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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  DRAMA   OF  EXPRESSIONISM                  407

expressionism. The furnace is occupied France; the song is the rising
of the maquis against the occupying German troops. Das kalte
'Licht (1955) is up to date in the sense that the question raised is
whether East or West should control atomic power, and there is
a spy whose ideological convictions lead him to spy for Russia.
The problem today is whether Zuckmayer is not rather a play-
wright with all the tricks of the trade at his fingers' ends than a
dramatist proper. What cannot be missed is his abounding vitality,
his verve and versatility. His wit is inexhaustible. He has a com-
plete command of expression in all the dialects that are intelligible
on the stage, and there is infinite fun in these dialects as he uses
them. The action rarely flags, though in Des Teufels General the
theme of Nazi devilment ^Nationalitat durch Bestialitaf, as Grill-
parser foresaw it in his epigram) is so exhaustively expounded
that in the last act it is wearisome. Zuckmayer's immense reputa-
tion has been in a great measure won by his contemptuous dis-
regard of restraint and decency. Most of what he has written has
been filmed; in point of fact his best plays are more film-like than
in the traditional sense dramatic; what we get is a loosely strung
concatenation of scenes, and, it may be (as in Des Teufels General},
a continuous debate or discussion. But the characterization is
masterly. To say that Zuckmayer plays fast and loose with the
established canons of drama would be merely captious criticism;
for to a writer of Zuckmayer's type - and he represents a group -
whatever was or is established is for that reason antiquated or
obsolete. His qualities as a dramatist come out also in his fiction
(Der Bauer ausdemTaunus, 1927; Affenhocb^eit, ly^z^lLiebesgeschuhte,
1934; Sakgvare, 1935; Herr uber L,eben und Tod, 1938; Der Seelenbrau,
1945). In Herr uber Leben und Tod, for instance, nothing could be
more finely concentrated and dramatically poised than the tension
of the first part; but what follows the posing of the problem -
whether a mentally and physically defective baby should be pain-
lessly extinguished or allowed to live - is revoltingly sensational.
As a lyric poet Zuckmayer is represented by Der Baum (1926),
which is reprinted in Die Gedicbfe (1948). Autobiographical are
Pro Domo (1938) and Second Wind (1940; in English only).

The revival of the historical drama begins with WOLFGANG
GOETZ'S (1885- ) Gneisenau (1925); this was one of the great stage
successes of the period. His Kavaliere (1930) handles the love story
of Ludwig I, King of Bavaria, with the dancer Lola Montez.