The Servant in German Enlightenment Comedy

The Servant in German Enlightenment Comedy

The Servant in German Enlightenment Comedy

The Servant in German Enlightenment Comedy

Excerpt

There must always be a master and servants in all civilised communities, my lady, for it is natural, and whatever is natural is right. -- James Barrie, The Admirable Crichton

The master-servant relationship, W.H. Auden says, is the only one that satisfies all conditions of the "inner dialogue of the human personality," being a contractual agreement between real persons, an asymmetric double sovereignty, with each contributing different qualities. Elisabeth Frenzel, with an echo of Voltaire's comment on the deity, declares: "Die Literatur hitte die Dienerrolle erfunden, wenn sie öber keine reale hätte verfügen können." Auden and Frenzel are speaking of literature in general, but in drama especially, servants have played a significant role. In comedy, the most widespread and numerically dominant of theatrical forms, they come into their own. To the comic sphere belongs their reflection of or contrast to their masters, to the comic sphere above all the motif of reversal of roles, which is never far from the surface, whereby the servant becomes more than he seems, the master less. As meneur de jeu, the servant is the de facto master, wiser and cleverer than his em-

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