Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Georges Danton

Georges Danton (zhohrzh dan-TOH[N]), the first passive protagonist in German drama. The author makes it amply clear that Danton might have avoided imprisonment and subsequent death by escaping the Jacobins in time. In contrast to the traditional tragic hero, who comes to see the world as ominous only when he realizes that his own doom is inevitable, Danton has no illusions about the world from the play’s beginning and quietly wills his doom. Tantalizingly and ambiguously, the author never clarifies whether Danton’s failure to save his life is a consequence of his weary worldview or a rationalization of a psychological paralysis or depression that precludes any meaningful action on his part. It is not clear whether Danton expects his refusal to flee to result in his arrest, or whether he actually believes his statement, thrice made, that the Committee of Public Safety would not dare arrest a prominent revolutionary leader like himself. By leaving these possibilities open, the playwright establishes both Danton’s nihilism and boredom and his reckless nonchalance and laziness. Danton does show vitality and occasional bursts of energy, but they are focused not on purposeful deeds but on poetic evocations of his disillusionment with human nature and witty banter with his companions. His closest dramatic peer is Hamlet, with whom he shares melancholy, morbidity, sensuality, irony, verbal ingenuity,...

(The entire section is 463 words.)