Peter Handke Drama Analysis
Peter Handke calls his first three plays—Offending the Audience, Self-Accusation, and Prophecy—Sprechstücke (literally, speaking pieces). Both “speech” and “piece” are important, for Handke does away with such mundane dramatic considerations as plot and character, replacing them with activities and speakers. Thus, all three plays are made up of speech—pronounced word and rhetorical gesture—which is not involved in imitating an action. The plays examine the power and banality of public and private speech.
Offending the Audience
Offending the Audience, the first of these plays to be produced, appeared in 1966 at Frankfurt’s Theater am Turm, a theater known for its dedication to the avant-garde. The play was accepted there only after it had been rejected by some sixty other more conservative theaters, and the avant-garde setting may have lessened the play’s impact, for it depends on the assumptions and conventions of mainstream theater—a theater in which William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller, and more recently Brecht have been the mainstays of the repertory. The play also depends on the predictable reactions of the patrons of such a theater—middlebrow, middle-class, and conservatively dressed.
The audience enters a theater that appears set up for business as usual, complete with assiduous ushers and elegant programs. The usual routine occurs: Doors close...
(The entire section is 2906 words.)
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