CHAPTER VII
General Features of Goethe's Major Plays

Looking at Goethe's major plays as a series can we make any useful generalisations about them? Can we observe a recurrent pattern?

The answer is yes, if we mean by pattern not one type of play achieved and repeated, but certain habits, certain recurrent tendencies, in Goethe's handling of drama. And then, when we have defined the pattern, we shall also find it necessary to make a very delicately balanced judgement on its dramatic merits.

Let us describe briefly the essential character of each of these plays. Götz von Berlichingen is a chronicle and an ideal portrait. Egmont is a dramatised portrait, also with elements of idealism, and including descriptive political scenes. Iphigenie auf Tauris is a solo-drama of ethical dilemma, with a subsidiary drama of guilt and redemption. Torquato Tasso is a dramatised portrait framed in a philosophical, meditative dialogue. Faust Part I is a symbolic drama in chronicle form. These concise descriptions give the clues to Goethe's handling of dramatic form. They point to a free and purposeful unorthodoxy.

The outstanding feature is the presence of powerfal dramatic element and the absence of a centrally designed plot; it is like several small machines functioning vigorously, and loosely linked up, instead of a single one driven

-203-

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Goethe's Major Plays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • Chapter I - Introduction 1
  • Chapter II - Götz Von Berlichingen 12
  • Chapter III - Clavigo, Stella, Egmont 25
  • Chapter IV - Iphigenie Auf Tauris 55
  • Chapter V - Torquato Tasso 95
  • Chapter VI - Faust Part One 149
  • Chapter VII - General Features of Goethe's Major Plays 203
  • Translations 217
  • Index 233
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