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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

28                      MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

revolt Hauptmann used to create the social drama of the present.
There is no 'construction' in the accepted sense: the play consists
of a series of pictures of abject misery. Naturalistic Heldenlosigkeit
has here an interesting development: there is no individual hero,
but the weavers collectively are the hero - each individually in-
significant, but as a mass a sweeping force. Die Weber is the first
play in which 'mass psychology' is successfully handled; here the
mass does indeed express itself as a unity; all the individualities
coalesce in an entity. How successfully Hauptmann has realized
the conception can be seen by a comparison with Schiller's Wilhelm
Tell: Schiller's idea was to make the Swiss people the hero of his
play, but, since the Swiss people are expressed by William Tell
(in the limelight), William Tell is the hero, not the Swiss people.
The revolt is crushed; but morally the weavers are victorious.
Whether Die Weber marks an actual advance in dramatic technique
is a moot question; the opposite view is that the innovation is in
the direction of making the drama epic (Rpisierung des Dramas]^
i.e. minute but haphazard and loosely billowing description of
milieu takes the place of action selected and concentrated by a con-
trolling mind.

The enslavement by sexual needs (the Samson motif) sketched
in the short tale Bahnwarter Thiel finds deepened expression in
Fuhrmann Henschel (1898). A Silesian carter has sworn to his dying
wife that he will never marry their servant Hanne. But he cannot
live without a wife, and he succumbs to Hanne's wiles. She is
untrue to him, and he hangs himself. Fuhrmann Henschel and Rose
Bernd (1904) are burgerliche Trauerspiele which differ from Haupt-
mann's earlier plays in two important respects: the characters are
developed by suffering, and their fate is not fixed by outside forces
(heredity and milieu},, but depends on volition; the characters are
free to decide what their actions shall be; in other words, they are
not puppets. Thirdly, there is a clean-cut ending (a catastrophe in
the old sense) to both plays; we know that the gods have done
their worst with Henschel and Rose Bernd. In Rose Bernd Haupt-
mann handles a favourite motif of the Sturm und Drang: Rose is
the frenzied mother who murders her new-born baby; it is the
eternal tragedy of woman sexually pursued and helplessly yielding.

German literature has only half a dozen or so of classical corn-
rioters. The actuality of the theme dates from Heine's poem Die Weber (in
Zeiteedichte.