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Monday, January 25, 2010


THE WEAVERS by Gerhart Hauptmann 1892
Translated by Mary Morison

“The Weavers” may be the first (only?) play in which an entire community is the protagonist. There is no main character. There are forty named characters PLUS enough supernumeraries to effect crowd scenes. I wanted to throw my hands up at one point, wondering how else this play could have been written and yet knowing it would likely be DOA if written today.

The piece is a history play. At the time it was written, the uprising of Silesian weavers was only 50 years past. While reading, it’s clear that Hauptmann sympathized with the oppressed weavers. However, the end left me wondering how he viewed violent uprising as a path to liberation. In the final scene, a disabled elderly weaver is shot dead while watching the uprising from a window, leaving his blind wife calling out to him. There’s certainly some ambivalence in that ending. It was a compelling read.

Hauptmann won the Nobel Prize in 1912. He was an avowed pacifist during the first world war.

THE VALE OF CONTENT by Hermann Sudermann 1895
Translated by William Ellery Leonard

I found this play to be a complete snore. It’s sentimental and has very little to say. I could not have cared less about the bourgeois characters and their stultified passions. Ugh!

Sudermann was a German dramatist who died in 1928. He was very successful commercially, and his plays served as the basis for a number of German films. He was a nationalist, and apparently quite popular during the Nazi years.

Plays read so far from "Chief Contemporary Dramtists" (Cambridge, Mass 1915):

"The Rising of the Moon"
by Lady Gregory

"Lady Windemere's Fan"
by Oscar Wilde

"The Hourglass"
by William Butler Yeats

"Riders to the Sea" J. M. Synge

"The Scarecrow -- a tragedy of the ludicrous" by Percy Mackaye.

"The Witching Hour"
by Augustus Thomas

"The Weavers" by Gerhart Hauptmann

"The Vale of Content" by Hermann Sudermann

-- Uke Jackson

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