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414                  MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

Der Fliichtling, Die Frau, Der Grenzwachter. Meier Helmbrecht
(1946) is a dramatization of the late Middle High German satirical
verse tale (written about 1250) of the farmer's son who, with his
head turned by the epics of knightly derring-do, and spoilt by a
doting mother and sister, dons armour and sets out as a marauding
knight (Raubritter) to plunder and ravage the countryside. Essen-
tially Hochwalder's theme remains constant to his general purpose:
helpless peasants are plundered and murdered and there is no
redress. Hochwalder modestly labels his Der offentliche Ankldger
(1949) as SdwtspieL It is much more than that. It is a tragedy in the
classical sense, with the three unities observed. The time is 1793, the
Dannie terriW\ the scene throughout is the Conciergerie, from the
windows of which the guillotine is visible; the action lasts through
the day into the early hours of the morning. There is no love inter-
est. There is a dominating woman, Theresia Tallien, who is said
to be, and as the action proves she is, the directive force of what is an
apology for a government. It is a species of fate tragedy; for the
terror grinds like an automatic machine - la machine infernale -, and
there is no escape for those on whom the shadow of doom is cast.
In an interview with Fouquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, who
sends victims to the guillotine in great batches, it emerges that
Theresia has good grounds for getting her husband Tallien, the
official head of the government, dispatched in the usual summary
way. All that is needed is the pretence of a trial in which Fouquier-
Tinville makes out some case or other. It is arranged that the name
of the victim shall be in a closed envelope, which is to be opened
in court as a stunning climax at the end of the trial The spectator
or reader is convinced from what is said that this is to be the last
victim of the Terror, and that afterwards Fouquier-Tinville will
retire and a reign of peace begin. The Public Prosecutor makes a
long speech, and when the fatal envelope is opened the name is -
Fouquier-Tinville. He has pleaded brilliantly for his own con-
demnation. These are ingeniously contrived stage effects, and there
is marvellous skill in the manoeuvring of the dramatic tension.
But the sum and substance of the tragedy is the programmatic
depiction of all the horrors of the Terror, all the more vivid
because the scene is the Conciergerie - just Fouquier-Tinville's
office with, sitting there, his submissive clerk and, piled on the
shelves, the dossiers of those who have gone and who are listed
for the guillotine. It is an incisive study of tyrants and their tech-