Portland State University. Department of Foreign Languages
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in German
Georg Kaiser (1878-1945) -- Criticism and interpretation, Women -- Drama
1 online resource (3, ii, 112 pages)
This thesis' focuses on the characterization of the "woman", who occupies a very prominent part in the dramatic works of playwright Georg Kaiser (1878-1945). The purpose of this study is twofold: the first part re-examines the early plays Die judische Witwe (1910) and Europa (1910) and basically re-affirms the findings that Judith and Europa are "elementary beings", driven by only one force, their overpowering sexual desire. It can be pointed out, though, that already in these plays Kaiser turned toward mythology - which includes Old and New Testament for him - in the choice of his protagonists.
The examination of Das Frauenopfer (1918) and Octobertag (1928) shows that, contrary to previous opinion, it is not erotic adventurism which motivates the women in these plays, but a more spiritualized love which, though it may have started with erotic desires, transcends reality by its intensity of feeling. In Das Frauenopfer the woman sacrifices herself twice for her husband who experiences a second "rerbirth" through her death. In Oktobertag Catherine's intensity of feeling is so strong that she is living in a "higher realm of reality", which is the only reality for her. Through her love she lifts the man Marrien to the heights of her world. Marrien proclaims the beginning of a "second life" for himself which only now is his real life. Their life together becomes possible only through the death of another man, however.
The actual importance in these plays lies in these recurring motives: the intertwining of life and death, where life is possible only through the death of someone, and the theme of re-birth, a second life, where a parallel experience in Kaiser's own life can be seen. Kaiser's move in the direction of primary - primeval - human experience is underscored by the orphan-childhood of the protagonists: Countess Lavalette, Elise, Catherine, and Rosamunde share the fate of being orphans, a fate which is an archetypical experience, prominent in myths.
The second part examines the plays Alain und Elise (1938) and Rosamunde Floris (1937/38). These plays have been called absurd and incomprehensible in that Elise and Rosamunde heap lies, exile and death on people around them and are still not guilty of any crime. The plain dramatic action is incomprehensible, but the examination of the symbols shows that they all belong to the subconscious layer of archetypical symbols present in all mankind, taken either directly from Greek mythology or having parallels in the symbols of the Great Mother, as described by C. G. Jung and others. Through recognition of these symbols Elise is shown to be a mythical figure and Rosamunde is recognized to be a Demeter-Kore figure, which in Greek mythology represents the synthesis of the goddesses of Life and Death.
The further examination of Kaiser's writings points out that his goal was to show the "synthesis of man", man's Allheit, his courage to live "though man has death in him from the first day of his life". Kaiser's essay Mythos states that man, through the ages, tried to explain the secrets of Life and Death in myths. For Kaiser, the role of the woman takes on this dimension, since woman, by her very nature, is closest to the secrets of the "Great Mother". In this study it can be shown how Kaiser's image of the woman changes from the one-sidedness of the early plays to the all embracing mythical beings of the late plays.
The "mythical existence" explains the paradox that these murdering women are shown to be images of innocence: man in myth does not have a personal conscience. His acts are responsible only to a collectivistic, conformistic type of law. This, too, is implied in Kaiser's essay Mythos, and perhaps the prominence of characters without personal conscience has implications for the time during which these plays were written, Germany at the height of the "Myth of the Twentieth Century".
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Justen, Wolfgang H., "Die Gestalt der Frau in ausgewählten Dramen George Kaisers" (1970). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 903.