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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

2i8                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

duced one-act plays. DieFrau im Fenster, a dramatization of d'An-
nunzio's Sogno fun mattino di primavera, is the prototype of a series
of'revenge dramas' which belong to the most characteristic things
in the neo-romantic movement. They definitely belong to the
Renaissance fashion; and since the avenging husband is a Kraft-
mensch Dante's story of Paolo and Francesca is in the background.
We expect in these plays a balcony and a rope ladder; and the lady
will unbind her hair or let it hang down into the high-walled
garden. The lady with the hair down-hanging comes primarily, one
assumes, from Maeterlinck's Pelk'as et Melisande-, but one remem-
bers too Gottfried Keller's Hadlaub, Rossetti's The Blessed Damsel,
William Morris's Rapm^eL To Venice Hofmannsthal gravitates
again and again: to him the city on the lagoons is the symbol of
mystery and romance. In Der Abenteurer und die Sdngerin Baron
Weidenstamm ('from Amsterdam') returns to Venice after an ab-
sence of seventeen years. It is clear from the story that the Baron
is Casanova; and Hofmannsthal draws the most fascinating picture
in literature of this irresistible man of pleasure. As he sits in the
theatre he is recognized from the stage by Vittoria, &prima donna,
one of all those women ('like waves, like the sands of the sea, the
notes of music') he has loved and left. She is now married, and has
a 'brother', Cesarino, a lovely boy, the very image of the Baron
seventeen years before. The old lovers meet, and Casanova would
snatch back a faded memory, but for her there can be no question
of a return. Her husband suspects, and is told that Cesarino is in-
deed the Baron's son, but that the sin is her mother's. At the comer
of the stage in a crowded company the Baron tells the wide-eyed
boy of all the magic of foreign lands, of gay festivals - of women
.. . The lesson of the play is that Vittoria, though she has been a
mere episode in the Baron's life (he does not even remember clearly
in which city he loved her!) owes herself, and her art, and her son
to him. Love has brought no fruition to him: he has been merely
taunts ruens in venerem. He is like the composer who passes as a
symbol at the background of the action, dead in his dotage to his
own divine music. And the play ends with Vittoria singing the
aria from Ariadne - as she has never sung it before. . . . Vittoria,
perfect woman and great artist, is Hofmannsthal's most beautiful
realisation of one of his salient themes: that renunciation of life
gives strength for the perfection of that which is most precious in
oaeself. Die Hockgit der Sobtide is based on an Indian story. The