Study Guide

Luther

by John Osborne

Luther Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In the first of its twelve episodic scenes, Luther opens in Germany in 1506 with the young Martin Luther joining an Augustinian monastery against his father’s wishes. Luther has chosen a life of austere asceticism, while his father, a miner with entrepreneurial aspirations, had wished for his son a professional life with greater social stature. In this and subsequent scenes covering much of Martin’s life, Luther displays naïveté, anger, and an almost pathological self-hatred. At one point, Martin says, “I’m like a ripe stool in the world’s straining anus.” Throughout the play, Martin is obsessed with physical health and, most specifically, with the working of his bowels.

In the second scene, a year later, Martin prepares for and performs his first Communion Mass, with his estranged father in attendance. In the crucial third scene of the play, Martin talks with his highly judgmental father after the celebration of the Communion, and an argument ensues in which Martin’s father accuses his son of running away from life. At one point, Martin says “you make me sick,” and this otherwise casual, colloquial phrase is the key to the scene. Martin’s chronic constipation is a symbolic representation of his frustrated love for his father, his failure to please his father, and his conflicted attempt to run away from his biological roots. During the play, Martin adopts a more positive father figure, a high-ranking member of the...

(The entire section is 501 words.)

Luther Summary

Act I
Luther is set in Germany during the 1500s and follows several important events in the life of Martin Luther, the...

(The entire section is 1200 words.)