History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/German Realist
The major figures of late 19th/early 20th century German-speaking drama are Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), famous for the gritty proletarian play, "Die Weber" (The weavers, 1892) and for "Der Biberpelz" (The beaver coat, 1893), Frank Wedekind 1864-1918) for "Frühlings Erwachen" (Spring awakening, 1891) and for "Erdgeist" (Earth-spirit, 1895), Hermann Sudermann (1857-1928) for "Home" (1893), as well as the Austrian playwright, Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) for "Reigen" (Hands around, or La Ronde, 1897).
"The weavers" 
"The weavers". Time: 1890s. Place: Germany.
"The weavers" text at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9971
In Dreissiger's shop of fustian-weavers, the manager, Pfeifer, hears complaints. Pay in advance? Says Pfeifer: "People who are industrious, and understand their work, and do it in the fear of God, never need their pay in advance." Complaint about bad pay for bad work? "If you want to live well, then be sure to weave well." A boy faints from hunger at the shop. Baumert had to kill his dog for meat. Becker is turned out for insolence. When a neighbor asks for help, Mother Baumert says: "There's not so much as a handful o'salt in the house- not a bite o' bread, nor a bit o' wood for the fire...The best thing as could happen to the likes o' us, Jenny, would be if God had pity on us an' took us away out o' this weary world." Because of her mother's rheumatics, her daughter, Bertha, says: "We've to dress her in the mornin' an' undress her at night, an' to feed her like a baby." Both girls are at their looms. Says the mother: "Their feet never off the treadle from year's end to year's end...An' with it all they can't scrape together as much as'll buy them clothes that they can let theirselves be seen in; never a step can they go to church, to hear a word o' comfort." The oven smokes but no complaining to the cottager, Ansorge. Says Baumert: "One word of a complaint an' out we go. He's had no rent from us this last half-year." When an old friend, Jaeger, now a soldier, drops by with a roast. Baumbert, crying with rage, can't hold it in. Says Jaeger: "We don't need no meat! The manufacturers eats it for us." Says Ansorge: "Things was different in my young days. Then the manufacturers let the weaver have his share. Now they keeps everything to theirselves. An' would you like to know what's at the bottom of it all? It's that the fine folks nowadays believes neither in God nor devil." In the common-room of a public-house, expensive funerals are spoken of, the pastor profiting by large funerals. Says Hornig, the rag-seller, to Wiegand, the joiner: "When you see the rows o' little children's graves, you pats yourself on the belly and says you: This has been a good year; the little brats have fallen like cockchafers off the trees." Jaeger and Becker enter arm in arm, singing. Says Baumert: "They're goin' to Dreissiger's to make him add something on to the pay." In the private room of Dressiger, Pastor Kittelhaus is disturbed at hearing strains of the "Weavers' Song". Jaeger is arrested. Dreissiger is impatient: "Most certainly that is what they used to be- patient, easily managed, well-behaved and orderly people. They were that as long as these so-called humanitarians let them alone. But for ever so long now they've had the awful misery of their condition held up to them." When seeing Jaeger tied up, the crowd becomes rowdy. Pfeifer panics: "They've set Moritz Jaeger free- they've thrashed the superintendent and driven him away- they've thrashed the policeman and sent him off too- without his helmet ... his sword broken ... Oh dear, oh dear!" In weaver Hilse's workroom, an old soldier with a lost arm, Hilse is patient: "If we've no butter, we can eat dry bread- when we've no bread, we can eat potatoes- when there's no potatoes left, we can eat bran." Hornig enters to tell them news from Dreissiger's place: "They've wrecked his house from the cellar to the roof." But Surgeon Schmidt is not worried: "The troops will be on them in no time." Gottlieb, Hilse's son-in-law, is excited: "We're to have our half-pound o' meat on Sundays, and now and again on a holiday sausage with our cabbage. Yes, things is to be quite different, by what he tells me." Hilse is of a different view: "They've let themselves be tempted by Satan, an' it's his works they're doin'." Luise, his daughter, joins the rioting weavers: "How many hundred nights has I lain an' racked my head to think what I could do to cheat the churchyard of my little one? What harm has a baby like that done that it must come to such a miserable end- eh? An' over there at Dittrich's they're bathed in wine an' washed in milk." Musket-fire is heard. Hilse is hit. His blind wife asks: "Come now, father, can't you say something? You're frightenin' me."
"The beaver coat" 
"The beaver coat". Time: 1890s. Place: Berlin region, Germany.
"The beaver coat" text at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9971
Mrs Wolff scolds her daughter, Leontine, for her laziness. Adelaide, her other daughter, has some town news to relate: "Mrs. Krueger has bought a fur-coat that cost pretty near a hundred crowns. It's a beaver coat." When Mr and Mrs Motes come in to settle an account, Mrs Wolff hides and clears away everything that could in any degree suggest her husband having poached a stag. Mrs Motes shows her several wire-snares, evidence of poaching. Once a forester shot in the eye, now a free-lance writer, Motes says: "Forester Seidel has nabbed a poacher again. He'll be taken to the detention prison to-morrow. There's an officer with style about him. If I hadn't had my misfortune, I could have been a head forester today. I'd go after those dogs even more energetically." Mrs Motes pretends to laugh off news that they were forced to move away from the Krueger premises. Her husband is crimson with rage: "The reason why I moved away from that place? You'll find it out some day. The man is a usurer and a cutthroat!" When they leave, Mrs Wolff has an idea for her husband concerning the Kruegers where Leontine works as a servant: "An' if I was to say: all right, you abuse my children, I'll take your wood- a nice face you'd make," who answers: "I wouldn't do no such thing ... I don't give a--! I c'n do more'n eat, too. I'd like to see! I wouldn't stand for nothin' like that. Beatin'!" He goes out to steal the wood as Constable Mitteldorf arrives, announcing that he is badly seen by Justice of the Peace Wehrhahn: "I ain't keen enough after the people." To Motes reporting liberal opinions expressed by Krueger and his boarder, Dr Fleischer, Wehrhahn declares: "Under the protection of my honourable predecessor the sphere of our activity has become a receptacle for refuse of various kinds: lives that cannot bear the light- outlawed individuals, enemies of royalty and of the realm. These people must be made to suffer." Motes hands over to him the snares. When Krueger arrives to tell the judge of his robbed wood, in front of his garden, as Lenontine refused to take it in: "And when I insisted on her doing it, she ended by running away. I intend to bring suit against her parents. I intend to claim full damages." Asked about Leontine's behavior, Mrs Wolff complains about her daughter having to carry so heavy a load so late in the evening, that she will never pay, and that she will no longer be his washerwoman. In her house, Adelaide tells her mother she knows where the new wood comes from. Her mother cuffs her head. Fleischer announces to Mrs Wolff that their beaver coat was stolen. Krueger sacked the new washerwoman for it. As Fleischer goes, Krueger comes, so that Mrs Wolff tries to hide the wood, but he enters too soon. Not noticing it is his wood, he wants to forget their difference by hiring her and her daughter back. She agrees. In the court-house, Mrs Wolff warns the boatman, Wulkow, that he should not be seen wearing his beaver coat. She brings to Wehrhahn's attention that Adelaide found a green waist-coat that belongs to Krueger. Fleischer then enters to report he saw a slovenly boatman at a distance suspiciously wearing a new beaver coat. Hating Fleischer, Wehrhahn takes no notice of that bit of news. Krueger then arrives to complain that he takes no interest of the robberies, presenting Mrs Wolf, Fleischer, and Wulkow as cases in point. In regard to boatman with beaver coats, Wulkow says: "There ain't nothin' suspicious about that, your honour. There's many as has fine coats. I got one myself, in fac'." Krueger accuses Motes of trying to inveigle a Mrs. Dreier into committing perjury against Fleischer for insulting the emperor. Wehrhahn concludes to Mrs Wolff: "And as surely as it is true when I say: Mrs. Wolff is an honest woman; so surely I tell you: this Dr. Fleischer of yours, of whom we were speaking, is a thoroughly dangerous person!"
"Home". Time: 1890s. Place: Germany.
"Home" text at http://archive.org/details/magdaaplayinfour34184gut
Twelve years ago, Leopold Schwartze had requested his daughter, Magda, to agree marrying Pastor Heffterdingt, but she refused. As a result, he angrily forbid her his house. After some difficult times as a small-time singer on the stage, Magda wrote back, but the breach was complete. However, Magda became by her own efforts a very successful opera singer. Leopold, now a retired army officer recovering from a stroke caused by the breach, learns from Franziska, his wife's sister, as well as the pastor, that she has even been invited at a reception at the governor's house, but he refuses to see her. The pastor reprimands him: "My dear Colonel, I might ask, what speaks in you? A father's love? You could make no pretence to that. Your rights? I think rather it would be your right to rejoice in the good fortune of your child." At last, he agrees to see her. On arriving, Madga is greeted by Franziska, her stepmother's sister, who assures her she forgives her. Magda answers sarcastically. Leopold takes it for granted that she will be willing to live in his house and intends to take her financial affairs in hand. When meeting the pastor after all this time, she admits she has always hated him for driving her from her home. But whe he mentions he was the one mainly responsible for helping her father recover from his stroke, she softens and agrees to stay at home, instead of her hotel. Augusta, her stepmother, and Franziska comment on Magda's expensive clothes, the latter most disagreeably. When Franziska sits with some importance to hear about her life, Magda sends her on her way to do something useful, which angers her considerably. Magda then learns from her younger sister, Marie, that she and her suitor cannot marry because his aunt, Franziska, refuses to give them the money they need. Magda generously offers Marie enough money to marry, to her joy and Franziska's disgust. On meeting some of her family's friends, Magda's opinions on several subjects rubs them the wrong way, especially after hearing one woman express the sentiment that "one must have one's real home, she answering: "Why? One must have a vocation. That seems to me enough." Madga next meets Councillor Von Keller, a man who made love to her and then abandoned her. He is astonished on learning that she had a son by him. "My child!" exclaims he, to which she airily comments: "Who are you? You're a strange man who gratified his lust and passed on with a laugh." Leopold begins to suspect something has happened between Keller and his daughter, but the former curtly replies to his searching questions: "Pardon me, if you wish to know anything, I beg you to ask your daughter." When he does, Leopold learns the truth. On informing his daughter what he expects of her, he emphasizes that her refusal is likely to annul her sister's marriage plans: "No one will marry a sister of yours," he assures her, to her distress. He marches out to discover Keller's intentions. Meanwhile, the pastor strongly reinforces his friend's views. She falters in growing agony but nevertheless blurts out: "I will not, I will not. This house is not my home. My home is with my child!" Leopold returns without having found him. He takes out a pistol-case and opens it, takes a pistol, cocks it with difficulty, examines the barrel, and aims at a point on the wall. His arm trembles violently. He strikes it angrily and lets the pistol sink. Keller returns, guessing that Leopold now knows everything. He agrees to marriage, but when alone with Magda, he high-handedly makes it known that he expects her to forget about her career and abandon their son, at least till he grows of age when he can be safely adopted. Magda's entire being revolts at these suggestions. Keller sarcastically queries her about the gist of her own plans: "Shall I turn over your music, or take the tickets at the box-office?" Her father returns and promises Keller he will force her if necessary to this marriage. To goad him out of his promise, she replies: "Well, then, are you sure that you ought to force me on this man, that, according to your standards, I am altogether worthy of him? I mean- that he was the only one in my life?" He feels for the pistol-case and takes the pistol out. "You jade!" he cries out, then falls from a second stroke and dies. Bewildered, she wonders why she ever came and whether she should stay. "No one will hinder you from praying on his grave," answers the laconic pastor.
"Spring awakening" 
"Spring awakening". Time: 1890s. Place: Germany.
"Spring awakening" text at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35242
At fourteen years of age, Wendla insists on not wearing her mother's choice of a long dress. While preparing for school-work, Melchior and Moritz speak of adolescence. Moritz asks him to complete his education by writing about it. Martha reveals to Wendla and Thea that she is not allowed a blue ribbon through the top of her chemise: "Mamma pulled me out of bed by the hair...Then Papa came in. Rip- he tore off my chemise. Out of the door I went...I had to sleep all night in a sack." She concludes: "If I ever have children, I will let them grow up like the weeds in our flower garden." Moritz has secretly found out he has been promoted: "Lord, but I'll grind from to-day on!- I can say so now- whether you believe it or not- It's all the same now- I- I know how true it is; if I hadn't been promoted I would have shot myself." In the woods, Wendla reveals to Melchior what Martha said to her of her parents' strictness. When seeing Merchior holding a switch, she asks: "Would you like to beat me with it once?" she goads him. He beats her with his fists so that she cries out, while tears stream down his cheeks, then he springs away. In Melchior's study, Moritz says to him: "I fastened the door and flew through the flaming lines as a frightened owl flies through a burning wood." He imagines a woman's pleasure in love as greater than a man's. His favorite story is his grandmother's about a queen without a head. After being made an aunt three times, Wendla asks: "How does it happen?- How does it all come about?- You cannot really deceive yourself that I, who am fourteen years old, still believe in the stork." Her answer is: "In order to have a child- one must love- the man- to whom one is married- love him, I tell you- as one can only love a man! One must love him so much with one's whole heart, so- so that one can't describe it! One must love him, Wendla, as you at your age are still unable to love- now you know it!" In a haymow, Melchior kisses Wendla, avowing there is no love, just selfish interests. She pleads for him to stop but yields. Moritz fails in class. Despite an encouraging letter from Mrs Gabor, Melchior's mother, Moritz considers suicide. He meets Ilse, a poor girl leading a bohemian life. Of a friend, she says he put a gun to his mouth. Moritz asks: "Is Heinrich living yet?" She answers: "How do I know!- Over the bed was a large mirror set into the ceiling. The room seemed as high as a tower and as bright as an opera house. One saw one's self hanging down bodily from heaven. I had frightful dreams at night- O God, O God, if it were only day!- Good-night, Ilse, when you are asleep you will be pretty to murder!" He tells her he must go and burns Mrs Gabor's letter. After hearing of Moritz' suicide, the rector says to his colleagues: "It grieves us deeply, gentlemen, that we are not in a position to consider the other qualifications of our guilt-laden pupil as mitigating circumstances. An indulgent treatment, which would allow our guilty pupil to be vindicated, would not in any conceivable way imaginable vindicate the present imperiled existence of our institute." Melchior's text was found in Moritz' room. The rector accuses him: "This manuscript, in the form of a dialogue entitled “The nuptial sleep”, illustrated with life-size pictures full of shameless obscenity, has twenty pages of long explanations that seek to satisfy every claim a profligate imagination can make on a lewd book." He is expelled. While spreading anemones over his grave, Ilse says the reason Moritz gave why he shot himself was a parallelepipedon. She'll keep the pistol as a souvenir. Mrs Gabor is against her husband's determination of sending Melchior to a house of correction, threatening to divorce him, but when she discovers her son's letter to Wendla concerning their sexual relation, she changes her mind. Wendla is sick in bed in her pregnancy, and reprimands her mother for not telling everything. Melchior escapes from the reform school and discovers Wendla's grave, killed by abortives. Moritz enters, his head under his arm. The dead "laugh at tragedies", see lovers as "deceived deceivers". Wishing to guide Melchior onward, a masked man commands Moritz away, who submits: "I will go back to my place, right my cross, which that madcap trampled down so inconsiderately, and when everything is in order I will lie down on my back again, warm myself in the corruption and smile."
"Earth-spirit". Time: 1890s. Place: Germany.
"Earth-spirit" text at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/29682
Schön has been Lulu's benefactor since her childhood. He has arranged her present marriage with Dr Goll, who asks Schwarz to paint her portrait. As Goll leaves, Schwarz can control his lust no longer, chasing her about the studio, until a knock at the door is heard. It is Goll returning. Deeply suspicious, the husband knocks the door down and suddenly dies of a heart attack. Later, it is Schwarz' turn to marry Lulu, but she is quickly bored with him. He is blind to her escapades, while she regrets not being able to dance anymore. Schön intervenes, advising Schwarz to be firmer and use his authority over his flighty wife, especially considering her background. Schwarz is devastated by what he hears about her, goes to the adjoining room, and cuts his throat with a razor. After her husband's death, Lulu returns to a dancing career. Backstage, Prince Escarny wonders whether she would be interested in leading a quiet life with him at his mansion in Africa. As she returns onstage, Lulu has a fainting fit. Schön rushes in to find out what happened. She says her weakness was caused by seeing Schön's intended. She then mentions Escarny's offer. From this and other reasons, Schön realizes he cannot do without Lulu and marries her. It does not take long before Schön also become suspicious about his wife's activities. He takes a gun and spies on her. Countess Geschwitz, a lesbian, also decides to spy on her. Lulu welcomes Schigolch, once known as her father, together with Rodrigo and Hugenberg, a student. Schön's son, Alwa, comes in as the quintet hide. On his knees, a despairing Alwa reveals his love to Lulu. From his hiding place, Rodrigo notices Schön with a gun aimed at him and points towards Alwa. As Schön walks in to speak with his son and they leave together in the adjoining room, a nervous Rodrigo looks about to change his hiding place, but, as he lifts the table-cloth, sees Hugenberg under the table and finds another. Schön returns alone to find Geschwitz, and turns her out in the next room. Despairing, Schön calls her "avenging angel", "inexorable fate", "hangman's noose", requesting her to commit suicide. Instead, she aims the gun at him and shoots him to death. As the police knock at the door, Hugenberg fears he may be expelled from school.
"Hands around" 
"Hands around". Time: 1890s. Place: Austria.
"Hands around" text at http://www.theatrehistory.com/plays/reigen001.html
A prostitute proposes to a soldier to come to her room. He has no money, but for him she'll yield for free. He objects her room is too far. They copulate in the bushes. She then asks at least for carfare, but he refuses. In an amusement park, the soldier attempts to seduce a chambermaid. He sees another couple near, pointing out: "Others are like us." She refuses to take the hint, till he rubs himself on her. She complains she cannot see his face, which he considers unimportant. They copulate in the dark. She then wants him to take her home, but he refuses, at which he cries out: "Oh I know you, now it's the pie-faced blonde's turn!" Nevertheless, she'll wait for him as he goes off dancing. The next day, the chambermaid serves a glass of water to a young gentleman. He comments favorably on her blouse, opens it, and kisses her breasts. Although the doorbell rings, they copulate. He then gruffly goes out to the cafe. The young gentleman has a rendez-vous with a heavily veiled married lady. She has qualms: "You tormented me so. But I didn't want to do it. God is my witness--I didn't want to do it . . . Yesterday I was absolutely determined . . . Do you know, I even wrote you a long letter last night!" He knows she is unhappy. She is pleased to answer yes. She gives him a candied pear on his lips. They go to the bed, but he is unable to. He then speaks of Stendhal story's about cavalry officers, who when with the woman they loved most were unable to. She is about to go, but he takes her to his bed to copulate. She then worries about not having any excuse to invent to her husband for the lateness of the hour. Back home, the married lady hears her husband say: "If we hadn't sometimes forgotten . . . during the five years we've been married . . . that we were in love with each other--we certainly wouldn't be now." He adds: "That's why it's such a wise thing from time to time to live together like good friends." Curious to know about his past, she asks whether there was a married woman among those he knew. The question disturbs him. He asks her to promise: "That you'll never have anything to do with a woman who is the least bit under suspicion of not . . . not leading a quite spotless life." He adds: "One can only love where one finds purity and truth." They copulate. She then exclaims: "If only you'd always-" But to him: "One can't always be the lover, one has to enter the battle of life now and then, to fight and struggle!" The husband treats a sweet young girl to a meal in the private room of a restaurant. She has not had a sweetheart for 6 months and accepted his invitation because he looks a little like him, and with the same name! According to her, he was a rotter, left her in the lurch. Her head is swimming, he presses her. They copulate. She assures him: "Honest, I'm not like this . . . Honest to God- if you thought that of me . . ." She guesses that he is married and that his wife is doing the same thing. He protests, but nevertheless proposes: "Well, then- if you really want to be my sweetheart- mine alone- something can be arranged- even if I do live in Graz most of the time." The sweet young girl is invited in the poet's room. Since she is hungry, he suggests a private room in a restaurant, to which she mentions the same story as she did to the husband, having known one with a girl-friend and her fiancé. They copulate, an experience the poet considers " transcendental bliss". Unlike what he said before: "I'm not Biebitz, but Biebitz is a friend of mine. I'll introduce him to you sometime. Well, on Sunday Biebitz's play is being given. I'll send you a ticket and then I'll pick you up at the theatre afterwards. You'll tell me how you liked the play, won't you?" The poet and the actress enter a room at a country inn. To his consternation, she kneels and prays, enjoining him to pray with her. Then she asks him: "I suppose you'd like to have an affair with me, wouldn't you?" They copulate. She then tells him she considers him a caprice. But yet she has fevers out of longing for him. "A hundred and four degrees!" "That's pretty high for a caprice," he notes, to which she replies: "A caprice, you call it? I'm dying of love for you and you call it a caprice--?!" In the actress's bedroom, the count says: "Last night you were literally showered with flowers and wreaths." She confesses: "They're all in my dressing-room still. I took only your basket home with me." He says: "I'm never in the right mood till after supper." But he finds the room hot. "Do you think so?" she asks, "And it's dark, too, almost as dark as night. It is evening...it is night... close your eyes if it's too light for you. Come! ...Come!" The count resists no longer. In a poorly furnished room, the count wakes up next to the prostitute. "Well, good luck to you. The wine's still got me. Really, that beats everything...I come to a female like this and don't do anything but kiss her eyes, because she reminds me of somebody. Tell me, Leocadia, does that happen to you often, a man going away like this?... I mean, men being with you- and not wanting anything from you?" "No," she admits, "It's never happened to me before." She adds: "The maid's up already. You might give her something when you go out. The street door is open, too, so that'll save you the janitor's tip." He murmurs: "Well...it would have been beautiful if I'd only kissed her eyes. That would have been an adventure, almost...but I guess it wasn't to be...Ah--here, take this...Good night." "Good morning," she corrects him. "Oh yes, of course . . . Good morning . . . good morning," he echoes.