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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

40                    MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

the Apollo-like princess yearns for the world of commoners as
well; to her, as she inhales her endless chains of cigarettes, com-
mon clay has a reek which is not so rotten as that of any Court,
Nevertheless, since the poet-hero takes advantage of an attack of
haemorrhage (the end of the book finds him dubiously repentant
at Davos) to avoid abducting her at her own special request, she
has to put up with an English prince. One comforting feature of
the book is that the hero gets a good dressing down from the
doctor who attends his wife; this lady, true to Hauptmann's dom-
estic type, is devoted, dull, and depressed by child-bearing. The
scene of the action is a 'Resident on the coast of Riigen; since the
island of Vilm is seen from the town it is obviously Putbus. The
poet, whose arrival arouses interest even in the Castle, hobnobs
with a company of ragtag and bobtail actors; and here comparison
with Wilhelm Meister, inevitable in this novel, betrays Hauptmann's
weakness in the creation of really human and lovable types. The
strayed poet, Emanuel Gotter, is invited to direct a performance
of Hamlet to celebrate the Prince's birthday; and the rehearsals
provide Hauptmann with an opportunity of gradually unfolding
his solution of certain problems of the play. The backbone of his
argument is that Laertes as a rebel is impossible, that his role as
such is due to an accidental transposition of names in the stage
manuscript, and that, therefore, the rebel leader is not Laertes, but
Hamlet. The whole drama may be interpreted as a 'Leichenspiel,
a genre of drama connected with the cult of dead heroes in post-
Homeric Greece, and in this light the ghost, for whose pacification
all the blood is shed, is the most important character as he is the
prime mover in the play. Hamlet's garb of black fits in with this
interpretation, for the animals sacrificed in Heroenkult had to be
black. The key to the theme both of Hamlet and of this novel is
the vampire-motif: even the Princess has 'lips and nose like a bat';
and indeed Gotter comes, to realize that as poet he has two series
of vampires sucking his heart's blood: his calling ('Berufung9) and
women. To Hamlet his father's ghost is a vampire; and since
Shakespeare is Hamlet and since Gotter (that is, Hauptmann, or
the god-poet?) is Hamlet the theme stands clear. In the novel we
are told that Hamlet - the first modern man, since blood-revenge
was alien to his nature - would have saved himself if he had
allowed his mother to persuade him not to return to Wittenberg -
for heroic ghosts cannot do blood-sucking abroad. In Hamlet in