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 TWO: SOCIAL DRAMAS
By the Editor.
DRAYMAN HENSCHEL (Fuhrmann Henschel)
Translated by the Editor.
ROSE BERND (Rose Bernd)
Translated by the Editor.
THE RATS (Die Ratten)
Translated by the Editor.
The first volume of the present edition of Hauptmann’s Dramatic Works is
identical in content with the corresponding volume of the German edition.
In the second volume The Rats has been substituted for two early prose
tales which lie outside of the scope of our undertaking. Hence these two
volumes include that entire group of dramas which Hauptmann himself
specifically calls social. This term must not, of course, be pressed too
rigidly. Only in Before Dawn and in The Weavers can the dramatic
situation be said to arise wholly from social conditions rather than from
the fate of the individual. It is true, however, that in the seven plays
thus far presented all characters are viewed primarily as, in a large
measure, the results of their social environment. This environment is, in
all cases, proportionately stressed. To exhibit it fully Hauptmann uses,
beyond any other dramatist, passages which, though always dramatic in
form, are narrative and, above all, descriptive in intention. The silent
burden of these plays, the ceaseless implication of their fables, is the
injustice and inhumanity of the social order.
Hauptmann, however, has very little of the narrow and acrid temper of the
special pleader. He is content to show humanity. It is quite conceivable
that the future, forgetful of the special social problems and the
humanitarian cult of to-day, may view these plays as simply bodying forth
the passions and events that are timeless and constant in the inevitable
march of human life. The tragedies of Drayman Henschel and of Rose
Bernd, at all events, stand in no need of the label of any decade. They
move us by their breadth and energy and fundamental tenderness.
No plays of Hauptmann produce more surely the impression of having been
dipped from the fullness of life. One does not feel that these men and
women—Hanne Schäl and Siebenhaar, old Bernd and the Flamms—are called
into a brief existence as foils or props of the protagonists. They led
their lives before the plays began: they continue to live in the
imagination long after Henschel and Rose have succumbed. How does
Christopher Flamm, that excellent fellow and most breathing picture of
the average man, adjust his affairs? He is fine enough to be permanently
stirred by the tragedy he has earned, yet coarse enough to fall back into
a merely sensuous life of meaningless pleasures. But at his side sits
that exquisite monitor—his wife. The stream of their lives must flow on.
And one asks how and whither? To apply such almost inevitable questions
to Hauptmann’s characters is to be struck at once by the exactness and
largeness of his vision of men. Few other dramatists impress one with an
equal sense of life’s fullness and continuity,
“The flowing, flowing, flowing of the world.”
The last play in this volume, The Rats, appeared in 1911, thirteen
years after Drayman Henschel, nine years after Rose Bernd. A first
reading of the book is apt to provoke disappointment and confusion. Upon
a closer view, however, the play is seen to be both powerful in itself
and important as a document in criticism and Kulturgeschichte. It
stands alone among Hauptmann’s works in its inclusion of two separate
actions or plots—the tragedy of Mrs. John and the comedy of the
Hassenreuter group. Nor can the actions be said to be firmly interwoven:
they appear, at first sight, merely juxtaposed. Hauptmann would
undoubtedly assert that, in modern society, the various social classes
live in just such juxtaposition and have contacts of just the kind here
chronicled. His real purpose in combining the two fables is more
significant. Following the great example, though not the precise method,
of Molière, who produced La Critique de l’École des Femmes on the
boards of his theater five months after the hostile reception of L’École
des Femmes, Hauptmann gives us a naturalistic tragedy and, at the same
time, its criticism and defense. His tenacity to the ideals of his youth
is impressively illustrated here. In his own work he has created a new
idealism. But let it not be thought that his understanding of tragedy and
his sense of human values have changed. The charwoman may, in very truth,
be a Muse of tragedy, all grief is of an equal sacredness, and even the
incomparable Hassenreuter—wind-bag, chauvinist and consistent
Goetheaner—is forced by the essential soundness of his heart to blurt
out an admission of the basic principle of naturalistic dramaturgy.
The group of characters in The Rats is unusually large and varied. The
phantastic note is somewhat strained perhaps in Quaquaro and Mrs. Knobbe.
But the convincingness and earth-rooted humanity of the others is once
more beyond cavil or dispute. The Hassenreuter family, Alice Rütterbusch,
the Spittas, Paul John and Bruno Mechelke, Mrs. Kielbacke and even the
policeman Schierke—all are superbly alive, vigorous and racy in speech
The language of the plays in this volume is again almost wholly
dialectic. The linguistic difficulties are especially great in The Rats
where the members of the Berlin populace speak an extraordinarily
degraded jargon. In the translation I have sought, so far as possible, to
differentiate the savour and quaintness of the Silesian dialect from the
coarseness of that of Berlin. But all such attempts must, from their very
nature, achieve only a partial success. The succeeding volumes of this
edition, presenting the plays written in normal literary German, will
offer a fairer if not more fascinating field of interpretation.
LIST OF PERSONS
HANNE SCHÄL (later MRS. HENSCHEL).
HORSE DEALER WALTHER.
Time: Toward the end of the eighteen sixties.
Scene: The “Gray Swan” hotel in a Silesian watering place.
THE FIRST ACT
A room, furnished peasant fashion, in the basement of the “Grey
Swan” hotel. Through two windows set high in the left wall, the
gloomy light of a late winter afternoon sickers in. Under the windows
there stands a bed of soft wood, varnished yellow, in which MRS.
HENSCHEL is lying ill. She is about thirty-six years of age. Near the
bed her little six-months-old daughter lies in her cradle. A second
bed stands against the back wall which, like the other walls, is
painted blue with a dark, plain border near the ceiling. In front,
toward the right, stands a great tile-oven surrounded by a bench. A
plentiful supply of small split kindling wood is piled up in the
roomy bin. The wall to the right has a door leading to a smaller
room. HANNE SCHÄL, a vigorous, young maid servant is very busy in the
room. She has put her wooden pattens aside and walks about in her
thick, blue stockings. She takes from the oven an iron pot in which
food is cooking and puts it back again. Cooking spoons, a twirling
stick and a strainer lie on the bench; also a large, thick
earthenware jug with a thin, firmly corked neck. Beneath the bench
stands the water pitcher. HANNE’S skirts are gathered up in a thick
pad; her bodice is dark grey; her muscular arms are bare. Around the
top of the oven is fastened a square wooden rod, on which long
hunting stockings are hung up to dry, as well as swaddling clothes,
leathern breeches and a pair of tall, water-tight boots. To the right
of the oven stand a clothes press and a chest of drawers—old
fashioned, gaily coloured, Silesian pieces of furniture. Through the
open door in the rear wall one looks out upon a dark, broad,
underground corridor which ends in a glass door with manicoloured
panes. Behind this door wooden steps lead upward. These stairs are
always illuminated by a jet of gas so that the panes of the door
shine brightly. It is in the middle of February; the weather without
FRANZ, a young fellow in sober coachman’s livery, ready to drive
out, looks in.
Is the missis asleep?
What d’you suppose? Don’t make so much noise!
There’s doors enough slammin’ in this house. If that don’t wake her up—!
I’m goin’ to drive the carriage to Waldenburg.
The madam. She’s goin’ to buy birthday presents.
Whose birthday is it?