Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon, Thomas Berger
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE DRAMATIC WORKS
Edited By LUDWIG LEWISOHN
Assistant Professor in The Ohio State University
VOLUME ONE: SOCIAL DRAMAS
The present edition of Hauptmann’s works contains all of his plays with
the exception of a few inconsiderable fragments and the historical drama
Florian Geyer. The latter has been excluded by reason of its great
length, its divergence from the characteristic moods of Hauptmann’s art,
and that failure of high success which the author himself has implicitly
acknowledged. The arrangement of the volumes follows, with such
modifications as the increase of material has made necessary, the method
used by Hauptmann in the first and hitherto the only collected edition of
his dramas. Five plays are presented here which that edition did not
include, and hence the present collection gives the completest view now
attainable of Hauptmann’s activity as a dramatist.
The translation of the plays, seven of which are written entirely in
dialect, offered a problem of unusual difficulty. The easiest solution,
that namely, of rendering the speech of the Silesian peasants or the
Berlin populace into some existing dialect of English, I was forced to
reject at once. A very definite set of associative values would thus have
been gained for the language of Hauptmann’s characters, but of values
radically different from those suggested in the original. I found it
necessary, therefore, to invent a dialect near enough to the English of
the common people to convince the reader or spectator, yet not so near to
the usage of any class or locality as to interpose between him and
Hauptmann’s characters an Irish or a Cockney, a Southern or a New England
atmosphere. Into this dialect, with which the work of my collaborators
has been made to conform, I have sought to render as justly and as
exactly as possible the intensely idiomatic speech that Hauptmann
employs. In doing this I have had to take occasional liberties with my
text, but I have tried to reduce these to a minimum, and always to make
them serve a closer interpretation of the original shade of thought or
turn of expression. The rendering of the plays written in normal literary
prose or verse needs no such explanation nor the plea for a measure of
critical indulgence which that explanation implies.
I owe hearty thanks to Dr. Hauptmann for the promptness and cordiality
with which he has either rectified or confirmed my view of the
development and meaning of his thought and art as stated in the
Introduction, and to my wife for faithful assistance in the preparation
of these volumes.
COLUMBUS, O., June, 1912.
By the Editor.
BEFORE DAWN (Vor Sonnenaufgang)
Translated by the Editor.
THE WEAVERS (Die Weber)
Translated by Mary Morison.
THE BEAVER COAT (Der Biberpelz)
Translated by the Editor.
THE CONFLAGRATION (Der rote Hahn)
Translated by the Editor.
Gerhart Hauptmann, the most distinguished of modern German dramatists,
was born in the Silesian village of Obersalzbrunn on November 15, 1862.
By descent he springs immediately from the common people of his native
province to whose life he has so often given the graveness of tragedy and
the permanence of literature. His grandfather, Ehrenfried, felt in his
own person the bitter fate of the Silesian weavers and only through
energy and good fortune was enabled to change his trade to that of a
waiter. By 1824 he was an independent inn-keeper and was followed in the
same business by the poet’s father, Robert Hauptmann. The latter, a man
of solid and not uncultivated understanding, married Marie Straehler,
daughter of one of the fervent Moravian households of Silesia, and had
become, when his sons Carl and Gerhart were born, the proprietor of a
well-known and prosperous hotel, Zur Preussischen Krone.
From the village-school of Obersalzbrunn, where he was but an idle pupil,
Gerhart was sent in 1874 to the Realschule at Breslau. Here, in the
company of his older brothers, Carl and Georg, the lad remained for
nearly four years, having impressed his teachers most strongly, it
appears, by a lack of attention. For this reason, but also perhaps
because his father, injured by competitors and by a change in local
conditions, had lost his independence, Gerhart was withdrawn from school
in 1878. He was next to become a farmer and, to this end, was placed in
the pious family of an uncle. Gradually, however, artistic impulses began
to disengage themselves—he had long modelled in a desultory way—and in
October, 1880, at the advice of his maturer brother Carl Hauptmann
proceeded to Breslau and was enrolled as a student in the Royal College
The value of this restless shifting in his early years is apparent. For
the discontent that marked his unquiet youth made for a firm retention of
impressions. Observation, in the saying of Balzac, springs from
suffering, and Hauptmann saw the Silesian country-folk and the artists of
Breslau with an almost morbid exactness of vision. Actual conflict
sharpened his insight. Three weeks after entering the art-school he
received a disciplinary warning and early in 1881 he was rusticated for
eleven weeks. Nevertheless he remained in Breslau until April, 1882, when
he joined his brother Carl and became a special student at the University
of Jena. Here he heard lectures by Liebmann, Eucken and Haeckel. But the
academic life did not hold him long. Scarcely a year passed and Hauptmann
is found at Hamburg, the guest of his future parents-in-law and his
brother’s. Thence he set out on an Italian journey, travelling by way of
Spain and the South of France to Genoa, and visiting Naples, Capri and
Rome. Although his delight in these places was diminished by his keen
social consciousness, he returned to Italy the following year (1884) and,
for a time, had a sculptor’s studio in Rome. Overtaken here by typhoid
fever, he was nursed back to health by his future wife, Marie Thienemann,
and returned to Germany to gather strength at the Thienemann country
So far, sculpture had held him primarily; it was now that the poetic
impulse asserted itself. Seeking a synthesis of these tendencies in a
third art, Hauptmann determined, for a time, to adopt the calling of an
actor. To this end he went to Berlin. Here, however, the interest in
literature soon grew to dominate every other and, in 1885, the year of
his marriage to Fraulein Thienemann, he published his first work:
The poem is romantic and amorphous and gives but the faintest promise of
the masterly handling of verse to be found in The Sunken Bell and
Henry of Aue. Its interest resides solely in its confirmation of the
facts of Hauptmann’s development. For the hero of Promethidenlos
vacillates between poetry and sculpture, but is able to give himself
freely to neither art because of his overwhelming sense of social
injustice and human suffering. And this, in brief, was the state of
Hauptmann’s mind when, in the autumn of 1885, he settled with his young
wife in the Berlin suburb of Erkner.
The years of his residence here are memorable and have already become the
subject of study and investigation. And rightly so; for during this time
there took place that impact of the many obscure tendencies of the age
upon the most sensitive and gifted of German minds from which sprang the
naturalistic movement. That movement dominated literature for a few
years. Then, in Hauptmann’s own temper and in his own work, arose a
vigorous idealistic reaction which, blending with the severe technique
and incorruptible observation of naturalism, went far toward
producing—for a second time—a new vision and a new art. The conditions
amid which this development originated are essential to a full
understanding of Hauptmann’s work.
At the end of the Franco-Prussian war, united Germany looked forward to a
literary movement commensurate with her new greatness. That movement did
not appear. It was forgotten that men in the maturity of their years and
powers could not suddenly change character and method and that the rise
of a new generation was needed. So soon, however, as the first members of
that generation became articulate, a bitter and almost merciless warfare
arose in literature and in the drama. The brothers Heinrich and Julius
Hart, vigorous in both critical and creative activity, asserted as early
as 1882 that German literature was then, at its best, the faint imitation
of an outworn classicism, and the German drama a transference of the
basest French models. It is easy to see to-day that their view was
partisan and narrow. Neither Wilbrandt and Heyse, on the one hand, nor
Lindau and L’Arronge, on the other, represented the whole literary
activity of the empire. It is equally easy, however, to understand their
impatience with a literature which, upon the whole, lacked any breath of
greatness, and handled the stuff of human life with so little freshness,
incisiveness and truth.
What direction was the new literature to take? The decisive influence
was, almost necessarily, that of the naturalistic writers of France. For
the tendencies of these men coincided with Germany’s growing interest in
science and growing rejection of traditional religion and philosophy.
Tolstoi, Ibsen and Strindberg each contributed his share to the movement.
But all the young critics of the eighties fought the battles of Zola with
him and repeated, sometimes word for word, the memorable creed of French
naturalism formulated long before by the Goncourt brothers: “The
modern—everything for the artist is there: in the sensation, the
intuition of the contemporary, of this spectacle of life with which one
rubs elbows!” Such, with whatever later developments, was the central
doctrine of young Germany in the eighties; such the belief that gradually
expressed itself in a number of definite organisations and publications.
The most noteworthy of these, prior to the founding of the Freie Bühne,
were the magazine Die Gesellschaft (1885), edited by Michael Conrad,
the most ardent of German Zolaists, and the society Durch (1886), in
which the revolutionary spirits of Berlin united to promulgate the art
canons of the future. “Literature and criticism,” Conrad declared, must
first of all be “liberated from the tyranny of the conventional young
lady:” the programme of Durch announced that the poet must give
creative embodiment to the life of the present, that he shall show us
human beings of flesh and blood and depict their passions with implacable
fidelity; that the ideal of art was no longer the Antique, but the
Modern. Nor was there wanting creative activity in the spirit of these
views. Franzos and Kretzer, to name but a few, originated the modern
realistic novel in Germany, and Liliencron brought back vigour and
concreteness to the lyric.
Into the tense atmosphere of this literary battle Hauptmann was cast when
he took up his residence at Erkner. The house he occupied was the last in
the village, half buried in woods and with far prospects over the heaths
and deep green, melancholy waters of Brandenburg. Hither came, among many
others, the brothers Hart, the novelist Kretzer, Wilhelm Bölsche, the
inexhaustible prophet of the new science and the new art, and finally,
the founder of German naturalism as distinguished from that of
France—Arno Holz, The efforts of all these men harmonised with
Hauptmann’s mood. Naturalistic art goes for its subject matter to the
forgotten and disinherited of the earth, and it was with these that
Hauptmann was primarily concerned. He read Darwin and Karl Marx,
Saint-Simon and Zola. He was absorbed not by any problem of art but by
the being and fate of humanity itself.
Under these influences and governed by such thoughts, he began his career
as a man of letters anew. But his progress was slow and uncertain. In
1887 he published in Conrad’s Gesellschaft an episodic story,
Bahnwärter Thiel, weak in narrative technique and obviously inspired by
Zola. Even the sudden expansion of human characters into demonic symbols
of their ruling passions is imitated. The medium clearly irked him and
gave him no opportunity for personal expression. For many months his
activity was tentative and fruitless. Early in 1889, however, Arno Holz,
known until then only by a volume of brave and resonant verse, visited
Erkner and brought with him his theory of “consistent naturalism” as
illustrated by Papa Hamlet and Die Familie Selicke, sketches and a
drama in manuscript. This meeting gave Hauptmann one of those
illuminating technical hints which every creative artist knows. It
brought him an immediate method such as neither Tolstoi nor Dostoievsky
had been able to bring, and decided him for naturalism and for the drama.
He had found himself at last. During a visit to his parents he gave
himself up to intense labour and returned to Berlin in the spring of 1889
with his first drama, Before Dawn, completed.
The play might have waited indefinitely for performance, had not Otto
Brahm and Paul Schlenther, both critical thinkers of some significance,
founded the free stage society (Freie Bühne) earlier in the same year.
It was the aim of this society to give at least eight annual performances
in the city of Berlin which should be wholly free from the influence of
the censor and from the pressure of economic needs. The greater number of
the first series of performances had already been prepared for by a
selection of foreign plays—Tolstoi, Goncourt, Ibsen, Björnsen,
Strindberg—when, at the last moment, a young German dramatist presented
himself and succeeded in having his play accepted. Thus the society, long
since dead, had the good fortune of fulfilling the function for which it
was created: it launched the naturalistic movement; it cradled the modern
drama of Germany.
The first performance of Before Dawn (Oct. 20, 1889) was tumultuous. It
recalled the famous Hernani battle of French romanticism. But the
victory of Hauptmann was not long in doubt. With his third play he
conquered the national stage of which he has since been, with whatever
variations of immediate success, the undisputed master.
The “consistent naturalism” of Holz and his collaborator Johannes Schlaf
is the technical foundation of Hauptmann’s work. He has long transcended
its narrow theory and the shallow positivism on which it was based. It
discarded verse and he has written great verse; it banished the past from
art and he has gone to legend and history for his subjects; it forbade
the use of symbols and he has, at times, made an approach to his meaning
unnecessarily difficult. But Hauptmann has never quite abandoned the
practice of that form of art which resulted from the theories of Holz.
From history and poetry he has always returned to the naturalistic drama.
Rose Bernd follows Henry of Aue, and Griselda immediately preceded
The Rats. Nor is this all. The methods of naturalism have followed him
into the domains of poetry and of the past. His verse is scrupulously
devoid of rhetoric; the psychology of his historic plays is sober and
human. Hence it is clear that an analysis of the consistent naturalism of
German literature is, with whatever modifications, an analysis of
Hauptmann’s work in its totality. Like nearly all the greater dramatists
he had his forerunners and his prophets: he proceeds from a school of art
and thought which, even in transcending, he illustrates.
The consistent naturalists, then, aimed not to found a new art but, in
any traditional sense, to abandon it. They desired to reduce the
conventions of technique to a minimum and to eliminate the writer’s
personality even where Zola had admitted its necessary presence—in the
choice of subject and in form. For style, the very religion of the French
naturalistic masters, there was held to be no place, since there was to
be, in this new literature, neither direct exposition, however
impersonal, nor narrative. In other words, none of the means of
representation were to be used by which art achieves the illusion of
life; since art, in fact, was no longer to create the illusion of
reality, but to be reality. The founders of the school would have
admitted that the French had done much by the elimination of intrigue and
a liberal choice of theme. They would still have seen—and rightly
according to their premises—creative vision and not truth even in the
oppressive pathology of Germinie Lacerteux and the morbid brutalities
of La Terre. The opinion of Flaubert that any subject suffices, if the
treatment be excellent, was modified into: there must be neither
intentional choice of theme nor stylistic treatment. For style supposes
rearrangement, personal vision, unjust selection of detail, and
literature must be an exact rendition of the actual.
Stated so baldly the doctrine of consistent naturalism verges on the
absurd. Eliminate selection of detail and personal vision, and art
becomes not only coextensive with life, but shares its confusion and its
apparent purposelessness. It loses all interpretative power and ceases to
be art. Practically, however, the doctrine led to a very definite
form—the naturalistic drama. For, if all indirect treatment of life be
discarded, nothing is left but the recording of speech and, if possible,
of speech actually overheard. The juxtaposition of such blocks of
scrupulously rendered conversation constitutes, in fact, the earliest
experiments of Arno Holz. Under the creative energy of Hauptmann,
however, the form at once grew into drama, but a drama which sought to
rely as little as possible upon the traditional devices of dramaturgic
technique. There was to be no implication of plot, no culmination of the
resulting struggle in effective scenes, no superior articulateness on the
part of the characters. A succession of simple scenes was to present a
section of life without rearrangement or heightening. There could be no
artistic beginning, for life comes shadowy from life; there could be no
artistic ending, for the play of life ends only in eternity.
The development of the drama in such a direction had, of course, been
foreshadowed. The plays of Ibsen’s middle period tend to a simpler
rendering of life, and the cold intellect of Strindberg had rejected the
“symmetrical dialogue” of the French drama in order “to let the brains of
men work unhindered.” But Hauptmann carries the same methods
extraordinarily far and achieves a poignant verisimilitude that rivals
the pity and terror of the most memorable drama of the past.
These methods lead, naturally, to the exclusion of several devices. Thus
Hauptmann, like Ibsen and Shaw, avoids the division of acts into scenes.
The coming and going of characters has the unobtrusiveness but seldom
violated in life, and the inevitable artifices are held within rigid
bounds. In some of his earlier dramas he also observed the unities of
time and place, and throughout his work practices a close economy in
these respects. It goes without saying that he rejects the monologue, the
unnatural reading of letters, the raisonneur or commenting and
providential character, the lightly motivised confession—all the
devices, in brief, by which the conventional playwright blandly
transports information across the footlights, or unravels the artificial
knot which he has tied.
In dialogue, the medium of the drama, Hauptmann shows the highest
originality and power. Beside the speech of his characters all other
dramatic speech, that of Ibsen, of Tolstoi in The Power of Darkness, or
of Pinero, seems conscious and unhuman. Nor is that power a mere control
of dialect. Johannes Vockerat and Michael Kramer, Dr. Scholz and
Professor Crampton speak with a human raciness and native truth not
surpassed by the weavers or peasants of Silesia. Hauptmann has heard the
inflections of the human voice, the faltering and fugitive eloquence of
the living word not only with his ear but with his soul.
External devices necessarily contribute to this effect. Thus Hauptmann
renders all dialect with phonetic accuracy and correct differentiation.
In Before Dawn, Hoffmann, Loth, Dr. Schimmelpfennig and Helen speak
normal High German; all the other characters speak Silesian except the
imported footman Edward, who uses the Berlin dialect. In The Beaver
Coat the various gradations of that dialect are scrupulously set down,
from the impudent vulgarity of Leontine and Adelaide, to the occasional
consonantal slips of Wehrhahn. The egregious Mrs. Wolff, in the same
play, cannot deny her Silesian origin. Far finer shades of character are
indicated by the amiable elisions of Mrs. Vockerat Senior in Lonely
Lives, the recurrent crassness of Mrs. Scholz in The Reconciliation,
and the solemn reiterations of Michael Kramer. Nor must it be thought
that such characterisation has anything in common with the set phrases of
Dickens. From the richness and variety of German colloquial speech, from
the deep brooding of the German soul over the common things and the
enduring emotions of life, Hauptmann has caught the authentic accents
that change dramatic dialogue into the speech of man.
In the structure of his drama Hauptmann met and solved an even more
difficult problem than in the character of his dialogue. The whole
tradition of structural technique rests upon a more or less arbitrary
rearrangement of life. Othello, the noblest of tragedies, no less than
the most trivial French farce, depends for the continuity of its mere
action on an improbable artifice. Desdemona’s handkerchief may almost be
taken to symbolise that element in the drama which Hauptmann studiously
denies himself. And he does so by reason of his more intimate contact
with the normal truth of things. In life, for instance, the conflict of
will with will, the passionate crises of human existence are but rarely
concentrated into a brief space of time or culminate in a highly salient
situation. Long and wearing attrition, and crises that are seen to have
been such only in the retrospect of calmer years are the rule. In so
telling a bit of dramatic writing as the final scene in Augier’s Le
gendre de M. Poirier the material of life has been dissected into mere
shreds and these have been rewoven into a pattern as little akin to
reality as the flowers and birds of a Persian rug. Instead of such
effective rearrangement Hauptmann contents himself with the austere
simplicity of that succession of action which observation really affords.
He shapes his material as little as possible. The intrusion of a new
force into a given setting, as in Lonely Lives, is as violent an
interference with the sober course of things as he admits. From his
noblest successes, The Weavers, Drayman Henschel, Michael Kramer,
the artifice of complication is wholly absent.
It follows that his fables are simple and devoid of plot, that comedy and
tragedy must inhere in character and that conflict must grow from the
clash of character with environment or of character with character in its
totality. In other words: since the adventurous and unwonted are rigidly
excluded, dramatic complication can but rarely, with Hauptmann, proceed
from action. For the life of man is woven of “little, nameless,
unremembered acts” which possess no significance except as they
illustrate character and thus, link by link, forge that fate which is
identical with character. The constant and bitter conflict in the world
does not arise from pointed and opposed notions of honour and duty held
at some rare climacteric moment, but from the far more tragic grinding of
a hostile environment upon man or of the imprisonment of alien souls in
the cage of some social bondage.
These two motives, appearing sometimes singly, sometimes blended, are
fundamental to Hauptmann’s work. In The Reconciliation an unnatural
marriage has brought discord and depravity upon earth; in Lonely Lives
a seeker after truth is throttled by a murky world; in The Weavers the
whole organization of society drives men to tragic despair; in Colleague
Crampton a cold blooded woman all but destroys the gentle-hearted
painter; in The Beaver Coat the motive is ironically inverted and a
base shrewdness triumphs over the stupid social machine; in Rose Bernd
traditional righteousness hounds a pure spirit out of life; and in
Gabriel Schilling’s Flight, his latest play, Hauptmann returns to a
favourite motive: woman, strong through the narrowness and intensity of
her elemental aims, destroying man, the thinker and dreamer, whose will,
dissipated in a hundred ideal purposes, goes under in the unequal
The fable and structure of Michael Kramer illustrate Hauptmann’s
typical themes and methods well. The whole of the first act is
exposition. It is not, however, the exposition of antecedent actions or
events, but wholly of character. The conditions of the play are entirely
static. Kramer’s greatness of soul broods over the whole act. Mrs.
Kramer, the narrow-minded, nagging wife, and Arnold, the homely, wretched
boy with a spark of genius, quail under it. Michaline, the brave,
whole-hearted girl, stands among these, pitying and comprehending all. In
the second act one of Arnold’s sordid and piteous mistakes comes to
light. An inn-keeper’s daughter complains to Kramer of his son’s
grotesque and annoyingly expressed passion for her. Kramer takes his son
to task and, in one of the noblest scenes in the modern drama, wrestles
with the boy’s soul. In the third act the inn is shown. Its rowdy,
semi-educated habitués deride Arnold with coarse gibes. He cannot tear
himself away. Madly sensitive and conscious of his final superiority over
a world that crushes him by its merely brutal advantages, he is goaded to
self-destruction. In the last act, in the presence of his dead son,
Michael Kramer cries out after some reconciliation with the silent
universe. The play is done and nothing has happened. The only action is
Arnold’s suicide and that action has no dramatic value. The significance
of the play lies in the unequal marriage between Kramer and his wife, in
Arnold’s character—in the fact that such things are, and that in our
outlook upon the whole of life we must reckon with them.
Hauptmann’s simple management of a pregnant fable may be admirably
observed, finally, by comparing Lonely Lives and Rosmersholm.
Hauptmann was undoubtedly indebted to Ibsen for his problem and for the
main elements of the story: a modern thinker is overcome by the orthodox
and conservative world in which he lives. And that world conquers largely
because he cannot be united to the woman who is his inspiration and his
strength. In handling this fable two difficult questions were to be
answered by the craftsman: by what means does the hostile environment
crush the protagonist? Why cannot he take the saving hand that is held
out to him? Ibsen practically shirks the answer to the first question.
For it is not the bitter zealot Kroll, despite his newspaper war and his
scandal-mongering, who breaks Rosmer’s strength. It is fate, fate in the
dark and ancient sense. “The dead cling to Rosmersholm”—that is the
keynote of the play. The answer to the second question is interwoven with
an attempt to rationalise the fatality that broods over Rosmersholm. The
dead cling to it because a subtle and nameless wrong has been committed
against them. And that sin has been committed by the woman who could save
Rosmer. At the end of the second act Rebecca refuses to be his wife. The
reason for that refusal, dimly prefigured, absorbs his thoughts, and
through two acts of consummate dramaturgic suspense the sombre history is
gradually unfolded. And no vague phrases concerning the ennobling of
humanity can conceal the central fact: the play derives its power from a
traditional plot and a conventional if sound motive—crime and its
discovery, sin and its retribution.
In Lonely Lives the two questions apparently treated in Rosmersholm
are answered, not in the terms of effective dramaturgy, but of life
itself. Johannes Vockerat lives in the midst of the world that must undo
him—subtly irritated by all to which his heart clings. Out of that world
he has grown and he cannot liberate himself from it. His good wife and
his admirable parents are bound to the conventional in no base or
fanatical sense. He dare scarcely tell them that their preoccupations,
that their very love, slay the ideal in his soul. And so the pitiless
attrition goes on. There is no action: there is being. The struggle is
rooted in the deep divisions of men’s souls, not in unwonted crime or
plotting. And Anna Mahr, the free woman of a freer world, parts from
Johannes because she recognises their human unfitness to take up the
burden of tragic sorrow which any union between them must create. The
time for such things has not come, and may never come. Thus Johannes is
left desolate, powerless to face the unendurable emptiness and decay that
lie before him, destroyed by the conflicting loyalties to personal and
ideal ends which are fundamental to the life of creative thought.
Drama, then, which relies so little upon external action, but finds
action rather in “every inner conflict of passions, every consequence
of diverging thoughts,” must stress the obscurest expression of such
passions and such thoughts. Since its fables, furthermore, are to arise
from the immediate data of life, it must equally emphasise the
significant factor of those common things amid which man passes his
struggle. And so the naturalistic drama was forced to introduce elements
of narrative and exposition usually held alien to the genre. Briefly,
it has dealt largely and powerfully with atmosphere, environment and
gesture; it has expanded and refined the stage-direction beyond all
precedent and made of it an important element in dramatic art.
The playwrights of the middle of the last century who made an effort to
lead the drama back to reality, knew nothing of this element. Augier
does not even suspect its existence; in Robertson it is a matter of
“properties” and “business.” Any appearance of this kind Hauptmann
avoids. The play is not to remind us of the stage, but of life. A
difference in vision and method difficult to estimate divides Robertson’s
direction: “Sam. (astonished L. corner)” from Hauptmann’s “Mrs. John
rises mechanically and cuts a slice from a loaf of bread, as though under
the influence of suggestion.” Robertson indicates the conventionalised
gesture of life; Hauptmann its moral and spiritual density.
The descriptive stage direction, effectively used by Ibsen, is further
expanded by Hauptmann. But it remains impersonal and never becomes direct
comment or even argument as in Shaw. It is used not only to suggest the
scene but, above all, its atmosphere, its mood. Through it Hauptmann
shows his keen sense of the interaction of man and his world and of the
high moral expressiveness of common things. To define the mood more
clearly he indicates the hour and the weather. The action of Rose Bernd
opens on a bright Sunday morning in May, that of Drayman Henschel
during a bleak February dawn. The desperate souls in The Reconciliation
meet on a snow-swept Christmas Eve; the sun has just set over the lake in
which Johannes Vockerat finds final peace. In these indications Hauptmann
rarely aims at either irony or symbolism. He is guided by a sense for the
probabilities of life which he expresses through such interactions
between the moods of man and nature as experience seems to offer. Only in
The Maidens of the Mount has the suave autumnal weather a deeper
meaning, for it was clearly Hauptmann’s purpose in this play
”To build a shadowy isle of bliss
Midmost the beating of the steely sea.”
Hauptmann has also become increasingly exacting in demanding that the
actor simulate the personal appearance of his characters as they arose in
his imagination. In his earlier plays the descriptions of men and women
are at times brief; in The Rats even minor figures are visualised with
remarkable completeness. Pastor Spitta, for instance, is thus introduced:
“Sixty years old. A village parson, somewhat ‘countrified.’ One might
equally well take him to be a surveyor or a landowner in a small way. He
is of vigorous appearance—short-necked, well-nourished, with a squat,
broad face like Luther’s. He wears a slouch hat, spectacles, and carries
a cane and a coat over his arm. His clumsy boots and the state of his
other garments show that they have long been accustomed to wind and
weather.” Such directions obviously tax the mimetic art of the stage to
the very verge of its power. Thus, by the precision of his directions
both for the scenery and the persons of each play, and by unmistakable
indications of gesture and expression at all decisive moments of dramatic
action, Hauptmann has placed within narrow limits the activity of both
stage manager and actor. He alone is the creator of his drama, and no
alien factitiousness is allowed to obscure its final aim—the creation of
In the third act of Hauptmann’s latest naturalistic play, The Rats
(1911), the ex-stage manager Hassenrenter is drawn by his pupil, young
Spitta, into an argument on the nature of tragedy. “Of the heights of
humanity you know nothing,” Hassenrenter hotly declares. “You asserted
the other day that in certain circumstances a barber or a scrubwoman
could as fitly be the subject of tragedy as Lady Macbeth or King Lear.”
And Spitta reaffirms his heresy in the sentence: “Before art as before
the law all men are equal.” From this doctrine Hauptmann has never
departed, although his interpretation of it has not been fanatical.
Throughout his work, however, there is a careful disregard of several
classes of his countrymen: the nobility, the bureaucracy (with the
notable exception of Wehrhahn in The Beaver Coat), the capitalists. He
has devoted himself in his prose plays to the life of the common people,
of the middle classes, and of creative thinkers.
The delineation of all these characters has two constant qualities:
objectivity and justice. The author has not merged the sharp outlines of
humanity into the background of his own idiosyncrasy. Ibsen’s characters
speak and act as though they had suddenly stepped from another world and
were still haunted by a breath of their strange doom; the people of Shaw
are often eloquent exponents of a theory of character and society which
would never have entered their minds. Hauptmann’s men and women are
themselves. No trick of speech, no lurking similarity of thought unites
them. The nearer any two of them tend to approach a recognisable type,
the more magnificently is the individuality of each vindicated. The
elderly middle-class woman, harassed by ignoble cares ignobly borne,
driven by a lack of fortitude into querulousness, and into injustice by
the selfishness of her affections, is illustrated both in Mrs. Scholz and
Mrs. Kramer. But, in the former, bodily suffering and nervous terror have
slackened the moral fibre, and this abnormality speaks in every word and
gesture. Mrs. Kramer is simply average, with the tenacity and the
corroding power of the average.
Another noteworthy group is that of the three Lutheran clergymen: Kolin
in Lonely Lives, Kittelhaus in The Weavers, and Spitta in The Rats.
Kolin has the utter sincerity which can afford to be trivial and not
cease to be lovable; Kittelhaus is the conscious time-server whose
opinions might be anything; Spitta struggles for his official
convictions, half blinded by the allurements of a world which it is his
duty to denounce. Each is wholly himself; no hint of critical irony
defaces his character; and thus each is able, implicitly, to put his case
with the power inherent in the genuinely and recognisably human. From the
same class of temperaments—one that he does not love—Hauptmann has had
the justice to draw two characters of basic importance in Lonely Lives.
The elder Vockerats are excessively limited in their outlook upon life.
It is, indeed, in its time and place, an impossible outlook. These two
people have nothing to recommend them save their goodness, but it is a
goodness so keenly felt, so radiantly human, that the conflict of the
play is deepened and complicated by the question whether the real tragedy
be not the pain felt by these kindly hearts, rather than the destruction
of their more arduous son.
All these may be said to be minor characters. Some of them are, in that
they scarcely affect the fable involved. But in no other sense are there
minor figures in Hauptmann’s plays. A few lines suffice, and a human
being stands squarely upon the living earth, with all his mortal
perplexities in his words and voice. Such characters are the tutor
Weinhold in The Weavers, the painter Lachmann in Michael Kramer, Dr.
Boxer in The Conflagration and Dr. Schimmelpfennig in Before Dawn.
In his artists and thinkers Hauptmann has illustrated the excessive
nervousness of the age. Michael Kramer rises above it; Johannes Vockerat
and Gabriel Schilling succumb. And beside these men there usually arises
the sharply realised figure of the destroying woman—innocent and
helpless in Käthe Vockerat, trivial and obtuse in Alwine Lachmann, or
impelled by a devouring sexual egotism in Eveline Schilling and Hanna
Hauptmann’s creative power culminates, however, as he approaches the
common folk. These are of two kinds: the Berlin populace and the Silesian
peasants. The world of the former in all its shrewdness, impudence and
varied lusts he has set down with quiet and cruel exactness in The
Beaver Coat and The Conflagration. Mrs. Wolff, the protagonist of both
plays, rises into a figure of epic breadth—a sordid and finally almost
tragic embodiment of worldliness and cunning. When he approaches the
peasants of his own countryside his touch is less hard, his method not
quite so remorseless. And thus, perhaps, it comes about that in the face
of these characters the art of criticism can only set down a
confirmatory: “They are!” Old Deans in The Heart of Midlothian,
Tulliver and the Dodson sisters in The Mill on the Floss illustrate the
nature of Hauptmann’s incomparable projection of simple men and women.
Here, in Dryden’s phrase, is God’s plenty: the morose pathos of Beipst
(Before Dawn); the vanity and faithfulness of Friebe (The
Reconciliation); the sad fatalism of Hauffe (Drayman Henschel); the
instinctive kindliness of the nurse and the humorous fortitude of Mrs.
Lehmann (Lonely Lives); the vulgar good nature of Liese Bänsch
(Michael Kramer); the trivial despair of Pauline and the primitive
passion of Mrs. John (The Rats); the massive greatness of old Hilse’s
rock-like patience and the sudden impassioned protest of Luise (The
Weavers); the deep trouble of Henschel’s simple soul and the hunted
purity of Rose Bernd—these qualities and these characters transcend the
convincingness of mere art. Like the rain drenched mould, the black trees
against the sky, the noise of the earth’s waters, they are among the
abiding elements of a native and familiar world.
Such, then, is the naturalistic drama of Hauptmann. By employing the real
speech of man, by emphasising being rather than action, by creating the
very atmosphere and gesture of life, it succeeds in presenting characters
whose vital truth achieves the intellectual beauty and moral energy of
Early in his career, however, an older impulse stirred in Hauptmann. He
remembered that he was a poet. Pledged to naturalism by personal loyalty
and public combat he broke through its self-set limitations tentatively
and invented for that purpose the dream-technique of The Assumption of
Hannele(1893). Pure imagination was outlawed in those years and verse
was a pet aversion of the consistent naturalists. Hence both were
transferred to the world of dreams which has an unquestionable reality,
however subjective, but in which the will cannot govern the shaping
faculties of the soul. The letter of the naturalistic law was adhered to,
though Hannele’s visions have a richness and sweetness, the verses of the
angels a winsomeness and majesty which transcend any possible dream of
the poor peasant child, The external encouragement which the attempt met
was great, for with it Hauptmann conquered the Royal Playhouse in Berlin.
Three years later he openly vindicated the possibility of the modern
poetic drama by writing The Sunken Bell, his most far-reaching success
both on the stage and in the study. In it appears for the first time the
disciplinary effect of naturalism upon literature in its loftiest mood.
The blank verse is the best in the German drama, the only German blank
verse, in truth, that satisfies an ear trained on the graver and more
flexible harmony of English; the lyrical portions are of sufficient if
inferior beauty. But there is no trace of the pseudo-heroic psychology of
the romantic play. The interpretation of life is thoroughly poetic, but
it is based on fact. The characters have tangible reality; they have the
idiosyncrasies of men. The pastor is profoundly true, and so is Magda,
though the interpretative power of poetry raises both into the realm of
the enduringly significant. Similarly Heinrich is himself, but also the
creative worker of all time. Driven by his ideal from the warm
hearthstones of men, he falters upon that frosty height: seeking to
realise impersonal aims and rising to a hardy rapture, he is broken in
strength at last by the “still, sad music of humanity.”
Except for the half humorous and not wholly successful interlude of
Schluck and Jau, Hauptmann neglected the poetic drama until 1902, when
he presented on the boards of the famous Burgtheater at Vienna, Henry
of Aue. There is little doubt but that this play will ultimately rank as
the most satisfying poetic drama of its time. Less derivative and
uncertain in quality than the plays of Stephen Phillips, less fantastic
and externally brilliant than those of Rostand, it has a soundness of
subject matter, a serene nobility of mood, a solidity of verse technique
above the reach of either the French or the English poet. Hauptmann chose
as his subject the legend known for nearly seven hundred years through
the beautiful Middle High German poem of Hartmann von der Aue—the legend
of that great knight and lord who was smitten with leprosy, and whom,
according to the mediaeval belief, a pure maiden desired to heal through
the shedding of her blood. But God, before the sacrifice could be
consummated, cleansed the knight’s body and permitted to him and the
maiden a united temporal happiness. This story Hauptmann takes exactly as
he finds it. But the characters are made to live with a new life. The
stark mediaeval conventions are broken and the old legend becomes living
truth. The maiden is changed from an infant saint fleeing a vale of tears
into a girl in whom the first sweet passions of life blend into an
exaltation half sexual and half religious, but pure with the purity of a
great flame. The miracle too remains, but it is the miracle of love that
subdues the despairing heart, that reconciles man to his universe, and
that slays the imperiousness of self. Thus Henry, firmly individualised
as he is, becomes in some sense, like all the greater protagonists of the
drama, the spirit of man confronting eternal and recurrent problems. The
minor figures—Gottfried, Brigitte, Ottacker—have the homely and
delightful truth that is the gift of naturalism to modern, literature.
Hauptman’s next play was a naturalistic tragedy, one of the best in that
order, Rose Bernd. Then followed, from 1905 to 1910, a series of plays
in which he let the creative imagination range over time and space. In
Elga he tells the story of an old sorrow by means of the dream-technique
of Hannele; in And Pippa Dances, he lets the flame of life and love
flicker its iridescent glory before man and super-man, savage and artist;
in The Maidens of the Mount he celebrates the dream of life which is
life’s dearest part; in Charlemagne’s Hostage and in Griselda he
returns to the interpretation and humanising of history and legend.
The last of these plays is the most characteristic and important. It
takes up the old story of patient Grizzel which the Clerk of Oxford told
Chaucer’s pilgrims on the way to Canterbury. But a new motive animates
the fable. Not to try her patience, not to edify womankind, does the
count rob Griselda of her child. His burning and exclusive love is
jealous of the pangs and triumphs of her motherhood in which he has no
share. It is passion desiring the utter absorption of its object that
gives rise to the tragic element of the story. But over the whole drama
there plays a blithe and living air in which, once more, authentic human
beings are seen with their smiling or earnest faces.
A stern and militant naturalistic drama, The Rats (1911), and yet
another play of the undoing of the artist through the woman, Gabriel
Schilling’s Flight (1912), close, for the present, the tale of
Hauptmann’s dramatic works.
These works, viewed in their totality, take on a higher significance than
resides in the literary power of any one of them. Hauptmann’s career
began in the years when the natural sciences, not content with their
proper triumphs, threatened to engulf art, philosophy and religion; in
the years when a keen and tender social consciousness, brooding over the
temporal welfare of man, lost sight of his eternal good. And so Hauptmann
begins by illustrating the laws of heredity and pleading, through a
creative medium, for social justice. The tacit assumptions of these early
plays are stringently positivistic: body and soul are the obverse and
reverse of a single substance; earth is the boundary of man’s hopes.
With The Assumption of Hannele a change comes over the spirit of his
work. A thin, faint voice vibrates in that play—the voice of a soul
yearning for a warmer ideal. But the rigorous teachers of Hauptmann’s
youth had graven their influence upon him, and the new faith announced by
Heinrich in The Sunken Bell is still a kind of scientific paganism. In
Michael Kramer (1900), however, he has definitely conquered the
positivistic denial of the overwhelming reality of the ultimate problems.
For it is after some solution of these that the great heart of Kramer
cries out. In Henry of Aue the universe, no longer a harsh and
monstrous mechanism, irradiates the human soul with the spirit of its own
divinity. These utterances are, to be sure, dramatic and objective. But
the author chooses his subject, determines the spirit of its treatment
and thus speaks unmistakably.
Nor is directer utterance lacking, “The Green Gleam,” Hauptmann writes in
the delicately modelled prose of his Griechischer Frühling, “the Green
Gleam, which mariners assert to have witnessed at times, appears at the
last moment before the sun dips below the horizon…. The ancients must
have known the Green Gleam…. I do not know whether that be true, but I
feel a longing within me to behold it. I can imagine some Pure Fool,
whose life consisted but in seeking it over lands and seas, in order to
perish at last in the radiance of that strange and splendid light. Are we
not all, perhaps, upon a similar quest? Are we not beings who have
exhausted the realm of the senses and are athirst for other delights for
both our senses and our souls?” The author of Before Dawn has gone a
long journey in the land of the spirit to the writing of these words, and
of still others in Gabriel Schilling’s Flight: “Behind this visible
world another is hidden, so near at times that one might knock at its
gate….” But it is the journey which man himself has gone upon during
the intervening years.
Thus Hauptmann’s work has not only created a new technique of the drama;
it has not only added unforgettable figures to the world of the
imagination: it has also mirrored and interpreted the intellectual
history of its time. His art sums up an epoch—an epoch full of knowledge
and the restraints of knowledge, still prone, so often, before the
mechanical in life and thought; but throughout all its immedicable
scepticism full of strange yearnings and visited by flickering dreams;
and even in its darkest years and days still stretching out hands in love
of a farther shore. Once more the great artist, his vision fixed
primarily upon his art, has most powerfully interpreted man to his own
_The first performance of this drama took place on October 20 in the
Lessing Theatre under the management of the Free Stage society. I
take the occasion of the appearance of a new edition to express my
hearty thanks to the directors of that society and, more especially,
to Messrs. Otto Brahm and Paul Schlenther. May the future prove that,
by defying petty considerations and by helping to give life to a work
that had its origin in pure motives, they have deserved well of
Charlottenburg, October 20, 1889_
MRS. KRAUSE, his second wife.
HELEN, MARTHA, KRAUSE’S daughters by his first marriage.
HOFFMANN, Engineer, MARTHA’S husband.
WILHELM KAHL, MRS. KRAUSE’S nephew.
MRS. SPILLER, MRS. KRAUSE’S companion.
BEIPST, Workingman on KRAUSE’S farm.
GUSTE, LIESE, MARIE Maid-servants on KRAUSE’S farm.
BAER, called “Hopping Baer.”
EDWARD, HOFFMANN’S servant.
MIELE, MRS. KRAUSE’S housemaid.
THE COACHMAN’S WIFE.
GOLISCH, a Cowherd.
A PACKET POST CARRIER.
THE FIRST ACT
The room is low: the floor is covered with excellent rugs. Modern
luxury seems grafted upon the bareness of the peasant. On the wall,
behind the dining-table, hangs a picture which represents a waggon
with four horses driven by a carter in a blue blouse.
MIELE, a vigorous peasant girl with a red, rather slow-witted face,
opens the middle door and permits ALFRED LOTH to enter. LOTH is of
middle height, broad-shouldered, thick-set, decided but somewhat
awkward in his movements. His hair is blond, his eyes blue, his small
moustache thin and very light; his whole face is bony and has an
equably serious expression. His clothes are neat but nothing less
than fashionable: light summer overcoat, a wallet hanging from the
Come in, please. I’ll call Mr. Hoffmann right off. Won’t you take a seat?
[The glass-door that leads to the conservatory is violently thrust
open, and a peasant woman, her face bluish red with rage, bursts in.
She is not much better dressed than a washerwoman: naked, red arms,
blue cotton-skirt and bodice, red dotted kerchief. She is in the
early forties; her face is hard, sensual, malignant. The whole figure
is, otherwise, well preserved.
[Screams.] The hussies!… That’s right!… The vicious critters!…
Out with you! We don’t give nothin’!… [Half to MIELE, half to LOTH.]
He can work, he’s got arms. Get out! You don’t get nothin’ here!
But Mrs…. Surely you will … my name is Loth … I am … I’d like to
… I haven’t the slightest in….
He wants to speak to Mr. Hoffmann.
Oho! beggin’ from my son-in-law. We know that kind o’ thing! He ain’t got
nothin’; everything he’s got he gets from us. Nothin’ is his’n.
[The door to the right is opened and HOFFMANN thrusts his head in.
Mother, I must really beg of you! [He enters and turns to LOTH.] What
can I … Alfred! Old man! Well, I’ll be blessed. You? That certainly is
… well, that certainly is a great notion!
[HOFFMANN is thirty-three years old, slender, tall, thin. In his
dress he affects the latest fashion, his hair is carefully tended; he
wears costly rings, diamond-studs in his shirt-front and charms on
his watch chain. His hair and moustache are black; the latter is
luxurious and is most scrupulously cared for. His face is pointed,
bird-like, the expression blurred, the eyes dark, lively, at times
It’s by the merest accident, you know …
[Excited.] Nothing pleasanter could have … Do take your things off,
first of all! [He tries to help him off with his wallet.]—Nothing
pleasanter or more unexpected could possibly—[he has relieved LOTH of
his hat and cane and places both on a chair near the door]—could
possibly have happened to me just now—[coming back]—no, decidedly,
[Taking off his wallet himself.] It’s by the merest chance that I’ve
come upon you.
[He places his wallet on the table in the foreground.
Sit down. You must be tired. Do sit down—please! D’you remember when you
used to come to see me you had a way of throwing yourself full-length on
the sofa so that the springs groaned. Sometimes they broke, too. Very
well, then, old fellow. Do as you used to do.
[MRS. KRAUSE’S face has taken on an expression of great
astonishment. She has withdrawn. LOTH sits down on one of the chairs
that stand around the table in the foreground.
Won’t you drink something? Whatever you say? Beer? Wine? Brandy? Coffee?
Tea? Everything’s in the house.
[HELEN comes reading from the conservatory. Her tall form, somewhat
too plump, the arrangement of her blond, unusually luxuriant hair,
the expression of her face, her modern gown, her gestures—in brief,
her whole appearance cannot quite hide the peasant’s daughter.
Brother, you might…. [She discovers LOTH and withdraws quickly.] Oh,
I beg pardon.
Stay here, do!
No; her sister. Didn’t you hear how she addressed me?
Good-looking, eh? But now, come on. Make up your mind. Coffee? Tea? Grog?
No, nothing, thank you.
[Offers him cigars.] Here’s something for you then. No!… Not even
No, thank you.
Enviable frugality! [He lights a cigar for himself and speaks the
while.] The ashes … I meant to say, tobacco … h-m … smoke of
course … doesn’t bother you, does it?
Ah, if I didn’t get that much … Good Lord, life anyhow!—But now, do me
a favour; tell me something. Ten years—you’ve hardly changed much,
though—ten years, a nasty slice of time. How’s Schn … Schnurz? That’s
what we called him, eh? And Fips, and the whole jolly bunch of those
days? Haven’t you been able to keep your eye on any of them?
Look here, is it possible you don’t know?
That he shot himself.
Who? Who’s done that sort o’ thing again?
Fips. Friedrich Hildebrandt.
Oh come, that’s impossible.
It’s a fact. Shot himself in the Grunewald, on a very beautiful spot on
the shore of the Havelsee. I was there. You have a view toward Spandau.
Hm. Wouldn’t have believed it of him. He wasn’t much of a hero in other
That’s the very reason why he shot himself.—He was conscientious, very
Conscientious? I don’t see.
That was the very reason … otherwise he would probably not have done
I’m still in the dark.
Well, you know what the colour of his political views was?
Put it so, if you want to. You’ll have to admit, at all events, that he
was a very gifted fellow. And yet for five years he had to work as a
stucco-worker, and for another five years he had to starve along, so to
speak, on his own hook, and in addition he modelled his little statues.
And they were revolting. I want to be cheered by art … No, that kind of
art wasn’t a bit to my taste.
Not exactly to mine either. Certain ideas had bitten themselves into his
mind. However, last spring there was a competition for a monument. Some
two-penny princeling was to be immortalised, I believe. Fips competed
and—won. Shortly afterward, he killed himself.
I don’t see that that throws any ray of light on his so-called
conscientiousness. I call that sort of thing silly and highfalutin.
That is the common view.
I’m very sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t help sharing it.
Well, it can make no difference to him now, what….
Oh, anyhow, let’s drop the subject. At bottom I’m just as sorry for him
as you can be. But now that he is dead, the good fellow, tell me
something of yourself. What have you been doing? How has the world used
It has used me as it was my business to expect. Didn’t you hear anything
about me at all? From the papers, I mean?
[Somewhat embarrassed.] Not that I know of.
Nothing of that business at Leipzig?
Ah, yes, that! Yes, yes … I believe so … but nothing definite.
Well, then, the matter was as follows—
[Laying his hand on LOTH’S arm.] Before you begin, won’t you take
anything at all?
Not even a little glass of brandy?
No; that least of all.
Well, then I’ll take a little … There’s nothing better for the stomach.
[He gets a bottle and two little glasses from the sideboard and places
them on the table before LOTH.] Grand champagne, finest brand. I can
recommend it. Won’t you really?
No, thank you.
[Tilting the contents of the glass into his mouth.] Ah-h—well, now I’m
To put it briefly, I got into a nasty mess.
The sentence was two years, wasn’t it?
Quite right. You seem to be informed after all. Yes, I was sentenced to