History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Late German 18th
- 1 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- 2 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
- 3 Friedrich von Schiller
- 4 Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz
- 5 August von Kotzebue
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Late 18th century German theatre was led by the towering figure of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) with such plays as "Götz von Berlichingen" (1773) and "Torquato Tasso" (1790), based on 16th century historical figures, who lived from 1480 to 1562 and from 1544 to 1595, respectively, and "Clavigo" (1775), based on an episode in the life of Pierre Beaumarchais (1732-1799), the dramatist. The episode is near what actually happened except that Beaumarchais did not kill Clavigo but caused him to lose his post by appealing to the Spanish king. In that play, Marie's sufferings served as an example in Soren Kierkegaard's analysis of the psychology of the abandoned woman in his philosophical work, "Either/or" (1843).
"Torquato Tasso" has been described as "a penetrating study of a too introspective mind" (Wilson, 1937 p 128).
"Götz von Berlichingen"
Time: 16th century. Place: Germany.
In violent conflict with the bishop of Bamberg who captured one of his vassals, Goetz of Berlichingen seizes one of the bishop's men, Adalbert Weislingen, once a friend. He is ready to release Adalbert provided the prisoner promises never to fight against him again, a promise readily assented to. When Adalbert asks to marry Goetz' sister, Maria, he joyfully consents. In joy, Adalbert shakes his hand so hard that he tears off his artificial right arm made of steel. However, once freed, Adalbert renews his alliance with the bishop and marries instead Adelaide of Walldorf. Moreover, he convinces Emperor Maximilian to fight Goetz as the enemy of peace. Abandoned by the traitor, Maria accepts Friedreich of Sickengen as her husband, who proposes to fight on Goetz' behalf. When the imperial troops chase Goetz from his castle to Heilbronn and the emperor's commissioner is ready to arrest him as a rebel, Friedreich's troops save him. Goetz returns safely back to his castle, where the emperor orders him to remain. But when the peasants revolt against their masters and Goetz is proposed as their leader, he accepts, though only in hope of containing their disordered rage. He cannot and abandons them when they burn Miltenberg just as the imperial troops close in. The nobles burn alive, break on wheels, and tear apart the rebel leaders. After learning of Goetz' imprisonment at Weislingen castle, his wife, Elizabeth, sends Maria to Adalbert, now commissioner, to beg for her brother's life. As a result, a sickly Adalbert tears up Goetz' death sentence before being poisoned to death by Adelaide's adulterous squire, who, stricken with remorse, confesses his crime and drowns himself. After learning of Adelaide's adultery and murder, judges of a secret tribunal send out an avenger carrying a rope and sword. Sent back to his wife, Goetz feels the end near. "Are you looking for Goetz? He has been gone for a long time," he declares. After learning of the death of one his favorite companions, he warns: "Close your hearts tighter than your doors: the days of treachery approach." Soon, murderers reach his home and Goetz is fatally stricken while crying out: "Liberty! Liberty!" before his wife's face. "Only up there, where you are," she responds.
Time: 1770s. Place: Madrid, Spain.
Bored of his relation with Marie Beaumarchais and considering her a clog for future advancements, Clavigo abandons her after being promoted as the king's archivist, though she had facilitated the obtaining of this post by teaching him French. Yet he has qualms about leaving her, which his friend, Carlos, tries to dispel by saying there will be time enough to marry after achieving a higher social station. Though her older sister, Sophie, tries to uplift her spirits, Marie remains despondent. "What does my fate matter?" she asks, "what does it matter that a young girl's heart is torn apart, that she is consumed with sorrow and that her unhappy youth tires itself in tears?" She hates Clavigo on seeing him with another woman, but arms herself with only a dagger of the mind. She is both anxious and happy after receiving her brother's letter, stating: "If you are innocent, vengeance, the most terrible vengeance will strike the traitor." Beaumarchais asks Clavigo whether he has any cause of complaint against her sister. He has none, but yet refuses to sign a letter admitting his guilt. When Beaumarchais assures him that he will hound him till he signs, Clavigo yields on one condition. "Promise me not to use it before I have a chance to persuade Marie that my heart is changed and full of remorse, before I speak to her sister to intercede on my behalf to my loved one," he pleads. Beaumarchais reluctantly agrees. Marie shivers on hearing that Clavigo has spoken to Sophie. "Your heart speaks for Clavigo more than you know," Sophie assures her. "If you do not possess the courage to see him again, it is because you ardently wish him to come back." Sophie's husband, Guilbert, points out that whether her brother kills Clavigo or is killed by him, he is lost either way, since Clavigo's death would be avenged. One day, Marie cries out as she hears Clavigo's voice. He avers that nothing has really changed, that he loves her and she loves him. Marie is unable to speak, but through Sophie lets him know he is forgiven. But, left alone, Clavigo begins to doubt about the soundness of his judgment. Carlos reminds him that many women of high rank are willing to ensnare him and that no man at court would approve of such a misalliance. He convinces him to hide while he finds a way to have Beaumarchais arrested. Though outwardly happier, Marie is still anxious, suffers from heart palpitations, and feels she does not deserve such a man as Clavigo. Beaumarchais receives a letter from the French ambassador in Spain, informing him that Clavigo had lodged a complaint against him for threatening him with violence. He, Marie, Sophie, and Guilbert all believe he should escape before the authorities arrest him. At the news of Clavigo's double treachery and her brother's danger, Marie is seized with violent palpitations and dies. Stricken with remorse, Clavigo interrupts the funeral procession to see his dead love one last time, but is attacked by Beaumarchais. They fight with swords until the vengeful brother stabs him. When Carlos arrives, the dying Clavigo beseeches him to forego avenging his death as Beaumarchais escapes.
Time: 16th century. Place: Belriguardo, Italy.
On a lawn ornamented with the busts of epic poets, Leonora d'Este, princess and sister to Alphonse, duke of Ferrare, and a second Leonora, countess of Scandiano, both devoted to poetry, weave garlands and place crowns on the head of Virgil and Ariosto. Whatever the subject, the princess loves to follow "the dialogue of noble spirits", to which the countess assents: "After so many grave exchanges, the ear and intimate sense taste a soft repose to a poet's rhymes, who spread in our soul in suave songs the emotion of exquisite feelings." The court poet, Torquato Tasso, presents to the duke his epic poem: "Jerusalem delivered". As a reward for his efforts, the princess removes the wreath from Virgil's bust and places it on Torquato's head, who accepts it while feeling unworthy of that honor. "It consumes my hair," he cries out. Torquato questions the princess about certain rumors of a possible marriage for her, which she, to his joy, denies. "Each of my days belongs to you," he swears, transported. In the duke's palace, knowing it is her wish, Torquato approaches the secretary of state, Antonio, with a friendlier face than before, but he is coldly received. Humiliated by his insolence, the poet draws his sword on him. Antonio scorns to fight, reminding him where they are. The duke has no choice but to approve Antonio's behavior, whereby Torquato sadly yields his sword and removes the wreath from his head. The princess and countess agree that the latter should take him to Rome and Florence along with her husband, but Antonio disapproves of that idea. Informed of their plan by the countess, Torquato also disapproves. To soften the impact of their quarrel, the countess reports that Antonio never denigrates him, to which Torquato responds: "He is never so evil as in his praises, never so harmful as in his compliments." Yet to determine whether he has a rival for the princess'love, Torquato pretends to need a leave of absence from the duke for completing another poem. To the poet's disgust, Antonio accepts, as does the duke. While taking leave of him, Torquato dismisses his patron's solicitude: "Rest is what rests me least," he comments. While taking leave of the princess, in a sort of delirium, Torquato embraces her. She pushes him away. "He has lost his mind. Stop him," the duke cries out to Antonio. As the poet is seized, the duke turns away from him.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) continued premier work from early to late 18th century Germany, particularly for "Emilia Galotti" (1772), "Minna von Barnhelm" (1767), and "Nathan der Weise" (Nathan the wise, 1779).
The source of "Emilia Galotti" is an anecdote described by Livy (64 BC-17 AD) in his chronicle of ancient Roman history on the subject of Virginia (465 BC–449 BC), killed by her father, Virginius, to prevent her from becoming a slave. The story was previously adapted for the theatre by John Webster (1580-1634) and Thomas Heywood (1570-1641) under the title of "Appius and Virginia" (1625). Lewes (1896) pointed out that in "Emilia Galotti", "the characters are drawn with clear, sharp outlines, well contrasted. The weak vacillating Prince, eager to profit by Marinelli's villanies, yet afraid to meet the consequences— prone to crime, yet throwing the blame on others— signing a death warrant with the same levity as if it were a billet doux— is capitally studied." (p 214 ) The play made Schopenhauer squirm in his seat as no other (Parerga and Paralipomena, 1851). The sight of virtue subverting herself makes anyone uncomfortable. Brown (1971 p 123-130) summarized opinions of various critics in regard to whether Emilia was sincere in telling her father that she might accept the prince as a lover or whether it is merely a ploy to goad him into killing her, rather than be subject to the prince's whims. The unwillingness of Odoardo to kill the prince and Appiani's murder push her towards this drastic extremity. To some critics, the motivation to commit suicide is insufficient unless we accept her statement that she would have eventually submitted herself as the prince's whore. In the view of Fischer-Lichte (2002), "Emilia sees her virtue less threatened by the power of the Prince than her own willingness to be seduced. She is not afraid of a weak will which would allow her to give in to the power of the Prince, but rather her own drive, her own senses, which can no longer be controlled under such sensual surroundings." (p 158)
"Minna von Barnhelm" "provides an appealing romance in the behavior of the spirited heroine who woos her lover when his loss of position and lack of means prevent him from taking the initiative." (Gasser, 1954 p 320)
In "Nathan the wise", Saladin spares Curd’s life because of a family resemblance, a universal appeal. Curd saves Recha’s life out of feelings of general humanity. Nathan raises Recha despite the fact that Christians had murdered his wife and sons. All these as well as Nathan's fable and Recha’s triple appurtenance of Christian, Jew, and Muslim, point in the same direction in that human concerns as a whole supersede concerns of state and religion (Brown, 1971 p 158-161).
Time: 17th century. Place: Italy.
The painter, Conti, presents to the prince a portrait of Emilia Galotti. The prince is quite struck with it. Conti nevertheless says the work left him dissatified, but only to a certain extent. "I am happy with my dissatisfaction," he says. What is lost from the eye to the brush makes him prouder than what he achieved. Marinelli, the court chamberlain, tells the prince the pictured woman is to be married this very day to Count Appiani, at which the prince tosses the painting violently aside. The prince first accosts Emilia at church and is all the more impressed. A frightened Emilia reveals her conversation with the prince to her mother, Claudia, then, calmer, considers she has nothing to fear. Marinelli proposes to Count Appiani an errand he may have the honor of doing for the prince, but the the count rudely sends him away. Marinelli forms a second plan: to ambush the wedding party with his men on the way to church and then pretend a rescue with a second group of men. But Appiani shoots one of his men and is fatally shot by another. Nevertheless, Marinelli continues with his plan, ushering inside the prince's country mansion the badly shaken mother and daughter separated from each other. Emilia is dismayed on seeing the prince and wonders where her mother is. "Never think you need anyone's protection rather than mine," the prince assures her. Marinelli confronts Claudia, who wishes to know where her daughter is. Claudia recognizes Marinelli as the man who had quarreled with the count and also the last one mentioned on the count's dying lips in a tone which makes her deeply suspicious for their safety, yet he guides her towards her daughter. Countess Orsina arrives to meet the prince, but he refuses to see her. She guesses correctly the prince's infatuation with Emilia, approaches Marinelli as if to whisper a secret, then shouts: "The prince is a murderer. Tomorrow I'll shout it in the market-place." She goes over to Odoardo, Emilia's father, and hands him a dagger. Odoardo has every intention of removing his his daughter from the prince's mansion, but the prince refuses, as he considers her an important witness of the bloody conflict, proposing instead the house of another of his chancellors. Left alone with his daughter, Odoardo considers her suspiciously calm. He shows her the dagger and says he meant to stab the prince and Marinelli with it. When Emilia asks for the dagger, he refuses to give it to her. Reflecting on the old Roman tale of Virginius, Emilia declares: "There was once a father, who, to save his daughter from disgrace, stabbed her through the heart with the first dagger he could find and thus gave her life a second time, but all such deeds are from days long past. There are no such fathers now." Odoardo proves her wrong, to the prince's horror and dismay as he discovers her corpse. Frustrated at all points, the prince angrily dismisses Marinelli from his employ.
"Minna von Barnhelm"
Time: 1760s. Place: Germany.
In the aftermath of the Seven Years War (1756-1763), a discharged Prussian officer, Major von Tellheim, has had difficulty in paying for his room, so that the innkeeper offers it to a Saxon gentlewoman who has just arrived, Minna von Barhelm, and gives him a poorer one. As a consequence, Tellheim wants to leave the inn. To pay the dept, he pawns his ring but yet refuses money owed him by the widow of his dead captain. The ring is purchased by the innkeeper and recognized on his finger by Minna as the one she once gave Tellheim, the lover she has been searching after receiving from him only a single letter since his discharge from the army. When Tellheim enters her room, she is disappointed to find his poverty prevents him from marrying her. To help ease his financial distress, Tellheim's former sergeant, Werner, pretends to deliver money to him on the part of the widow he has just dismissed and so is quickly found out. While waiting for Tellheim's visit, a French knight informs Minna that the king has been made aware of Tellheim's merit so that his fortunes will likely improve. In view of his losses at gaming, Minna gives the knight money to be invested for both of them at cards. The knight promises her share even if he has to cheat. Tellheim reminds Minna that he lost money to the government as a result of paying from his own pocket a contribution to the war that was never levied in her district, which goverment officials disbelieved belonged to him. "Minna von Barnhelm deserves an irreprochable husband," he asserts. "It is a worthless love which does not scruple to expose its object to scorn. He is a worthless man who is not ashamed to owe a woman all his good fortune, whose blind tenderness-" She interrupts by giving him a ring, not, as he thinks, the ring he once gave her, but the one she first gave him, but only seeming to free him from their engagement. To his astonishment, he learns from her maid, Franziska, that her uncle, Count von Bruchsal, has disinherited her for refusing a husband of his choice. To avoid appearing as a deceiver, Tellheim requests Werner's help, but this is rendered unnecessary by the delivery of the king's letter stating that he will receive the money owed him for his contribution to the war. Overjoyed, Sellheim declares that he will quit the army and marry her, but she draws back her hand, reminding him that "it is a worthless love which does not scruple to expose its object to scorn". "Equality is the only sure bond of love," she adds. "The happy Mina only wished to live for the happy Tellheim." To win her, he prepares to tear up the letter until Minna prevents him while yet declaring: "She is a worthless creature who is not ashamed to owe her whole happiness to the blind tenderness of a man." When he discovers that she bought his pawned ring, he angrily concludes that she releases him until she makes known that the ring he possesses was meant for his finger and that her poverty was a fiction to test him. Werner is also made happy by Franziska's hand in marriage and his departure to the war in Persia. "In ten years' time," he declares, "you will be a general's wife or a widow."
"Nathan the Wise"
Time: 12th century. Place: Jerusalem.
While Nathan was away at Babylon, a fire broke out at his house. Daja, Christian confidante to his daughter, Recha, informs him that a knight templar of the third crusade, Curd de Stauffen, recently released by Saladin, the sultan, because of his resemblance to his brother, dead twenty years ago, saved his daughter from the fire. Nathan receives a visit from Al-Hafi, dervish and Saladin's treasurer, hired because, having known mendacity, he is able all the more to provide for beggars in the city. Meanwhile, a lay friar, Bonafides, asks the templar to carry a letter on the part of the Patriarch of Jerusalem to King Philip of France concerning Saladin's war tactics against him, but he refuses to act as a spy. Friar Bonafides then asks him to consider murdering Saladin. Since Curd owes Saladin his life, he considers such an act infamous. The sultan being out of funds, his sister, Sittah, suggests that Al-Hafi may borrow from Nathan. To this, the dervish comments: "He never lends, so that he always has the means to give." Nathan meets Curd to thank him for saving his house. But after being harassed by his daughter's thanks, the knight dismisses speaking to him, aside from saying that he wearied of his life after deciding to save a mere Jewess. "Great and abominable!" Nathan comments on Curd's feat. Nevertheless, in gratitude, he kisses the burnt spot on the knight's coat. When Al-Hafi discovers that Saladin requests to see Nathan, he informs Nathan that it is for the purpose of a loan, even worse that Nathan will become his treasurer and thereby lose all his money, so that they should leave together for India. Instead, Nathan goes to Saladin while Curd goes to Nathan's house to find Recha. The young couple are pleased with one another, his leaving early not being a bad sign, according to Daja. "The water is boiling, but he does not want it to spill over," she comments. When Saladin meets Nathan, he asks his opinion as to what is the best religion. Nathan answers him with the following fable: a man once possessed a ring and gave it to the son he loved most, who, notwithstanding order of birth, was to be the leader of his house after his death, and so on from one generation to the next until the ring came into the hands of a father who could not decide which son he loved most, and so he asked an artist to make two other rings, exactly the same as the original, saying to each son it is the true ring, whereby quarrels ensued and it was impossible to recognize the true one. Asked about what the brothers should do, a judge declares he heard the ring belongs to the brother who is most loved. The brothers stand mute. "You cannot answer?" asks he, "then all three of you are tricked tricksters. None of the rings is authentic." Nathan offers him the money he knows Saladin needs. On his way back, Curd asks Nathan for his daughter's hand in marriage. Nathan invites him to his house. "No," says the knight, "there lies fire." Alone with Curd, Daja confides to him that Recha, unknown to herself, is Nathan's adopted daughter born of Christian parents. Curd then questions the doctrine of the church in such a case to the patriarch, who answers that the Jew should be burnt to death even if he did not raise the child in the Jewish tradition but only taught about God in general. The patriarch would like to find that Jew. Knowing of this threat, Benafides confides to Nathan he was the messenger who gave him Recha eighteen years ago, beseeching him to keep that secret for the sake of his safety. Despite the patriarch's opinion, Curd asks Nathan a second time for his daughter's hand. Nathan answers he now must ask that question to her brother. Meanwhile, Daja reveals to Recha her true origin. Recha admits to Sittah that she fears losing her father while on her way to plead for Saladin's intercession in the matter. Nathan discloses to everyone that in a prayer-book obtained from Benafides he learned that Recha is Curd's brother. From the knight's resemblance to his brother, Saladin correctly deduces that he himself is the uncle of Curd and Recha, so that Recha is at the same time a Christian, a Jewess, and an Arab.
Friedrich von Schiller
Also remembered as a powerful dramatist is Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) for "Maria Stuart" (Mary Stuart, 1800). Wilson (1937) wrote that the play "is a magnificent study of two women, with Mary infinitely the finer character. Human, even sinful, intensely feminine, always courageous, she is represented at the end as having triumphed over earthly desires, whilst Elizabeth is shown as a shrewd politician, vain, spiteful, but with a streak of undeniable greatness. The play is not historically accurate, particularly as regards Leicester. Nor is it so severely simple as the works of Goethe’s later period. But there are no irrelevancies and the events are determined by the characters. Elizabeth’s hesitancy is wonderfully portrayed and there are few better scenes in drama than the one between the two women." (p 132) Although criticized by some as being sententious. “rather than an instance of abstract moralizing, [the sententious element] “emerges naturally from the dialogue.” Guthrie (2009 p 137)
Time: 1580s. Place: Fotheringay and London, England.
By order of Queen Elizabeth of England, Mary Stuart is held prisoner in Fotheringay castle. To counter this, Mortimer is the agent of a mission from the cardinal of Lorraine in the faction of the Guises to liberate Mary Stuart and let her reign as Catholic queen of England. Mary receives a death sentence by an English tribunal for her part in the Babington plot, but Queen Elizabeth, her cousin, hesitates to put her to death. She negotiates with France in the matter of a possible husband in the duke of Anjou. On one hand, the queen wishes her dead, on the other she is fearful of executing a crowned head. "The part that I take in her death must be forever doubtful," she says to Mortimer. She wants him to execute Mary secretly. Mortimer gives to the earl of Leicester a letter from Mary, as the one most likely to save her. The proposed marriage betwen Mary and Catherine de Medici's son is certain to make the earl lose favor at court. Mortimer reveals that he has accomplices to free her, and, at the same time, Elizabeth's order of death. Leicester tries to convince the queen to see Mary, as if by accident hunting in the park near Fotheringay castle. The two queens confront each other. "Do not profane the Tudor blood flowing in my veins as well as yours," Mary begs her. Had Elizabeth declared Mary as heir to the throne, none of this would have happened. But to Elizabeth, this is not a viable option. "Your family is papism," Elizabeth declares. "I renounce all my possessions of this realm," Mary assures her. In anger, they trade insults as to Mary's known lovers and Elizabeth's secret ones. Eventually, Mary makes known she considers herself Elizabeth's queen. Alone with her, Mortimer counsels Mary to hope for nothing from Leicester. Instead, he declares in a frenzy his love for her. Guards enter quickly to seize him as a result of a rumor that Elizabeth has been assassinated on her way to London. However, one of Mortimer's accomplices, acting alone, failed in his task. Mortimer's friends flee, but he remains to "die on her coffin" if need be. Meanwhile, the marriage plan with the duke of Anjou is annulled. Mortimer says to Leicester that Burleigh, Lord Treasurer of the realm, has found a letter in Mary's cell, mentioning the portrait Leicester received from her. Leicester commands his guards to seize Mortimer as a traitor. In despair, Mortimer stabs himself to death. Before the queen and Burleigh, Leicester defends himself by revealing Mortimer's treachery. Elizabeth is greatly surprised and wishes Mary dead. Burleigh suggests that Leicester should be Mary's executioner. Moreover, the people, in rage and fearful for their queen's safety, demand Mary's death, but she hesitates again, yet gives to Davison, her secretary of state, the order of execution. He insists on hearing from her mouth what is her will. "Act according to your prudence," she answers. He is frightened and wishes to hear more explicit orders. "Do your duty," she counters. Burleigh takes from the confused Davison the death-warrant. In her death-march, Mary is firm, serenely declaring: "I feel again the crown on my head and noble pride in my soul." In prison, one of Mary's accusers in the Babington plot admits he lied, so that a new inquiry must be made. The queen and Lord Shrewsbury ask Davison to restore the death-warrant. When he cannot, the queen accuses him of treachery. "You have treacherously overstepped the bounds of your commission," she declares, ordering him to be conducted to the tower. However, Shrewsbury, together with Burleigh and Leicester, intervenes on his behalf to avoid this injustice.
Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz
Also of note in this period: Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz (1751-1792) for the middle-class drama, "Der Hofmeister" (The tutor, 1778). Lenz also wrote "The soldiers" (1776) in which Marie is betrothed to Stolzius, a cloth-merchant, but subjugated by Baron Desportes who flirts with her and then abandons her when his debts run too high. To prevent Marie from interacting with her son and helping to recover her reputation, Countess de la Roche offers to keep her as her daughter's companion, but when she discovers her flirting late at night with Lieutenant Murray, she dismisses her. As a result, Marie runs away to find Desportes, but is intercepted by his game-keeper. Stolzius enters into Murray's service. When he overhears Desportes say that the girl is fair game for his game-keeper, Stolzius poisons his soup and his own. Marie is left without means and alone and is eventually discovered begging on the road by her father.
Time 1770s. Place: Prussia and Saxony.
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Privy Councillor Von Berg wonders why his brother, a major, is about to hire a tutor for his son and daughter. The major assures him he will tell the tutor what to do in due course. "In other words, you'll be a tutor to your tutor," the councillor responds. Despite these criticisms, the major hires Läuffer for 400 thalers, though his wife promised him 450. He warns him not to take liberties with his daughter, Gustchen, for otherwise "a bullet through the head and no nonsense!" Gustchen loves her cousin, the councillor's son, Fritz, and they promise to remain true to each other despite his departure for the university for three years. Von Berg discovers their love, but finds the matter childish. In course of time, Läuffer's father, a pastor, tells the councillor that he is scandalized about his son's drop in salary to a paltry 100 ducats. The major justifies the decrease by saying that his son does not accomplish much as a tutor and his position is compromised by a loss of freedom, since "freedom is man's element as water to a fish". His salary eventually drops even lower to 60 ducats. At the university, Frïtz and his friend, Pätus, live under difficult circumstances. Their coffee tastes like barley, which Pätus throws out the window, drenching their landlady. Pätus is later seen to act strangely by neighboring women, three huge dogs chasing him and he in a wolf-skin coat in blazing summer heat. Back home, the tutor's salary drops to 40 ducats. With her lover away, Gustchen wastes away, the major blaming his wife and her stepmother for "strictness and cruelties". In seeking to protect Pätus from being pursued for debts, Fritz is thrown into prison in his place and seemingly abandoned. Yet Pätus returns to his friend, but is forced away by him before the creditors arrive. On beholding his daughter's health deteriorate, the major himself starts to waste away. Suddenly, his wife rushes in to say that the tutor has taken Gustchen away, at which the major, berserk with more than a father's worry and hate, runs off in pursuit. His friend, Count Vermouth, traces the fleeing and desperate Läuffer to a village school, where a schoolmaster, Wenzeslaus, protects him from discovery. With no news from his daughter for over a year, the major's ravings increase. She lives in a hovel inside the woods with Martha, a blind old woman, but wishes to return home. The major follows his brother's directions towards Wenzeslaus' schoolhouse, where, in a fit of madness, he shoots Läuffer in the arm. When interrogated, Läuffer is unable to reveal the whereabouts of his daughter. She is groping among the bushes nearby. Under the impression that her father died of grief for her sake, she dives into a pond, but is saved from drowning by her pursuing father. Meanwhile, Pätus is still in debt, notably to a poor musician named Rehaar, who blames him for attempting to seduce his daughter. Insulted, Pätus slaps his face, much to Fritz' disapproval, who intends to fight his friend on the musician's behalf. In the schoolhouse, Läffner gives a coin to the begging Martha; then, looking down at her arms, faints after discovering Gustchen's baby. In the woods, Pätus, unable to fight against his friend, throws down his sword, but Rehaar draws his and stabs him in the arm. His sword is knocked away by Fritz. To avoid more violence, Pätus offers to marry Rehaar's daughter, a proposal accepted by Rehaar. Meanwhile, stricken with guilt, a bed-ridden Läuffer reveals to Wenzeslaus he has castrated himself, at which the philosophic Wenzeslaus laughs in approval. "A second Origen!" he exclaims. Meanwhile, Fritz, also guilt-stricken, learns of Gustchen's dishonor and thinks she has drowned. Rehaar's daughter is taken up by Councillor Von Burg and makes friends with Gustchen. After three years, Fritz is able to return home thanks to a lottery ticket won by Pätus. Despite his handicap, Läuffner falls in love with a girl named Lise, much to Wenzeslaus' disapproval. On learning he is a eunuch, she appears indifferent. Fritz becomes reunited with Gustchen, Pätus with his wife, and Pätus' father with his son and mother, Martha.
August von Kotzebue
August von Kotzebue (1761-1819) is one of the originators of melodrama, achieving distinction with "Menschenhass und Reue" (The stranger, more precisely Misanthropy and repentance, 1789).
"Misanthropy and repentance"
Time: 1780s. Place: Germany.
A poor old man, Tobias, is an object of charity for Mrs Haller, manager in the house of Count Wintersen. One day, a man living in the premises of Wintersen's grounds, known only as "the stranger" beholds Tobias pray. The stranger's servant, Francis, says fo this activity: "Hope is the nurse of life." "And her cradle is the grave," the stranger retorts. He gives Tobias money to buy his son's release from the army. "Yes, I must envy those who, with the will, have the power to do good," Francis reflects. When the count returns to his house, he sees someone unfamiliar to him and asks Solomon, his steward: "Who is that ape in the corner?" Solomon answers: "Ape!— Oh! that is— with respect to your excellency be it spoken— the son of my body, by name, Peter." As the count, Peter, and his little son walk on the grounds, a bridge breaks under the son, plunging him into the river, but he is saved from drowning by the stranger, who refuses to be thanked. Later, the count's brother, Baron Steinfort, confesses to his sister that he loves Mrs Haller. Curious to know more of her past, the countess interrogates Mrs Haller, who asks whether she had ever heard of Countess Waldbourg. The countess replies: "I think I heard, at the neighboring court, of such a creature. She plunged an honorable husband into misery. She ran away with a villain." That is indeed Mrs Haller. When the baron comes over to the stranger's house to thank him for the rescue, he discovers that the stranger is Charles, an old dear friend of his. Charles lived happily with his wife for awhile, then a false friend stole her away from him. Since then, he has lived alone, separated from her and two children. Steinfort invites him to supper, but more importantly avers: "You shall sue on my behalf to Mrs. Haller. You have the talent of persuasion." But as soon as Mrs Haller sees the stranger, she shrieks and swoons. The baron proposes "to reunite two lovely souls". To facilitate his marriage with another woman, Mrs Haller offers him a written acknowledgment of her guilt, but he tears up the paper. On his side, he offers her money, which she also declines. She refuses jewels as well as other objects of many painful memories. As they start to walk away separately, she encounters her son and he his daughter. The estranged husband and wife look back at each other, approach, and embrace.