Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Franz Woyzeck is a conscript fusilier, a poor, simple soldier with a peasant’s slow mind and a peasant’s superstitions. The only happiness he has in his wretched existence comes from his relationship with his sweetheart Marie and their small son. Because his army pay does not suffice for the support of his household, he is forced to earn additional money by performing menial tasks about the camp and in the garrison town where his regiment is stationed.
Serving as a barber’s apprentice in his youth, he is often called in to shave his Captain. The officer, a man of speculative, ironic temperament, likes to talk about such topics as time and eternity, matters often beyond Woyzeck’s comprehension. Sometimes the Captain jokingly reproves the poor fellow for his lack of morals, since he fathered a child without benefit of a wedding ceremony. Woyzeck always declares that if he were a gentleman with a laced coat and a cocked hat he, too, could be virtuous. He considers virtue to be a privilege of the educated and great, and not intended for miserable creatures such as himself.
An eccentric Doctor also pays Woyzeck a few coins to act as the subject of fantastic medical experiments. The soldier is supposed to live on a diet of peas and to hold his water for stated periods of time. When Woyzeck tries blunderingly to explain his views on nature and life, the Doctor is delighted. He thinks Woyzeck’s halting remarks show an interesting aberration,...
(The entire section is 1070 words.)
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