Academic journal article German Quarterly

Weh dem, der lugt! Grillparzer's Janus-Faced Comedy1

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Weh dem, der lugt! Grillparzer's Janus-Faced Comedy1

Article excerpt

Grillparzer's comedy Weh dem, der lugt! not only caused considerable personal grief for its author at its failed premiere on March 6,1838, but has also occasioned some controversy as to its merits, its main theme(s), and its position within the author's oeuvre. Designating Weh dem, der lugt! as "untief" (91) in 1967, Gunter Schable further maintained:

Dennoch wird diesem Lustspiel Grillparzers zu Recht die großte Geringfugigkeit unter seinen Stucken zugemessen. Es ist das Produkt der deutlich hervortretenden Absicht zu Lockerungsubungen, und es hat, mit Ausnahme seiner Sprache, mit den anderen Stucken erstaunlich wenig Gemeinsames. (90)

In what amounts to a decisive refutation of Schable's position, Ruth Angress argued convincingly for the comedy's backward-looking face when she attempted to "shed new light on the theme, structure and aesthetic intention of Weh dem, der lugt!, largely through a comparison of this play with Ein treuer Diener seines Herrn on the one hand and the Medea trilogy, Das goldene Vließ, on the other" (335). Various other critics have also pointed out similarities with the earlier tragedies.2

Parallels to later tragedies that would constitute the "forward-looking face" of the comedy are also a point of dissension among critics. Birbaumer argued that "Weh dem, der lugt! stellt tatsachlich den Abschluß einer Schaffensperiode dar" (56), and more recently, Roe (1991) has faulted the comedy for "an absence of the psychological complexities that mark the characterization of Ottokar, Erny, Hero, Libussa, and Alphons" (208). Several commentators have nonetheless found correspondences between Weh dem, der lugt! and the later dramas Libussa, Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg and Die Judin von Toledo. Beriger refers to the "Gegensatz von Ideal ... und Wirklichkeit" (109) as being fundamental to the comedy under analysis here,3 Libussa, and Ein Bruderzwist by outlining philosophical views held in common by Bishop Gregor in Weh dem, der lugt! and Emperor Rudolf II in Ein Bruderzwist (110).4 In Hock's analysis the Lustspiel promotes the same lesson as Libussa, i.e., "das Tun [hat] hoher zu gelten als die tatenlose Bewahrung unfruchtbarer Reinheit, sofern es namlich nicht im Dienst der Selbstsucht, sondern der liebe steht" (22). Bandet has maintained that Weh dem, der lugt! not only looks back to Sappho but also ahead to Libussa and Ein Bruderzwist in its treatment of language (164), while Jones sees a precedent for Die Judin in the implied lesson of the comedy that one can only be truthful after the successful integration of one's instincts and drives (44).5 Whereas these observations all have merit, to date the secondary literature has failed to recognize the full extent to which Weh dem, der lugt! looks ahead to the three posthumous plays mentioned above.

In an examination of the status of Weh dem, der lugt! relative to the other dramas, two considerations stand out. First, according to a report by August von Littrow-Bischoff, Grillparzer, notoriously critical of his own works, regarded the comedy as one of his finest plays: "Denn er hielt gerade das Stuck, mit welchem er keinen Erfolg gehabt, fur eines der besten" (quoted in Bachmaier 690). And second, one should bear in mind the extended period of time over which he created his comedy. Sporadically working on it between 1820 and 1837, he completed the first three acts of Libussa and the first and part of the second act of Ein Bruderzwist and Diejudin during the same period. Moreover, in the "Stoffenverzeichnis" of 1826, an inventory of his then current literary projects, he included Weh dem, der lugt! among the titles of the three posthumous plays, indeed listing it in third position. Pornbacher remarked on this procedure: "Uberraschend ist zunachst, daß Grillparzer sein Lustspiel innerhalb der Tragodienstoffe aufnotiert und nicht bei den Lustspielen" (52). Hence, in consideration of the fact that he was working on all four dramas during the same period, one would expect some cross-pollination among them, even though the playwright himself does not allude to any interdependence in his letters and diaries. …

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