Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot

By Raymond Williams | Go to book overview

6 Two Social Plays

(i) The Weavers, by Gerhart Hauptmann

THE writer of Michael Kramer, of The Beaver Coat and Drayman Henschel, of Ulysses' Bow and The Sunken Bell and Iphigenia in Delphi, cannot be set down as a mere representative of a single dramatic type. Hauptmann's work is as various as that of Strindberg, and, although deficient in power in such a comparison, is of undoubted force. I wish to treat him here, however, solely as the author of The Weavers. In this play Hauptmann made a significant innovation in naturalist drama; the dramatic methods of his plays in other moods can, it seems to me, be more usefully examined in the work of other authors.

The naturalism of The Weavers is not new in theory. By 1892, when the play was written, the idea of the absolutely realistic treatment of a particular segment of life was a commonplace among dramatists and critics. The work of Ibsen and Strindberg and Dumasfils, to mention only the most influential names, had, in its different ways, brought to maturity the naturalist drama of the family, of personal relationships. The Weavers was different; not only did it go outside the bourgeois world in which the earlier naturalists had commonly moved; it went also outside the limited group of persons, or the family, and attempted to deal with a community. Further, it was not merely a community, in the older sense, with which Hauptmann was concerned, but a class. There had been earlier attempts at the dramatic treatment of working people, but none with this particular emphasis, and none of comparable power.

The action of The Weavers is the gathering and final eruption of a revolt among the pauperised fustian weavers of the Eulengebirge, in the 1840's. It is action, rather than plot; and this is the first of Hauptmann's major innovations. The Weavers is the first important example in naturalist drama of a method of realistic treatment which is fully emancipated from the ideas of plot of the older romantic drama. Strindberg's domestic plays, it is true, had abandoned plot as Ibsen had learned to understand it; but the abandonment went along with an

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Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 11
  • Part I 39
  • I - Henrik Ibsen 41
  • 2 - August Strindberg 98
  • 3 - Anton Chekhov 126
  • 4 - Bernard Shaw 138
  • 5 - J. M. Synge 154
  • 6- Two Social Plays 175
  • 7 - Luigi Pirandello 185
  • 8 - Jean Anouilh: a Comment 196
  • Part II 203
  • I - W. B. Yeats 205
  • 2 - T. S. Eliot 223
  • 3 - Some Verse Dramatists 247
  • 4 - Criticism into Drama 269
  • Index 279
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