Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Open country

Open country. Woyzeck interprets natural phenomena like mushroom patterns or the blazing noontime sun as omens of a world about to be engulfed by some catastrophe. After he hears voices in the open country that instruct him to kill, he takes Marie to a spot outside the city in order to murder her. Feelings of foreboding overwhelm Marie as Woyzeck leads her in the evening to a spot near the lake.

Marie’s room

Marie’s room. Home of Woyzeck’s mistress, Marie. Marie’s bed, her son’s bed, a dressing table, and a mirror represent aspects of her life. The room is also associated with her sexual desires, for it is where she consummates her affair with Woyzeck, where she stands at the window when admiring the Drum Major, and where she later submits to the latter’s advances. The presence of Woyzeck’s son in the room reminds her of her bond with Woyzeck. When her conscience is stricken with guilt about her sexual betrayal of Woyzeck, she is also in her room.


Fairgrounds. Festive, colorful place with tents, lights, and booths crowded with people. Monkeys dressed as soldiers and an astronomical horse on display invite audiences to contemplate the proximity of animal and human behavior. In this atmosphere, the usual rules of everyday life are suspended. While the Drum Major is powerfully attracted to Marie in this setting, the imperfectly civilized animals help point up the crucial role that “unidealized nature” plays in human behavior.


Tavern. Public hall in which drinking and whirling dancing couples heat up the atmosphere and provide increased likelihood that passion will overrun reason and even will. Men brag and show off, among them drunken artisans who make coarse speeches. Woyzeck challenges the Drum Major for Marie, and a fistfight ensues. The beat of the dance music is allied to Woyzeck’s obsession with Marie’s betrayal and his fury at the evidence it provides for the uncontrollable nature of human sexual urges in general.

Woyzeck Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

James, Dorothy. “The ‘Interesting Case’ of Büchner’s Woyzeck.” In Patterns of Change: German Drama and the European Tradition, edited by Dorothy James and Silvia Ranawake. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. A fine introduction to the place of Woyzeck in German drama. Also places Büchner in a context of developing European thought.

Kaufmann, Friedrich Wilhelm. German Dramatists of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Russell & Russell, 1972. Kaufmann notes that in plays such as Woyzeck, Büchner is dramatizing the collapse of old European values and the process of coming to grips with new realities. Woyzeck himself is an Everyman, condemned by his poverty to a life of misery.

Mills, Ken. “Moon, Madness, and Murder: The Motivation of Woyzeck’s Killing of Marie.” German Life and Letters 41 (July, 1988): 430-436. Discusses Woyzeck’s murder of Marie as less an act of jealousy than an act of expiation.

Ritchie, J. M. German Expressionist Drama. Boston: Twayne, 1976. Notes the influence of Woyzeck on twentieth century German expressionist drama and provides compelling evidence for the play’s being ahead of its time.

Stodder, Joseph H. “The Influences of Othello on Büchner’s Woyzeck.” Modern Language Review 69 (January, 1974): 115-120. An interesting comparison that points to the plot similarities between William Shakespeare’s Othello (1604) and Büchner’s Woyzeck, which both concern men driven by jealousy to murder women they love and are then tortured by remorse. Leads the author to conclude that Shakespeare’s work was a direct influence on Büchner.