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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

252                  MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

even the serfs of the king discourse sententiously on the nature of
man and existence, and on whether life is or is not a dream; (3) the
photographic reality of present-day life is replaced by what is
considered to be the logical reality of a theme in which all that
happens is developed inevitably from what precedes. From Hebbel
the neo-classicists take over the problem of the conflict of the
individual (as the representative of 'higher being' the hero) and
the universe (or the community). For the critic watching the out-
come of these theories the trouble is that, whereas in Hebbel's
plays there is consistent interpretation of the metaphysical idea
which informs the dramatist's whole work, in the neo-classic tra-
gedies - in Paul Ernst's particularly - there is neither consistency
nor clarity, although the protagonists monotonously and undra-
matically express whatever metaphysical idea they may possibly
represent in a given play.

The great difference between the conception of Paul Ernst and
Wilhelm von Scholz is that while the former proceeds by mathe-
matical or logical reasoning and in the plainest terms of versified
prose, and regards 'fate' as the conflict between personal will or
desire on the one hand and the moral law on the other, Scholz
has the Maeterlinckian conception of fate as the mysterious unseen
power or powers in whose guiding hand the human puppet is
helpless. Paul Ernst is a rationalist, Schok is a mystic. In both
cases the conception of tragedy derives not so much from Aris-
totle through Lessing as from Aristotle as interpreted by Schelling
and taken over by Hebbel; and the neo-classic tragedies will prob-
ably repel any reader familiar with Schiller's expansive style unless
they read these plays (like a gourmet whose pleasure is in unusual
tastes) as test-pieces of Schelling's illuminative interpretation of
tragedy as the achieved harmony of the conflicting laws of necessity
and liberty. These laws, Schelling says, conquer and are conquered:
necessity conquers because it brings the catastrophe, liberty con-
quers by the hero's acceptance of the catastrophe. Hebbel, arguing
from these premises, rejected "tragic guilt' as interpreted by Les-
sing. Hebbel's Agnes Bernauer, for instance, is not guilty; neither
is Paul Ernst's Brunhild; but their personal will being in conflict
with the world-will they must perish; and they must attain the
consecration of tragedy by recognizing that they must perish. An-
other tenet of Hebbel's which the neo-classicists take over is that
the drama in its totality and in its elements must be symbolical -