What is the diegesis for Georg Büchner's play Woyzeck as a whole?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Diegesis, defined in narratological terms, is the combination of the time and the space that operate in a given narrative. Dino Franco Felluga Ph.D. of Purdue University refers to it as a "narrative's time-space continuum." The diegesis comprises all the time-space components that constitute the fictional world that the reader enters and for which the reader suspends disbelief.

The fictional world--the diegesis--of Woyzeck begins with the early nineteenth century in a military barracks in a town in Germany. Part of the diegesis is the combination of educated people with publicly recognized morals and uneducated people who do not understand abstractions and thoughts--like both Woyzeck and Marie--as well as they understand feelings and practical actions.

This combination juxtaposes differing judgements of moral values and displays an ironic hypocrisy among the educated people, like the Captain and the drum-major, whom Woyzeck believes are far too superior to him for him to understand. Part of the complex diegesis includes this moral aspect of the time-space situation that permits the Captain to criticize Woyzeck for being unwed (a result of poverty) and then enjoy telling him that his beloved Marie has a lover.

CAPTAIN: You’re a good fellow, Woyzeck, but (Solemnly) you’ve no morals. Morals are . . .
well, observing morality, you understand. That’s the way of it. You’ve got a child without the church’s blessing, as our reverend padre calls it--without the church’s blessing; that’s his expression.

CAPTAIN: finding a hair from someone else’s beard ... maybe, a drum-major's .... sticking to a certain pair of lips. A certain pair of lips, Woyzeck.

Similarly, this aspect of the diegesis permits the educated and respected drum-major to seduce Marie and still be considered moral and upstanding while Woyzeck is surely judged for his murderous revenge on Marie (that is except for those distracted by clinical analysis of him):

MARGARET (backs away): You’re all red! - With blood!
WOYZECK: With blood? With blood?
The crowd has gathered.

[English translation by Michael Imison Playwrights Limited.]

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