Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

THE  DRAMATISTS   OF  NATURALISM                  31

of a defiant symbol, and the inspiration is intense personal ex-
perience and mental conflict. The heroine Rautendelein (Silesian
for rotes Annlein) is the first of the red-haired girls who - symbols
of art, beauty, mystery, the lure of Bohemian genius - bewitch
the heroes of Hauptmann's plays; it is well known that the model
was Hauptmann's second wife, a gifted violin-player. The lesson
of the play is that the artist must live in loneliness, out of society,
but in communion with nature, here symbolized by sprites of
woodland and water who have the quaintness of Bocklin's myth-
ical figures - the Nickelmann rising, reeds in hair, from the well
and snorting like a seal, the Waldschrat^ a horned and goatfoot
satyr. Heinrich the bellfounder has cast a wonderful bell which
is to ring glad tidings down to humanity from the church on the
mountains; on its way uphill the satyr upsets the cart and it tum-
bles into the mountain lake (the physical elements of nature -
TOLkmentargeister - are hostile to mental striving); Heinrich drags
himself to the witch's hut, where he is tended by Rautendelein,
with whom he is happy and inspired; the Philistine forces (parson,
schoolmaster, barber) fetch him back to the village; but he cannot
live there, and he finds his way back to the mountains to die on a
last kiss of Rautendelein, who has joined the old watersprite at the
bottom of his well (beauty, denied the struggling tormented artist,
is the prey of primitive brute strength). Beauty at which all hands
snatch, and which is crushed by the grasp of force, is the symbol,
too, of the weird play Und Pippa fan^t (1906); Pippa (the name
was taken from Browning) - frail as a Venetian goblet of cut
glass - is rescued from those who pursue her by a consumptive
apprentice on his way through the packed ice and snow of the
Riesengebirge to the fairy world of Venice. She dies; Michel
(i.e. der deutsche Michel, the dreamer, the poet) goes blind, but
he sees Venice, and Pippa dances in his dreams: beauty, which
shatters in the grasp of force, is only seen and possessed by the

In three plays Hauptmann goes back to the old German period.
Der arme Heinrich (1902) dramatizes the legend of the knight sick
with leprosy who is told that only the blood of a maiden can save
him; the daughter of the farmer at whose house he has found
refuge offers the sacrifice (the stirrings of puberty move her as
they did Hannele), but the knight, transformed morally by the
miracle of love he beholds, stays the surgeon's knife, is cured by