Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

THE  DRAMATISTS  OF   NATURALISM                  29

edies; Hauptmann's Der Biberpefy (1893) is one of them. It has a
certain similarity to Kleist's Der %erbrochene Kmg: in both comedies
there is a culprit whose transgressions are investigated in court;
but whereas in Der ^erbrochene Krug the culprit is the investigating
judge himself, whose cross-examination of innocent parties un-
ravels his own guilt, in Der Biberpefy the judge is a pompous fool
who is led by the nose by the culprit, the egregious washerwoman
Frau Wolffen. This lady, unshakable in her brazen effrontery, gets
the court bailiff to hold a lantern while she steals wood; to the
judge she is the pattern of honesty. Der rote Hahn (1901), a sequel
to Der Biberpel^, fell flat. College Crampton (1892), a study of alco-
holism, is a kind of comedy, but the humour touches tragedy. The
dipsomaniac is this time a professor of painting (obviously Breslau
is intended); the weakness of the play is that whereas we are to
believe that Crampton is a genius debased by alcohol, we see the
effects of the alcohol but no evidence of the genius. Crampton has
given way to drink because his wife did not understand him; he is
another homtm incompris, like Johannes Vockerat. There is again,
as in Das Friedensfest, a contrast with a healthy family, who set the
old man up in a sort of way in an atelier; there is, however, no
solution of the problem, but (as in Das Friedensfesf) the question
is left undecided whether kindness and contact with normal beings
can effect a cure; or, in other words, is disease a fault or is it fate?
College Crampton is the carefully executed portrait of an artist;
similar portraits of artists variously tormented and never under-
stood by their (Strindbergian) wives are Michael Kramer (1900),
Gabriel Schillings Flucht (1912), with its pictures of sea and dunes
on Hiddensee, and Peter Erauer (1921). In Michael Kramer (as in
Das Friedensfesf] there is the conflict between son and father so
dear to the expressionists.

An event of considerable importance in the history of the Ger-
man theatre was the appointment in 1894 of Otto Brahm, one of the
stalwarts of naturalistic propaganda, as director of the Deutsches
Theater (later Lessing Theater) in Berlin as successor to Adolf
L'Arronge; this theatre now became the temple of the Hauptmann
cult. Here in 1896 Hauptmann's historical tragedy Florian Geyer
was produced. It had been planned as a tragedy of the first magni-
tude: Hauptmann's intention was to apply the technique of the
naturalistic drama on a large scale. In other words, it was in
Sekundenstil, though (ostensibly at least) in the archaic language of