The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann, Volume I

Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon, Thomas Berger
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

THE DRAMATIC WORKS

OF
GERHART HAUPTMANN

(Authorized Edition)

Edited By LUDWIG LEWISOHN

Assistant Professor in The Ohio State University

VOLUME ONE: SOCIAL DRAMAS

1912

PREFACE

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.

LUDWIG LEWISOHN.

COLUMBUS, O., June, 1912.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION
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.

INTRODUCTION

I

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
of Art.

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
house.

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:
Promethidenlos.

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.

II

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.

III

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

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