran Church has the Augustinian enumeration, with the first
and second commandment run together.