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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

32                     MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

the grace of God, and weds the maid. In Kaiser Karls Getsel (1908)
there is a contrast of senile eroticism1 (in Charlemagne) with con-
stitutional nymphomania in a girl of sixteen; the ethic problem is
(as in Hebbel's Agnes Bernamr) whether one whose life is claimed
for the public good has a right to personal indulgence.2 In another
medieval drama, Griselda (1909), Hauptmann turns the irritating
old legend of wifely humility into a somewhat brutal study of
uxoriousness and sadism; that is to say, we have here a husband
whose pleasure it is to torture the woman he loves. Ulrich is, like
so many of Hauptmann's characters, a pathological case; *icb be-
greife es nicht? he says to Griselda, 'doss ich dich . . . mit aller erdenk-
lichen Bosbeit des Herons martern muss' Marriage he defines as a
relationship of hawk and dove, of horse and rider. Since he has
the cats poisoned that she strokes it is not surprising that, as in
the medieval legend, he is jealous of his own child and takes it
away from the mother. Griselda, however, enjoys this cruelty;
she has that passivity which is interpreted as masochism. It is in
such medical details as this that Hauptmann adds a new - though
it may be emorbid' - phase to the dramatic rendering of psycho-
logy, as well as a new (and possible) reading to the apparent
strangeness of ancient legends. Dramatically considered, the weak-
ness of such plays is that they end with a query (as already Das
Friedensfest had done); here Griselda tells her husband that he must
love her less; this might indeed cure him, but his nature being
what it is, will it?

The plays on legendary subjects (the heroine is usually a half-
grown girl) have been classed as '>alladendramen\ one such play,
Winterballade (1917), is actually called a ballad in the title; it is
the dramatization of a tale by Selma Lagerlof (as Elga, 1905, is a
dramati2ation of Grillparzer's tale Das Kloster bei Sendomir); three
weird Scots lairds, commanders of Scots mercenaries in the pay of
the King of Sweden, murder an old clergyman; one of them, Lord
Archie, stabs the clergyman's daughter to death; Elsalil, the foster
sister of the murdered girl, witnesses the murder, but escapes.

1 A pre-Freudian sketch to be compared with the cruelly elaborated studies
of Georg Kaiser; see pp. 39iff.

2 That is, it is a Pflichtdrama. The prototype of this peculiarly Prussian
genre is Kleist's Der Prin% von Hamburg (1821). Other notable Pflichtdramen
are Paul Ernst's Preussengeist, Fritz von Unruh's Qffi^iere and Louis Ferdinand,
Prin^ von Preussen, Hermann Burte's Katte and Her^pg Ut%, and Wolfgang
Goetz's Der Ministerprasident (1936).