Arthur Schnitzler

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Joseph W. Bailey (essay date 1920)

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SOURCE: Bailey, Joseph W. “Arthur Schnitzler's Dramatic Work.” Texas Review 5, no. 4 (1920): 294-307.

[In the following essay, Bailey addresses the supposed amorality that other critics found in Schnitzler's works, arguing that Schnitzler rightly puts his art above the “interests of a prudish morality.”]

In that classic of literary criticism which Mr. Joseph Conrad has appended as a preface to his inimitable novel, The Nigger of the Narcissus, we are given a statement of the author's artistic creed:

To arrest, for the space of a breath, the hands busy about the work of the earth, and compel men entranced by the sight of distant goals to glance for a moment at the surrounding vision of form and color, of sunshine and shadows; to make them pause for a look, for a sigh, for a smile—such is the aim, difficult and evanescent, and reserved only for a very few to achieve. But sometimes, by the deserving and the fortunate, even that task is accomplished. And when it is accomplished—behold!—all the truth of life is there: a moment of vision, a sigh, a smile—and the return to an eternal rest.

Whether or not Arthur Schnitzler, dramatist, novelist, and physician of Vienna, will have been assigned a place in the pantheon of those “deserving and fortunate” ones, when the sickle of the critically iconoclastic years shall have thinned out the teeming numbers of our striving contemporaries, we cannot be certain. But, judging him as best we can without that breadth of vision which only the perspective of the years can bring to us, we can delegate to Schnitzler no subsidiary position in the ranks of those artists who have utilized their art to hold the mirror up to life itself and to cast what gleam of truth they may upon the dark riddle of our existence.

It is probable that, to the conscious moralist and the mawkish purist, the name of Schnitzler may be anathema, and it is true that he makes no concession to the popular desire for the triumph of a “supposed immediate ethical good over a supposed immediate ethical evil”. Schnitzler does not use his drama for the preaching of a moral; there is no sermonizing in it, and he does not distort and destroy the verisimilitude of his picture of life in the fatuous belief that he may show to a struggling humanity the path that leads to happiness and warn them from the path that leads to misery and woe. To Schnitzler, Art is something the glory and beauty of which is so transcending that it rises far above the domain of morals, and there is no doubt that the spontaneity and sincerity of any art must be destroyed if it be subjected to a moral or ethical purpose. Any such cheap conception of Art must bring as dismal a failure as that more mercenary conception which endeavors only to “split the ears of the groundlings” and to flatter the smugness of a self-sufficient generation. It has been strongly maintained that all Art has its foundation in the sexual instinct, and we cannot afford to condemn a work because it deals with this important aspect of our nature. Let it be understood at the first, then, that Schnitzler's work is not immoral, any more than the brilliance of a spring sunset or the voluptuous beauty of a summer night's high moon. The relation of lover to beloved is too natural, too beautiful, and too spontaneous for Schnitzler to see aught in it that is immoral. Even, however, if the relation itself were indefensible, the worth...

(This entire section contains 4931 words.)

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of Schnitzler's art would not suffer in the least, and his drama would no more deserve condemnation on account of it than doesOliver Twist on account of the brutal murder of Nancy Sykes. Schnitzler neither accuses nor condemns. He attempts merely “to snatch in a moment of courage, from the remorseless rush of time, a passing phase of life” and to leave the world to form its own judgement. There can be no impeachment of the honesty of his Art, and this very honesty makes it impossible for him to make his Art subservient to the supposed interests of a prudish morality.

The shortcomings of Schnitzler as a literary artist are more in the nature of limitations than of actual faults. That is to say, the greatest weakness of his work is the narrowness of his scope. What he does he does with a grace and deftness which approaches perfection, but as we shall see, the range of his activity is not very wide. He has been called “the perfect Viennese”, and those who are qualified to speak with authority have said that he has interpreted faithfully the Viennese life and atmosphere. Ashley Dukes has said that “his dramatic method is the intellectualization, the refinement of the Viennese waltz”. This, then, will constitute an important limitation to the scope of Schnitzler's work—it is restricted to city life and to the city life of Vienna in particular. Whether his scenes are laid in a suburb of Vienna or in some foreign city, his characters are distinctively urban and Viennese. In point of character types, he contents himself with dealing with those classes which he knew best—the cultured and idle representatives of the upper classes—and he deals with these only in their extra-official hours of recreation and love-making. Schnitzler does not concern himself with the bürgerlich; he is confined altogether to the aristocratic and artistic circles. His drama is always intensely personal; we find no suggestion of the social or economic problem in its broader aspects. The relation of sex to sex is his domain, and he reigns supreme within this province; but he seldom ventures beyond the limits which he has set for himself. The German dramatic critic, Rudolph Lothar, in the course of a not altogether sympathetic appreciation of Schnitzler, remarks:

“His Weltanschauung! It would be better to say his Frauenanschauung. For at bottom Schnitzler is only a lover, and his world is woman.”

The criticism may be justified, and is certainly true; but, even so, the imputation of a disproportional evaluation of life and a niggardliness of material is not warranted. The controversy between the Freudian and anti-Freudian schools of psychology over the influence exerted by the sexual function still rages; but we do know that there is no one of man's primal instincts, excepting the instinct for self-preservation, which is so powerful in determining our manner of living. There is no note in the whole gamut of human emotions which cannot be sounded by an appeal to this aspect of man's nature. And so it is that Schnitzler's work has also its scientific side. His dramas are, in the last analysis, little more than free studies in the psychology of sex, but let us remember that this field may ultimately be broadened to take in the whole of man's endeavor. We know not how much of maternal love, and paternal pride,—how much of our Art and Religion,—how much of our appreciation of a summer sunset or the joy in spring—may be possible only through the existence of this element in our make-up. Let us not then, minify the field of Schnitzler's endeavor until we are sure Lilliput will not become Brobdingnag when the microscope of our own ignorance is removed.

Arthur Schnitzler was born in Vienna on May 15, 1862, the son of a renowned Jewish physician. He studied medicine at the University of Vienna and obtained the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1885. After graduation, he was engaged for two years in one of the large city hospitals. He began early to contribute poems and prose sketches to the literary journals of the day. It was as this early period of his life, also, that he became interested in psychic phenomena, especially hypnotism and suggestion, to which we find references in his Anatol and Paracelsus. After a short trip to England, he settled down in Vienna as a practicing physician. It is probable that Schnitzler's application to his literary labors was not altogether pleasing to his father, and we find many instances in his works of that “conflict of the generations”—that incompatibility of youth and age—which usually takes the form of a protest against interference on the part of a parent in the son's choice of a profession.

The case of a creative genius in the realm of letters who, at the same time, is an active and successful medical practitioner and to whom literature is only a side-line at best, is so extraordinary that we are justified in expecting to find a casual relation between the peculiar nature of his vocation and his manner of living, on the one hand, and the turn which his artistic labors has taken, on the other. This relation can be plainly established, I think, in the case of Schnitzler. It is, indeed, very probable that Schnitzler first became interested in the relation of the two sexes and in the psychology of sex, which topics are predominant in his literary work, as scientific subjects related to his profession. There is no doubt, of course, that Schnitzler knew and loved the Bohemian life of his native city. But, at the same time, there are innumerable indications in his works that his interest in this subject of the sex relation was partly a result of his scientific training. Even in his most convincing creations, we cannot rid ourselves of the impression that the author is playing the rôle of diagnostician, and is only desirous of investigating with the physician's eye the aberrations and reactions of the human organism. Reigen, for instance, is a frank, open, and very naturalistic study in the psychology of sex, and as such Edwin Bjorkman has said “it has not many equals”. I do not think that we are justified in stressing this scientific aspect of Schnitzler's work to the exclusion of all others,—I do not think that the tendency on the part of some critics to regard him as a sort of Freud afflicted with the artistic impulse is indicative of sound literary judgment; but, at the same time, the student of Schnitzler cannot afford to ignore this scientific interest in the sexual nature which was undoubtedly very strong in Schnitzler's mind.

Another aspect of his work which may be traced to his experiences as a physician is his preoccupation with the theme of death. There is an underlying note of melancholy, a sort of brooding sadness, running through all of Schnitzler's works which must be due, in a measure, to his ever-present consciousness of the transiency of this life and of the threatening death that hovers over every human being. How the native melancholy of his sensitive soul must have been depressed by the endless, weary night in the sick-room, the babe breathing out its last feeble gasp on his breast, and the pitiableness of withered age closing its feverish eyes in the last sleep! Like Andreyev and Dostoievsky, Schnitzler finds himself again and again in contemplation of the mystery of dissolution, staring fixedly at the black hood of Death, attracted by the thing he fears more than anything else in the world. For Schnitzler belongs both racially and by environment to the languid and life-loving South rather than to the cold and fearless North; and we may expect to find his kindred spirit in the mysticism of the Slav and the impressionism of the Latin. Schnitzler, as I have said before, has been hailed as “the perfect Viennese just as Anatole France is the perfect Parisian”, and Edwin Bjorkman has said of Vienna that “it is the meeting place not only of South and North, but also of Past and Present”. He continues:

“Like all cities sharply divided within itself and living above a volcano of half-suppressed emotions, Vienna tends to seek in abandoned gaiety, in a frank surrender to the senses, that forgetfulness without which suicide would seem the only remaining alternative.”

And so it is that, in studying Schnitzler, we cannot hope to arrive at an understanding and appreciation of his genius unless we consider these salient facts of his life which have left their impress on his work—in the first place, that he is a Hebrew and is possessed of all the passionate fire and melancholy mysticism of his race; in the second place, that his experience as a practicing physician has led him into the half-world of poverty and suffering and brought him into contact with death in a thousand shapes; and, in the third place, that all his life has been spent in the free and sensuous atmosphere of the city of Vienna. These three factors, I think, may be made to account for everything in Schnitzler that seems to us morbid, revolutionary, and immoral, while the artist in him will account for everything that is fine, delicate, and attractive.

I have said that the scope of Schnitzler's art is limited, and, from the standpoint of the materialist, this is true; but in so far as the passions of desire and pity may touch the heart of mankind, there is no limit to Schnitzler's appeal. The mystery of love and death is everywhere his theme. The tragedy of love—for love, as life, by reason of its very transiency, must have something of the tragic in it—and the tragedy of death—which brings an end to the “Living Hours” of love—find expression, as it were, in ever-recurrent minor chords, and it is only in the lighter moments between that he allows himself, with a half playful air of cynical aloofness, to strike a major note. I do not wish to convey the impression that the dominant tone of his style is oppressively melancholy—quite to the contrary, it is replete with the tripping melody of wit and sarcasm—but, behind all his levity, we can sense the tell-tale note of pessimistic fatalism that his philosophy of “Living Hours” has left him.

The cycle of one-act plays, Anatol, was the creation for which Schnitzler first received recognition as a playwright, and, in spite of the fact that he has since produced plays of much greater merit, it is probably by this cycle of plays that he is best known even today. Anatol consists of seven scenes, the same man figuring in each one of them with a different woman. Anatol, the hero, is a wealthy and loose young man of the upper class of Viennese aristocracy, one of those idle and harried creatures who exhaust themselves in an effort to find amusement, seeking refuge in a multiplicity of mistresses from the ennui which pursues the wealthy idler. In each scene, the amour is at a certain well-defined stage in its short-lived existence, either the infatuation of both parties is just being born and the hero is enjoying the novelty of a new mistress, or the passion of love is at its height and the two are wrapped up in each other, oblivious of the world, or the old love is waning, and the separation that has been inevitable from the first is taking place. The third character is Max, the cynical, worldly, and incredulous friend of the hero, who is ever present to laugh at his friend's foibles—although he himself is guilty of the same folly—and to say the things that Schnitzler himself would probably have said. In the first scene, we find Anatol enjoying his infatuation for Cora, but, at the same time, knowing that she is unfaithful to him. When placed in a position where he can learn the real truth, however, Anatol refuses to read the answer of the oracle, and Max leaves them “clasped in a passionate embrace”. Anatol is unwilling to destroy his paradise, even though he knows it can last for only a short while. Schnitzler's interest in the psychic world and in hypnotism, which marks him as a strange combination of the scientist and the romanticist, and which reminds us strangely of the poetic interest which Wordsworth is said to have experienced for the study of higher mathematics, is brought to our attention in this scene, as Anatol's power of hypnotism is the means whereby he is enabled to question Cora.

The second scene satirizes the smug and self-conscious virtue of the respectable married woman. Anatol has met Gabrielle, an old acquaintance who has married, and she, having questioned him about his present innamorata, sends her the following message:

“these flowers, my sweet little girl, were sent to you by a woman who, perhaps—might know how to love as well as you—but who hasn't the courage.”

She leaves him standing in the street. And so the experiences follow one another in succession, the glance of interest at first meeting, the lowered eyelid and slight suggestion of a smile which usher in the new affair, the thrill of pleasure at a new conquest growing into a crescendo of passion, the first murmur of dissatisfaction signaling the coming rupture, the final meeting when the words of farewell are said with relief, with resignation, with a slight touch of sadness and regret or are growled between the hysterical sobbings of a furious woman; and the tireless one is ready for a new adventure and a new thrill. There is no end to the eternal procession of women; they come from the hero cares not where, and they go to where he neither knows nor cares. He lives in a world of mistresses, past, present, and future, dreaming in his twilight memories of those who have gone before, when, at the beck of his retrospective mood, the shades of past lovers come before him, “one from a simple tenement home, another from her husband's gorgeous drawing room, one from her stage dressing room, one from a milliner's shop, one from the arms of a new lover, one from the grave—one from here, another from there—until they all come—”; but in the present there is always the one, and in the future he sees only an endless succession of those who are to be. His “Weltanschauung” is truly only a “Frauenanschauung”, but his world is an andro-centric one, and we cannot suppress a feeling of pity for the forlorn lot of the countless women who are drawn to him like moths to a light, and are left to perish in the dark when his pleasure dims.

Schnitzler's manner of treatment in these scenes is intensely naturalistic. All the shades and subtleties of feeling are recorded, and no external detail is slighted. The action is given a life-like accuracy, and there is no prudish shying away from the unconventional intimacy between Anatol and his mistresses, but, at the same time, we do not find in the play anything that savors of the exploitations of the “dirty” for its own sake. There is nothing that consciously panders to the baser instincts and no attempt to justify sexual irregularities. According to the creed of the naturalist, Schnitzler has attempted to represent faithfully a particularly chosen aspect of life as it is lived, and leaves the reader to justify or to condemn. There is no lesson of moral or ethical conduct to be drawn from the play; the story stands for its own sake without point or purpose. The significant thing about Anatol is the proof it gives of the singular powers of Schnitzler as an artist: his delicate touch in the creation of an atmosphere, his supreme ability in the interpretation of emotion, and in the manufacture of dialogue.

In Reigen, Schnitzler has dealt even more candidly with the same theme: the amenability of all classes of mankind to the common passions. Reigen consists of ten scenes, with as many characters, two of them figuring in each scene. Like Anatol, Reigen is expressive of the physician in Schnitzler, and is scientific in spirit as a study of the psychology of sex. In the broader significance it stresses the common nature of mankind and the fact that class distinctions are powerless before the onslaught of the basic passions of all men. On account of its unprecedented freedom in the treatment of the delicate question of sex, Reigen was not printed for some years after its production, and then only privately; and in Germany, is still verboten. There is, however, nothing intrinsically immoral in the book, and we feel that its proscription is only another manifestation of that crowd psychology which demands the removal of its paupers, its insane, and every suggestion of its social cess-pools to that “Half-Rome” which is to be shunned by the more fortunate of us.

In Liebelei, one of Schnitzler's most powerful and far-reaching creations, although the theme is still the eternal passion of the love which is frowned upon by society, we see the other side of the shield—the tragic, sombre side—, and the curtain to the final act is rung down before a new-made grave. Fritz, the young aristocrat, is this time in love with the wife of another man. His friend contrives a meeting for him with Christine, an innocent and credulous girl of the middle classes, who conceives a genuine passion for her destroyer. Fritz is challenged and killed in a duel by the husband of his former mistress, and Christine takes her own life. For the time being, Schnitzler transcends himself, and it seems that for once love, in the breast of Christine, is no longer a toy to be played with for the amusement of an idle hour, no longer a lovely flower which bursts quickly into bloom only to wither with the passage of a few short days, but, in the heart of the simple maiden, it has swelled into a passion which dominates fate. The undercurrent of brooding sadness is felt everywhere in the play. Schnitzler's ever-present consciousness of the transiency of life and love is emphasized through every line. There are two striking passages which express this feeling, and which, in the mouth of Fritz, make Christine's position pathetic from the start:

“We must not speak of forever. …

“Of course it's possible that we might not be able to live without each other, but we can't know about that, can we? We are only human.”

And so, with his “Wir sind ja nur Menschen”, Schnitzler gives his estimate of humanity, and leaves his characters to struggle against the odds which are pitted against them. The same spirit of resignation and melancholy hovers over the Schnitzler in all his creations. There is Freiwild, with the pathos of woman's sad lot and the folly of mankind destroying itself in obedience to a barbaric code of duelling; Das Vermachtnis, with its tragedy of prejudice and death; Komtesse Mizzi, with its demonstration of the eventual equality of mankind, the leveling of the barriers between cab-men and count, between countess and soubrette. There are times when the convictions of the artist assume the form of a delicate cynicism, but, in his more serious moments, Schnitzler has no heart for the smirk of the cynic; the heart overflowing with sympathy and the spirit hearkening to the “turbid ebb and flow of human misery” banish the leer of the scoffer.

Der Einsame Weg is, perhaps, Schnitzler's most powerful work. In this play, he rises to the height of his power in the depicting of human emotion. The inter-play of psychological reaction is so delicately subtle, the situations so realistic and lifelike in spite of the compression which is essential to the dramatic form, the appeal to the emotions of pity and regret so universal, that the play may be said to have ensured Schnitzler's reputation as a dramatist of the first order. The theme is still the same—the eternal tragedies of love and death, with the addition, as the title indicates, of the tragedy of loneliness, that twin shade and prelude to the final conqueror, Death—the unutterable pathos of continuing to breathe and to see when the passage of years has despoiled one's heart of all that life held dear. The plot is very simple, and there is very little action in it. Julian Fichtner, artistically inclined bachelor, is the father of Felix, who believes himself to be the son of Professor Wegrat. The latter has been a dutiful, kind parent to his daughter, Johanna, and to his supposed son, Felix. The play recounts the pitiful efforts of Fichtner, now growing old and lonesome after a lurid youth, to inspire for himself a spark of love in the heart of his son. He fails utterly. Von Sala, worldly cynic who has lived as Fichtner, is dying of an incurable disease. Johanna loves Sala, and discovers that he is a doomed man. Irene Herms is an old flame of Fichtner's who has lived out the golden hours of her youth in idle pleasure-hunting, and is now growing old, with no attachments or ties to mellow her declining years. Wegrat is bound up in his scientific work, and is oblivious of the finer sympathies and the love which Johanna's heart is hungering for. So each of them walks his “lonely way” to the end that is inevitable. “The process of aging must needs be a lonely one to our kind,” says Sala and gives the secret of the tragedy of his life and of Fichtner's. The latter has sacrificed love and a family for his art and his freedom, and now he finds that, in his age, the iron of lonesomeness has been pressed into his heart by the procession of the years and that he is without consolation for his sadness. He has grown fond of Felix, and has a pathetic longing for the boy to recognize his fatherhood and to return his affection, but Felix feels only resentment toward him for his treatment of the injured mother. Schnitzler again takes occasion to satirize the cruelty and folly of one's sacrifice of love and honor for the sake of art.

In the treatment of the character of Sala, we see again the Hebraic and Eastern temperament in this haunting fear of impending death which is pursuing the doomed man There is something of the horror of Andreyev's pictures of the death-cell in the spectacle of the lonely man waiting for the death that he knows must come; and, I think, there is a note distinctly Russian in the cry that bursts from his despairing heart:

“Is there ever a blissful moment in any man's life when he can think of anything else (than dying) in his innermost soul?”

Irene Herms, the lonely woman growing old, reminds us very much of the sisters in Arnold Bennett's Old Wives' Tale. She is profoundly pathetic in her seclusion and loneliness—fleeing from the memories of her youth which the old familiar scenes in Vienna have brought crowding to her mind—with her pitifully vain regrets and her visions and dreams of what might have been—with the agonizing cry of her mothering heart making itself heard when her halcyon days are gone and it is too late to begin life again.

Johanna is the most pathetically lonely of them all, and her seclusion and sadness is the more pitiable because she is in the golden hours of her youth when the blighting tragedy of time and sorrow should not be felt and when the spirit of youth should be upheld by the conviction of its own immortality.

And the great fact behind all the minor sadnesses of life is the eternal tragedy of the passing of time—crushing and rending in its inexorable march all that it has made beautiful and strong-creating, nurturing, and then destroying, only to begin again its cycle of interminable labor. In his last conversation with Christine, Sala sums up the life of every man in his reference to the enigma of time:

“The present—what does it mean anyhow? Are we then locked breast to breast with the moment as with a friend whom we embrace or an enemy who is pressing us? Has not the word that just rings out turned to memory already? Is not the note that starts a melody reduced to memory before the song is ended? Is your coming to this garden anything but a memory, Johanna? Are not your steps across that meadow as much a matter of the past as are the steps of creatures dead these many years?”

The play ends with a tragic irony which is, I think, characteristic of Schnitzler's philosophy of life. Christine is dead, and Felix, the real son of Fichtner, has spoken to Professor Wegrat and called him “Father”. Wegrat answers in a burst of penitence for his neglect of Johanna:

“Must things of this kind happen to make that word sound as if I had heard it for the first time?”

Schnitzler's future is uncertain. We are not acquainted with his activities since the spectre of war invaded the shady retreats of his pleasure-loving Vienna. We do not even know whether he has survived the four years of strife and the succeeding months of starvation. If he is now alive, it would be difficult to prophesy the turn which his work will take as a result of his experiences in the war. But, whatever he may do in the future, we may be fairly certain that the author of Liebelei and Der Einsame Weg is not merely the favorite of a generation, destined to be forgotten like the shadowy loves of his Anatol.


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Arthur Schnitzler 1862-1931

Austrian short story writer, playwright and novelist.

Known for his stylistic experiments in both drama and prose, Schnitzler's works analyzed pre-World War I Vienna society. His work was influenced by some of the theories of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Biographical Information

Schnitzler was born in Vienna in 1862 in an upper-middle-class Jewish family. At the Akademisches Gymnasium in Vienna from 1871 to 1879, he was considered a model student, graduating with honors. Influenced by his father and maternal grandfather, Schnitzler went to the University of Vienna in 1879 to study medicine. He received his Doctor of General Medicine degree in 1885 and became editor of the medical journal Internationale klinische Rundschau in 1887. The following year he became an assistant at his father's practice. Despite his success as a physician Schnitzler began writing Anatol, (1893) one of his most important plays. After his father's death in 1893, Schnitzler spent more time writing than practicing medicine, and in 1895 one of his most popular plays, Liebelei, (1895) was performed for the first time at the Burgtheater. Schnitzler was also a member of the Jung-Wein group, a literary movement of impressionist writers that met at the Vienna Café Griensteidl. The Jung-Wein were strongly opposed to naturalism, popular in Berlin society of the time. It was with the Jung-Wein that Schnitzler met fellow Austrian playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Schnitzler died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Vienna in 1931.

Major Works

Schnitzler's plays generally focus on sex, death, and the turmoil of the human psyche. His first published play, Anatol, remains one of the most important works of his career. The play is comprised of seven one-act plays composed between 1888 and 1891; it is intended to be performed as a complete cycle, but each of the one-acts can stand alone and has been performed separately. The title character, Anatol, is a melancholy playboy given to self-analysis and narcissism. His sexual double standard—expecting purity of women while partaking in numerous dalliances of his own—is considered a conscious mirror and criticism of Schnitzler's and all of fin de siècle (a term used to describe end-of-the-century culture) Vienna's views on sexuality. Perhaps not surprisingly, the play did not escape controversy. Censors in Austria and Germany objected in particular to the episode entitled Abschiedssouper (Farewell Supper)—the first of the one-acts to be performed separately in 1893—because of its frank handling of female infidelity. Schnitzler again addressed sexuality in Liebelei (performed 1895), using the paradigm of the süβes Mädel (“sweet girl”) to examine relationships that cross class lines and, symbolically, abuses of the bourgeoisie by the upper classes. Schnitzler's most notorious play, Reigen, (1920) is also his most widely adapted. It was performed in various versions throughout the twentieth century despite the author's own ban. These versions include a film entitled La Ronde (1950). Based in form on the traditional dance in the round, Reigen consists of ten dialogues—nine of them dealing directly with various sex acts—between men and women who are involved sexually. Illustrating the dance motif of the title, one partner from each dialogue appears in the dialogue immediately following it, so that each is involved with two partners in the play. In this way Schnitzler emphasizes the pervasiveness of sexual desire across class and gender lines. Paracelsus (performed 1899) is set in sixteenth-century Basel and written in verse.

Critical Reception

Schnitzler's plays experienced widely divergent attention in his lifetime. Zwischenspiel, (1905) Der junge Medardus, (1910) and Professor Bernhardi (1912) received awards. On the other hand, many of his plays, including Professor Bernhardi, were censored, excoriated, and outright banned at one time or another, especially Reigen which Schnitzler banned himself, and remained banned until his son Heinrich lifted the ban in 1981. In their published form his plays were considered more accessible than those of his contemporaries, so he maintained a wide reading audience. But the increasingly hostile anti-Semitic atmosphere of early-twentieth-century Austria and Germany often led to public protests over the staging of works by Jewish writers such as Schnitzler. Additionally, his frequent exploration in his plays on the mores of the upper-middle-class Viennese resulted in an unfortunate stereotype of Schnitzler as a writer of frivolous, one-dimensional drawing-room comedies despite his concurrent focus on issues of ethics and mortality. Towards the late twentieth century, critical opinion of Schnitzler's plays shifted to recognize his subtle social criticism and psychological depth. He is now considered a serious, sophisticated examiner of the human condition.

Hunter G. Hannum (essay date January 1962)

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SOURCE: Hannum, Hunter G. “‘Killing Time’: Aspects of Schnitzler's Reigen.Germanic Review 37, no. 1 (January 1962): 190-206.

[In the following essay, Hannum locates Reigen within the Austro-Germanic fin de siècle literary trend, focusing on the play's preoccupation with time.]

Betrachte die Herde, die an dir vorüberweidet: sie weiß nicht, was Gestern, was Heute ist, springt umher, frißt, ruht, verdaut, springt wieder, und so vom Morgen bis zur Nacht und von Tage zu Tage, kurz angebunden mit ihrer Lust und Unlust, nämlich an den Pflock des Augenblicks, und deshalb weder schwermütig noch überdrüssig. Dies zu sehen geht dem Menschen hart ein, weil er seines Menschentums sich vor dem Tiere brüstet und doch nach seinem Glücke eifersüchtig hinblickt—denn das will er allein, gleich dem Tiere weder überdrüssig noch unter Schmerzen leben, und will es doch vergebens, weil er es nicht will wie das Tier. Der Mensch fragt wohl einmal das Tier: warum redest du mir nicht von deinem Glücke und siehst mich nur an? Das Tier will auch antworten und sagen: das kommt daher, daß ich immer gleich vergesse, was ich sagen wollte—da vergaß es aber auch schon diese Antwort und schwieg: so daß der Mensch sich darob verwunderte.1

This passage from Nietzsche's Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben can be taken not only as one of the most striking specimens of German prose in the last hundred years but also as a thematic epigraph, as Walter Sokel has said, for much of modern German literature.2 With advancing time, writers have moved farther and farther backwards to locate their images of a paradisiacal innocence for which the burden of time does not exist. The traditional images for this state, Arcadian Greece and Eden before the Fall, began to yield around Nietzsche's time to yearning depictions of innocent animals, such as the cows described above, who are blessed with immersion in the present moment and as a result have no crippling consciousness of a before and after. Here too a curve of regression may be traced from Rilke's lions, for example,3 to the coral in Kaiser's play of that name and to Benn's protozoic slime:

O daß wir unsere Ururahnen wären.
Ein Klümpchen Schleim in einem warmen Moor.
Leben und Tod, Befruchten und Gebären
glitte aus unseren stummen Säften vor.(4)

Before this extreme retrograde position was reached, a group of writers at the turn of the century had already demonstrated in their works a consciousness of the problematic nature of human time. Generally described by the French formulation “décadent” or “fin de siècle,” they located themselves with nostalgia at the end of an epoch of human culture and, since the idea of inevitable progress held no force for them, looked forward with little hope to the future. When they turned their attention to the present, they saw an instant of time, made melancholy by echoes of a rich past, sinking into nothingness before their eyes. Two Austrian authors of that era, Arthur Schnitzler and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, were particularly obsessed with this theme. The latter's first play, Gestern (1891), describes the difficulties of a hero who aspires to live, like the members of Nietzsche's herd, “kurz angebunden … an den Pflock des Augenblicks.” Andrea, the princeling of a late Renaissance court, finds that a life consistent with his varying moods, the only “true” life for him (“Laß dich von jedem Augenblicke treiben, / Das ist der Weg, dir selber treu zu bleiben”),5 demands inconsistency, inconstancy, in his tastes and affections. The pale dress which his mistress Arlette had worn the day before no longer pleases him, for today is a “Correggio” day requiring rich and glowing colors; the pictures in his gallery also must be changed to fit his present mood, be it ascetic, sensuous, demonic, or whatever. Following the same aesthetic principle of selection, Andrea chooses and rejects his companions on the basis of their congruence with his feeling of the moment: in an ascetic frame of mind he prefers Marsilio; in a war-like mood, Lorenzo; in a mood for the pleasures of the table, he prefers the Cardinal of Ostio, whose very appearance awakens appetite (“Durch deine Augen seh ich Trüffel winken”6). Andrea is dutifully practising here what Kierkegaard, writing in Either/Or some fifty years earlier, had described as “the rotation method.” The aesthete, the purely sensuous, ethically uncommitted man who wishes to enjoy the world as an aesthetic phenomenon must, according to the Danish writer, beware of cultivating too long and too exclusively any one area of experience; otherwise he will be left with nothing but a feeling of dull satiety, and thus fail to attain his goal of greatest possible enjoyment. He must carefully avoid consistency, “willing one thing,” and choose arbitrariness in his approach to the world, or else his experiences will lose that freshness which he so strongly desires in them. It is of paramount importance for the devotee of the aesthetic life as described by Kierkegaard and as exemplified by Andrea to be in command of “the general categories of remembering and forgetting. Life in its entirety moves in these two currents, and hence it is essential to have them under control.”7 Andrea will not be shackled in his surrender to the moment by acts and choices of the past. When Arlette reproaches him for his changing taste in her clothes, he retorts angrily:

Mußt du mit gestern stets das Heute stören?
Muß ich die Fessel immer klirren hören,
Die ewig dir am Fuß beengend hängt,
Wenn ich für mich sie tausendmal gesprengt!(8)

It would appear from these lines that Andrea has a firm control over his memory, that in thousands of present moments he has been able to demolish just as many past ones successfully; but the dénouement of the playlet shows him to be the victim of a crucial miscalculation. Arlette has been unfaithful to him the night before with his best friend Lorenzo, and the force of this past betrayal, contrary of course to Andrea's expressed philosophy, is sufficient to poison the present to such an extent that he must send his mistress away with these words:

Dies Gestern ist so eins mit deinem Sein,
Du kannst es nicht verwischen, nicht vergessen:
Es ist, so lang wir wissen, daß es war.
In meine Arme müßt ichs täglich pressen,
Im Dufte saug ichs ein aus deinem Haar!
Und heute-gestern ist ein leeres Wort.
Was einmal war, das lebt auch ewig fort.(9)

The characters in this play are like figures in a charade who act and dress in a certain way to illustrate a point—in this case the point that the hero's lyric-philosophic meditations are belied by human experience. The multi-dimensional quality of that experience finds no place within the framework of this little fable, in which the characters other than the hero are present merely to act out the implications of his thesis. This is in keeping with Andrea's schematic way of apprehending his fellow beings, who are for him mere representations of abstract qualities, such as “Behagen” in the case of the Cardinal; for Andrea, as for Kierkegaard's aesthete, “experience is reduced to a sounding-board for the soul's own music.”10 The simplistic nature of Gestern is also of course in keeping with the youth and comparative inexperience of the play's author, the seventeen-year-old Hofmannsthal. In any case the play gives scant signs of the dramatic mastery with which the author will depict the confrontation of aesthete-adventurer and everyday human world in such a comedy as the later Christinas Heimreise.

Despite the limitations of Gestern as a dramatic work of art, it is understandable that Arthur Schnitzler, hearing the play read aloud by its young author to a select company, was deeply impressed, for the preoccupation of his own characters with time was always of Schnitzler's literary essence. The remainder of this paper will trace the varying relations between human beings and time in several of Schnitzler's works, concentrating finally on one of his chief theatrical successes, Reigen.

In a novella entitled Sterben, which appeared the year after Gestern, Schnitzler depicts the predicament of a time-haunted hero ironically named Felix who discovers that the disease from which he is suffering allows him at the most another year of life. The plot of this novella gives its author the opportunity for a satiric psychological examination of a projected Liebestod. (A striking thematic parallel is offered here by the abortive love-death of the hero of Heinrich Mann's novella Pippo Spano, which appeared approximately a decade later.) When Felix' mistress, Marie, learns of his impending fate, she cries out instinctively that she will not be able to live for a day—not even for an hour—without him: “Sie flüsterte: ‘Ich will mit dir sterben.’ Er lächelte. ‘Das sind Kindereien. Ich bin nicht so kleinlich, wie du glaubst. Ich hab' auch gar nicht das Recht, dich mit mir zu ziehen.’”11 As the year passes, both partners of this dialogue gradually change their resolutions under the attrition of time. Marie, as the cheerless exhausting months drag by, finds her love for the querulous and selfish invalid dying, can only think of escaping from him and living again; Felix, on the other hand, finds more and more comfort in the thought that he need not die alone, that the young and vital Marie, whom healthy men glance at so admiringly in the street, will join him in the grave. The final Liebestod is not a romantic one: Marie outlives Felix; it is her love for him which dies, turning into horrified revulsion when at the last moment before his death he tries to kill her.

Felix clearly represents an extreme case of a sufferer from time by consciously experiencing his life, in a now famous phrase, as a “Sein zum Tode” (Heidegger). Near the beginning of the narrative, he has an insight both modern and ancient: “Es gehen eigentlich lauter zum Tode Verurteilte auf der Erde herum.”12 This knowledge, however, does not bring the stoic composure which he hopefully envisages for himself (“ich bin der Mann, der lächelnd von dieser Welt scheidet”13) but rather ever-increasing anxiety and despair. Like the majority of Schnitzler's male characters, Felix enjoys an elevated social station with corresponding income that allows him to surrender himself carelessly to the so-called “good things” which the passing moment offers. Yet his inability to live merely in the present moment progresses with the story. Sometimes he succeeds, by an effort of the will, in forgetting past and future:

Der Wein war gut, schmeichelnd klang die Musik herüber, der Sommerabend war berauschend mild, und wie Felix zu Marie hinüberschaute, sah er aus ihren Augen einen Schein unendlicher Güte und Liebe strahlen. Und er wollte sich mit seinem ganzen Wesen in den gegenwärtigen Moment versenken. Er stellte eine letzte Anforderung an seinen Willen, von allem befreit zu sein, was Vergangenheit und Zukunft war. Er wollte glücklich sein oder wenigstens trunken.14

But more often Felix experiences a phenomenon, so common in Schnitzler's works, that Bernhard Blume has aptly characterized as an “immerwährende Vernichtung der Gegenwart durch die Zeit. …”15 This can occur in various ways: either an experience from the past can poison the present (as was the case too with Hofmannsthal's Andrea) or a future event, such as Felix' approaching death, can have the same effect; or (and this has often been overlooked) the lack of those relative points of reference, past and future, can rob all substance from the present. In terms of Nietzsche's parable: the man who admires the happiness of the herd finally attains their state without however finding the imagined “happiness,” since he has reached their oblivious condition at the price of all consciousness of it. (As Nietzsche had indeed foreseen: “er … will es doch vergebens, weil er es nicht will wie das Tier.”) Alfred, Felix' friend and physician, finds the invalid in this state towards the end of his sickness and recognizes it as a fatal symptom; he sees Felix entering into a “Zeitabschnitt, in dem es keine Hoffnung und keine Furcht gibt, wo die Empfindung der Gegenwart selbst, dadurch, daß ihr der Ausblick auf die Zukunft und die Rückschau ins Vergangene fehlt, dumpf und unklar wird.”16

The next work of Schnitzler to be considered here, Anatol (with its famous prologue by the author's friend “Loris”), appeared the year after Sterben. The chronology alone points to the probability of common concerns in the novella and the play. With Anatol, Schnitzler turns to the figure of the erotic adventurer, which in the following decades was to reappear so often in his own works as well as in those of Hofmannsthal. To return here briefly to Either/Or: Kierkegaard too has portrayed in that book the erotic adventurer as the exemplary aesthete; Don Juan, as embodied in Mozart's music and reincarnated in the Seducer, was the traditional figure the Danish philosopher chose in order to present the aesthetic way of life, just as Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal later chose Don Juan's Rococo successor, Casanova, for a similar purpose. Again Kierkegaard has defined some fifty years before the fact the predicament of the aesthete-heroes of the Austrian writers when, in discussing in his notebooks that section of Either/Or devoted to the erotic adventurer, he states: “The first part [of the book] always comes to grief upon time. …”17 With this insight and the related one that the aesthete typically suffers from “tungsind,” a brooding melancholy, “a dreaming, almost crazy wallowing in imagination,”18 Kierkegaard comes close to prophesying the character of Anatol. The play is such a loose sequence of scenes that it scarcely matters where one begins to try to arrive at the essence of its titular hero. Its “plot” is of such a nature that Aristotle, for example, who found that “of all plots and actions the episodic are the worst,” would never have approved of it. This lack of causal and consequential progression, however, is again in keeping with a statement of Kierkegaard's that the aesthetic life is incapable of “becoming history, of acquiring history …,” a direction which for him, as no doubt for Aristotle too, “is the significance of the temporal and finiteness.”19

In an early episode of the play, Anatol calls himself a “leichtsinniger Melancholiker,”20 and in a later scene sharply entitled “Agonie,” we approach the heart of his sadness. He is unable to give the passing moment, which is for him typically the moment of love, that fullness and self-sufficiency which he feels he and his partners deserve to find in it. He is not one of the happy members of the herd: “… ich beneide ja doch die andern … die Glücklichen, für die jedes Stück Leben ein neuer Sieg ist!—Ich muß mir immer vornehmen, mit etwas fertig zu werden; ich mache Haltestellen—ich überlege, ich raste, ich schleppe mit—! Jene andern überwinden spielend, im Erleben selbst …” (p. 62). Anatol feels melancholy for himself and guilt towards his partners: “Hatten wir nicht die Verpflichtung, die Ewigkeit, die wir ihnen versprachen, in die paar Jahre oder Stunden hineinzulegen, in denen wir sie liebten? Und wir konnten es nie! nie!—Mit diesem Schuldbewußtsein scheiden wir von jeder—und unsere Melancholie bedeutet nichts als ein stilles Eingeständnis” (p. 62). Max, the raisonneur, must analyze the situation for his friend and us: “Deine Gegenwart schleppt immer eine ganze schwere Last von unverarbeiteter Vergangenheit mit sich … Und nun fangen die ersten Jahre deiner Liebe wieder einmal zu vermodern an, ohne daß deine Seele die wunderbare Kraft hätte, sie völlig auszustoßen.—Was ist nun die natürliche Folge—?—Daß auch um die gesundesten und blühendsten Stunden deines Jetzt ein Duft dieses Moders fließt—und die Atmosphäre deiner Gegenwart unrettbar vergiftet ist … Und darum ist ja ewig dieser Wirrwarr von Einst und Jetzt und Später in dir” (pp. 62-63).

The chaos of past, present, and future which, according to Max' analysis, defines the character of Anatol comes to light in the swiftly shifting scenes of the play. In the very first, the force of the past is already present, inhibiting Anatol's surrender to the moment: the thought that Cora, his mistress, might at some time have been unfaithful to him robs his love for her of any naïve assurance and happiness. The theme of infidelity, one of the only constants in the impressionistic worlds of Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal, illustrates dramatically the power the past has to vitiate enjoyment of the present moment. Logically, both Andrea and Anatol should be flattered that their partners share their own hedonistic philosophies, but in practice the suspicion that such might be the case is a source of endless torment. Having successfully hypnotized Cora, Anatol balks at asking her the crucial question which would establish the facts of her past behavior. For the moment he chooses to forget the past. We recall that the aesthete must have the two faculties of remembering and forgetting under his control; but Anatol, that dramatic performer of the “rotation method,” again and again comes to grief because he cannot constantly exercise this control. Again and again he is haunted by the pasts of his partners, by the fact that he cannot forget—likewise, however, he is beset at times by his inability to remember, to recapture the past. In the third scene, entitled “Episode,” Anatol comes to his friend Max seeking a refuge for his past, in this case represented by mementos of the women he has loved. The friends find an envelope containing a flower which has now turned to dust, and this discovery gives Anatol occasion for rueful reflections on transience: “Es war nur eine Episode, ein Roman von zwei Stunden … nichts! … Ja, Staub!—Daß von so viel Süßigkeit nichts anderes zurückbleibt, ist eigentlich traurig.—Nicht?” (p. 35).

Regret at passing time, chagrin “daß alles gleitet und vorüberrinnt,” is of course a widespread literary theme, often accompanied by the “carpe diem” reaction. In this same “Episode,” however, Schnitzler introduces his peculiar treatment of this motif, which will reappear with radical force in Reigen: the aesthete's “day,” often diminished to a few hours or less, may even sink away completely under the conscious weight of past and future. Nothing is so difficult for Anatol as to capture the present moment. While he is making love to Bianca, the experience is already past for him: “Während ich den warmen Hauch ihres Mundes auf meiner Hand fühlte, erlebte ich das Ganze schon in der Erinnerung. Es war eigentlich schon vorüber” (p. 36). Anatol and the other characters of the play also suffer more conventionally from time. The titular hero, in the scene in which he calls himself a “leichtsinniger Melancholiker,” questions wistfully: “Weiß man denn überhaupt im Herbst, wem man zu Weihnachten etwas schenken wird?” (p. 23), and in answer to the question whether he means everything to the girl he presently loves he replies: “… Möglich! … Heute … Schweigen” (p. 29). In Schnitzler's world, clocks or watches are always ticking inexorably in the background, just as in Baroque literature the sand is always slipping through the hourglass. Such a scene as the following is typical:

die Hände faltend: Ich bitte dich!—Kannst du dich denn nicht wenigstens sekundenlang unverheiratet denken?—Schlürfe doch den Reiz dieser Minute—denke doch, wir zwei sind allein auf der Welt …
Wie spät—?

(p. 65)

Seize the moment between the pulsebeats of time—but here again that moment has been vitiated by thoughts of before and after. In “Abschiedssouper,” Anatol has decided to inform his beloved, Annie, that his erotic interests have for some time found another object; Annie, who has also experienced such a shift of interests, anticipates him by announcing the necessity of their parting. Infuriated by her “infidelity,” Anatol exclaims: “Man kann sich bei euresgleichen nicht genug eilen—sonst kommt ihr einem zuvor!” (p. 59). Again Schnitzler introduces a personal note in the theme of hastening to capture the moment of erotic bliss: one must be aware, at this very moment, of the past and future infidelities which take from it its aesthetic value. Comparison with an earlier treatment of the theme points up this divergence. In a seventeenth-century poem such as “Ach Liebste, laß uns eilen, / Wir haben Zeit …” the poet is at least sure that he and his beloved have “time,” even if it be, as Leonard Forster has commented, “occasio” rather than “tempus” in this particular case.21 The Baroque poet is able to tear his pleasures “through the iron gates of life” and, for the moment at least, to enjoy them wholly. For Anatol and his coevals, however, these moments are all to a greater or lesser degree “sonderbar täuschende … Augenblicke …” (p. 61).

Reigen, written in 1896/97, is a masterful dramatic statement of Schnitzler's attitudes toward time. No longer does the author find it necessary to have a raisonneur such as Max comment after an especially glaring example of Anatol's inconstancy: “es ist eben das Leben!” (p. 83)—now all such comments are firmly embedded in the structure of the play itself. The scenes, their Janus-faced composition pointing to both past and future, inexorably locate the characters in that context of time which they more or less consciously are always trying to escape. The aesthete's “day” has, as already anticipated in Anatol, been reduced to the most evanescent of moments, the moment of sexual satisfaction as experienced by two persons who are seeking only that from one another. It is surely psychological naiveté on Soergel's part to find “paltry” Schnitzler's use of the sex act as a metaphor for “die Fülle des Lebens,”22 for Schnitzler's characters, heirs of those eighteenth-century sensationalists who had converted the famous Cartesian dictum into “I feel, therefore I am,” seek certainty of their existence in the experience of pleasurable sensations—and the stronger the sensations, the surer their existence seems to them.23 They show curiosity about one another's capacity to perceive “happiness”: the poet is questioning “das süße Mädel”:

… Sag mir, mein Kind, bist du glücklich?
DAS süße Mädel:
Wie meinst das?
DER Dichter:
Ich mein im allgemeinen, ob du glücklich bist? … Ich mein … wenn du dich einfach leben spürst. Spürst du dich überhaupt leben?
DAS süße Mädel:
Geh, hast kein Kamm?

(p. 561)

The count does not have any greater success with the prostitute:

Sag mir einmal, bist du eigentlich glücklich?
Also ich mein, gehts dir gut?
Oh, mir gehts alleweil gut.


bleibt wieder stehen: Du, sag einmal, dir ist schon alles egal—was?
Ich mein, dir machts gar keine Freud mehr.
DIRNE gähnt:
Ein Schlaf hab ich.

(pp. 580-81)

Like Nietzsche's human being, Schnitzler's characters here receive singularly unilluminating answers from the “happy” herd.

Regardless of their degree of sophistication in the pursuit of pleasure, the figures in Reigen all encounter one obstacle between them and their goal—the obstacle of time. The first and most concrete form that time takes for them is the clock; it is the enemy of the soldier in the first scene who must return to the barracks, of the young wife in the fourth scene who has only five minutes for her illicit rendezvous, of the count in the ninth who finds the early hour inauspicious for courtship. In all these cases, however, the act of love does take place, in spite of clock and time. Consciousness of the clock seems to work like an aphrodisiac upon the characters of the play. The prostitute in the first scene states the motive behind this response: “Geh, bleib jetzt bei mir. Wer weiß, ob wir morgen nochs Leben haben” (p. 518), and the young gentleman in the fourth scene restates it as a part of his peroration for the young wife: “Das Leben ist so leer, so nichtig—und dann—so kurz—so entsetzlich kurz!” (p. 533). Like Felix in Sterben but without his reason for urgency, the people in Reigen realize that their living is a “Sein zum Tode” and act similarly to the earlier hero by seizing upon the moment of pleasurable sensation as their only guarantee of existence. The temporal aspect of this behavior has been described by Bernhard Blume as “aus der ‘Zeit’ in die ‘Fülle’ flüchten,”24 and it is now necessary to examine this “Fülle.”

“Fülle” can of course be only a matter of minutes for Schnitzler's characters—a fleeting, momentary thing. The action of Reigen emphasizes this without the aid of any overt philosophizing on the part of the characters by building its brief scenes around a sexual act with no “before” or “after” (the “before” was with another partner as the “after” will be). The act refuses thus to “acquire history,” to become a part of time; it is discontinuous, its very nature precluding duration. In an episode unique in Reigen, Schnitzler presents a love scene between man and wife. Married love, committed to duration, would seem to be out of place in a play such as this, until we learn through the dialogue of the peculiar history of this marriage. The husband is explaining to his young wife that their five-year-old marriage has been successful only because in the course of it they have had “ten or twelve” love affairs with each other:

Hätten wir gleich die erste [Liebschaft] bis zum Ende durchgekostet … es wäre uns gegangen wie den Millionen von anderen Liebespaaren. Wir wären fertig mit einander … Darum ist es gut, immer wieder für einige Zeit nur in guter Freundschaft hinzuleben.
DIE Junge Frau:
Ach so.
DER Gatte:
Und so kommt es, daß wir immer wieder neue Flitterwochen miteinander durchleben können, da ich es nie drauf ankommen lasse, die Flitterwochen …
DIE Junge Frau:
Zu Monaten auszudehnen.
DER Gatte:

(pp. 539-40)

For the moment at least, the husband's expressed philosophy seems to be valid and the warning of the aesthete-author of “The Rotation Method” that “one must never enter into the relation of marriage25 appears unnecessary. Readers or viewers of Reigen, however, may well question the validity of this particular marriage—even on purely aesthetic grounds—after witnessing the scenes before and after the one directly depicting it. Positive views on the wedded state are of course not generally to be expected from the characters of this play; conventional proposals are neither proffered nor desired here. Schnitzler's figures on the whole would agree with the following passage from “The Rotation Method” which appears directly after that on marriage, although they would no doubt smile condescendingly at the quaint decorum of the first sentence:

But because a man does not marry, it does not follow that his life need be wholly deprived of the erotic element. And the erotic ought also to have infinitude; but poetic infinitude, which can just as well be limited to an hour as to a month. When two beings fall in love with one another and begin to suspect that they were made for each other, it is time to have the courage to break it off; for by going on they have everything to lose and nothing to gain.26

This “poetic infinitude, which can just as well be limited to an hour as to a month,” is what Schnitzler's characters are seeking under the name of “Fülle”: Reigen chronicles this search with its increasing and inevitable frustrations. It is usually felt that this particular play, with its title and analogous structure, precludes any form of dramatic development. Insofar as “dramatic development” suggests a progressive action with a beginning, middle, and end, and a cast of characters who to greater or lesser extents come to realizations of their human condition through this action, this usual skepticism about Reigen is well founded. (It will be seen later why conventional development of character is impossible in this play.) But to deny any kind of development in Reigen is to overlook the author's careful evolution and increasingly sharper statement of theme in the frenetic rondo of his ten scenes.

Among the more conventional deterrents to the full enjoyment of the present moment in Reigen is the characters' consciousness of the pasts of their partners. Anatol too had been tormented by the infidelity of others, but in the later play this sentiment is both more widespread (both male and female characters share it) and even more ironic; for Anatol is a model of constancy compared to these figures whose brief unions are so clearly framed for us by those of the preceding and following scenes. Anatol had found a sort of solution to the shock caused by his partners' infidelities: hasten to anticipate them in this sphere. But he probably would not have been capable of formulating the perverse coda of this motif as played by the Poet and the Actress near the end of Reigen:

Nun, wem bist du in diesem Moment untreu?
Ich bin es ja leider noch nicht.
Nun tröste dich, ich betrüge auch jemanden.

(p. 565)

Just before the embrace obligatory in these scenes, the Actress returns to the subject:

Nun, wen betrüg ich?
Wen? … Vielleicht mich …
Mein Kind, du bist schwer gehirnleidend.

(p. 566)

The Poet, however, is not so insane as his companion suggests, for he and all the other characters are inevitably and uniformly betrayed by their very presence in a play whose structure permits no illusions about the uniqueness of the affairs depicted in it. Nor is he likely to find comfort, as the Actress advises, in the fact of the universality of this betrayal, since this very fact, as we know, poisons the presents of all Schnitzler's devotees of the moment.

The present was the most precarious among the chaos of tenses which defined Anatol's character. We recall that during the course of an erotic experience he already imagined it to himself as past, as a tender memory among many others. Another and even more effective way to undermine the present moment is to forget rather than remember it as it occurs. Anatol at least has his memories to shore up against his ruins; by browsing among the mementos of past love affairs which he deposited with Max, he can be sure that he has existed, although saddened by the consciousness of the tense. But if such a character has a bad memory, how can he be certain of his existence at all? “Forgetting,” then, becomes a motif which is stated with ever-increasing strength in Reigen until it represents the final and fatal triumph of time over the characters; for by robbing the aesthete of his consciousness of sensation, he is thereby robbed of his very existence. The motif is first stated in the scene between the Little Miss and the Poet; the latter speaks in the darkened room:

Es ist seltsam, ich kann mich nicht mehr erinnern, wie du aussiehst.
DAS süße Mädel:
Dank schön!
DER Dichter ernst:
Du, das ist beinah unheimlich, ich kann mir dich nicht vorstellen—In einem gewissen Sinne hab ich dich schon vergessen—Wenn ich mich auch nicht mehr an den Klang deiner Stimme erinnern könnte … was wärst du da eigentlich?—Nah und fern zugleich … unheimlich.

(pp. 557-58)

By losing their grasp on the present moment, as here, the characters in Reigen also lose the clear contours of personality, also lose their identities. If the aesthete exists ony for and in the present moment, he necessarily loses all reality when that moment loses reality. The first step in this process is the growing indistinctness of the partner in an erotic experience, as in the scene cited above; the next and inevitable step for Schnitzler is the blurring of the experience itself for the subject.

Although, as we have already remarked, Reigen has no raisonneur like Max, who stands somewhat outside the action and comments upon it in neatly-turned epigrams, Schnitzler has given his later play a “philosopher” of sorts, and, by making him an integral part of the action, the author is able to give his play both increased dramatic objectivity and irony. The Count in the last two scenes is a near relation of those other aesthetes, Felix and Anatol, with the possible difference that his station in life permits him an even more exclusive and spectacular dedication to the pursuit of pleasure. As we would expect, then, his “tungsind” is even deeper than theirs. Through his practice of the “rotation method,” he has come to feel that all fields are equally unexciting and essentially interchangeable. When stationed in Hungary he looked forward to the diversions of Vienna; once arrived in Vienna he found that the only difference was that the crowds in that city were larger. He envies the Actress whom he is visiting because he assumes that she must know why she is living: she has the lofty goal of her art to pursue. When she denies any knowledge of purpose in her life, he points out that after all she is famous, celebrated. Then a highly significant conversation takes place about the central problem of “happiness” and its relation to time:

Ich bitt Sie, Fräulein—berühmt—gefeiert—
Ist das vielleicht ein Glück?
Glück? Bitt Sie, Fräulein, Glück gibts nicht. Überhaupt gerade die Sachen, von denen am meisten g'redt wird, gibts nicht … zum Beispiel die Liebe. Das ist auch so was.
Da haben Sie wohl recht.
Genuß … Rausch … also gut, da läßt sich nichts sagen … das ist was sicheres. Jetzt genieße ich … gut, weiß ich, ich genieß. Oder ich bin berauscht, schön. Das ist auch sicher. Und ists vorbei, so ist es halt vorbei.
Es ist vorbei!
Aber sobald man sich nicht, wie soll ich mich denn ausdrücken, sobald man sich nicht dem Moment hingibt, also an später denkt oder an früher … na, ist es doch gleich aus. Später … ist traurig … früher ist ungewiß … mit einem Wort … man wird nur konfus. Hab ich nicht recht?
SCHAUSPIELERIN nickt mit großen Augen:
Sie haben wohl den Sinn erfaßt.

(p. 572)

Here is the time philosophy of the characters in Reigen made explicit, but, as we shall see, this is not Schnitzler's own final statement on the theme in the play. The isolated moment with no before or after is the only element in which these characters can exist; and insofar as the moment is discontinuous, the character too must be discontinuous. For this reason, as was hinted earlier, there can be no conventional development of character in a play such as Reigen. In the scenes toward the end involving the Actress and the Count, this discontinuity of character becomes so pronounced that we are confronted with a constant stream of non sequiturs. The figure of the actor or actress is supremely suited for the dramatic presentation of this inconstancy. The actor, as Nietzsche pointed out (and Schnitzler must have agreed with him), with his capacity for lightning-swift “changes,” typifies “falseness with a good conscience,” shows “the joy in dissimulation breaking out” to such an extent that it “pushes the so-called ‘character’ to the side, drowns it, at times even extinguishes it.”27 In her scene with the Poet, the Actress voices changing opinions in practically every speech, referring for example to her present lover as a “whim,” then as a man for whom she is “dying” with love. When, in the next scene, she discovers the Count just as clearly contradicting himself (most conspicuously by making love to her at the early hour contrary to his “program”), she cries out: “Und du hättest Schauspieler werden sollen!” (p. 575).

Indeed, we cannot expect any consistency on the part of the aesthete, for whom the “actors” here are heightened representatives. The aesthete, in his turn, stands for man himself—for, as Hofmannsthal defined him, he is a dovecote: impulses fly out like doves and others return, making it a metaphor to speak of the “self” at all. The “I,” as Hermann Bahr repeated after Ernst Mach, is “irretrievable.” Schnitzler illustrates this dissolution of the psychologically consistent traditional character most strikingly in the figures of the Actress and the Count; and with the latter he goes one step farther and shows the existential consequences of the discontinuous “I” with a psychological sharpness equalling that demonstrated by Nietzsche in his fable of the herd. The aesthete-Count is sure of only one thing: the pleasure of the moment. “Jetzt genieße ich … gut, weiß ich, ich genieß”—that is something so certain that he can say with the sensationalist: “I feel, therefore I am.” In the dim dawn scene which follows the interview with the Actress and is the final episode of Reigen, the intoxicated Count has accompanied the prostitute of the first episode home to her sordid room. He awakens and tries to orient himself in his at first unfamiliar surroundings. Schnitzler here shows us a character close to psychological annihilation and at the same time illuminates with mordant irony the paradoxical aestheticism of his characters. The Count, in the previous scene, had stated that the time before and the time after that of the most pleasurable sensations was essentially sad but that the time of that pleasure was something certain: “I know I enjoy … that is something certain,” and he might have added: that is all that is certain. Now, throughout the scene with the Prostitute, he tries to establish with only halting success whether he has actually enjoyed her favors, whether the pleasure he is so sure of actually took place. The motif of forgetfulness takes on nihilistic proportions, for here, in the most real sense, is a man fighting for his existence and meeting only blank nothingness. As he regards the sleeping girl, the Count, “philosopher” still, speculates upon the similarity of sleep and death; he fails to realize, however, the similarity of his own state with death, for he too in this shadowy scene has lost contact with the real space and time surrounding him. He has reached the state of that “happy” member of Nietzsche's herd who always “forgets” his happiness of the moment before, and this state, as Nietzsche recognized, is psychological death for the human being. By seeking to isolate the “moment,” which alone has meaning for him, he has succeeded in “killing” time in the real sense of that often thoughtlessly used phrase. Human existence at any given instant is contiguous with and dependent upon the coordinate points of past and future. Increasingly for the modern mind, there is no such thing as “absolute” time: a moment cannot be isolated from its surroundings, to which it is supremely relative, and then be spoken of as “real.” Schnitzler here shows us characters seeking “fullness” of time outside the domain of measuring clocks and finding inevitably (and most dramatically in the case of the Count)—nothing. Baroque poets sensed with a similar urgency that the moment is our only possession, but had at their disposal, as one last contrast will show, a formula of transformation which set them in a different world from Schnitzler's characters:

Mein sind die Jahre nicht, die mir die Zeit genommen;
Mein sind die Jahre nicht, die etwa möchten kommen;
Der Augenblick ist mein, und nehm ich den in Acht,
So ist der mein, der Zeit und Ewigkeit gemacht.(28)

Readers of Reigen never fail to mark Schnitzler's social comment in the last scene—that the highest and lowest levels of society are equal before the power of Eros, as in the Middle Ages they were seen to be equal in the universal Dance of Death. A further comment, however, needs to be underscored: that these two creatures of pleasure, sophisticated and unsophisticated, are equally cheated. In answer to the Count's anxious questions about her happiness, the Prostitute answered “Was?” and (yawning) “Ein Schlaf hab ich.” The Count's assurance concerning his own enjoyment, although eagerly sought (“Und was ist denn passiert … Also nichts … Oder ist was … ?” [p. 578]), is equally inadequate. Schnitzler, like Kierkegaard, emphasizes the essential paradox of the aesthetic life by showing how such a life, so basically committed to time, inevitably comes to grief upon it. Like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Schnitzler realizes the inanity of the idolization of the moment, whatever form it may take: “Das Vergangene abgetan sein lassen, die Zukunft der Vorsehung anheimstellen—beides heißt den eigentlichen Sinn der Gegenwart nicht verstehen, die überhaupt nur so weit als Realität gelten kann, als sie durch Treue des Gedächtnisses das Vergangene zu bewahren, durch Bewußtsein der Verantwortung die Zukunft in sich einzubeziehen versteht.”29 These lines were not written by a philosopher or Christian apologist; the fact, however, that their moral insight might suggest such authorship discloses an aspect of Schnitzler's genius which is often overlooked in conventional treatments of the Austrian dramatist, and particularly of this play.

The characters in Reigen “forget” themselves so completely near the end of the play that we can refer to them only metaphorically as having conventional “selves.” The circular structure suggests that the play might begin again at the ending with the same cast of characters (the Prostitute meeting the Soldier the evening after her episode with the Count, and so forth), for they have not developed or won any insights into themselves in the course of the action. These features must strike a modern theater-goer as amazingly like those of an “anti-play” such as The Bald Soprano. The seeds of absurdity present in Schnitzler have come to blossom in Ionesco's “Theater of the Absurd.” Here the characters have become so unreal to themselves and one another that they must constantly state their names and the most obvious facts about themselves in order to gain some assurance of their existence (husband and wife rediscover that they are married by finding they have the same daughter). They are so discontinuous that they constantly contradict themselves, usually in an even shorter space of time than Reigen's figures:

MR. Smith:
She has regular features and yet one cannot say that she is pretty. She is too big and stout. Her features are not regular but still one can say that she is very pretty. She is a little too small and too thin. She's a voice teacher.(30)

The characters are interchangeable in The Bald Soprano, as—for certain purposes—they are in Reigen also. The French play ends with Mr. and Mrs. Martin seated in the same places occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Smith at the beginning and speaking the same lines which the latter couple had at the opening of the scene. The circular structure both here and in Reigen suggests absurdity. The self, the psychologically consistent entity capable of duration, so threatened at the end of the century and already declared then to be “irretrievable,” collapses for the French playwright with farcical results. This juxtaposition of Ionesco and Schnitzler is not meant as a value judgment of either author or of the virtue of modernity as such; it is merely intended to suggest that Schnitzler, like the scenes in his Reigen, is Janus-faced. He may indeed look back wistfully, as all the textbooks tell us, to the charms of a declining society, but he also assuredly looks forward to the peculiar confusions and torments of our own times. By devoting himself with such perspicacity to his own “moment,” he succeeded at that feat which his characters were so signally unable to perform: he transcended his time.


  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Werke in drei Bänden, ed. Karl Schlechta (Munich, 1954), I, 211.

  2. Walter H. Sokel, The Writer in Extremis: Expressionism in Twentieth-Century German Literature (Stanford, 1959), p. 102.

  3. “Blühn und verdorrn ist uns zugleich bewußt. / Und irgendwo gehn Löwen noch und wissen, / solang sie herrlich sind, von keiner Ohnmacht.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Sämtliche Werke, hrsg. vom Rilke-Archiv (Wiesbaden, 1955), I, 697.

  4. Gottfried Benn, Gesammelte Werke in vier Bänden, ed. Dieter Wellershoff (Wiesbaden, 1960), III, 25.

  5. Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gedichte und lyrische Dramen, ed. Herbert Steiner (Vienna, 1952), p. 149.

  6. Hofmannsthal, p. 168.

  7. A Kierkegaard Anthology, ed. Robert Bretall (Princeton, 1946), p. 26.

  8. Hofmannsthal, p. 148.

  9. Hofmannsthal, p. 179.

  10. A Kierkegaard Anthology, p. 27.

  11. Arthur Schnitzler, Ausgewählte Erzählungen (Frankfurt am Main, 1950), p. 13.

  12. Schnitzler, Erzählungen, p. 21. Pascal clothed the same insight in the same image in his Pensées: “Qu'on s'imagine un nombre d'hommes dans les chaînes, et tous condamnés à la mort, dont les uns étant chaque jour égorgés à la vue des autres, ceux qui restent voient leur propre condition dans celle de leurs semblables, et, se regardant les uns et les autres avec douleur et sans espérance, attendent à leur tour. C'est l'image de la condition des hommes.” Oeuvres de Blaise Pascal, publiées par Léon Brunschvicg (Paris, 1921), XIII, 124.

  13. Schnitzler, Erzählungen, p. 17.

  14. Erzählungen, p. 39.

  15. Bernhard Blume, Das nihilistische Weltbild Arthur Schnitzlers, Diss. (Stuttgart, 1936), p. 33.

  16. Erzählungen, p. 60.

  17. The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, a selection ed. and trans. Alexander Dru (Oxford University Press, 1938), p. 128.

  18. Journals, p. 128.

  19. Journals, p. 128.

  20. Arthur Schnitzler, Meisterdramen (Frankfurt am Main, 1955), p. 27. Page references to this edition will appear hereafter in the text.

  21. Leonard Forster, The Temper of Seventeenth-Century German Literature, An Inaugural Lecture Delivered at University College, London, 7 February, 1951 (London, 1952), p. 12f.

  22. He speaks of the “Armseligkeit dieses Gleichnisses”: cf. Albert Soergel, Dichtung und Dichter der Zeit: Eine Schilderung der deutschen Literatur der letzten Jahrzehnte, 20. Auflage (Leipzig, 1928), p. 506.

  23. Typical is a statement of Casanova (who, if he had not existed, would certainly have had to be invented by Schnitzler): “Je sais que j'ai existé, car j'ai senti; et le sentiment me donnant cette connaissance, je sais aussi que je n'existerai plus quand j'aurai cessé de sentir.” Casanova, Mémoires, Texte présenté et annoté par Robert Abirached et Elio Zorzi, Préface de Gérard Bauer (Paris, 1958), I, 4.

  24. Blume, Das nihilistische Weltbild, p. 20.

  25. A Kierkegaard Anthology, p. 29.

  26. A Kierkegaard Anthology, p. 30. Cf. Reigen:

    Der Dichter:

    Ich hatte es mir schön vorgestellt, mit dir zusammen, allein mit dir, irgendwo in der Einsamkeit draußen, im Wald, in der Natur ein paar Wochen zu leben. Natur … in der Natur … Und dann, eines Tages Adieu—voneinander gehen, ohne zu wissen, wohin.

    Das suße Madel:

    Jetzt redst schon vom Adieusagen! Und ich hab gemeint, daß du mich so gern hast.

    Der Dichter:

    Gerade darum—

    (p. 561)

  27. These quotations from Nietzsche are my translation of fragments of Section 361 of Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Schnitzler speaks of a “Kernlosigkeit … die übrigens vorzugsweise bei reproduzierenden Talenten, vor allem bei genialen Schauspielern, insbesondere Schauspielerinnen, zu beobachten ist.” Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken: Aphorismen und Fragmente (Vienna, 1927), p. 96.

  28. Andreas Gryphius, “Betrachtung der Zeit,” Deutsche Barocklyrik, hrsg. und mit einem Nachwort versehen von Max Wehrli (Basel, 1945), p. 22.

  29. Schnitzler, Buch der Sprüche, pp. 83-84.

  30. Eugène Ionesco, Four Plays, trans. Donald M. Allen (New York, 1958), p. 12.

Gerd K. Schneider (essay date 1986)

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SOURCE: Schneider, Gerd K. “The Reception of Arthur Schnitzler's Reigen in the Old Country and the New World: A Study in Cultural Differences.” Modern Austrian Literature 19, nos. 3-4 (1986): 75-89.

[In the following essay, Schneider addresses differences in reactions to the stage, book, and film versions of Reigen in various countries.]

Since the reception of Schnitzler's Reigen up to 1925 is generally known, only a few points need to be emphasized. The play was written in the winter of 1896-97 and was published in 1900 in a private printing that was not for sale. The work was well received by his friends, but as early as 1903, the year scenes four to six were first staged in Munich, sharp criticism was voiced by Törnsee:

Reigen ist nichts als eine Schweinerei oder, ist das zu deutsch, eine Cochonnerie, die bloß der Esprit eines Parisers oder die Satire eines Künstlers, der moralisch hoch genug steht, um das Lüsterne des Themas sachlich verurteilend zu behandeln, aus dem Reiche des Pornographischen in das Gebiet der Kunst hätte emporheben können.1

The use of the subjunctive indicates that Törnsee did not consider Schnitzler to be the artist to raise this work to the elevated level of art. One of the reasons for this apparent inability was supplied by Ottokar Stauf von der March:

Der Verfasser [Arthur Schnitzler] stellt sich in die Reihen der gewissenlosen Sudler, deren mephitische Erzeugnisse die Spalten der sogenannten ‘Witz’-Blätter ad majorem Veneris vulgvagae gloriam füllen. … allenthalben [ist] der bekannte foetor judaicus zu spüren … [Reigen] ist mit hündischer Geschlechtsgier geschrieben, daß es einem ekelt.2

One year later the book edition of Reigen and the performance of the play were banned throughout Germany. However, Schnitzler was aware that Reigen was staged in Russia and in America, because he noted in his diary: “Wenn man hätte, um was man in Rußland, Amerika bestohlen würde.”3 Another diary entry shows that Schnitzler knew of unauthorized Reigen-performances in Hungary: “Reigen, ungarisch in Budapest gespielt, ordinär wie es scheint, polizeilich verboten.”4 Because unauthorized performances of Reigen increased after 1918, Schnitzler considered a stage performance, first in Berlin and then in Vienna.

Initially the press gave the Berlin performance of 23 December 1920 an excellent review. Herbert Ihering saw in the Reigen “graziöse Liebesspiele, ohne geistige Verfälschung,”5 and Alfred Kerr called Schnitzler in the Berliner Tageblatt “mehr launig als faunisch,” as someone who showed “mit nachdenklichem Lächeln den irdischen Humor der unterirdischen Welt. Nicht Schmutzereien: sondern Lebensaspekte. Auch das Vergängliche des Taumels: das komisch-trübe Schwinden des Trugs. Alles umhaucht von leisem, witzigem Reiz.”6 Interesting to note is that, according to some reviews, Reigen is a Viennese, not a German, product: “Reigen ist Wien, ist der betäubende, lockende verführerische Schimmer dieser herrlichen, fauligen, sinkenden, versunkenen Stadt.”7 It was not long before Regierungsrat Karl Brunner, who called himself the “Bannerträger der neuen deutschen Kultur,” denounced this “Viennese decadent work” in strong terms. Working for the Government as an expert adviser attached to the “Zentralstelle zur Bekämpfung unzüchtiger Schriften,” he succeeded in his attempt to activate nationalistic and anti-Semitic groups; this attack led to the famous, or rather infamous, theater scandal on 22 February 1921. The subsequent Reigen-Prozeß lasted from 5 November to 18 November; the trial transcripts published by Wolfgang Heine constitute a valuable historical document for the strong anti-Semitic feelings that existed during the so-called “Golden Twenties,” twelve years before the Nazis officially assumed power. Anti-Semitism is reflected in the statement of one witness who shifted from the specific ich to the generalizing unser, finally culminating in das ganze deutsche Volk:

[Während der Aufführung] konzentrierte ich [hauptsächlich] mein ganzes Empfinden und meine Gedanken darauf, zu beobachten, in welcher Weise das Familienleben, das Eheleben, unser religiöses Leben, unsere christliche Religion, der Stand der Offiziere, schließlich auch der Stand der Schauspieler so restlos durch diese Akte der Unzucht in den Schmutz gezogen sind. Da sagte ich mir: ja, was ist denn das eigentlich hier? Soll das als Kunstwerk angesprochen werden? Wenn ja, so kann ich nicht glauben, daß man das als deutsche Kunst ansprechen wird, es muß etwas anderes sein, und zwar das, womit man das ganze deutsche Volk nach der Revolution und namentlich unsere Jugend mit aller Macht demoralisiert.8

This “something other” which demoralized German youth was stated directly by another witness: “Das verdanken wir dem Judenpack! Das wäre noch schöner, wenn wir uns das gefallen ließen, wenn wir auf diese Weise das deutsche Volk vergiften ließen.”9 These invectives came not only from organized Nazi groups such as the Hakenkreuzler but also from other right-wing associations which saw an opportunity during the trial to publicize their anti-Semitic bias. Again and again the following statements could be heard: “Mit diesen Juden muß Schluß gemacht werden! Wir sind doch schließlich Deutsche! … diese Saujuden … diese Bande … dieser jüdische Direktor … die Juden muß man alle ausräuchern … dieses Gesindel … die Juden sollen nach Palästina gehen. …”10 Sentiments like these probably led the defense to the following conclusion: “Für die Verteidigung kommt es darauf an, festzustellen, daß es sich gar nicht um einen Kampf gegen den Reigen handelt, sondern um einen Kampf gegen die Juden, daß man den Reigen nur benutzt hat, um in dieser Form eine antisemitische Aktion ins Werk zu setzen. …”11

Schnitzler was skeptical about having Reigen performed in Vienna, as one of his diary entries shows:

Über “Reigen” aufführung. Bedenken und Gegengründe. Im Volksth[eater]. Wies Bernau [Direktor des Deutschen Volkstheaters] auf die Schwierigkeiten hin; u[nd] besonders auf die voraussichtliche Haltung der Presse. Schimpfereien der Antisemiten—und Lauheit der andern. Skandäle, die schädigen können, ja ev[entuell] selbst Censurverbot nach der Aufführung.12

The Viennese performance of Reigen took place on 21 February 1921 without any disturbances. The reviews, however, were quite biased; thus one could anticipate a scandal similar to the one in Berlin. The official organ of the Christian-Socialist Party, the Reichspost, issued the following attack:

Mit dem Reigen hat Schnitzler das Theater, das uns ein Haus edler Freuden sein sollte, zu einem Freudenhause, zum Schauplatze von Vorgängen und Gesprächen gemacht, wie sie sich schamloser in keiner Dirnenhöhle abwickeln können. … Schnaufende Dickwänste mit ihrem weiblichen Anhange, der den Namen der deutschen Frau schändet, sollen sich jetzt dort allabendlich ihre im wüsten Sinnentaumel erschlafften Nerven aufkitzeln lassen. Allein wir gedenken den Herrschäften das Vergnügen bald zu verleiden.13

A more vicious attack was published in the Neue Montagsblatt of 7 February 1921:

Bordellprologe des Juden Schnitzler … typischer jüdischer Schiebereinfall, um mit der Wohltätigkeit unsaubere Geschäfte zu versuchen und hungernden Kindern Brotsamen vom Tische der Geilheit zu offerieren … das Schmierigste, das auf dem Theater je dagewesen ist … geilste Pornographie … Es ist die Pflicht all jener Katholiken, die in ihrem Kampf gegen Schmutz und Schund wieder diesmal allein zu stehen scheinen, sich zu mächtigen Protestaktionen zusammenzutun, die von den Behörden nicht überhört werden können.14

The Catholics soon followed the call to action; on 13 February the “Katholische Volksbund für Österreich” gathered for a demonstration which drew 800 people who listened to the anti-Semitic statements made by the state councillor Seipel. On the evening of the same day Schnitzler attended the Reigen performance; his experience is recorded in his diary as follows: “Sie waren schon dabei, als ich hinkam. Über 300, von einer Katholikenversammlung kommend, wo ich beschimpft wurde, insultiren die Theaterbesucher, die eben kommen, johlen: ‘Man schändet unsere Weiber! Nieder Reigen! Nieder mit den Sozialdemokraten’ usw. Polizei vertreibt sie. Viel Polizei an den Eingängen.”15

Public opinion became more prejudiced the following day after the “Deutsch-Arischen Vereinigungen” had met to protest against the “Schande Wiens.” The attack came on the 18th of February during a performance which Schnitzler was attending:

Lärm … Garderobiere stürzt herein, weinend … [Schauspielerin] Carlsen von der Bühne fluchtartig, Geschrei, Toben, Brüllen;—Leute aus dem Zuschauerraum—ein paar hundert sind eingedrungen,—attakiren die Besucher, Publikum flieht, wird insultirt;—ich auf die Bühne, ungeheure Erregung, eiserner Vorhang vor, Spritzen in Thätigkeit, Publikum flieht auf die Bühne, Requisitenkammer,—das Gesindel tobt, schmeißt Sachen an den Vorhang, will die Thüren einbrechen;—Wasser fließt in die Garderoben … wir [A. S. und Heinrich Schnitzler] gehen in den Zuschauerraum;—Bänke und Sessel aus den Logen heruntergeworfen … Polizei verbietet die 10 Uhr Vorstellung … Der ganze Abend ein Unicum in der Theatergeschichte.16

After the Reigen trial in Berlin in November 1921 this controversial play was staged again in Vienna on 7 March 1922. Police were present to maintain public order, but in order to avoid a recurrence of another scandal Schnitzler withdrew his permission to have the play performed. The last showing in Vienna took place on 30 June 1922, and not until 1982 could Schnitzler's Reigen be seen again.

Some of the prejudices called forth by the Reigen in the Old Country were also imported into the New World. A case in point is the German emigrant Fritz Endell who had come to the United States to start a new life. Comparing the American concept of freedom with the lack of freedom in the Old Country, he noted in his article on “Der Reigen in Amerika” the following, without being aware of the contradiction:

Es dürfte den meisten Deutschen unbekannt sein, daß in dem Lande der Freiheit … an eine Aufführung des Reigen niemals gedacht werden könnte, da bereits die Verschickung des Buches durch die Post in den Vereinigten Staaten eine strafbare Handlung ist, während uns [in Deutschland] die öffentliche Aufführung durch berittene Schutzmannschaft und Strafprozesse aufgezwungen ist.17

Embarrassed by the “Junggesellenkunst” of a leading German dramatist, he advised Schnitzler that it was now, especially after the war, “mehr denn je vaterländische Pflicht, unseren literarischen Ehrenschild rein zu halten.18 Schnitzler wrote a conciliatory letter to Endell in which he stressed the importance of Reigen for himself, that he would regret “wenn ich in meinem Leben nichts anderes geschrieben hätte als dieses Buch, daß ich es aber unter den ungefähr zwei Dutzend, die erschienen sind, keineswegs missen möchte, sowohl um meinet- als um der deutschen Literatur willen.”19 Because Endell had done Schnitzler a favor by sending him some antique prints, Schnitzler felt obliged to mail him a copy of this disputed work. Endell's reaction was:

Nachdem ich die zehn Akte mit ihrer ermüdenden und herausfordernden Schlußpointe gelesen, war mir zunächst klar, daß man ein solches Buch unmöglich in einem deutschen Haus aufbewahren könne, ich riß daher den Text fein säuberlich heraus und verbrannte ihn, nur den Deckel und das Widmungsblatt des Dichters zurückbehaltend. Ich bin zwar kein Literaturkritiker, aber soviel glaube ich sagen zu können, daß die künstlerische Form dieser Bühnenbilder kaum so bedeutend ist, daß um ihretwillen der Inhalt der deutschen Literatur, dem deutschen Theater hätte gerettet werden müssen.20

Some of Endell's reservations were shared by his American compatriots. Reigen, which was translated into English by F. L. Glaser and L. D. Edwards and published under the title Hands Around in 1920, appeared with the following inscription: “Of this edition, intended for private circulation only, 1475 copies have been printed after which the type has been distributed.”21 A performance of Reigen in the Green Room Club in New York City, planned for March 1922, had to be changed to a reading because of the intervention of some interest groups aimed at guarding public morality, especially the Society for the Suppression of Vice. The first American performance of Reigen took place in October 1926 at the Triangle Theater in New York City. The reason that there were no disturbances probably had to do with the exclusive showing of this play before a male audience which had subscribed to the seasonal offerings. No other theater dared to perform Reigen, however, because the book had been banned in New York State by John S. Sumner, Secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. The court test came in the fall of 1929 when a raid on a bookstore produced a copy of the ‘decadent’ work. Charged with violation of Section 1141 of the Penal Law, the bookstore owner had to stand trial, but the charges against him were dismissed by the Magistrate Louis Brodsky in the City's Magistrate's Court in the Borough of Manhattan with the following ruling:

Although the theme of the book is admittedly the quite universal literary theme of men and women, the author deals with it in cold and analytical, one might even say scientific, manner that precludes any salacious interpretation. A careful scrutiny of the text reveals not a single line, not a single word, that might be regarded as obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent, or disgusting within the meaning of the statute.22

Other justices, on the other hand, found the book indecent and obscene; they fought so furiously against the lifting of the ban that the Publishers' Weekly, the American Book Trade Journal, issued the following warning:

In the Court of Special Sessions “Hands Around” was held to be an obscene book, and the long arm of Mr. Summer is free to interrupt its sale in New York. Justices Frederick Kernochan [and others] differed with Magistrate Brodsky, holding that the book is “obscene and indecent, being a lurid story of ten illicit love relations.” It is becoming necessary for the bookseller in New York to watch his courts very closely in these hectic times.23

The lifting of the ban was affirmed in 1930 with the decisions by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York and the Court of Appeals of the State of New York.

The censorship of Reigen, however, was not ended yet. This time the target was not the book nor the play but the French movie version which was directed by Max Ophuls in 1950 and released in America under the title La Ronde. While the British Film Academy had voted La Ronde as the best film in 1951, it was banned in New York State by the Division of Motion Pictures of the State Education Bureau and the National Legion of Decency, which placed it in its ‘C’ category, ‘C’ standing for condemned. The film distributor for the United States had anticipated this reaction as the Souvenir Programme, which carried the warning “Strictly for Adults Only,” clearly shows: “We take pleasure in presenting this exciting French film, La Ronde. No doubt it will create a good deal of controversy and perhaps even bitter criticism, but we feel that film-goers should at least be given the opportunity to see it. … We must add, however, that La Ronde is a film for adults and that it is most unsuitable for children.”24

The chief reason for refusing La Ronde a license in New York was, according to Otis Guernsey, “on the grounds of immorality and tendency to corrupt morals,” and because “it openly refutes the legitimacy of family life.”25 The ban imposed by Dr. Flick, the Director of the State Board of Regents' Division of Motion Pictures, was upheld by the State of New York. This ruling was overturned on 18 January 1954 by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the state's order had infringed upon the constitutional right of freedom of expression. La Ronde could now be seen in the State of New York without violating state law. The more conservative forces did not admit defeat, however, because, as Andrew Sarris pointed out, the showing of La Ronde “in New York State remained restricted to a mutilated print … while the rest of these United States enjoyed the original version.”26

In the same article Sarris attacked Eric Bentley for his review of La Ronde which “is very knowingly malicious as it demolishes the film for the sake of the play.”27 The review in question had appeared in the New Republic in 1954 where Bentley had rated the film “not utterly banal” because “it is better than that. There are real actors in it. There is a real sophistication in the showmanship. Late Saturday night, if you feel like seeing a little French bedroom comedy, and don't mind its not being of the best, you can see La Ronde and like it. Go really late, so you'll be nearly as tired as Mr. Ophuls must have been when he made the scenario.”28

Bentley, objecting strongly to the film version, published a new translation of La Ronde which was used in the 1955 production in New York's Circle in the Square in Greenwich Village. It opened on 27 June 1955 and ran for 132 performances.29 Directed by José Quintero, the play was hailed by Lewis Funke in the New York Times as a first-rate performance, because “as a clinical study of the game of sex, it is a devastating part of the truth. … La Ronde is hardly the sort of comedy to make you laugh. It is sardonic, pitiless and penetrating in elemental forces. … [The play] does not present an especially pretty picture. But it does present a fascinating one.”30

The next performance of La Ronde took place in the Studio-Theater in Washington, D.C., an intimate theater with a seating capacity of 247. Directed by June Havoc and Donald Cook, it sold out for the entire three-week engagement. The opening on 28 November 1955 was a much-touted social event attended by dignitaries like Vice President Richard Nixon heading the political delegation and Mrs. Gwen Caffritz the socialites. The reception of this production was not favorable. Richard Coe remarked that “the local theater world is set back a few light years with the opening of the Studio … for [La Ronde] is a cynical mess.”31 Criticism was directed mainly against the reduction of the ten different players to four who had to double in the ten roles, but the Eric Bentley translation was also faulted: “As for Eric Bentley's adaptation of the Viennese doctor's worldly treatise on venereal disease, it closely follows the Frank and Jacqueline Marcus translation. … [In addition], the project's sleazy worthlessness was underscored by [the malfunctioning of] technical matters. The Studio is more to be censored than pitied. Roundly. As in zero. Or, more accurately, minus zero.”32

Another possible explanation for the play's failure is that the public's level of expectation was set too high because the Max Ophuls film version was generally known, or as Tom Donelly remarked in the Washington D.C. Daily News on 29 November 1955, not without local pride: “You must know about La Ronde, since the elegant film version of this classic set of dialogs ran for years in Washington, without the least bit of trouble from the censors. (In provincial New York it was a different matter.)”

Donelly was not far off with his reference to “provincial New York,” not only because the Ophuls version had been censored, but also because of another incident at Bard College, a coeducational college of about 275 students. The Episcopal clergyman, the Reverend John Quincy Martin, charged the college administration with having abandoned its moral role and demanded that it should resign. The reason for this moral outrage was that two male students, who subsequently were expelled, had visited the women's dormitory during the night the drama department had staged a “French” play—La Ronde.33 These two events were probably linked in the clergyman's mind because he referred to the students' behavior and the play as “immoral.” Bard's president, Dr. James H. Case Jr., replied to this charge as follows:

La Ronde is written as a serious attack on human weakness with a serious moral story to tell. In converting it to American movie standards, it emerged as a frothy comedy. We went back to the serious play ***. We used the original version, not the movie version. While there may have been a question of taste and judgment in staging the play, I do not see how it could be construed as immoral.34

The moral outrage evoked in the 50s as a result of the Bard College production had disappeared by the time the play was revived on 9 May 1960 at New York's Marquee Theater. The Playgram carried the following message:

It is our belief that Schnitzler's writing has not been fully appreciated in this country, perhaps partly because of a lack of understanding due to our more robust national characteristics. In any case, now, with the passing of time … we believe Mr. Schnitzler's delicate dissertation can be leisurely and appropriately explored on all its levels.35

The “our” and “we” in the above quotation refer to Patricia Newhall and Hans Weigert, who had translated Schnitzler's work anew in order to replace the “somber” Bentley version. The main difference between the two versions was the substitution of humor for cynicism or, as Patricia Newhall remarked in an interview: “Schnitzler wrote a brilliant satire on human nature and I feel its comment is made through humor.”36 This new translation, however, could not save the play. It was superior to the Bentley version but, as Peter Bauland pointed out, it “misses the lightness and humor of Schnitzler. According to most reviewers, the performance was dull and heavy-handed. Reigen had lost its charm and its usefulness, particularly for a young audience that shares none of the nostalgia for the old days in mittel-europa.37 In addition to these shortcomings the shock-value was gone; sex was more acceptable to a modern audience, or as Brooks Atkinson observed in his review: “… the Freudian revolution in attitudes toward sex has tempered the audacity of the material. Now we can hardly avoid regarding the ten episodes as repetitious, each being less interesting than its predecessor, although the writing of the English text by Hans Weigert and Patricia Newhall retains the humor and taste of Schnitzler's view.”38

Walter Kerr, on the other hand, whose final verdict in the New York Herald Tribune of 10 May 1960 was that “La Ronde makes it about a third round the carousel,” attributed partial blame for the failure to the new translation, “which is not really prepared to give us the delectable verbal relief that will refresh interest, bout by bout.” To other reviewers “verbal relief” was present, but in the wrong situations, because “people say some quite profound and often humorous things, but they are always getting undressed or dressed while they talk, and this is disconcerting.”39 All in all, this production “to be found in an off-Broadway action on a small but broad-minded stage,”40 was not a success and one could assume that the interest in Schnitzler's play had dissipated.

This was, however, not the case. Eight years later, a brief notice in the New York Times announced that La Ronde would appear as a musical on Broadway: “La Ronde, Arthur Schnitzler's 1902 [sic] treatise in 10 episodes on illict [sic] love, will be presented as a musical in May.”41 This announcement was premature; not until the 1969-1970 season was La Ronde staged under the suggestive title Rondelay which ran for only eleven performances. A revival of the play was attempted in 1972 when the “Moving Company” decided to try its luck. The result was almost predictable; the play was turned into a “tired formula, not Schnitzler's cynical depiction of the sexual mores and hypocrisy of his time.”42 At fault were the youth of the actors and the failure to differentiate among the assorted middle-European types: “So they have brought the play down to a rather pedestrian level of 1972-American-apple-pie, not Viennese sacher torte, circa 1900. The mores of that time not being sufficiently re-created in the characterization, the essential elements in the play are missing.”43

Rondelay was back again in 1975, publicized as a play by Peter Swet based on Schnitzler's original and performed by actors from the “Impossible Ragtime Theater.” New were the time and locality of the action since the play was transplanted to New York City in the 1970s. The main requisite was, according to one critic, “a bed … swinging like a turntable from Central Park to a suite at the Pierre.”44 Arthur Schnitzler lost out in this production while Peter Swet should have created his “own love play instead of adapting Schnitzler's.”45

Another major production of La Ronde was attempted at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in July 1977. Ken Ruta, the director, intended to stress the play's social criticism and the characters' existential despair. This message is clearly stated in the Guthrie Theater Program: “The laughter [the play] liberated is the laughter of loneliness and despair. … If the characters were able to uncouple long enough to really look at each other, they might see that they share more urgent needs: social, moral and human ones. But they cannot. Instead they waltz on and on, ever closer to the brink of disaster.”46

Joan Bunke, in her review “Good Play, Bad Guthrie,” which was published in the Des Moines Sunday Register on 26 June 1977, disagreed with this interpretation. She felt that this approach contradicted Schnitzler's intention since “Vienna's glossy, phony veneer and the rot spreading under it were Schnitzler's targets. Ruta's production is too much corruption and too little veneer.” Equally devastating was the review in the New York Times: “La Ronde, Schnitzler's circular chain of seductions and solitudes in turn-of-the-century Vienna, lacks shape in the Guthrie production. The 11 [sic] episodes do not share the ghost of style and tone they need if they are to become truly a circle.”47

Reigen was back in New York when the Impossible Ragtime Theater decided to give this play another chance, this time without the changes made by Peter Swet. The play opened on 7 September 1978—and closed on the 24th of the same month. Directed by Rob Pherson, the cast's excellent acting and the adding of two mimes were commended,48 but Terry Curtis Fox from the Village Voice found that the true message of the play did not come through. What Schnitzler had wanted to show was the combination of

an amoral sexual radicalism with severe social criticism. Two strands flow through the work: sexual pursuit is its own erotic end … and that men and women act differently when their partners are of a different social class. Schnitzler defined sexual attraction as something that happens between people of different social standings. He also understood that women were viewed by his society as socially distinct, thus enhancing their otherness; the minute they were known, they lost their erotic interest.49

The Rob Pherson production lacked “the delicate balance of speech and gesture,” and because of this “Schnitzler's pomp becomes mere posturing; his wit becomes strained. Soon there is no longer any of the elegance left, just sexual moaning and groaning in the dark. The champagne zest is gone. What is as sweet and well-carved as a Viennese cake ends up like a dry doughnut.”50 Equally disappointing was the 1979 production of the Equity Library Theater in New York. Directed by Warren Kliever, this play premiered on 1 February and closed on 18 February. A New York critic attributed the closing to the fact that “the playwright's cynical rendering of amorally amorous deception, once thought daring, has been rendered innocuous by changing standards of behavior.”51 The same conclusion can be found in the New York Theater Review: “Without the fin-de-siècle Viennese atmosphere, Arthur Schnitzler's once-daring and still bittersweet effective portraits of casual sex seem silly and charmless.”52

One year later another musical version of La Ronde appeared, this time produced by Center Stage, a resident repertory theater of Bergen County in New Jersey. This musical, consisting of sixteen musical numbers, a Prologue, and a Finale, opened on 26 June 1980, at the Playhouse on the Mall in Paramus, directed by Charlz A. Herfurth. The one-sidedness of this production can be seen in the titles of some musical numbers: “Oh, Herr Alfred;” “It's Most Difficult;” “A Perfect Lady;” “Whipped Cream;” “Time for Bed;” and “We'll Join the Night.” The success, according to one critic, was moderate:

The characterizations lack charm and wit and offer little contrast. Love may appear in many guises, but is marked by poor performances, and while a few singers display voices of modest merit, others are notably untrained. The music is, at best, ambitious and as orchestrated for piano and harp, becomes gratingly repetitious. The lyrics are awkward, and lack a suitable balance of pre-Freudian Viennese humor and cynicism.53

The fall of 1984 saw yet another production of La Ronde, this time at the new Ohio Theater in New York. Sammy Cucher's direction turned Schnitzler's original into a travesty because now the action took place in New York during the 1920s. This added a not-appreciated estrangement effect:

There is a strange and meaningless bit when a character crosses the stage gesticulating silently while a broadcast voice talks about Calvin Coolidge. Another time, the cast comes out waving little American flags. Why? Well, Cucher is a graduate of NYU's experimental theater wing and he has to show off what presumably he learned there.54

Another drawback was the Bentley translation written in “textbook English,” and the old-fashioned European setting: “[The] text is filled with references to private dining rooms, poets writing for the theater, a count who pays a visit to a leading lady, etc. All of that is highly continental. Here we do not refer to dramatists as ‘poets,’ and a restaurant's private dining room used for a seduction is a phenomenon of other times and other places.”55

Despite this negative comment it seems that La Ronde will not vanish from the American stage. More successful performances of this challenging play include the Arthur Storch production at Syracuse Stage in November of 1974, the Eric Conger production with the Barter Intern Company in Abingdon, Virginia, in August of 1975, and the 1985 summer-staging at the Williamstown Theater Festival with David Trainer directing. There have also been numerous productions at American universities, including the ones by the Experimental Theater of Vassar College in May 1969, by the Theater of the University of North Carolina at Asheville in May 1972, and at the Juilliard School in May 1976. In all reviews not one derogatory remark was made referring to Schnitzler's Jewish background. The bulk of the American reviews stress Schnitzler's cynicism and to a certain extent, the ‘immoral’ sexual content of La Ronde.

Nietzsche once said that every writer projects himself into what he writes. This is also true of literary critics and others who have commented on Reigen or La Ronde, the book, the stage performance, or the film and will probably remain true of future critics in the Old Country as well as in the New World.


  1. Fr. Törnsee, in Neue Bahnen, 3 (1903), p. 245. Quoted by Otto P. Schinnerer, “The History of Schnitzler's Reigen,Publications of the Modern Language Association, 46 (1931), p. 841.

  2. Ottokar Stauf von der March, Ostdeutsche Rundschau, 17 May 1903, quoted by Schinnerer, ibid.

  3. Unpublished diary entry of 27 November 1906.

  4. Arthur Schnitzler, Tagebuch 1902-1912, ed. Werner Welzig et al. (Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1981), p. 361.

  5. Herbert Ihering, “Reigen,” Börsen-Kurier, 24 December 1920; reprinted in H. I., Von Reinhardt bis Brecht. Eine Auswahl der Theaterkritiken 1909-1932, ed. Rolf Badenhausen (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt-Verlag, 1967), pp. 77-78; also in Theaterkritiken für die Republik 1917-1933 im Spiegel der Kritik, ed. Günther Rühle (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1967), pp. 280-281.

  6. Günther Rühle, Theaterkritiken, pp. 279-280.

  7. Herbert Ihering, “Reigen,” p. 78.

  8. Wolfgang Heine, ed., Der Kampf um den Reigen. Vollständiger Bericht über die sechstägige Verhandlung gegen Direktion und Darsteller des Kleinen Schauspielhauses Berlin (Berlin: Rowohlt, 1922), p. 93.

  9. Ibid., p. 95.

  10. Ibid., pp. 161-165.

  11. Ibid., p. 164.

  12. Unpublished diary entry of 19 April 1919.

  13. Quoted in Otto P. Schinnerer, “The History of Schnitzler's Reigen,” p. 851.

  14. Ibid.

  15. Unpublished diary entry of 13 February 1921.

  16. Unpublished diary entry of 16 February 1921.

  17. Fritz Endell, “Der Reigen in Amerika,” Deutsches Volkstum, 5, vii (1923), p. 284.

  18. Ibid., p. 285.

  19. Ibid.

  20. Ibid.

  21. See Richard H. Allen, An Annotated Arthur Schnitzler Bibliography (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1966); C 13, e 1, p. 55. The same edition of 1475 copies was published for members of the Schnitzler Society in 1929.

  22. “When Judges Disagree,” The Publishers' Weekly, xxiv, no. 116, 14 December 1929, p. 2758.

  23. Ibid., p. 2759.

  24. Souvenir Programme, dated 29 July, part of the Schnitzler collection in the Beaumont Library, a branch of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center.

  25. Otis L. Guernsey Jr., The New York Tribune, 28 March 1954, p. 1.

  26. Andrew Sarris, “films in focus,” The Village Voice, 16 October 1969, p. 55.

  27. Ibid.

  28. Eric Bentley, New Republic, 5 April 1954, p. 21; reprinted as “Reigen Comes Full Circle” in E. B., The Dramatic Event: An American Chronicle (New York: Horizon, 1954), p. 210.

  29. See Peter Bauland, The Hooded Eagle. Modern German Drama on the New York Stage (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1968), p. 174.

  30. Lewis Funke, “Theatre: A Clinical Study of Sex,” New York Times, 28 June 1955, L+:24.

  31. Richard L. Coe, “One on the Aisle: Square Peg—Round Stage, “The Washington Post and Times Herald, 30 November 1955, final ed., p. 26.

  32. Ibid.

  33. In April 1986 I inquired whether this “French” play was indeed Schnitzler's Reigen. William Driver, Flint Professor of Drama at Bard College replied: “Indeed, yes, the play was Schnitzler's Reigen; it was produced in the College's new theater, director Ted Hoffmann, date 1955. No one survives on campus who played in or saw the play, and Dr. Case and Father Martin are both dead.”

  34. “Pastor Critical of Bard College,” New York Times, 29 March 1955, L++, p. 20.

  35. Playgram—Theatre Marquee, May 1960, part of the Schnitzler collection in the Beaumont Library.

  36. Arthur Gelb, “New La Ronde Stresses Humor,” New York Times, 14 March 1960, L+, p. 25.

  37. Peter Bauland, The Hooded Eagle, p. 175.

  38. Brooks Atkinson, “‘La Ronde’ Arrives at the Marquee,” New York Times, 10 May 1960, L, p. 44.

  39. John McClain, “La Ronde—Heady Stuff,” New York Journal American, 10 May 1960, p. 15.

  40. Rowland Field, “Around Again. La Ronde Revival Parades Untired Lovemakers,” Newark Evening News, 10 May 1960, p. 54.

  41. Sam Zolotow, “La Ronde Turns Into Musical,” New York Times, 19 December 1967, L, p. 58.

  42. Martin Oltarsh, Show Business, 30 November 1972, p. 13.

  43. Ibid.

  44. Mel Gussow, “La ‘Rondelay’,” New York Times, 26 November 1975, L, p. 14.

  45. Ibid.

  46. The Guthrie Theater Program 1977, issue 1:13.

  47. Richard Eder, “In This Theater the Stage Becomes an Actor,” New York Times, 21 July 1977, L C, p. 19.

  48. See Show Business, 14 September 1978, p. 12.

  49. The Village Voice, 25 September 1978, p. 127.

  50. Donald R. Wilson, Soho Weekly News, 14 September 1978, p. 58.

  51. Tom Buckley, “La Ronde, Seduction in Vienna,” New York Times, 3 February 1979, L, p. 14.

  52. La Ronde at Equity Library Theatre,” New York Theater Review, March 1979, p. 50.

  53. Dani, “Love Games,” Variety, 9 July 1980, p. 94.

  54. “Ohio Theater Makes Travesty of La Ronde,New York City Tribune, 15 November 1984, p. 5 B.

  55. Ibid.

Martin Swales (essay date 1971)

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SOURCE: Swales, Martin. “Tragedy and Comedy.” In Arthur Schnitzler: A Critical Study, pp. 181-214. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.

[In the following essay, Swales explores elements of tragedy and comedy in Liebelei and Zwischenspiel.]

Liebelei is the nearest Schnitzler comes to writing tragedy. Here, he explicitly measures the sexual behaviour of the young man-about-town, of the Anatol figure, against the possibility of total and passionate surrender to love, and judges the young man accordingly. In this play Schnitzler takes issue with many of the moral conventions of his time. In this sense Liebelei recalls Ibsen, although it lacks the resolute social purpose of Ibsen at his most passionately critical. It must, however, not be forgotten that Schnitzler's concerns are somewhat different from those of his great Norwegian predecessor. In a play such as Pillars of the Community, Ibsen attacks the way society is run, the powers of social administration and, with them, specific concrete forms of social abuse. Schnitzler attacks above all prevailing social attitudes; he is concerned with the way people confront and formulate personal, private experience, rather than with social activities as such. He documents the extent to which personal experience is embedded in the social reality and class-structure of his time. Schnitzler's characters inhabit a different world from Ibsen's. Where Ibsen is concerned with the stifling, self-righteous world of the small provincial town, Schnitzler is concerned with a capital city which in its sophistication would repudiate self-righteousness as being in bad taste. One feels the difference of Ibsen's world even in those plays where he is concerned with the private sphere of experience, with marriage, family life. There is, for example, in Schnitzler no equivalent to the relentless certainty of Torwald Helmer (A Doll's House), and hence there is no equivalent to the final head-on confrontation between him and his wife. The all-pervasive Viennese irony, which concedes its own inadequacy and thrives on its disarming self-awareness, is a much more elusive organism for the would-be giant-slayer to confront than Ibsen's self-explanatory and often self-satisfied world. Where Ibsen is concerned with the juxtaposition of truth and falsehood, Schnitzler is concerned with their intermingling.1 For the most part, Schnitzler is content to enter the minds of his characters and to imply that standard by which they are to be judged. Just occasionally, however, he does make his characters confront a world which lives by totally different and more genuine standards. Once Schnitzler admits such a confrontation, the comedy of the undisturbed baseness of the individual mind gives place to the new and rare possibility of tragic confrontation.

The figure of the ‘süßes Mädel’ appears frequently in Schnitzler's work. Very often she is seen in terms of the response she elicits from the man (one things of Anatol's famous description of her in Weihnachtseinkäufe). This means that she tends to play a passive role. She, like the actress, is ‘Freiwild’; she is sexually accessible, grateful for any taste of romance and glamour, however brief, that is brought into her limited, practical existence by the young ‘Lebemann’. Furthermore, she is socially undemanding. She has to accept the few hours allotted to her, to accept that she is accorded only a peripheral role in the life of her lover. In many of his works, Schnitzler focuses on the ‘Lebemann’ himself. In Liebelei, however, the ‘süßes Mädel’ is a figure equal in importance to the young man. Schnitzler here confronts two social worlds and their attendant attitudes towards human relationships. Although the confrontation itself, the relationship between Fritz and Christine is seen essentially in personal and psychological terms, the difference in social background is nevertheless an important factor. In this sense one could describe Liebelei as an example of Schnitzler's psychological Naturalism, in which even the most private and intimate sphere of personal experience is seen to partake of and reflect the social situation that surrounds it.

The confrontation between the two worlds, the central theme of the play, is articulated at the simplest level in the scene setting. Act I plays in Fritz's rooms. Schnitzler gives us no specific stage directions, as he does in most of his early dramas (Das Märchen,Freiwild,Das Vermächtnis). All we know is that the room must reflect Fritz's way of life, the kind of social existence which his independent means allow him, it must be ‘elegant und behaglich’ (D, i. 216). The last two acts are to play in a totally different environment, in a room that is, quite simply, ‘bescheiden und nett’ (240).

Act I opens with a dialogue between Fritz and Theodor. The latter reproaches his friend for his continued—and dangerous—relationship with a married woman, a relationship which in its insecurity and furtiveness brings both parties nothing but unhappiness, but which Fritz seems quite incapable of breaking. Theodor suggests that his friend should get away from Vienna for a few days. He points out how much good their brief stroll in the country has done him. He goes on to refer to another context in which Fritz has recovered all his former gaiety and good humour: ‘Du weißt nämlich gar nicht, wie fidel du da draußen gewesen bist—du warst geradezu bei Verstand—es war wie in den guten alten Tagen …—Auch neulich, wie wir mit den zwei herzigen Mädeln zusammen waren, bist du ja sehr nett gewesen …’ (217). For Theodor, these two experiences function on the same level. In relation to the social world which both he and Fritz inhabit, both experiences take place ‘da draußen’: in this sense, both experiences represent a pleasant change. Theodor goes on to develop a whole theory of erotic relationships. Women are there as relaxation for man, and one only needs to look to a specific kind of world for happiness and distraction, ‘wo es keine großen Szenen, keine Gefahren, keine tragischen Verwicklungen gibt’ (219). The world to which Theodor refers is that of the ‘Vorstadt’, and Fritz is won over. He joins Theodor in the unanimous slogan of ‘Erholung’. Theodor, delighted to have convinced his friend, issues an ultimatum: ‘Ich hab’ deine Liebestragödien satt. Du langweilst mich damit. Und wenn du Lust hast, mir mit dem berühmten Gewissen zu kommen, so will ich dir mein einfaches Prinzip für solche Fälle verraten: Besser ich als ein anderer. Denn der Andere ist unausbleiblich wie das Schicksal’ (220). This opening dialogue of the play summarizes the spirit in which the two men receive Christine and Mizi, and crystallizes the framework of personal and social attitudes which encompasses the relationship between Christine and Fritz. Theodor argues that the relationship with Christine will finally put an end to Fritz's ‘Liebestragödien’; in actual fact, however, the relationship with Christine is the nearest Schnitzler's world gets to yielding a love tragedy. Furthermore, Theodor sounds a theme that runs through the play, when he urges Fritz not to be troubled in his conscience about any relationship he may experience: the lover might just as well be he as anyone else, for fate decrees that lover will succeed lover in an almost unbroken chain. This notion of ‘fate’ is at the heart of the moral attitudes of the socially dictated code of behaviour: no one relationship must be allowed to acquire the aura of something uniquely valuable. No relationship is unique; love is the general name for a series of experiences. It is not an absolute, it is, like all experiences, repeatable. Ultimately, this sense of being one of a series, this ‘Ahnung der Wiederholbarkeit des Unwiederholbaren’2 produces the total heart-break in Christine. Thus psychologically and thematically the scene is set and ready for the appearance of that other world ‘da draußen’—the world of the ‘Vorstadt’. Mizi is the first to arrive. She is attractive to Theodor in her spontaneity, in her full-blooded enjoyment of life ‘ohne Liebestragödien’. Mizi does indeed correspond to Theodor's depiction of the ‘Mädel aus der Vorstadt’, to borrow the title of the Nestroy play in which, arguably, the figure of the ‘süßes Mädel’ has her origins. Mizi has no illusions about her relationship with Theodor; she knows it cannot last, but she accepts it with both hands for the pleasure it can give:

Ja, richtig—so lange währt die ewige Liebe nicht.
Wer wird denn im Mai an den August denken. Ist's nicht wahr, Herr Fritz?


Mizi guarantees the kind of unproblematical relationship such as Theodor has praised.

It is against this background that Christine enters. In contrast to Mizi, she identifies the whole purpose and beauty of her life with her love for a man—and specifically, of course, with her love for Fritz. She expresses the simple truth of her feelings to Fritz: ‘du bist aber mein Alles, Fritz, für dich könnt' ich …’ (225). Fritz cannot respond to the unadorned intensity of her emotion. His reaction is typical of him:

FRITZ (unterbricht):
Kind, ich bitt' dich … so was sag' lieber nicht … die großen Worte, die hab' ich nicht gern. Von der Ewigkeit reden wir nicht …
CHRISTINE (traurig lächelnd):
Hab' keine Angst, Fritz … ich weiß ja, daß es nicht für immer ist …


Fritz mistakes uncomplicated intensity of feeling for ‘große Worte’, for a false dramatizing of feelings which are of necessity transitory. Fritz applies the moral—and linguistic—standard of his own social class to a girl who comes from a different social class, who has different presuppositions about love relationships. Fritz and his whole world are so distanced from the immediate realities of feeling that he mistakes genuine passion for a kind of childishness. It is significant how often he addresses her as ‘Kind’ in the course of the play. In so doing he relentlessly asserts a discrepancy between their emotional beings, a distance which always makes itself felt in the actual relationship. It is an implicit assertion of distance which does not escape Christine. She knows that they belong to different worlds, and hence she demands almost nothing in terms of the actuality of the relationship. But she gives—and demands—everything in terms of the emotional commitment from which it springs. This combination of passion and reticence, of being emotionally demanding yet socially undemanding, makes Christine's position such a paradoxical one. As J. P. Stern has said of the ‘süßes Mädel’: ‘[she is] only too ready to value herself no more highly than she is valued by the society to which she does not belong’.3 Over and over again Christine is confronted by, and has to accept, the fact that the world in which Fritz moves is closed to her. The process begins, in this, their first scene together. She has seen him the previous evening in a theatre box together with a man and a woman. She asks who these people were—just as she will ask who ‘der Herr’ is later in the first act. And the only reply she receives is that she does not know these people: they are ‘Bekannte—es ist ganz gleich, wie sie heißen’ (224).

The scene between the two pairs of lovers is interrupted by the arrival of ‘der Herr’. Critics, most recently Heinz Politzer,4 have pointed out that the arrival of the husband in the middle of the convivial evening is the modern equivalent of a supremely baroque moment, where Death summons Man to leave the good things of life. Only a few years after the appearance of Liebelei Hofmannsthal was to re-create explicitly the spirit of the baroque in his mystery play Jedermann. One cannot help agreeing with Heinz Politzer that Schnitzler's reinterpretation of this baroque topos within a modern context is more powerful and persuasive than Hofmannsthal's conscious attempt at cultural reinstatement. It should be stressed that Schnitzler has very carefully rethought the whole atmosphere of the scene. The booming church bells have become the doorbell, the allegorical Death figure has become the jealous husband with the authority of the duelling code behind him, the opulence of Jedermann's banquet has become the hastily organized evening meal during which the coffee boils over and Mizi drinks so much wine that she falls asleep. And yet dramatically the whole scene is as powerful and rich in its implications as is Hofmannsthal's overtly allegorical confrontation. The short scene between Fritz and ‘der Herr’ is one of the most terse and powerful that Schnitzler ever wrote. It is a significant tribute to the laconic power of this one page of dialogue that the great Viennese actor Mitterwurzer chose to play the small part of ‘der Herr’ at the play's first performance—and with stunning effect. Behind the icily polite exchange of formal courtesies, the automatic implementation of the time-honoured convention of the duel, there throbs an anger and despair that threatens to break through to the surface. The tension between the polite formulas and the rage and disgust behind them gives the scene a horrific power.

Acts II and III are set in Christine's room, the world of the ‘Vorstadt’. Once again, Schnitzler's stage direction could hardly be simpler: ‘Zimmer Christinens. Bescheiden und nett’ (240). The stage directions evoke a mood rather than a specific room with furniture, properties, precisely indicated exits and entrances, and so on. The first few scenes of the act, however, serve to underpin the atmosphere of life in the ‘Vorstadt’, and above all to suggest commonly held attitudes towards human experience. The physical barrier between ‘Innenstadt’ and ‘Vorstadt’ can be bridged, as when, in Act II, Fritz arrives in Christine's room. But the psychological barriers are much more resilient: they make themselves felt almost every time Fritz and Christine speak to each other.

Act II opens with a dialogue between Christine and Frau Binder, a neighbour. The latter's husband has a cousin who is very much attracted towards Christine. Frau Binder describes him in glowing terms, terms by which the ‘Vorstadt’ measures the suitability of relationships between the sexes: ‘Wissen Sie, Fräulein Christin’, daß er jetzt fix angestellt ist? … Und mit einem ganz schönen Gehalt. Und so ein honetter junger Mensch’ (240). Christine tries to terminate the conversation at this point, but Frau Binder persists. She recounts at length a three-cornered conversation that took place. Her husband reported seeing Christine in the neighbourhood escorted by an elegant young man. Frau Binder relates her own, highly revealing, reply to this comment by her husband: ‘Das Fräulein Christin’, die ist keine Person die mit eleganten jungen Herren am Abend spazieren geht, und wenn schon, so wird's doch so gescheit sein, und nicht grad in unserer Gassen!’ (241). Here she becomes very much a mouthpiece for ‘Vorstadt’ attitudes. She is prepared to concede the possibility that a young woman could associate with men of higher social station, but then at least, it must be done discreetly. But to show oneself openly in the ‘Vorstadt’ with an elegant young man amounts to breaking the rules. One of the reasons, of course, why Frau Binder launches into this lengthy narrative is that she wishes to show Franz, her husband's cousin, in a good light: Franz was angry with Herr Binder and leapt to Christine's defence. He refused to hear a word against her good name and went on to defend her spiritedly in terms that constitute a ‘Vorstadt’ ideal of domesticity: ‘Und wie Sie so für's Häusliche sind und wie lieb Sie alleweil mit der alten Fräul'n Tant' gewesen sind’ (241). At this point Christine's father enters, and she slips away in order to meet Fritz. A conversation ensues between Weiring and Frau Binder and once again the topic is love and marriage. She mentions the cousin again, and all his good points, but Weiring surprisingly does not agree with the attitudes expressed: ‘Ist denn so ein blühendes Geschöpf wirklich zu nichts anderem da, als für so einen anständigen Menschen, der zufällig eine fixe Anstellung hat?’ (243). Frau Binder is not, however, to be put off, and she praises the certainty of such relationships over against the ‘other kind’ of relationships, which she describes as follows: ‘Auf einen Grafen kann man ja doch nicht warten, und wenn einmal einer kommt, so empfiehlt er sich dann gewöhnlich, ohne daß er einen geheiratet hat’ (243). Weiring does not, however, give way. He even goes so far as to defend the kind of relationship that Frau Binder has described. It may be impermanent, but at least the girl experiencing it is richer in her memories: ‘Na, und was bleibt denn übrig—wenn sie—nicht einmal was zum Erinnern hat—? Wenn das ganze Leben nur so vorbeigegangen ist (sehr einfach, nicht pathetisch) ein Tag wie der andere, ohne Glück und ohne Liebe—dann ist's vielleicht besser?’ (244). The scene goes on to reveal why Weiring should hold such views which, on the face of it, are completely out of keeping with the social class to which he belongs. The decisive experience has been his looking after his sister. On the death of her parents he took her to live with him, and he kept an anxious watch over her behaviour in the early years when she was a young, attractive girl: ‘Aber dann später, wie so langsam die grauen Haar' gekommen sind und die Runzeln, und es ist ein Tag um den andern hingegangen—und die ganze Jugend—und das Mädchen ist so allmählich—man merkt ja so was kaum—das alte Fräulein geworden,—da hab' ich erst zu spüren angefangen, was ich eigentlich getan hab'!’ (245). Either way, it would appear, there is only regret at the end of the road. Regret at having never experienced happiness and love or, as is implicit in one or two of Frau Binder's remarks, regret at having once experienced it, only to be subsequently deprived of it.

The scene constitutes an absolutely overt discussion of the central theme of the play. Indeed, one could argue, particularly as regards Weiring's statements, that the scene becomes rather too overt and thematically ‘loaded’. This is indeed a fault in many of Schnitzler's plays. He cannot resist forcing a moral issue in that all the characters in a particular play or story are made to take part in an explicit discussion of that issue. It is, of course, largely a stylistic question. The first act of Liebelei with its casual opening discussion between the two men illuminates the central theme and establishes at the same time a powerful sense of the social normality of such views, of the way they are expressed, and of the whole context in which they are expressed. The overtness of the scene between Frau Binder and Weiring loses this kind of contact with social normality which in Liebelei is inextricably bound up with the articulation of moral attitudes.

Despite its faults, the scene between Weiring and Frau Binder does add a further layer to the thematic centre of the play. If Act I has evoked the attitudes of the ‘Innenstadt’ towards love relationships, the exposition of Act II reveals the attitudes of the ‘Vorstadt’ towards such relationships.

It should be added here—with reference to the whole question of socially typical attitudes—that Liebelei operates not simply with the contrast between Fritz and Theodor on the one hand, and Mizi and Christine on the other, i.e. between ‘Innenstadt’ and ‘Vorstadt’. There is also the contrast between Theodor and Mizi on the one hand, and Fritz and Christine on the other. Both axes of contrast do, of course, relate to the basic tension of social attitudes with which Schnitzler is concerned. Theodor and Mizi function as uncomplicated representatives of the relationship between ‘Innenstadt’ and ‘Vorstadt’. They are aware of the rules of the game, and they are careful to confine both their actual behaviour and the attitudes which motivate that behaviour to the pre-established code of behaviour. Fritz and Christine are, however, different in that they bring an individuality, a specific personal involvement to the question of human relationships, and both, in a sense, are destroyed by the code of which they partake, but which has not taken full possession of their being. Fritz is, of course, much more conditioned by the code to the point that his individual capacity for feeling all too often degenerates into a kind of sentimentalizing process. Even so his capacity for personal involvement is much greater than Theodor's. Fritz has become far too involved with the married woman for Theodor's taste. Furthermore, Fritz has forgotten one of the crucial rules of the game, despite Theodor's constant reminders—he has written letters to her. Fritz gets caught in the machinery of the game and acquiesces helplessly in the duel as being the only way out. However imperfectly and sentimentally, Fritz, as we see in Act II, does respond in some measure to Christine's being. Theodor may be able to talk him round, to persuade him to uphold the rules of the game, but this does not alter the fact that Fritz potentially is capable of a response that just does not exist in Theodor. Similarly, Christine does attempt to adhere to the rules of the game; she reminds herself over and over again that her relationship to Fritz cannot last. But this reminder simply does not correspond to the fact of her being; she can only love on her own terms, and these terms are those of a passionate, complete surrender that demands everything in return.

The contrast between Christine and Mizi—and the common denominator of social experience that unites them—is revealed in the short scene which precedes Fritz's entry in Act II. The discrepancy between the two girls' attitudes is straightforward. Mizi counsels caution where men are concerned. They are not to be trusted, and one must never allow oneself to become completely involved with one. Her advice falls on deaf ears: Christine is completely and irrevocably in love with Fritz. The conflict of attitudes is succinctly summarized in the following lines:

… Ich sag's aber immer! Den Männern soll man überhaupt kein Wort glauben.
Was redst du denn—die Männer—was gehn mich denn die Männer an!—ich frag' ja nicht nach den anderen.—In meinem ganzen Leben werd' ich nach keinem andern fragen!


Mizi's experience focuses on men in general—on a series of relationships which represent, as it were, safety in numbers. Christine asserts the uniqueness of love experience with one man, and this intensity excludes any notion of repetition, of seeing the specific relationship as one of a series.

Fritz then arrives, and the scene that ensues between him and Christine is one of the most revealing in the whole play. Part of the scene is devoted to a discussion of Christine's room. Here, the general aura of ‘Vorstadt’, which has hitherto been implicitly revealed in terms of psychological attitudes, is evoked by means of the actual décor of Christine's room. The stage direction at the beginning of the act refers to Christine's room simply as ‘bescheiden und nett’. It is this aura which surrounds Christine, and Fritz on seeing the room exclaims: ‘Bin ich wirklich zum erstenmal da—? Es kommt mir alles so bekannt vor! … Genau so hab' ich mir's eigentlich vorgestellt' (250). What then follows is a page of dialogue in which specific details of the room are discussed. Schnitzler thereby evokes not only the actual physical details of the room, but also the way in which two people respond to and evaluate these details. Three specific features are picked out. Fritz looks first at the pictures—‘Abschied—und Heimkehr’—and Christine describes another picture which hangs in her father's room: ‘Das ist ein Mädel, die schaut zum Fenster hinaus, und draußen, weißt, ist der Winter—und das heißt “Verlassen”’ (250). All the pictures show domestic scenes—or, in the final case, domestic betrayal. They all embody situations involving home and, by implication, there is in each picture a considerable emotional loading of the situation. Farewell, return, betrayal are the conceptual patterns which generate an emotional response. Fritz can say nothing about such pictures—beyond a laconic ‘so’. To him they speak volumes, and implicit in the pictures is a sentimental attachment to the home. He then looks at Christine's books. She has copies of some of the classics—Schiller, Hauff—the ‘Konversationslexikon’ which ‘geht nur bis zum G …’ (250), and a kind of compendium of articles of general interest, ‘Das Buch für Alle’. The final detail of the room is a small bust of Schubert. This detail, too, generates an aura of simple domesticity. Christine goes on to explain that her father is a great lover of Schubert, that he used to compose songs himself. We know from earlier references in the play that Christine herself plays the piano and also sings to her father's accompaniment. The bust of Schubert comes, then, by a process of subtle association to suggest home music-making, the kind of music that links father and daughter, the kind of music that has both a domestic register and yet also expresses pathos and tragedy, longing and despair.

As the conversation develops, Christine reproaches Fritz for the fact that he tells her so little about himself, that he is always keeping things from her. She asks Fritz how he spends his day, to which he replies: ‘Aber Schatz, das ist ja sehr einfach. Ich geh' in Vorlesungen—zuweilen—dann geh' ich ins Kaffeehaus … dann les' ich … manchmal spiel' ich auch Klavier—dann plauder' ich mit dem oder jenem—dann mach' ich Besuche … das ist doch alles ganz belanglos. Es ist ja langweilig, davon zu reden.—Jetzt muß ich übrigens gehn, Kind …’ (251). Fritz's answer is evasive—largely because he does not know what he does with his days. He does very little with them, and such things as he does are ‘ganz belanglos’. But Christine wants to know more. She articulates what she feels about their entire relationship—that she only knows a tiny segment of Fritz's experience, that she is relentlessly excluded from whole areas of his life: ‘Schau', mich interessiert ja alles, was dich angeht, ach ja … alles,—ich möcht' mehr von dir haben als die eine Stunde am Abend, die wir manchmal beisammen sind. Dann bist du wieder fort, und ich weiß gar nichts … Da geht dann die ganze Nacht vorüber und ein ganzer Tag mit den vielen Stunden—und nichts weiß ich’ (252). Fritz argues that partial possession of the self is all that is possible. He rejects her demands as being too exclusive, too total—not only on himself, but also on her own being. He answers that no one can know himself sufficiently well to be able to make the kind of total statement that Christine makes: ‘Du weißt ja doch nur eins, wie ich—daß du mich in diesem Augenblick liebst … (Wie sie reden will) Sprich nicht von Ewigkeit. (Mehr für sich) Es gibt ja vielleicht Augenblicke, die einen Duft von Ewigkeit um sich sprühen.—… Das ist die einzige, die wir verstehen können, die einzige, die uns gehört …’ (252). Christine answers him instinctively. She misses completely the kind of philosophical argument he has used—i.e. that man cannot perceive himself or other people in such a way as to make statements of total and lasting certainty. She simply reassures him that she is not trying to possess him entirely—that she is not asking him to abandon his freedom:

Du bist ja frei, du bist ja frei—du kannst mich ja sitzen lassen, wann du willst … Du hast mir nichts versprochen—und ich hab' nichts von dir verlangt … Was dann aus mir wird—es ist ja ganz einerlei—ich bin doch einmal glücklich gewesen, mehr will ich ja vom Leben nicht. Ich möchte nur, daß du das weißt und mir glaubst: Daß ich keinen lieb gehabt vor dir, und daß ich keinen lieb haben werde—wenn du mich einmal nimmer willst


Here explicitly are the terms which Christine offers Fritz. She asks for no undertaking of permanency; she recognizes such factors as social unsuitability for marriage. But what she does insist on is the intensity and permanence of her own feelings—and that at this level Fritz can meet her, can reciprocate genuineness and commitment of actual emotion.

This scene between Fritz and Christine is important, particularly as regards the issue of sentimentality. Clearly, both Fritz and Christine are capable of sentimentality, and in this scene Schnitzler shows two kinds of sentimentality interacting. The scene itself is as a result balanced on a knife edge between being an illumination and exploration of sentimentality on the one hand, and succumbing to sentimentality on the other. Christine's notion of beauty (as in her description of the pictures) is unmistakably sentimental—viewed in any kind of objective terms. The pictures are, presumably, worthless in themselves, and yet they strike a chord of genuine response in Christine. Her existence is narrow and restricted, and yet within it there is an intense capacity for feeling. Inevitably, therefore, this intensity of feeling is poured out within a highly domesticized context. The discrepancy between experiential content on the one hand and intensity of emotional response to it on the other produces the kind of sentimentality that Christine displays here. But there is a certain genuineness about it. It is not simply a kind of cerebrally contrived substitute for feeling. And in the final act Christine shows that she is prepared to take the consequences of her emotional situation.

Fritz, however, is different. He is attached to Christine, and yet beside her he is an emotionally impoverished being. His capacity for feeling has, presumably, been largely dissipated by a series of affairs. His desperate infatuation with the married woman, which is referred to in the first scene of Act I, is perhaps very largely a sentimental forcing of the squalid, illicit affair to the proportions of a fatal fascination for the unattainable. In the crucial scene with Christine in Act II, Fritz becomes aware of a quality in her being and environment that he vaguely apprehends as precious. And yet it is only a vague apprehension. Fritz's inability to respond to this on its own terms is reflected in the quality of his language. I have already drawn attention to the frequency with which he addresses Christine, and by implication conceives of her, as a child. Fritz is often patronizing towards Christine. When he confronts her, he is obliged to sentimentalize, to force his feelings to sound more than they are. He describes his sudden decision to come and see her as follows: ‘plötzlich hat mich eine solche Sehnsucht gepackt, eine solche Sehnsucht nach diesem lieben süßen Gesichtel …’ (249). He then goes on to praise the beauty of her room and the view from the window. Fritz does respond to the whole atmosphere of Christine's existence, but his response is limited because he sees himself as a complex, tormented figure entering a simple, secure, homely world. Ultimately, such moments are sentimentalization of a given situation. Potentially, however, there is in Fritz a capacity for feeling which is utterly foreign to the world of which he is part. It is this—albeit residual and ultimately questionable—response to the intensity of Christine's love that makes Fritz more of an individual than the terms of the code allow.

The interaction of kinds of sentimentality in this scene and in the play as a whole is one of Schnitzler's most impressive achievements. He shows how sentimentality can be very much part of real feeling, and also how sentimentality can obscure real feeling. It is this complexity of illumination which prevents the play from succumbing to the sentimentality which it depicts.

Theodor appears and confirms that Fritz has to ‘go away’ for a few days. He teases Christine when she asks Fritz to write, describing her request as ‘sentimental’ (254). Theodor's intervention convinces Fritz again of all the presuppositions of the social class from which he comes. He is persuaded to distrust his feelings: ‘o Gott, wie lügen solche Stunden!’ (254). Passion is by definition a suspect commodity because it cannot last: there are intense moments and no more. Whether the moments with Christine lie or not, Fritz makes them lie. Hence his way out is unreal as well: the sentimental leave-taking after the moment of anguished heart-searching.

Act III confronts Christine with the truth of her relationship to Fritz. As the curtain rises, we see her fearful of the imminent end of this relationship. She is forced to conceive the present actuality of what she said she knew would inevitably happen—and is unable to: ‘nicht für immer, ich weiß ja—aber auf einmal hört ja das nicht auf!’ (257). The ‘auf einmal’ gives the key to the point at which her attempt at being sensible breaks down. For her the relationship must continue to exist because of her continued emotional commitment to it. The end therefore will be incomprehensible and sudden. Weiring enters, obviously knowing what has happened: ‘sie weiß noch nichts, sie weiß noch nichts …’ (258). Such a statement seems very much out of place in the play, and savours, if anything, of melodrama. Schnitzler is here forcing the emotional charge by making it abundantly clear early on that everybody knows what has happened—apart from Christine. This is a crude device to heighten the emotional tension, and a moment such as Weiring's muttered aside is so obviously contrived that it disturbs the kind of laconic impact that Schnitzler intended with his brief third act. Weiring tries to console Christine, to suggest that the relationship with Fritz was not a happy one. The point of the scene is perhaps reached when Weiring says: ‘ich weiß, daß ich dich lieb hab', daß du mein einziges Kind bist, daß du bei mir bleiben sollst—daß du immer bei mir hättest bleiben sollen’ (260). Here Weiring in his despair retracts his earlier remark about love, that the young girl must taste the joys of passionate love, even if it does not last. This pattern of argumentation about human experience is a familiar one: it is, once again, the sequence of Hofmannsthal's Gestern: ‘im Anfang stellt der Held eine These auf, dann geschieht eine Kleinigkeit, und zwingt ihn, diese These umzukehren.’5 Here, however, the process is peripheral to the main action. Weiring is not the centre of interest in the play, and this scene has a retarding function which may heighten the tension, but in some ways does so to the detriment of the central confrontation which is the only necessary concern of the third act.

When Mizi and Theodor enter, Christine guesses the awful truth that Fritz is dead. And yet—and this is the greatness of the final scene—Christine is made to face not simply a past event—Fritz has been killed in a duel—but also the emotional truth about their whole relationship. She asks if Fritz left some message for her, but there is none. Theodor tries to comfort her: ‘am letzten Morgen, wie wir hinausgefahren sind … hat er auch von Ihnen gesprochen’ (262). Christine picks up the one word that hurts her beyond endurance: ‘Auch von mir hat er gesprochen! Auch von mir! Und von was denn noch? Von wie viel anderen Leuten, die ihm grad so viel gewesen sind wie ich?’ (262). What tears at her heart is not just the fact of Fritz's death, but the realization of the hideous deception that was their relationship. What to her was a unique, all-embracing experience was to him merely one of many. Christine is forced to confront the fact that Fritz never quite believed in the intensity of her love: ‘Ich bin ihm nichts gewesen als ein Zeitvertreib—und für eine andere ist er gestorben—! Und ich—ich hab’ ihn angebetet!—Hat er denn das nicht gewußt? (262).

Time and time again Christine turns to Theodor in order to find out the precise truth about Fritz, and time and time again he gives only evasive answers. She asks, for example, with whom he had his duel. Theodor replies: ‘Niemand, den Sie kennen …’ (261). She asks Theodor why he waited so long before coming to her. He can only offer the lame excuse that he had much to do organizing the funeral:

Auch hat das … es hat in aller Stille stattgefunden … Nur die allernächsten Verwandten und Freunde …
Nur die Nächsten—! Und ich—? … Was bin denn ich? …
Das hätten die dort auch gefragt.
Was bin denn ich—? Weniger als alle andern—? Weniger als seine Verwandten, weniger als … Sie?


The process of exclusion, whereby Christine is denied any admittance to Fritz's world, reaches its climax here. Theodor in effect refuses to recognize that she has any right to know about Fritz. The horrifying fact of this exclusion is not simply a past truth which Christine discovers in the final scene, it is also a present situation which is clearly expressed by Theodor and, in a sense, by everyone around her. Theodor is embarrassed by Christine's misery—but no more; he murmurs to Mizi: ‘Schau' Kind, das hättest du mir ersparen können …’ (262).

Finally, however, Theodor capitulates before the intensity of Christine's love, and he blurts out the real reason for his behaviour: ‘Ich bin sehr … (mit Tränen in der Stimme) Ich hab' das nicht geahnt …’ (263). Theodor had seen Christine and Fritz together; he had heard her speak of love, and yet he simply had not believed her. This disbelief is an existential degradation of Christine. And the present world partakes of the same uncomprehending disbelief. Neither of the two worlds evoked in the play, neither the ‘Innenstadt’ (Theodor) nor the ‘Vorstadt’ (Mizi, Weiring) can conceive of the full tragic intensity of Christine's situation. Words of comfort inevitably imply a return to social normality. And such a return is anathema to her: ‘Und in einem halben Jahr kann ich wieder lachen, was—? (Auflachend) Und wann kommt der nächste Liebhaber? …’ (263). Existentially the world has no place for Christine's being, for the kind of experience she craves. At the end of the play she stands in absolute isolation, an isolation that is totally unbearable because her being can only exist in relationship to another fellow being. Christine has loved in a void; she cannot and will not continue to live in that void.

With Christine's exit the play reaches its appointed end. One can only regret that the curtain falls just a few lines too late. Weiring's last words—‘Sie kommt nicht wieder’ (264)—are superfluous, one of those moments which in their thematic underpinning amount to melodramatic explicitness.

The specific tragic quality of Liebelei and, above all, the kind of fascinated clarity with which Christine in the last act perceives her own isolation in many ways remind one of Austria's greatest tragedian, Franz Grillparzer. Several of Grillparzer's plays are concerned with one central experiential pattern: the protagonist is drawn out of the world in which he belongs, most often by the force of love, into a new world. All too often, however, the pressure exerted on the relationship is too great, and the relationship—and with it that new world which the protagonist has sought to enter—disintegrates. At this point, however, there is no return, no simple way back to that framework of existential certainty which has been abandoned. Grillparzer's heroes and heroines perceive with relentless clarity that they are utterly alone, and this moment of existential homelessness is frequently the mainspring of Grillparzer's tragic experience. It is perhaps significant that when Schnitzler turns to tragedy he should produce something which so recalls Grillparzer. For both authors a concern for the existential being of man implies a vision of man in the context of human relationships, of some kind of ‘home’ where he belongs. Human relationships involve a surrender of the self, a preparedness to be changed, and with this process, as Hofmannsthal saw, comes the danger of losing one's self, of losing the ‘home’ within which definition of the self was once possible. Medea's anguished cry ‘Allein wer gibt Medeen mir’6 finds its parallel in Christine's helpless ‘Und was bin denn ich?’ (263) of the final act.

The comparison of Grillparzer and Schnitzler should not, of course, be allowed to obscure the differences between the two writers. One should stress immediately that Schnitzler very rarely attempts to write tragedy. More typical of his art is the comedy Zwischenspiel. It is perhaps worth noting at the outset that the theme of both Liebelei and Zwischenspiel is the destruction of love. And yet in the latter play neither of the principal characters is the unequivocal embodiment of love, as is Christine. The very completeness of Christine's surrender to her love is what makes her a tragic figure. In total, exceptional form she lives out the full implications of her social situation. In the radical—and untypical—intensity of her being she becomes the paradigm of, and catalyst for, all that is typical in the situation of the ‘süßes Mädel’. She is a type in Roy Pascal's sense of the term: she ‘combines in an extraordinary degree, exceptionally, the various qualities which are usually present only partially’7 in the type of the ‘süßes Mädel’.

Zwischenspiel lacks the tragic explicitness of Liebelei. It is concerned with the difficulty of apprehending a relationship for what it is, with the unclarity of human affairs. Both Amadeus and Cäcilie suffer because of this unclarity. And the misunderstandings and betrayals which result are supremely the subject for comedy.

Both Amadeus and Cäcilie are practising musicians, and the demands of their careers mean that they inevitably spend much of their time apart. Act I opens with Amadeus rehearsing a role from the opera Mignon with Gräfin Friederike Moosheim. She is clearly in love with him, and is very determined that they should have an affair. Amadeus reacts with a mixture of urbane scorn and occasional moments of anger. Friederike insinuates that Cäcilie is deceiving him, to which he replies with an assertion of the frankness and understanding that prevails between him and his wife: ‘Zwischen Menschen unserer Art gibt es keine Geheimnisse’ (D, i. 900).

The implications of this scene are important for the subsequent development of the play. Both Amadeus and Cäcilie are surrounded by an indolent, cultured world which accepts marital infidelities as the norm for famous performing musicians. Friederike expects to have an affair with Amadeus, just as she expects Cäcilie to be having an affair with Sigismund. And the strenuousness with which Amadeus insists on the frankness and truthfulness that prevail between him and his wife is the measure of their desperate attempt to retain some kind of fundamental moral integrity within their relationship. Both know of the temptations to which their everyday lives expose them. It is Amadeus's firm conviction that if they admit to these dangers they can arrive at a kind of personal moral code, which may not correspond to any traditional notions of physical fidelity, but which can serve to hold their marriage together.

This kind of attitude towards human relationships is the subject of the scene between Amadeus and Albertus Rhon in Act I. Albertus recognizes the seriousness and integrity behind this new approach to human relationships—but he raises certain objections: first, that complete frankness and ‘understanding’ is not a foolproof basis for a lasting relationship, and secondly, that the individual is capable of all kinds of psychological and physical infidelities, that it is false to assume that the more freedom for sexual adventure the individual has, the ‘truer’ will be his life.

It is in the context of this kind of moral argumentation that one has to view the three main confrontations between Amadeus and Cäcilie which are the high point of each act. In Act I, scene v, they begin by discussing Cäcilie's work schedule, and she asks Amadeus to come to her rehearsal the following morning:

Ich fühle mich sicherer, wenn ich dich in der Nähe weiß; das ist dir ja bekannt.
Ich werde kommen—ja. Ich werde dem Neumann und der Gräfin absagen.
Wenn du damit kein zu großes Opfer bringst——
AMADEUS (absichtlich trocken):
Ich kann sie ja auch für Nachmittag zu mir bitten.
Dann kämst du aber gar nicht dazu, für dich zu arbeiten. Lassen wir's doch lieber.
Was sollen wir lassen?
Komm morgen nicht zur Probe.
Wie du meinst, Cäcilie. Ich dränge mich natürlich nicht auf.


This interchange is deeply revealing. It indicates the degree of personal awkwardness that results from Amadeus's and Cäcilie's working arrangement. They see very little of each other and attempt to exorcize the threat of their frequent separations by being completely frank with each other. What results is a curious diffidence, an embarrassment at the emotional and physical demands they place on themselves by being together. Much of their conversation functions as a kind of shadow-boxing. Neither wishes to be seen to make demands on the other, because this would be out of keeping with the sensible—i.e. unemotional—arrangement they have reached. Behind the verbal implementation of this arrangement, however, one hears the voice of feeling, the simple dictates of emotional attachment which drive them to ask for each other's help, interest, attention. Amadeus tries to retain the professional note in the conversation by discussing what Cäcilie should sing at a forthcoming charity performance:

Nun, etwas von dir jedenfalls——
O nein, nein.
Warum denn nicht?
Aus einem inneren Bedürfnis heraus singst du's ja doch nicht.
Wie du meinst, Amadeus.—Ich dränge mich auch nicht auf.


Once again, the conversation touches on a point where their work commitments impinge on their personal relationship. Implicit in Amadeus's reaction is a kind of reproach to Cäcilie, a hint of simple jealousy. Cäcilie turns the tables on Amadeus by quoting his own phrase back at him—‘ich dränge mich auch nicht auf’. In so doing she reminds him of the terms of their working arrangement, terms that he has already invoked in the course of their conversation.

Once again the conversation is deflected on to practical matters, until Amadeus asks Cäcilie about her relationship with Sigismund. Cäcilie is disinclined to say more than she has already told him:

Glaubst du nicht, Amadeus, daß manche Dinge geradezu anders werden dadurch, daß man versucht sie auszusprechen?
Unter Menschen wie wir—nein!


Cäcilie's words crystallize what will be one of the central moral preoccupations of the play, namely the relationship between human emotions and their articulation in language. Amadeus is not to be put off, and insists on the simple fact: ‘du fühlst dich zu ihm hingezogen’ (909). Cäcilie answers with another kind of truth: ‘Aber vielleicht gibt es heute etwas, das zurückhält, … das zurückhalten könnte, wenn es nur wollte’ (910). Her words are commented upon by the stage direction—‘sehr innig, beinahe zärtlich’ (910). It therefore becomes clear that what she is referring to here is their love, a love which the working relationship has hitherto threatened, but not destroyed.

At one point later in the scene the conversation lapses and Amadeus plays a few notes on the piano, the theme of the ‘Zwischenspiel’ from the symphony on which he is working. Amadeus is considering changing its title: it will be called ‘Capriccio’, perhaps even ‘Capriccio doloroso’. Cäcilie has taught him to realize the sadness of this little transitional movement:

Es ist seltsam, wie man manchmal seine eigenen Einfälle anfangs mißversteht. Die verborgene Traurigkeit des Themas hast du mir entdeckt.
Du wärst schon selbst darauf gekommen, Amadeus.


Here briefly, the meaning of the play's title becomes apparent. It is an intermezzo, a seemingly gay and witty transition in a human relationship whose infinite sadness will yet become apparent to the participants.

Amadeus dominates the dialogue for the rest of the scene. Beginning with a discussion of Cäcilie's practical plans for her future concert career, he proposes that they should put their relationship on a totally different footing. They should simply concede that they have long ceased to love each other, but should maintain their professional and practical contacts as before. Over and over again Amadeus stresses that he is offering the obvious rational solution to the problem: ‘es liegt doch eigentlich kein vernünftiger Grund vor, daß sich unsere musikalischen Beziehungen umgestalten müßten’ (913), or again: ‘Je ruhiger ich die Sachlage überschaue, um so unsinniger erscheint es mir, daß wir wie die ersten besten geschiedenen Eheleute voneinandergehn …’ (914). In vain does Cäcilie protest that frequent contact between them, as envisaged by Amadeus, would inevitably bring emotional troubles. Amadeus brushes aside her objections and continues to elaborate his notion of the ideally free relationship that will prevail between them, whatever conventional moral scruples may say: ‘Wir haben wohl das Recht, einen etwas höheren Standpunkt einzunehmen. Wir gehören doch schließlich noch immer zusammen, auch wenn von hundert Fäden, die uns verknüpfen, einer zerrissen ist’ (914). Here one begins to feel already the falsity of Amadeus's argument, or rather, of his response to human relationships. In terms of abstract argumentation Amadeus may well have a case, but love, passion, is not just one of the many threads that has held him and Cäcilie together: it is the essential one. To push this on one side as no longer relevant is to misunderstand human behaviour, and, above all, the attraction between man and woman. But Amadeus is not to be deterred. His image of the ideal relationship between himself and Cäcilie is founded first on complete emotional freedom, and secondly on complete truthfulness: ‘Das wäre natürlich die Voraussetzung unserer weiteren Beziehungen: Wahrheit—rückhaltlose Wahrheit’ (915). Here again Amadeus falsifies the substance of human relationships by conceiving of truth and truthfulness in purely cerebral terms, by conceiving of a whole relationship in terms of a kind of professional interchange. Amadeus's conviction carries the day. In a moment of curious rhetoric Amadeus sets the seal on their new relationship by embracing Cäcilie for the last time as his beloved and taking her hand as a pledge of the friendship which in the future is to be the link between them. What makes this grand gesture of Amadeus's slightly pathetic is Cäcilie's instinctive reaction to it. As he moves to embrace her she says: ‘Was tust du? (Neue Hoffnung im Blick)’ (915). This is a deeply eloquent hint which undercuts all Amadeus's grand words and intellectual enthusiasms by revealing the simple, unspoken basis of their relationship, namely the fact that they still love each other. But Cäcilie is forced to accept Amadeus's interpretation of their situation—and his future solution to it.

The first act closes with a brief example of how their new relationship will work. Amadeus rehearses a Brahms song with Cäcilie. Yet the collaboration on their art cannot simply remain a question of rehearsing technicalities. The relationship is involved; the attraction between husband and wife is latent. Twice Cäcilie breaks off, the second time remarking: ‘Amadeus, du sollst nicht allen deinen Schülerinnen den Hof machen’ (916). After a further interruption Cäcilie manages to devote herself to the song. One of the reasons for her difficulties is perhaps the song itself, on whose first line the curtain falls: ‘Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, beschloß ich und beschwor ich, und geh' doch jeden Abend …’ (916). Implicitly, the ending of the act relativizes the decision which Amadeus and Cäcilie have taken. They are united not simply by the practicalities of the same profession, but also by a love of music. And their relationship to music is of necessity more than purely cerebral. Amadeus, when he writes the solo part for the final movement of his new symphony, will think of Cäcilie's voice as he writes—and will want her to sing the part. The emotional involvement is there, just as it is hinted at in their rehearsing a song which is explicitly concerned with the discrepancy between intellectual decisions about relationships, and the sheer emotional force which these relations generate.

Acts II and III take place some months later. What has happened in the intervening period is both revealed and discussed in the scene between Amadeus and Marie Rhon. We learn that Cäcilie is returning from a brilliantly successful guest season at the Opera in Berlin, that during the summer Marie and Cäcilie were together in the Tirol, while Amadeus spent much of the time at the villa of Gräfin Friederike Moosheim, with whom he was having an affair. Marie is clearly perturbed about the relationship between Amadeus and Cäcilie, but he is at pains to assure her that all is well, that they have behaved completely within the terms of their agreement: ‘Wir beraten uns über alles, liebe Marie; geradeso wie früher. Und mit noch mehr Objektivität vielleicht als früher’ (918). Amadeus even goes so far as to be completely frank with Marie about the various infidelities, or supposed infidelities, that occurred during the holidays. Indeed, he talks quite happily about Sigismund having been in Berlin with his wife.

The discussion of the relationship is continued in the scene between Amadeus and Albertus Rhon. A further piece of information is given—Friederike's husband has fought a duel with a young painter who had had an affair with his wife. The irony—and this appeals to Albertus's acute sense of the tragicomic—was that at the time of the duel the affair between Friederike and the painter was over, in fact she was already involved with Amadeus. For Albertus, life is shabby and confused. It just needs to be heightened and concentrated by art to produce the perfect tragicomedy.

Albertus has read rumours in the paper that Cäcilie and Sigismund intend to marry, and he offers to stay with Amadeus until the worst is over. Amadeus is horrified by the amount of rumour that he and Cäcilie are exciting, and Albertus warns him: ‘Neuerer wie du müssen das Urteil der Welt verachten, sonst geraten sie in Gefahr, Großsprecher gewesen zu sein’ (924). Here Albertus raises one aspect of Amadeus and Cäcilie's behaviour which is not fully worked out in the play, but which is implicit in the social reactions which they cause. Their working arrangement amounts to a new kind of sexual morality which contradicts all traditional notions of propriety and fidelity. As such it questions many deeply ingrained social attitudes, and society draws the automatic conclusion that their marriage is simply breaking up. What it refuses to recognize or believe is the possibility that this relationship represents moral integrity just as much as the traditional ‘happy marriage’. In one sense, what Amadeus and Cäcilie have done, is to recognize the pressure which is exerted on the social institution of marriage by prevailing trends of behaviour, and to attempt to formulate a new and appropriate morality. Amadeus answers Albertus very much in this spirit. Like so many of Schnitzler's characters, he asserts that he is concerned with a private issue: ‘Ich bin ja kein Neuerer. Das Ganze ist eine Privatabmachung zwischen mir und Cäcilie, bei der wir uns beide so wohl fühlen als möglich’ (924). Yet at the same time, Amadeus desperately wants to convince the outside world of the rightness with which he has solved this private issue: ‘Sag’ doch den Leuten, bitte, die dich fragen, daß wir uns nicht scheiden lassen … Mach' ihnen doch klar, daß von einem Betrug keine Rede sein kann, wo es keine Lüge gibt. Sag' ihnen, daß die Treue, die wir, Cäcilie und ich, einander halten, wahrscheinlich eine bessere ist als die in manchen andern Ehen …’ (924). Their new relationship is the result of a process of general moral argumentation, and it is the generality of principle behind it that the world could be made to recognize. Albertus agrees that he could put this in a play, that he could allow the figure representing Amadeus to declaim his views, but Albertus warns that the play would end ‘nicht sehr heiter, mein Freund’. He goes on to explain why: ‘Das ist ja das Charakteristische aller Übergangsepochen, daß Verwicklungen, die für die nächste Generation vielleicht gar nicht mehr existieren werden, tragisch enden müssen, wenn ein leidlich anständiger Mensch hineingerät’ (925). At the most obvious level, Albertus is making a social point here, that Amadeus and Cäcilie are trying for a notion of marriage which is so far in advance of their times that it will be threatened by prevailing social attitudes. And yet, as the play as a whole shows, there is a further implication in Albertus's words. Amadeus is concerned with a ‘Privatsache’. However unpleasant the anonymous letters may be which he receives, he could, presumably, continue to live happily with his wife in spite of the furore which their relationship creates. The ultimate test of their relationship is not whether they can persuade society to recognize it, but quite simply, whether they can make it work. The play itself ends, ‘nicht sehr heiter’, and the relationship disintegrates from within. Amadeus and Cäcilie may indeed be right—on their own terms—when they reject traditional notions of sexual morality as excessively inflexible; and yet their answer to such notions is, in its turn, equally inflexible. Their ‘new’ ideal of a relationship does not correspond to their emotional being. Implicitly, however, the question is raised whether these emotional needs, which they falsify in their working relationship, are the eternal and immutable emotional needs of man, or whether they are themselves the result of a whole tradition of moral thinking which has falsified them in the first place. To this Schnitzler can give no answer. He can only offer that pragmatic response which is so typical of him: that the basic moral needs of the human being are ultimately indeterminable; that, in practical terms, some kind of moral restriction does help man to find lasting relationships and, with them a sense of personal security and wholeness. Zwischenspiel is about the destruction of love. And this destruction is directly caused by an attempt to formulate a code of moral behaviour that is right for this specific relationship. It is this paradox at the heart of the play's vision which, as Amadeus senses towards the end of his scene with Albertus, makes not so much for heroes, but rather, for clowns and fools.

The scene between Amadeus and Cäcilie which concludes the second act is one of the most richly ambiguous that Schnitzler ever wrote. Dramatically, its most obvious function consists in the reversal of the position in the comparable scene in the first act. In the first act, Amadeus had dominated as the theorist of the new relationship, and Cäcilie had been hesitant. Now Amadeus feels himself again in love with Cäcilie, and she answers him with his own arguments.

Amadeus, as becomes clear in this act and subsequent developments, is jealous of Cäcilie's intimacy with Sigismund and Wedius. She assures him that nothing has happened:

So ist eine Gefahr in der Nähe.
Gefahr? … Was ist für uns Gefahr? Wer keine Verpflichtungen hat, für den gibt es auch nichts mehr zu fürchten.
AMADEUS (sie leicht am Arm fassend):
Spiel' nicht mit Worten!


Amadeus here angrily dismisses as playing with words the kind of argument that he himself has used. Similarly, later in the scene when Cäcilie says: ‘wir werden uns immer die Hände reichen, selbst über die tiefsten Abgründe hinweg, Amadeus' (935), she directly echoes what her husband had said to her in Act I: ‘[wir] würden uns die Hände reichen, auch über Abgründe’ (915). Ironically, Amadeus's only reaction to Cäcilie's quotation of his own words is a helpless ‘Du sprichst wie gewöhnlich äußerst klug’ (935). Similarly, he goes on to reproach Cäcilie with being so ‘ruhig’ in the present confused emotional situation, and yet it was precisely this quality which he so proudly displayed in this confrontation in Act I. Amadeus is alarmed at the kind of freedom Cäcilie displays, at the degree of moral independence which she claims for herself. He argues that Cäcilie will only cause herself pain, but she rejects this: ‘Ich bin schon heute nicht mehr, die ich war, Amadeus …’ (936). Here we are confronted by one of the central notions of Schnitzler's moral thinking: man is compounded of a whole mass of contradictory emotions and urges, and can only find a coherent sense of his own manageable identity if he is prepared to restrict himself, to circumscribe an area within the mass of possibilities which he chooses to convert into reality. When this principle is ignored, when, for example, as in Act I, Amadeus urges Cäcilie to fulfil many of the possibilities of her being, he is inviting her to change the definition of her self. Hence, in Act II, when Amadeus looks for the Cäcilie he has known, he finds she has vanished irrevocably. As he looks at her, this truth begins to dawn: ‘du bist auch nicht die Cäcilie, die ich geliebt habe—nein! … Die, die heute kam, hat eine Stimme, die ich nie gehört, Blicke, die mir fremd sind, eine Schönheit, die ich nicht kenne …’ (937).

At the end of Act II, Amadeus looks at the changed Cäcilie and falls in love with her again. She feels the erotic tension behind his words to her, and she attempts to resist. She reminds her husband of his principle that they should be simply friends and colleagues. He counters by reminding her of their promise to be truthful—and the truth is that they are not now friends, but lovers. She continues to resist, but Amadeus's passion mounts to a final outcry: ‘Nicht dein Geliebter also … nein, etwas Besseres und was Schlimmeres: der Mann, der dich einem andern nimmt! … der, für den du einen verrätst … einer, der dir Seligkeit und Sünde zugleich bedeutet! …’ (938). Not only the sentiments here, but also the language itself is different from anything we have heard from either Amadeus or Cäcilie up to now. It is a tone that first makes its appearance towards the end of this scene when Cäcilie speaks of her new identity, of her powerful sense of potential sexual adventures. This passionate, intense tone in its over-rhetorical fury is the linguistic and stylistic underpinning of the experiential truth about which both of them have spoken. Not only the voice is different: the whole language has changed. In grandiose emotional terms Amadeus coaxes Cäcilie into this most dangerous of adventures. The clock is turned back; this is, as it were, the voice of adolescence: the individual personality is an unrestricted tangle of possibilities, and it responds to that possibility which represents the greatest emotional intensity.

Act III takes place the following morning. Amadeus is violently jealous of Sigismund. He is in love with Cäcilie and therefore determines to challenge Sigismund to a duel. He tells this to Albertus, and asks him to convey his challenge to Sigismund. Albertus finds the whole thing absurd—if it were a play, no one would believe it. He coolly points out that Amadeus cannot possibly challenge Sigismund to a duel for behaving in a way that he (Amadeus) has explicitly invited.

Albertus's mission, is, however, forestalled by the arrival of Sigismund, and the ensuing scene is a fine example of Schnitzler's high comedy at its best. Sigismund finds the position in which he is placed intolerable and he asks Amadeus to offer Cäcilie a divorce in order that she may choose freely whether she wishes to marry him or not. Amadeus reveals that two of his friends are at present entrusted with conveying his challenge to Sigismund. Sigismund realizes that Amadeus has changed position so that Cäcilie will no longer be left in such a compromised situation, and immediately withdraws his suit. The neatly comic pattern of reversed roles which operates throughout the play is employed here with delightful precision.

Amadeus is convinced that he can assert possession of Cäcilie. But Cäcilie refuses. She argues that they cannot simply forget what they were—what they meant to each other—nor can they trust the fleeting happiness of a night's love. Amadeus tries to answer her objections with his certainty—both about himself and about the rightness of their relationship. In a crucial exchange he offers her the protection of his love:

… Jetzt bist du auch nicht mehr schutzlos, wie du es warst—meine Zärtlichkeit behütet dich.
Aber ich will nicht behütet sein.—Ich gebe dir das Recht nicht mehr dazu! …


Cäcilie condemns the two of them for lacking the courage of their convictions, for being neither friends nor lovers: ‘Wir waren weder geschaffen, uns ewig in Treue zu lieben, noch stark genug, um unsere Freundschaft rein zu erhalten’ (957). With relentless intellectual clarity which recalls Amadeus's argumentation in the first act, she insists that what is now holding them together is nothing more than a shabby fear of the final leave-taking. To stay together would be as much a moral degradation as the kind of empty, convention-bound marriages of which they were so scornful. Their discussion is interrupted briefly by Albertus, who then leaves to play with Peterl's toy theatre. As he does so, he says: ‘Na, Bub’, komm, du sollst mir dein Stück vorspielen. Aber ich bestehe darauf, daß der Held zum Schluß entweder Hochzeit macht oder vom Teufel geholt wird; da kann man doch beruhigt nach Hause gehen, wenn der Vorhang gefallen ist’ (959). In the play we are witnessing, however, the ending is neither happy nor tragic; it is an arid realization of the destruction of a relationship—and of the fact that both principal characters not only acquiesced in this process, but helped to bring it about. In a speech of infinite sadness, Cäcilie recalls the cardinal error they committed; a schematization of their emotional needs in the name of a cerebral partial ‘truth’:

Wenn alles andere wahr gewesen ist,—daß wir beide uns so schnell darein gefunden in jener Stunde, da du mir deine Leidenschaft für die Gräfin und ich dir meine Neigung für Sigismund gestand—das ist nicht Wahrheit gewesen. Hätten wir einander damals unsern Zorn, unsere Erbitterung, unsere Verzweiflung ins Gesicht geschrien, statt die Gefaßten und Überlegenen zu spielen, dann wären wir wahr gewesen, Amadeus,—und wir waren es nicht.


The insight comes too late, however.

And yet one should stress here that Zwischenspiel is a comedy—for all its serious undertones. It is comic in the sense of Bergson's definition: ‘du mécanique plaqué sur du vivant’.8 Throughout the play, Amadeus and Cäcilie become so involved in arguing out the implications of their relationship, in formulating a kind of new morality, that they always ignore the basic fact of present emotional attraction. In this sense, they are comic figures, uttering grand words, impressive intellectual arguments, and yet quite simply missing one of the essential points. And it is this essential point which continues to assert itself every time they are together—and which necessitates every time a fresh piece of argumentation to explain the situation yet again. And this is true even of the final act. Cäcilie speaks with considerable insight when she sees through their ideal of ‘truthfulness’—and yet in a supreme stroke of comedy, she cannot see that she is now guilty of the same kind of misunderstanding as that perpetrated by Amadeus in the first act. Why should they not trust the previous night of love as much as their own ability to discuss and analyse it? Fundamentally, Amadeus and Cäcilie learn very little in the course of the play. They gyrate in perpetual confusion occasioned by their relentless desire for complete intellectual clarity. They are comic in the sense that the hapless Faulkland is comic in The Rivals. Their only insight is to be able to see each time where they have gone wrong—but they are never able to see where they are going wrong. At the end of the play they separate. Amadeus leaves—and then and only then does Cäcilie confront her sorrow at losing him. Their separation will put an end to their relentless self-tormenting. And yet even in the final act Cäcilie refers to the possibility of their perhaps coming together again: ‘Aus allen möglichen Schicksalen können wir eher einmal zueinander zurück als aus dem Abenteuer dieser Nacht und aus dieser trügerischen Stunde’ (957). This remains a possibility. If they do come together again, then presumably the whole process will repeat itself. The song which closes Act I perhaps stands as a kind of motto for the play—‘Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, beschloß ich und beschwor ich, und geh’ doch jeden Abend …’ (916).

One should in conclusion stress the basically comic structure of Zwischenspiel. There is a sharp parallelism in all three acts. Each act opens with a scene—or several scenes—of exposition, then follows a discussion between Amadeus and Albertus, and then a discussion between Amadeus and Cäcilie. The parallelism is deliberate, and as I have tried to suggest on several occasions, it yields a neatly contrasting pattern as statements are repeated, transformed by context, and often reversed by characters who have completely changed position. The artificiality is further stressed by Albertus's frequent references to the similarities between what Amadeus and Cäcilie are doing and the performance of a play. And yet the neatness and wit of this comic illumination is never allowed to lose its serious undertone. Amadeus's and Cäcilie's shifting attitudes with regard to their relationship may be comic; but we know that all the time they are playing with something deeply serious, ultimately indeed, with their own reality as people. With the mechanical relentlessness of so many great comedies, they change and undermine themselves.


  1. On the contrast between Ibsen and Schnitzler see Melchinger, Illusion und Wirklichkeit im dramatischen Werk Arthur Schnitzlers, pp. 17, 87, 94.

  2. Richard Alewyn in the ‘Nachwort’ to Liebelei,Reigen (Fischer Bücherei, 1960), pp. 157f.

  3. Liebelei,Leutnant Gustl,Die letzten Masken, ed. Stern, ed. cit., p. 13.

  4. Heinz Politzer, Das Schweigen der Sirenen, p. 137.

  5. Cf. p. 134 n. 1.

  6. Medea, Act III, scene ii.

  7. Roy Pascal, The German Novel (Manchester, at the University Press, 1957), p. 127.

  8. Henri Bergson, Le Rire (Alcan, Paris, 1938), p. 50.

Principal Works

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Das Abenteuer seines Lebens 1891

*Anatol 1893

Das Märchen 1893

Liebelei 1895

Freiwild 1896

Das Vermächtnis 1898

Der grüne Kakadu 1899

Paracelsus 1899

Der Schleier der Beatrice 1900

Lebendige Stunden 1902

Der Puppenspieler 1903

Der einsame Weg 1904

Zwischenspiel 1905

Der Ruf des lebens 1906

Komtesse Mizzi oder der Familientag 1909

Der junge Medardus 1910

Der Schleier der PierretteThe Bridal Veil 1910

Das weite Land

Professor Bernhardi 1912

Komödie der Worte 1915

Fink und Fliederbusch 1917

Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa 1920

Reigen 1920

Komödie der Verführung 1924

Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte 1929

Der Gang zum Weiher 1931

Anatols Grössenwahn 1932

Die überspannte Person 1932

Halbzwei 1932

Sterben: Novelle (novel) 1895

Die Frau des Weisen: Novelletten (novella) 1898

Leutnant Gustl: Novelle [None But the Brave] (novel) 1901

Frau Bertha Garlan: Novelle (novel) 1901

Die griechische Tänzerin: Novelle (novel) 1905

Dämmerseelen: Novelle (novel) 1907

Masken und Wunder: Novelle (novel) 1912

Frau Beate und ihr Sohn: Novelle [Beatrice: A Novel] (novel) 1913

Gesammelte Werke in zwei Abteilungen 9 vols. (collected works) 1913-23

Casanovas Heimfahrt: Novelle [Casanova's Homecoming] (novel) 1918

Fräulein Else: Novelle (novel) 1924

Die Frau des Richters: Novelle (novel) 1925

Traumnovelle [Rhapsody: A Dream Novel] (novel) 1926

Spiel im Morgengrauen: Novelle [Day-Break] (novel) 1927

Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken: Aphorismen und Betrachtungen (aphorisms) 1927

Die Erwachenden: Novelle (novel) 1928

Flucht in die Finsternis: Novelle [Flight into Darkness: A Novel] (novel) 1931

Abenteurernovelle (novel) 1937

Über Krieg und Frieden [Some Day Peace Will Return: Notes on War and Peace] (nonfiction) 1939

Jugend in Wien: Eine Autobiographie [My Youth in Vienna] (autobiography) 1968

Briefwechsel mit Otto Brahm [edited by Otto Seidlin] (letters) 1953

Georg Brandes und Arthur Schnitzler: Ein Briefwechsel [edited by Kurt Bergel] (letters) 1956

Der Briefwechsel Arthur Schnitzlers mit Max Reinhardt und dessen Mitarbeitern [edited by Renate Wagner] (letters) 1971

The Correspondence of Arthur Schnitzler and Raoul Auernheimer, with Raoul Auernheimer's Aphorisms [edited by Donald G. Daviau and Jorun B. Johns] (letters and aphorisms) 1972

The Letters of Arthur Schnitzler to Hermann Bahr [edited by Donald G. Daviau] (letters) 1978

*This work is comprised of the following seven one-act plays: Die Frage an das Schicksal,Weihnacht seinkaüfe,Episode,Denksteine,Abschiedssouper,Agonie, and Anatols Hochzeitmorgen.Anatol was performed in English translation on numerous occasions; it was also performed in English as The Loves of Anatol in 1985.

†This work was performed in English translation as Flirtation, 1905; The Reckoning, 1907; Light-o'-Love, 1912; Playing with Love, 1914, and Flirtations, 1981.

‡This work was performed in English translation as La Ronde in 1960; it was also published in English as Hands Around in 1920. It was adapted to film as La Ronde in 1950.

Reinhard Urbach (interview date 1973)

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SOURCE: Urbach, Reinhard. “Early Full-Length Plays.” In Arthur Schnitzler, pp. 35-71. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1973.

[In the following excerpt, Urbach provides critical overviews of Anatol, The Fairy Tale, and Light-O'Love.]


A superficial man soon finds something profound.

—Johann Nestroy

The cycle of seven loosely connected scenes entitled Anatol concerns a young bachelor, Anatol, who in each act experiences a new love affair and discusses it with his friend Max.

Scene 1: Ask No Questions and You'll Hear No Stories (Die Frage an das Schicksal). Anatol possesses the power of hypnosis. He could ask his beloved Cora, who permitted him to hypnotize her, whether she is faithful to him. Yet, he does not ask the question, partly because he persuades himself that he does not want to know the truth, and partly because he is convinced that one cannot know the truth. He considers the question “What is fidelity?” to be just as unanswerable as the question “Are you faithful?” He has hypnotized Cora in vain, for she could have told him “just as well without hypnosis” that she loved him.

Scene 2: A Christmas Present (Weihnachtseinkäufe). Fruitlessly Anatol adores Gabriele, a married woman, an elegant lady of high society. She helps him to select a Christmas present for his süßes Mädel, who is waiting for him in the outskirts and whom he describes as a girl who knows how to love deeply and naively. Gabriele is moved, and she has Anatol bring flowers to the girl from a woman “who perhaps can love just as deeply … and who did not have the courage to do so. …” (See the account of Light-O'-Love for a discussion of the süßes Mädel.)

Scene 3: An Episode (Episode). Anatol asks his friend Max to keep the mementos of his love affairs so that he will not forget. Even at the time, he had regarded his brief relationship with Bianca as a casual interlude. It was his feeling, however, that this episode must have been an unforgettable experience for her. Bianca, the equestrienne, returns to Vienna and visits—Max. She has forgotten Anatol.

Scene 4: Keepsakes (Denksteine). While Bianca forgot her previous experiences, Anatol forces Emilie to revive her past. He requires her to spread out her past before him in order to cast it away along with the pieces of jewelry that reminded her of the individual episodes. Now he wants to marry her, for, as he will assure us later in Megalomania, he creates his own virgins. Yet his transformation of the “fallen woman” into a marriageable one proves to be illusory. Emilie retained two precious stones: the least valuable and the most valuable. The one reminds her of the day on which she became the kind of woman Anatol fell in love with as well as the kind of woman he would not want to marry. The other reminds her of her most profitable adventure. His jealousy and her greed are stronger than all of their protestations of love.

Scene 5: A Farewell Supper (Abschiedssouper). Anatol does not know how to inform Annie that he no longer loves her but someone else and that they must therefore separate. They had arranged things between them in this way: “… right from the beginning … as we swore eternal love to each other—Remember, dear Annie, whichever partner one fine day senses that our love is ending will tell the other straight out …”

Annie embarrasses Anatol. She beats him to the punch by being the first to confess that she wants to end the relationship. She, too, loves another.

But Anatol is not about to let her get away with this ploy. He claims that he has already deceived her with the other woman! At this news Annie is insulted. She would never have gone that far—that is, she would never have told him.

Scene 6: Dying Pangs (Agonie). Anatol loves Else, a married woman. But the constant circumspection, which they have to maintain because of Else's marriage, destroys his love. He realizes he is not the sole man in her life but only a convenient lover. In spite of the danger involved in the present situation, Else prefers that to fleeing with Anatol and losing the comfort of her marriage. For Anatol, it is unbearable never to be able to embrace his beloved but always the wife of another man.

Scene 7: The Wedding Morning (Anatols Hochzeitsmorgen). On the evening before his wedding, Anatol had attended a bachelor party, where he bade farewell to his “sweet, riotous bachelor life.” After the party he had gone to a masquerade ball and met Ilona, an actress and former mistress of his. On the morning of Anatol's wedding Max finds the two together in Anatol's apartment. Ilona knows nothing yet of Anatol's impending marriage. When she learns of it from Max, she makes a big, dramatic scene and threatens to go to the wedding herself and expose Anatol. Max is the one who discourages Ilona from carrying out her threat, assuring her that Anatol will return to her sooner or later anyway.

Anatol's Megalomania (Anatols Größenwahn). Schnitzler had written this scene as an alternative for The Wedding Morning. It was not performed or published, however, until after his death.

Years have passed, and Anatol has aged. But he has retained his illusions as well as the awareness that he has illusions. Both aspects of his character are tested when young Annette flirts with him, even though she is having an affair with Flieder, who is very jealous and just as sentimentally inclined as Anatol. Yet Annette cannot take Anatol's emotionalism. Even Berta, who was once Anatol's mistress, had made fun of him during their affair and never took his high-sounding declarations at face value.

And when we swore eternal love to each other … you knew all the time that that actually …
Certainly—and you? Were you really intending to marry me?
But we worshipped each other!
Certainly … but that is no cause to lose one's reason! …

Anatol drags his illusions and memories of past fantasies along with him—he has nothing else.

Anatol convinces himself that he believes in genuine love, which, however, is only genuine as a game. He does not believe it is a game, although he stages it and actually came to an agreement with Annie, for example, under its terms. He lives in constant self-deception. This is his megalomania.

Anatol accepts as genuine life, what in reality is only genuine as a game.

… Such is life!
Oh, … I beg your pardon … life is not that way!

Anatol deceives himself about the character of the game. Again and again he believes that what he is involved in is a binding relationship—one, however, that would exempt him from any responsibility. His attitude is shown by the way he turns even his wedding into a game for which one must be in the mood. He himself determines the rules, and he prevents the intrusion of reality into the game. Thus he does not question the hypnotized Cora beyond the boundaries of the game as played in the conscious state. Reality would invalidate the rules, for it is part of the game to swear eternal love to each other, a vow that is actually meant only for the moment, without thinking of the future (Anatol's Megalomania), of the husband (Dying Pangs), or of the past (Keepsakes).

Annie observes the rules literally and honorably without deceiving either Anatol or herself. Else transgresses against the sentimentality of Anatol's rules because she views eternal love as a relative matter. Emilie did not take literally Anatol's command to destroy the past. She wanted to preserve in their marriage both her jewelry and the memories that it represents. Berta has seen through Anatol. She is a worthy partner for him, since she knows and observes the rules, but she is superior to Anatol because she never takes the rules seriously (Annie had taken them seriously as long as they concerned her). Anatol acted according to the spirit of the rules and at the same time tried to circumvent them. Nevertheless, he always remains threatened by the destruction of his illusions and he never really lives—that is, except for the moment. His life is superficial and never reaches into the depths, it changes but never develops. Instead of being faithful, Anatol seeks new love affairs. Constant variation of the same theme with ever different partners is intended to suppress inner emptiness, but it cannot eliminate it.

First Anatol exploits his possibilities as a type and then repeats them in the endless emptiness of exhaustion. He undergoes no transformation through his wealth of experiences but remains chained to a round dance of ever the same occurrences. He asserts: “I mastered the art of deriving the most experience from the least number of external events. …” But that is not true. In spite of his very great effort (expended on collecting as many mistresses as possible) he gains little because he always experiences only the same thing. What he called multiplicity is only the sameness of superficial repetition. Multiplicity as a profound experience is possible in marriage, as Schnitzler later showed, or in realizing all of the potentialities of a relationship, in the struggle between guilt and responsibility, as expressed by Georg von Wergenthin in Schnitzler's novel The Road to the Open. Anatol's life could have taken a decisive turn and his character could have been deepened if he had been confronted by the problem of fatherhood. As it is, however, he remains only clever and superficial. He loves variation because he is indolent, comfort-loving, and incapable of fidelity and permanence.

Anatol does not acknowledge people as individuals but simplifies everyone to a type. He describes his girl in A Christmas Present as a süßes Mädel, but by contrast he makes Gabriele the self-absorbed elegant lady of society. He typifies and thus practices the very superficiality that he appears to resist.

Schnitzler's structural patterns utilize the parallel concepts of variation and association that represent the way his characters live and think. The theme determines the formal structure. The cycle is a circular form that signifies emptiness. By means of this form Schnitzler not only characterizes his figures but also permits them to unmask themselves.

The favorite mood of superficiality is melancholy, which derives from boredom. Melancholy is the mood of the surface, which conceals the underlying mood of depression that drives one into megalomania. Anatol's characterization of himself as a “frivolous, melancholy person” is not a contradiction, for “frivolous” is the logically consistent complement of “melancholy.”

By contrast Max could be described as a reflective skeptic. It has been a technique of drama from the beginning to provide the seducer with a companion who keeps the record, consoles the deceived woman, and creates opportunities. Max, however, is not a servant to Anatol like Leporello, for instance, is to Don Juan, but Anatol's friend and counterpart. He is neither the voice of conscience nor a spokesman for Schnitzler but a corrective for Anatol's errors and foolish behavior. He is never Anatol's rival with women, but neither is he a moralist. Instead, he acts as the instigator for some of Anatol's adventures and remains on his side. His masterpiece, the soothing of Ilona, is a solution in terms of the prevailing rules of the game, one of which is that marriage is no barrier to casual affairs.

Even Ernst L. Offermanns begins the postscript to his 1964 Anatol edition with the statement that this cycle consists of a series of loosely connected scenes. It is only the new form that is confusing. But this form is closed and complete in itself. None of the scenes is interchangeable without destroying the logical sequence—which is not determined by the plot. The theme of the variations is Anatol's fate in his relationship to women. Anatol's downward course is shown, from the idyll of the first scene to the dilemma, the barely averted scandal of the last scene, along with the intermediate stages of flirtation, rapture, jealousy, farewell, and agony. The first scene shows that Anatol is still subject to his hypnotic powers. He could penetrate into the depths of a soul, learn the truth, and establish a genuine love. Cora's answer could remove all doubts, and thus there would be no cycle. Because of his fear of the depths, however, Anatol robs himself of the possibility of gaining certainty and consequently initiates the sequence of variations. Cora does not allow him to hypnotize her again. The moment of the height of Anatol's power to free himself from his illusions passes.

Anatol's doubt about Cora's fidelity is confirmed by his own actions in A Christmas Present. While he rhapsodizes about his love for his süßes Mädel, he woos Gabriele unashamedly and is rejected. Out of the moment of opportunity for fulfillment in Ask No Questions and You'll Hear No Stories develops the yearning in the second scene and the remembrance in the third. Anatol's decline begins. In the third scene he has no mistress and begins to survey his past. Then it happens that his former mistress Bianca, who loves too often to be able to experience the uniqueness of true love, confuses him with another lover. The time of love, hope, and belief is past. Anatol's star is sinking. He even wants to marry the “fallen woman” Emilie. She loves him and tells him the truth, but he does not mean everything to her and cannot eradicate her memories. In return for his raising her to his level, she is supposed to make every sacrifice. But he cannot forgive her—Anatol makes no sacrifices. In An Episode he is not forsaken, only forgotten. In Keepsakes he is still the one who breaks off the affair. Not until A Farewell Supper is he forsaken. Annie plays his own game and leaves him. Dying Pangs shows the death of the love Anatol had yearned for in A Christmas Present. Else takes him only for a lover. The Wedding Morning leads close to catastrophe. Ilona finally intends to punish him for what he has done to women. Anatol has made himself vulnerable, and Ilona cleverly knows how to utilize this advantage against him.

Of necessity the games that Anatol plays culminate in an affair with an actress. For Ilona life unexpectedly turns into a stage, the realm in which she is accustomed to dominate. Exaggerations are part of the game: “I have been crying over him for six weeks. …” Yet this did not prevent her from going to the masquerade ball where she meets and renews her affair with Anatol. In his apartment Ilona tries to overshadow the others by acting like the mistress of the house. When she is unsuccessful in this role—Anatol and Max cannot enter into the spirit of her performance because they are already committed to another play, Anatol's wedding—she stops acting and makes a real scene. In contrast to Anatol, who lives according to and is dependent upon moods (though he does not act them out, for he cannot render artificial feelings in a genuine manner), Ilona commands the nuances that enable her to make trivialities seem original. She can convey her feelings and emphasize them with gestures. Unlike Anatol, who with all his illusions still preserves his sense of shame, she does not feel embarrassed in front of the public because she is used to performing before an audience.

Ilona is sure of her feelings and her techniques, for she has tested their effectiveness on the stage. One can doubt her love but not her power of expression. Her outburst is to be taken seriously as a performance, although its effectiveness suffers from lack of truthfulness. And Max explains to her that if she declared her love for Anatol in public and made a scandal of his wedding, she would not only hurt Anatol, but she would also make herself appear “ridiculous” because no one would believe in her love.

At the same time Ilona does not lack grandeur, and during this scene there is truth in what she says. It is not she but Anatol who is lying. It is not she but Anatol who is attempting (unsuccessfully) to dissemble. Her recognition of his behavior causes her outburst. What other possibility does she have except to adopt a pose when the others justify themselves by indulging in windy rhetoric? She takes up the cue for revenge that Max had given to rescue Anatol for the moment, and this provides her with a grand exit. Her actual despair and urge for revenge are not so great, however, that she can resist the temptation to appear grandiose and demonic to herself. Immediately she is attuned to the dramatic possibilities inherent in acting out the emotion of revenge.

Thus the cycle is concluded, but the possibilities for further variations are not yet exhausted. Therefore, Schnitzler offered an alternative to The Wedding Morning, which is really a preview of the future showing that the game will continue. His alternative is Anatol's Megalomania, which is a retrospective view demonstrating that the game did indeed continue.

Two additional variations to Anatol were found in Schnitzler's literary estate. The Adventure of His Life (Das Abenteuer seines Lebens; printed in Ernst L. Offermann's edition, 1964), the earliest scene on the Anatol theme, places Anatol between two women, like Fritz in Light-O'-Love. Cora in this early version, however, is not a süßes Mädel like Fritz's Christine, but a temperamental, carefree girl, who used to love lieutenants and now loves poets. Gabriele represents for Anatol only a temporary infatuation, not a real affair. Anatol lives in the illusion that both women love him. He loses both when they encounter each other at his home. Now he must find two new girls. But this causes this early Anatol no inner conflict. He is just too happy-go-lucky a person.

More significant is the fragment “Süßes Mädel,” which Schnitzler wrote on 15 March 1892, after the cycle had already been completed. Before Anatol leaves to attend a ball, he and his süßes Mädel, Fritzi, act out the event that lies before him. He knows what the atmosphere at a ball is like, while she can only imagine. He plays the part of himself, and she plays the part of a socialite who belongs in the world of high society. Even in this rehearsal (which is not even a real rehearsal, since the süßes mädel is only filling in for the socialite), ostensible playacting turns into seeming reality. The scene that they are rehearsing threatens to become living reality because the süßes Mädel in her role as socialite hears the truth about herself, which makes her forget her role. Anatol, who actually wants to leave her, is distracted, and therefore his performance is genuine: he is supposed to act in a distracted manner, since while at the ball he is ostensibly yearning for his süßes Mädel. The fragment breaks off with Fritzi's lament that their relationship is only a game of pretending, that Anatol will never be in earnest.

In Anatol Schnitzler adumbrated many themes that were to recur in later works. Ask No Questions and You'll Hear No Stories contains in essence the theme of The Puppeteer, of assuming the role of destiny, symbolized by the power of hypnosis, which Paracelsus, in the one-act play by that name, also knows how to use. The love triangle that occurs in Light-O'-Love is foreshadowed in A Christmas Present. The motifs of recollection and egotism are brilliantly varied in New Year's Eve. Keepsakes treats the problem of the insurmountable past, as does also The Fairy Tale, with the difference that in the former play the burden of guilt is accorded to the “fallen woman,” whose greed overcomes her pretended love. The thesis of A Farewell Supper—that lovers should always be completely truthful to one another—initiates the conflicts found in Intermezzo. The egotistically comfortable behavior of the mistress in Dying Pangs is treated again in The Eccentric. In the latter play, however, it is not the woman but the man who violates his partner's claims to unqualified devotion. The comic situation in The Wedding Morning finds its correspondence in Literature, the one-act play from the cycle Living Hours, in which a woman about to be married finds herself caught between two men. Finally, Ilona, Schnitzler's first characterization of an actress, was to have many successors.


The individual scenes constituting Anatol each had its premiere singly.

Josef Jarno, director of the Vienna Deutsches Volkstheater, was the first to concern himself with these scenes. In 1922 he recalled this early period. (In his discussion two errors of memory occurred: A Farewell Supper was premiered in 1893, and Ask No Questions and You'll Hear No Stories in 1896.)

In the year 1890 at the Ischl Summer Theater I staged the premiere of Schnitzler's one-act play A Farewell Supper, and in the year 1895 in Berlin, on the occasion of a large soirée at the home of the Berlin attorney, Dr. Greling, at which the whole of literary Berlin was present, a performance of his one-act play Ask No Questions and You'll Hear No Stories. In both countries these occasions represented the first time that Arthur Schnitzler's works had been performed anywhere. In the year 1898 I met my wife, Hansi Niese, in Berlin and persuaded her to play [Christine in] Light-O'-Love and [Annie in] A Farewell Supper in a matinee at the Residenz Theater in Berlin. This represented a memorable moment in my wife's career, for actually through the performance of these two female characters she thanks Arthur Schnitzler for her rise to great fame.

A Christmas Present was premiered in 1898 in the Sofiensälen in Vienna. A Farewell Supper was also given at the same performance. Arthur Schnitzler wrote to Otto Brahm about this performance on 22 January 1898: “It was as if one had locked a canary in a bear cage.”

In 1898 An Episode had its premiere in Leipzig. The Wedding Morning was premiered in 1901. The premier date of Keepsakes may be given as 10 January 1916, although Schnitzler had written to Otto Brahm about this work on 4 August 1909: “Keepsakes, which I naturally do not like either, has already proved itself on small stages.”

At the end of the 1890s the well-known actor Friedrich Mitterwurzer was to have played Anatol under the direction of Oskar Blumenthal at the Lessingtheater in Berlin. The project was not carried out, however, because of Mitterwurzer's death. In addition, on 9 March 1899, The Wedding Morning was banned in Berlin by the censor for moral reasons. Finally, five of the scenes of Anatol were performed together as a cycle on 3 December 1910 in Otto Brahm's Lessingtheater in Berlin and at the same time at the Vienna Deutsches Volkstheater. In connection with this performance Brahm wrote to Schnitzler on 24 July 1909:

I have now read Anatol again and would like to perform it. I agree with your opinion, that not all of the scenes should be included, but I would not like to omit The Wedding Morning. We need it as a conclusion because of its humor. Why do you want to eliminate it? Certainly it becomes a little too boisterous toward the end where Anatol throws on his tuxedo, but otherwise I find it of a pleasant insolence. By contrast, Keepsakes and Dying Pangs seem to me to be less effective, and I would like to sacrifice them, partly also in order not to burden humanity with seven different things. I am not worried that this will make the evening too short. But I know that it will gain in impact.

Schnitzler was often critical of Anatol. He found The Wedding Morning, in particular, “objectionable.” Not the least important reason for his antipathy was that the success of these plays was responsible for the cliché that labeled Schnitzler a frivolous poet and a bon vivant.

In a letter to Brahm of 14 August 1909, Schnitzler expressed this idea about Anatol: “A different kind of theatrical effect could be achieved if one had all five women [in Anatol] played by the same actress. The pleasure in the art of transformation of this one actress would in this case replace the pleasure in the change of performers or, if this actress were a genius, would be able to surpass it.” This was once done for a performance in the United States.

In 1932 at the Vienna Deutsches Volkstheater Heinrich Schnitzler directed the alternate scene, Anatol's Megalomania, for the first time. The same year the Burgtheater added Anatol to its repertory, under the direction of Franz Herterich. The Viennese drama critic Raoul Auernheimer wrote in the Neue Freie Presse:

Before the curtain opens for the first time, [Raoul] Aslan as Anatol is already seated on stage facing partly away from the audience. With a mocking side glance at the public of today, he speaks the prologue in a reverie, as if he were just thinking up his speech. Then the curtain parts, Anatol turns his face to the right, and without getting up or changing his position, he begins to speak to Max, who is sitting diagonally opposite him. This is an attractive idea and one that derives from the material. …

After World War II Karl Eidlitz staged Ask No Questions and You'll Hear No Stories at the Burgtheater on 7 October 1946. On 13 June 1952 Curd Jürgens, in a presentation of the cycle in the same theater, tried to eliminate all references to the time in which the play was written. Rudolf Holzer, writing about this “experimental production” in the Presse, stated that Jürgens had tried “to have these events, which after all are completely real, take place on a transparent, illusionist stage. It is, of course, contrary to Schnitzler's intention but … not without a strong illustrative effect.”

Ernst Lothar's production in 1960 in the Akademietheater in Vienna had a successful run. Lothar's solution was to put Anatol's Megalomania at the beginning and thus to transpose the action into the irrevocable past. This transposition and subjective textural changes, however, met with vigorous objection.

Anatol has enjoyed more popularity in the United States than any other of Schnitzler's plays. It has been offered as drama and musical comedy, in small workshops and summer stock as well as on Broadway. Often American directors have produced one Anatol episode in combination with one-acters of other playwrights. A Christmas Present and A Farewell Supper, in particular, have been presented in this way.

Anatol was first brought to the American stage in 1912, when Winthrop Ames staged five of the episodes at the Little Theater in New York. In this production, John Barrymore played Anatol. The comedy was received enthusiastically by critics and public alike. Charles Darnton, of the New York Evening World, voiced the pleasure of the Anatol audience:

If you have read Schnitzler's “Anatol” dialogues you know how good they are, but until you go to the Little Theater you cannot know how much better they act than read. … While this form of entertainment—five separate episodes—must be regarded as an experiment, there is no reason to fear it will not prove popular, for these “Affairs” are decidedly lively and witty. To theatergoers who have reached the age of discretion they are sure to prove delightful.

The New York Dramatic Mirror claimed that Anatol was John Barrymore's best role to date—“a lovable scamp who may be unmoral but never immoral.”

In 1921 Cecil de Mille produced a film version, “Affairs of Anatol.” It owed little more to Schnitzler's cycle than title and core plot.

It was almost twenty years before Anatol returned to the New York stage. On 16 January 1931 an adaptation of the Harley Granville-Barker translation opened at the Lyceum Theater. In this version, in which six episodes were presented, the female principal in the episode Ask No Questions and You'll Hear No Stories was renamed Hilda. The production was subjected to frequent comparison with its predecessor of 1912—a comparison that was seldom favorable. John Mason Brown, unhappy with the entire production, criticized the unsuccessful attempt to revise Granville-Barker's translation with Broadway lingo. Nor did he have good words for the principal actor, Joseph Schildkraut, whose Anatol was “insensitive to the illusions he seeks to preserve in each new experience. …”

In 1946 Mady Christians, star of I Remember Mama, directed a production by the Equity Library Theater, which showed, according to one critic, “just how good the theater off Broadway can be.” The Directors' Theater presented six of the scenes for an off-Broadway showcase in 1956, in which each scene was developed by a different director. In 1958 Karl Mann and Alex Horn presented the entire seven-scene cycle at the Little Theater in New York, using Karl Zimmerman's translation. Critic Francis Herridge believed this production to have firmly carried out Schnitzler's intentions: “For although the central figure might easily be exaggerated to a ludicrous cartoon, they brought out the man's sensitivity and his anguish. They have given depth to what could be a two-dimensional farce.”

In 1961 “The Gay Life,” a musical inspired by Anatol, was produced by Kermit Bloomgarden at the Shubert Theater in New York. In this production Barbara Cook played Liesl, who finally trapped Anatol into marriage. Except for accusations that the musical “almost smothered the original 1893 work with a fresh story line,” the production itself had some success.


The Fairy Tale is a drama in three acts concerning the transition to a new outlook on life, specifically to new attitudes of naturalness and emancipation that were developing at the time the play was written. This work retains its importance today not because of its theme of the “fallen woman” but because it demonstrates the enduring power of the past.

The past affects the present, and we cannot escape it. Fedor Denner, a young poet, loves the actress Fanny Theren, but he cannot forget that he is not her first lover. “What was, is! That is the profound meaning of the past.” He cannot be deceived by his love and does not pretend even to himself that Fanny's past does not disturb him. To be sure, he is above the prejudice that girls who have a “past” are bad, but he cannot escape the knowledge that Fanny has had previous lovers. He has ventilated the musty rooms of his world with a bold spirit, but he has not abandoned it.

He is incapable of experiencing love in a timeless sense. While Fanny lives in the consciousness of the eternity of love, Fedor interprets this eternity as the moment that passes and is overshadowed by what has been.

Yet Fedor's fate is not the main concern of the drama. Fanny, not Fedor, plays the main role. She is thankful to him for not castigating her, as others have done, because she followed her “natural impulses.” He helps her to live freely, that is, to follow her feelings without being bound by the chains of convention that prevail around her. Her career as an actress corresponds to her outlook on life. She must be able to enter fully into her roles. She cannot bring prejudices into her acting if she wants to accomplish an artistic achievement. Because she is an actress and a “fallen woman,” she is doubly depraved in the eyes of the petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals, who, moreover, equate the one with the other. Fanny's artistic profession enables her to get over Fedor's failure (which stems from his genuine, though fanatic, devotion to truth). By finally accepting a promising engagement in Saint Petersburg, she resolves the suspense of the third act, which resulted from her repeated refusal of this offer while waiting for Fedor to reach a decision. “She has been restored to goodness through suffering and in the process has become an artist. A noble future is beginning, and we are shown a grandiose perspective. Purified and consoled, we are dismissed” (Hermann Bahr).

The characters of the play are all interconnected and all have a function in the drama. At the same time, unlike the figures in Schnitzler's earlier dramas, here they represent more than themselves. The relationship of two minor figures to Fanny may serve as an example: there is Agathe Müller, the aging actress, and Emmi Werner, the novice who wants to enter the theater.

Emmi is a young bourgeois girl who wants to follow the example of the successful Fanny. She badgers her parents into allowing her to take “elocution lessons,” which she considers the first step to success—success with men who hold the title of baron or above. “In any event, I want first to become a great actress … I will make my way, and when playing comedy becomes ridiculous for me and I have gathered enough applause and fame—then I will marry a titled gentleman.”

To be sure there are those who declare that Emmi's “enthusiasm for art” is “not completely genuine.” Emmi is not concerned with art. She is concerned with using this detour through the theater to guarantee the fulfillment of her desire to climb socially. The theater is to serve as a means to an end; she views her future career not only as effortless but enjoyable as well. For this reason she cannot understand Fanny's extreme grief, except as a particularly emotional recitation.

At the other end of the path stands Fanny's older colleague, Agathe, who is experienced but hardly successful. She knows that in the world of the theater one must not be affected by personal matters. For her the world of the theater is a world of independence, of freedom; for Emmi it is a world of erotic wishes and dreams; for Fanny it is a world that causes rejection, a world by which one is condemned to unhappiness. Agathe and Emmi fail to see the tormented person in Fanny. Nevertheless, they are both related to her. For Agathe, Fanny represents her lost youth, for Emmi her future success. She is praised in retrospect by Agathe, while Emmi regards her as a model.

While Agathe acknowledges Fanny's accomplishment, Emmi flatters her. Emmi stands enthusiastically on the threshold of the theater world, but Agathe has become indifferent, beyond all feelings of rivalry or competitive envy. As part of this world Fanny is torn between her art and her love for Fedor. The desire for adventure attracts Emmi to the theater. The desire for variety motivated Agathe's theatrical career. Fanny is prepared to leave the stage, although through love she has now become more mature in her art. She must, like Agathe, first experience rejection in order to find her direction. By this process she finally comes to acknowledge the theater as her world. Here she can find her way to self-acceptance, freed from the obligation of despising herself as prescribed by the bourgeois world.

The dialogue in The Fairy Tale is cleverly constructed, but it is not always successful because, although it was not Schnitzler's intention, the characters are actually discussing and interpreting themselves.

The drama was modeled on illustrious forerunners: theoretically on Friedrich Hebbel (the inescapable consequences of an act), abstractly on Ibsen (Fedor's hatred of the hypocrisy of life), and practically on the French writer Henry Murger (the life of the petty bourgeois artist).


The Fairy Tale was given its first performance at the Deutsches Volkstheater in Vienna on 1 December 1893. Concerning this production of the play, which he later described in 1912 as “a very respectable play,” Schnitzler wrote on 12 June 1894 to George Brandes:

It has been performed in Vienna, in the Deutsches Volkstheater. The first two acts found favor, but the third act failed so completely that it ruined the effect of the entire play. In particular, the audience seems to have found little edification concerning the moral qualities of the play. One critic called to me: “Decency, please.” Another spoke pointedly about the “truly frightening moral depravity,” to which the play bore witness. A Berlin theater that had already accepted The Fairy Tale withdrew from its contract because of this failure in Vienna, and thus I can probably consider the stage career of this play as finished.

Subsequently, however, the play was performed often and successfully in Russia. It appeared on 15 June 1912 in the framework of a Schnitzler cycle at the Deutsches Theater in Prague under the direction of Heinrich Teweles. Noteworthy also is a television presentation that was given in Hamburg in 1966.


Schnitzler's next play, Light-O'-Love, a drama in three acts, also reminds one of Murger's sketches “Scènes de la vie de bohème.” Although the young people in Light-O'-Love are not artists and the action is concentrated in two couples, Christine and Mizi bring to mind Murger's Mimi and Musette. Christine and Mizi represent two different variations of the süßes Mädel type. Judged in external terms, the circumstances of each girl's life are similar, but they experience them differently.

The süßes Mädel type may be described as a loving and frivolous young thing from the outskirts who, during the flower of her youth, seeks pleasurable experience with the young men of better social class and then, in maturity, marries a workman—a good man. The süßes Mädel brought unappreciated fame to Schnitzler: “… if one had the choice between being ‘unrecognized’ or ‘falsely recognized’? Of course the latter happens to one after the seventeenth or twenty-eighth play rather than after the first, and it is more difficult to recover from,” he wrote in a recently published letter, which he had written on 24 January 1908 to Marie Herzfeld. This type is not as uniform in Schnitzler as is commonly believed. There are naive (Cora in Anatol), wise, fickle, and corrupt variations—the latter appears in Hands Around, the only play in which Schnitzler actually names the character “Süßes Mädel,” rather than having another of the characters simply refer to her as such. Schnitzler's reaction to the fact that all his young girls were labeled as süßes Mädel is reflected in the words of the puppet Liesl in the burlesque The Big Wurstel Puppet Theater:

Just because I am a single girl,
And Vienna's the scene of the plot,
They call me “süßes Mädel,”
Whether I am or not.

The süßes Mädel type can be found as early as Nestroy, in his Mädl aus der Vorstadt (Girl from the Outskirts). The carefree young people and the sweet young thing, who is pursued by dandies, appear in this farce of 1845. Nestroy modeled his seamstresses (Schnitzler's Mizi Schlager in Light-O'-Love is a milliner) on the pattern of French grisettes, and it is not far from French vaudeville via Murger to Schnitzler. Moreover, there are the variations of the type of süßes Mädel found in Berlin in the works of Theodor Fontane and Georg Hermann—not to mention Ernst Wolzogen, in whose works the actual term süßes Mädel appears for the first time. One should not, then, give Schnitzler sole credit for creating as a literary type the kind of girl that is spawned by urban life, and furthermore a type that he varied and portrayed ironically, without anyone noticing it.

Once the term was in vogue, all of Schnitzler's female characters were called süße Mädeln if they were unmarried. Schnitzler drafted an “Anticritique” but did not publish it. In it he speaks about Liebelei being used as a catchword and about Anatol, to whom all subsequent lovers in his works, including Sala, Medardus, Hofreiter, and later even Bernhardi, were compared as “aging Anatols.”

In a completely similar manner the same thing happened with another figure, or let me first say, with the words süßes Mädel, that appeared for the first time in a little scene entitled The Christmas Present, which was published in the Frankfurter Zeitung on Christmas Day 1891. The type to which these words refer surely did not signify anything new, not even in strictly literary terms. It is possible that by giving certain individualizing nuances to particular characters, to whom this designation is rightly or wrongly applied, I created the impression of greater naturalness and liveliness. What would remain completely baffling, however, if one didn't have to reckon continually with the intellectual laziness and maliciousness of a certain type of critic, is the circumstance that ever since (I mean ever since the designation süßes Mädel gained a place in the German language), scarcely a work of mine has appeared in which the süßes Mädel is not immediately recognized with shouts of joy among the characters. For this recognition it is only necessary that the character be unmarried. Their other qualities and destinies are not taken into consideration in the slightest, and not only Mizi, who, after all, may claim a well accredited right to this pet name or nickname, but also Johanna Wegrat in The Lonely Way, Anna Rosner in The Road to the Open and indeed (one might not consider it possible) even Princess Helene in The Young Medardus have all been greeted as süßes Mädeln. Thus, just as the masculine world is divided into Anatols and homosexuals, the feminine world consists of süße Mädeln and married women—it goes without saying, only when my works are being considered. If some of my works had appeared under a pseudonym, even the most perceptive reviewers would have failed to detect what now seems to be so clearly evident, namely, the relationship of my masculine and feminine characters to those prototypes, who were introduced to the public for the first time two decades ago. Moreover, if one remembers now that all of the relationships that exist between my characters of different sexes are designated once and for all as Liebeleien [flirtations], one can gain an idea of just how weak-minded, shallow critics have made it easy for themselves, by describing, with the help of words that I must take partial blame for making popular, the truly not inconsiderable variety of characters and destinies that I have portrayed, as merely a constant repetition of the same theme.

At the beginning of this “Anticritique,” which must have been written about the year 1911, stands the passage about Liebelei being a catchword:

Fairly near the beginning of my literary career I wrote a play in which I portrayed the love of an ordinary young girl for a student from a well-to-do home, showing the happiness, suffering, and death of this young girl. Since the young man is still entangled in a previous love affair, and thus at first takes his relationship with this young girl all too lightly, I named this play Liebelei, giving it an overtone of painful irony that can scarcely be missed. More seriously and with equal justification, although of course with somewhat less taste, I could have called the play “Christine's Great Love.” The possibility of misunderstanding the exceedingly simple plot is completely out of the question, even for the most limited reader or spectator. This has not prevented a majority of the critics, however, from pretending to construe the word Liebelei strictly in its original meaning and acting as if they believed that my play did not concern any profound and strong feelings but merely involved a casual, frivolous escapade.

These comments of Schnitzler should suffice to indicate how he wanted his play understood. As was the case with almost every one of his dramas, Schnitzler worked on Light-O'-Love for several years and wrote several versions. Lengthy segments of a folk play in eight scenes exist in his literary estate. The first scene was published in 1903 in a volume honoring Ferdinand von Saar's seventieth birthday. Schnitzler distanced himself from this work, as it were, by noting: “Only to comply with a friendly wish of Mr. Richard Specht do I make this manuscript available to him for publication in this volume.” And yet, it is a scene that is complete in itself and that perhaps could even be performed. In a dancing school with its oppressively restrictive and formal environment, two couples meet for the first time. Against this unpromising background evolves a tender, fervent relationship. In this version Fritz and Theodor are not only characterized by opposing qualities—seriousness versus the carefree, melancholy versus frivolity—but also the basic distinction between the two, which lies in the depth of character of the one and the superficiality of the other, is clearly evident. In contrast to the completed version, in this early version Christine also has a past affair to forget. Thus, the uniqueness of Christine's and Fritz's love as the central idea of the play was not yet present in the folk play.

The plot of the final version: By means of an affair with Christine, a girl from the outskirts, Theodor wants to distract his friend Fritz from his passion for a married woman, a relationship that inhibits Fritz's freedom and that is threatening to become dangerous. But the husband challenges and shoots Fritz just as Fritz was becoming conscious of his love for Christine, to whom he had come to mean everything and who knew nothing about his affair, duel, and death. What she had taken seriously all along, he had only valued as a noncommittal game.

Fritz Lobheimer feels guilty toward Christine. He has deceived her and, without suffering a bad conscience at the time, has told her nothing about his life and problems. Nevertheless, within its fixed boundaries, his relationship to her was genuine. He simply left out his real life and did not bring it along into the game. His conscience and feelings of regret awaken in him when he senses that more than a game could have developed from this relationship. At their last meeting before the duel, Fritz realizes that he has deceived Christine by not telling her the whole truth. Deception occurs at the point where one begins to feel bound or wishes to be bound, where he begins to feel a sense of responsibility. While Fritz has unconsciously played a game with Christine, Theodor and Mizi act by mutual agreement, for they are fully aware of how their relationship will end. Fritz and Christine are more sentimental and romantic. They do not speak as candidly about the past and the future as the other two, who can do so because they only want to enjoy the moment. Both Theodor and Mizi know the rules of the game, but Fritz never lets Christine know that he is acting according to these rules. The affair is tragic, therefore, because Christine regards as deception what he intended as a game. She does not believe in the “repeatability of the unrepeatable.” The game, on the other hand, is repeatable—it is based on the principle of repeatability. This discrepancy must of necessity drive Christine to despair. Fritz has experienced the two types of the social game of love: an affair with a married woman and an affair with one of those “girls whom one does not marry” (the title of a collection of tales by Raoul Auernheimer). As long as the rules of the game are observed, and people do not deceive each other but tell the truth, the game is genuine. Fritz, however, is not capable of honest, casual, temporary relationships such as Theodor engages in; thus, even his passion for the married woman has become a lie. Hermann Bahr summarized the importance of this for Christine: “Because he dies of a lie, she realizes that she has lived on a lie.”

While nothing could distract Christine from her devotedness, she was only a diversion for Fritz, not the meaning of his life. When she learns of his death, her life loses its meaning and she rushes off. Where does she go? To her death, the critics maintain in a rare display of unanimity. Even Schnitzler in the above cited “Anticritique” speaks of the “end” of Christine. Yet, he did not venture to express this conclusion explicitly in the drama. Her death is one, but not the only, possibility. Her father, old Weiring, believes with certainty that she will not return, but Schnitzler was honest enough to doubt her death. It would have been easy to show her death unambiguously, as Schnitzler did in Free Game, and as he avoided doing in The Legacy (in striking parallel to Light-O'-Love). With Christine's departure, however, the play is at an end; what will follow is left to the imagination of the spectator.

In 1897 Otto Stoessl, in his “Wiener Brief” (published in the Neue Deutsche Rundschau, Vol. 8, p. 205), described Light-O'-Love as a play about Vienna: “What gives this first work its emotional content other than the strong play of opposites? This naive, guileless, affectionate Christine with her completely unbroken, simple soul clings to an artful, sophisticated young man. The result is, perhaps more than one would like to believe, a ‘Viennese’ play; it contains very clearly, beautifully, and distinctly the nature of this city and its barbarity, which to be sure also has a certain charm.”


Light-O'-Love is one of Schnitzler's most performed plays. The premiere took place on 9 October 1895 at the Burgtheater in Vienna, and the play remained in the repertory until 15 September 1910. In Berlin, Otto Brahm directed the play on 4 February 1896.

On 1 March 1918 Light-O'-Love was revived by the Burgtheater under the direction of Max Devrient. This production was performed in different theaters until 10 October 1930.

Then in 1946 the Vienna Burgtheater again produced Light-O'-Love together with A Christmas Present from the Anatol cycle. With reference to this performance Rudolf Holzer wrote in the Wiener Zeitung on 13 March 1946 that beginning the program with A Christmas Present “produced the truly curious effect of a humorous prologue to the following tragic Light-O'-Love.” In his opinion, however, the public remained indifferent: “The generation of today has experienced too much that is difficult, frightful, and shattering, to be able to empathize with the resentment toward life of a Fritz Lobheimer or the love tragedy of a Christine.” Nevertheless, the play had a successful run from 9 March 1946 until 21 September 1946.

On the occasion of a new production on 12 June 1954 O. M. Fontana wrote: “Conditions change but not hearts.” Under the direction of Ernst Lothar the main roles were performed by two well-known actors, Hans Moser and Inge Conradi. The spoken version of their unforgettable portrayals was made into a recording under the direction of Heinrich Schnitzler. Light-O'-Love found its place in the repertory of large theaters even in the 1960s. In 1968 it was performed, with staging by Heinrich Schnitzler, at the Theater in der Josefstadt.

Light-O'-Love enjoyed a brief period of popularity among Americans in the early 1900s. Under the title Flirtation, it was produced by the Progressive Stage Society in 1905 at the Berkeley Lyceum Theater in New York. In 1907, as The Reckoning, it was presented again at the Berkeley Lyceum. This second version was revived the following year.

Gail Finney (essay date 1989)

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SOURCE: Finney, Gail. “Female Sexuality and Schnitzler's La Ronde.” In Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism, and European Theater at the Turn of the Century, pp. 25-50. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989.

[In the following excerpt, Finney uses Schnitzler's ambivalence toward Freudian psychoanalysis as a starting point in addressing the playwright's focus on women and sexuality in La Ronde.]


I will make a confession which for my sake I must ask you to keep to yourself and share with neither friends nor strangers. I have tormented myself with the question why in all these years I have never attempted to make your acquaintance and to have a talk with you. … The answer contains the confession which strikes me as too intimate. I think I have avoided you from a kind of reluctance to meet my double [aus einer Art von Doppelgängerscheu].

This often cited confession forms the center of Freud's third letter to Arthur Schnitzler, written in 1922 to congratulate the author on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday.1 By this time Schnitzler's dramas and prose works had won him international renown as the sharp-eyed critic of fin-de-siècle Viennese society; indeed, until the late 1930s he was more famous than Freud. Freud's “reluctance” to meet Schnitzler stemmed from his conception of the double, which he had adopted from Otto Rank and described in his paper “The Uncanny” in 1919. During the stage of primary narcissism which dominates the minds of children and primitive adults, Freud writes, the idea of the double operates as an insurance against the destruction of the ego; once this stage has passed, however, the double reverses its character and becomes the uncanny harbinger of death, and confrontation with one's double causes identity confusion.2

But Freud overcame his reservations about Schnitzler. The birthday letter of May 1922 prompted Schnitzler to suggest that they meet at last, and Freud responded with a dinner invitation. The following August, Schnitzler visited Freud in Berchtesgaden, where he was vacationing. Yet although they continued to exchange their publications, between 1922 and Schnitzler's death in 1931 they saw each other only five more times: three times by accident and on two occasions when Schnitzler visited Freud in a sanatorium located down the street from Schnitzler's house.

Freud had good reason to see himself mirrored in Schnitzler. The parallels between the two men begin on the biographical level: Freud was only six years older than Schnitzler; both were products of the same milieu, Vienna at the height of the Hapsburg monarchy; both were educated, upper-middle-class, nonpracticing Jews; they traveled in the same circles and Freud was well acquainted with Schnitzler's brother Julius, a surgeon. Perhaps most important, both Freud and Schnitzler were doctors with an interest in psychiatry, although Schnitzler eventually chose to specialize in laryngology, the same field in which his father had distinguished himself.

Schnitzler's first exposure to Freud dates from 1886, when he attended and reported on a meeting at which Freud spoke on male hysteria. That same year Schnitzler worked under the neurologist Theodor Meynert, just as Freud had done a few years before. In Meynert's psychiatric clinic Schnitzler learned hypnosis, with which he carried out sensational experiments in his father's polyclinic. Schnitzler's most extensive medical treatise was a discussion of the treatment of hysterical voicelessness through hypnosis and suggestion, and in the late 1880s and early 1890s he reviewed several of Freud's translations of psychiatric works by Charcot and Bernheim. Hypnosis appears in two of his dramas, where it is used to express characteristically Schnitzlerian ideas. In one of the one-act plays included in Anatol (1893; dates following plays refer to year of publication), which launched Schnitzler's career as a playwright, the title character hypnotizes his lover in order to learn whether she is truly faithful to him but is then afraid to ask her the question, preferring his illusions to certainty. Paracelsus (1898), in which the noted Renaissance doctor discovers a married woman's secret sexual fantasies through hypnosis, astonished Freud with its knowledge about “these things”3—the conscious and unconscious desires that complicate married life.

Schnitzler's writing increasingly took precedence over his activities as a physician, especially after the death of his father, who had from the beginning been the motivating force behind his medical career. Throughout, Schnitzler's works reflect his fascination with the dynamics of the human psyche; it is no accident that he was the first writer in the German language to use the technique of the autonomous interior monologue (in the novella Leutnant Gustl, 1901). He makes frequent use of dreams in his prose writings, notably in Traumnovelle (1928) (Rhapsody: A Dream Novel). And many of his works, such as the novella Fräulein Else (1924), are akin to case studies in their minute exploration of psychologically troubled characters.

In light of Schnitzler's preoccupations, it is little wonder that the renaissance in Schnitzler scholarship in recent decades has in large measure consisted of efforts to detail the affinities between the Viennese writer and the founder of psychoanalysis. Thus we find attempts to demonstrate that Schnitzler anticipated Freud's most important ideas and categorizations of the psychoses in Schnitzler's oeuvre.4 But critics of such attempts hold that there is little point in arguing about whether Freud or Schnitzler was the first to make this or that discovery,5 particularly since Freud himself repeatedly observed that many of the insights he gained through analysis and experimentation were not original with him but were known to creative writers. Moreover, “Freudian” interpretations of Schnitzler's works, of which there have been a considerable number, overlook or underestimate Schnitzler's expressed reservations about psychoanalysis. Although Schnitzler claimed in an interview, “In some respects I am the double of Professor Freud,”6 he could never overcome his sense that there was something monomaniacal about Freud's way of thinking and that psychoanalysis, dominated by “fixed ideas,”7 tended to overinterpret. It seems plausible to conclude that the differences between the two men were as responsible as the similarities for the infrequency of their personal contact. Schnitzler's ambivalence is perfectly captured in a diary entry made on the day he arrived in Berchtesgaden to visit Freud in 1922: “His entire being attracted me again, and I feel a certain desire to talk with him about the various chasms in my works (and in my life)—but I think I'd prefer not to.”8

Schnitzler's ambivalent attitude toward Freud's thinking is probably nowhere clearer than in the writer's views on female sexuality. Both sex and women play such a prominent role in his oeuvre that the importance of this issue for Schnitzler can scarcely be overestimated.9 One of the works most useful in exploring his conception of female sexuality is Reigen (1903) (The Round Dance), probably best known outside Austria and Germany through Max Ophüls's romanticized film version of 1950, La Ronde.10 (Since the appearance of Ophüls's film, the French title has taken precedence, even in English translations, and I will use that title here.) Schnitzler's drama quite literally revolves around sex: nine of its ten dialogues frame an act of sexual intercourse, conveyed by a row of dashes in the text and, in early productions, by a lowering and raising of the curtain on stage; in each case one of the partners has appeared in the previous scene and the other appears in the following scene—A-B, B-C, C-D, and so on. Character A's reappearance in the last scene completes the “round” and creates the impression that the cycle will be repeated endlessly. The play's innovative structure, unique not only in Schnitzler's oeuvre but in the drama of the time, is the perfect vehicle for its message—so daring in its day—about the universality of sexual desire. In its relentless portrayal of sexuality La Ronde stands as a summation of many of the themes that preoccupied Schnitzler: marriage and adultery, the roles and linguistic games men and women play with each other, the tension between reality and illusion and, concomitantly, between honesty and deception, both self-deception and deception of others.

The production history of La Ronde reveals just how shocking its subject matter was. “Dear Pornographer”: thus the salutation of a tongue-in-cheek letter from Hofmannsthal and Richard Beer-Hofmann to Schnitzler advising him, in the face of Fischer's refusal to publish the play, to take care in his selection of a publisher for his “piece of dirt” (Schmutzwerk) and to demand a lot of money in advance, since the book would surely be confiscated by the censors.11 Their prediction was realized in 1904, the year after the play's publication. Although unauthorized versions of La Ronde were occasionally performed outside Austria and Germany during the first decades of the century, the first full production in German did not take place until 1920, in Berlin. Within a year its cast and director were tried for obscenity, but acquitted. In every German city in which the play was performed, riots and demonstrations erupted, many of them anti-Semitic; theater patrons came armed with rotten eggs and stink bombs. But nowhere was the scandal greater than in Vienna, the setting of the drama and thus the “scene of the crime.” Here the controversy even led to fights in parliament, suggesting that a statement made about Vienna in 1981, fifty years after Schnitzler's death, was true at the turn of the century as well: “Hardly any other city is as unhesitatingly tolerant of sexual freedom as Vienna—as long as one condition is met: that it is never talked about.”12 In 1922 Schnitzler, thoroughly fed up with the whole affair, forbade any further productions of his much-maligned drama. Fifty years after his death, however, his son Heinrich lifted the ban, and since then directors have attempted to make up for the play's long period of dormancy.

The scandalous quality of La Ronde lay at least in part in the fact that it spares no social class. The play's use of nameless, paradigmatic types, spanning all levels of society from prostitute to count, has often been noted. Yet these characters represent not only social types but also gender types—“the parlourmaid,” “the young gentleman,” “the actress,” and so forth. A close look at the play in terms of Freudian categories reveals the degree to which its characters strain against the confines of these gender stereotypes.13 As we shall see, Schnitzler often sets up conventional masculine-feminine dichotomies only in order to problematize and undermine them. I should emphasize that I am not interested in determining Freud's influence on Schnitzler or, since Freud's writings on femininity postdate La Ronde, in demonstrating the degree to which Schnitzler anticipated Freud. Rather, my intention is to use Freud's thinking as a lens through which to examine the play's treatment of the kinds of roles and stereotypes assigned to women in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Because of the range of types encompassed by La Ronde, close study of this work should also prove illuminating for the dramas discussed in subsequent parts of this book.

As I mentioned in the Introduction, the issue of female sexuality has been crucial to the history of psychoanalysis, though its fate has been a turbulent one. Steven Marcus calls the discussion of female sexuality since Freud a “tragicomedy”; in Kate Millett's words, the question has been a “scientific football or a swamp of superstitious misinformation.”14 No one was more perplexed about the subject than Freud. One finds expressions of his uncertainty from his first writings on the topic to his last—from his statement in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) that the erotic life of women “is still veiled in an impenetrable obscurity” to his characterization of the nature of femininity as a “riddle” in “Femininity” (1933).15 Surely one of his most frequently quoted utterances is that in which he described to Marie Bonaparte “the great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul”: “What does a woman want?” (“Was will das Weib?”).16 And yet he did construct a theory of female sexuality, and one whose ramifications were far-reaching. An understanding of this theory necessitates a brief rehearsal of his conception of the early development of sexuality.

In his essays on infantile sexuality (notably the Three Essays and “The Infantile Genital Organization,” 1923) Freud postulates the concept of sexual monism: child sexuality for both sexes is masculine, since both girls and boys recognize only the male genital organ. (He was to persist throughout in viewing libido as masculine, as he indicates in, for example, “Femininity,” 131.) From the child's point of view the clitoris is simply a substitute for the penis; “the little girl is a little man” (“Femininity,” 118). Thus Freud labels the phase following the oral and anal phases the phallic phase in both sexes. In both sexes the girl's lack of a penis leads to a castration complex, since children believe that the girl had a penis and lost it. But the castration complex manifests itself differently in the two sexes, and these distinctions are closely bound up with differences in the Oedipus complex in boys and girls, outlined in “The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex” (1924) and elsewhere. For Freud the Oedipus complex, which has been described as “a shibboleth on which psychoanalysis stood or fell,”17 was the central phenomenon of the sexual period in early childhood. After the boy discovers that the girl lacks what he has, Freud hypothesizes, he comes to dread the possibility of castration, perhaps as a punishment for masturbation brought on by his oedipal desires for his mother. His castration complex leads him to repress these desires and to begin internalizing his father's authority, thus forming the kernel of his superego, which will maintain the prohibition against incest.

The situation is different with girls. Whereas in boys the Oedipus complex is terminated by the castration complex, the girl's Oedipus complex is produced by the castration complex. Accepting her castration as having already occurred, she comes to envy the boy his penis: “She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it.”18 Yet she gradually replaces her wish for a penis by her wish for a child, and with this purpose in mind she rejects her mother, the primary object of her preoedipal affection, and takes her father as a love object. At this culminating stage of her Oedipus complex, the girl's relationship with her mother is colored by jealousy: “The girl has turned into a little woman” (“Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction between the Sexes,” 256). Freud emphasizes that these two desires—to possess a penis and to bear a child—are crucial in helping to prepare the woman's nature for its subsequent sex role. Significantly, because her castration has already taken place, the girl has less reason to move beyond the Oedipus complex than the boy. The two results are that women may remain until a late age strongly dependent on a paternal object or on their actual father, and that their superego does not become as well developed, as “inexorable,” as it does in men; thus women show less sense of justice than men and are more influenced in their judgments by feelings of affection, envy, or hostility. In “Female Sexuality” Freud sums up the significance of this difference in the development of child sexuality as follows: “We should probably not be wrong in saying that it is this difference in the reciprocal relation between the Oedipus and the castration complex which gives its special stamp to the character of females as social beings.”19 Perhaps most important, according to this theory that takes the male as the norm and defines the female in terms of a lack, the castration complex leads both sexes to disparage woman, the castrated being.

To repeat, this summary of Freud's conception of the early development of sexuality is not intended as an indictment but rather, interpreted metaphorically, as representative of the attitudes of his social order. What about Schnitzler, who belonged to precisely the same social order? Did he take a different stance? We may best answer this question by interweaving more specific considerations of Freud's writings on women into a close analysis of the text of La Ronde.

Inherent in Freud's definition of libido as masculine is his attribution of a less pronounced sex drive to women. He never gave up his belief, expressed as early as Three Essays, that “the tendency to sexual repression seems in general to be greater [in girls than in boys]” (219), and in “The Taboo of Virginity” (1918) he writes of the “general female tendency to take a defensive line [toward sex].”20 He simply does not regard female sexuality as an active, independent drive. What seems to Freud to be more important to women than sex is love; as he states in “Anxiety and Instinctual Life” (1933), the fear of castration found in men is replaced in the female sex by a fear of loss of love.21 Concomitant with these views is his often repeated association of masculine sexuality with activity and feminine sexuality with passivity. Indeed, he notes that the contrast between masculinity and femininity must frequently be replaced in psychoanalysis by that between activity and passivity (Three Essays, 160). Although he occasionally qualifies this equation,22 he clearly believes in its essential validity, since many of his most important claims are based on this dichotomy (such as his definition of libido as masculine), and in one of the last works to be published during his lifetime he refers to the male's “struggle against his passive or feminine attitude.”23

Turning now to Schnitzler, we find that such dichotomies do not hold up under scrutiny, although at first glance they may seem to. In two scenes—those between the young gentleman and the young wife and between the “sweet girl” (süßes Mädel) or grisette and the poet—men rip women's clothes in their haste to get on with things. Similarly, the male characters are often in a hurry to get away from their partners once the sexual act is over—thus the soldier with both the prostitute and the parlour-maid, the young gentleman with the parlourmaid, and the husband with the sweet girl, whose observation that he is “different” after their intimacies24 sums up this phenomenon. By contrast, the reaction of the parlourmaid with the soldier and of the sweet girl with the husband following intercourse is to ask their partners whether they care for them. These conventional gender roles are not maintained, however; in the scenes between the young gentleman and the young wife and between the sweet girl and the poet it is the men who express concern about the women's love for them afterward and the women who are in a hurry to get home, and in the play's final scene even the count seems to wish he meant something more to the prostitute than the other men she has been with. And several of the female characters are anything but passive in their sexual relations. The prostitute approaches the soldier even though she claims not to want any money from him, hence falling out of her social role; the parlourmaid's interest in the young gentleman is evident in the way she primps before taking him the glass of water he requests; the young wife goes to her rendezvous with the young gentleman in full awareness of what awaits her; and, most obviously, the actress initiates sex with both the poet and the count.

A similar pattern emerges in La Ronde in connection with a characteristic Freud often associates with women, shame. In Three Essays he observes that the development of the inhibitions of sexuality, such as shame, takes place in little girls “earlier and in the face of less resistance than in boys” (219), and in a frequently cited passage in “Femininity” he writes: “Shame, which is considered to be a feminine characteristic par excellence but is far more a matter of convention than might be supposed, has as its purpose, we believe, concealment of genital deficiency” (132). He then goes on to describe women's invention of plaiting and weaving—one of their few contributions to civilization, he notes—as an unconscious imitation of the interwoven hair that conceals their genitals. In commenting on this passage Sarah Kofman points out the ambiguous nature of Freud's conception of feminine shame as “both a conventional virtue (more or less linked to cultural repression) and a natural one, since, in her invention of weaving, woman was only ‘imitating’ nature.”25 Moreover, Kofman adds, this “natural/conventional artifice” serves to excite and charm men: “Feminine modesty is thus a trick of nature that allows the human species to perpetuate itself” (49).

Kofman's observations are illuminating apropos of La Ronde, which unmasks the contradictions of traditional conceptions of shame such as those expounded by Freud and shows it to be a supposedly natural but in fact artificial convention that serves to enhance seduction. The parlourmaid's embarrassment as the young gentleman opens her blouse and kisses her breasts in broad daylight, heightened when she learns that he has seen her undressed in her room at night, does not deter him but rather intensifies the desire of both. Similarly, the fact that the young wife comes to the young gentleman's flat “heavily veiled” (iv, 12) and her insistence that if she becomes conscious of what she is doing she will “sink into the earth with shame” (iv, 16) are simply part of her game of seduction, just as her feeble protestations in the drawing room that “it is so light here” (iv, 17) only move the young gentleman to lead her into the bedroom. Indeed, the implicit comparison of the young wife to a popular contemporary actress suggests that she is merely playing a role expected of her: when the young gentleman is taken aback to discover that she is not wearing a corset, she responds that the actress never wears one either. Neither she nor the sweet girl (with the poet) can bear to have their partners look on while they get dressed, although they have just had sex with them. Schnitzler takes his unmasking of shame one step further, however; he does not limit it to women: in the scene between the actress and the count it is the count who is reluctant to engage in love in the daytime. The actress has a simple solution: “Close your eyes if it's too light for you” (ix, 59).

The blurring of conventional sex-typed distinctions in La Ronde complements a pattern in the play which might be labeled “one-upwomanship,” a pattern in which female characters repeatedly get the better of male characters whose views on women are very similar to Freud's. One of the best illustrations of this pattern is the bedroom scene between the young wife and her husband, who is a perfect embodiment of patriarchal values. His attitude toward his wife, whom he addresses as “my child,” is intimated right from the beginning of the scene, when he urges her not to read anymore that evening since it will “ruin her eyes” (all quotations from the play in this paragraph are from scene v). For him, male and female spheres of activity are clearly separate, as his adaptation of lines from Schiller's “Das Lied von der Glocke” (“The Song of the Bell”) at the end of the scene demonstrates: “One can't always be a good lover. One has to keep going out into a hostile world. One must fight and one must strive.” Nowhere are the differences between men and women clearer to him than in the area of premarital and extramarital sexual experience, as we learn from his explanations to his wife. Whereas women like herself come to their husbands pure and relatively ignorant about love, he tells her, men are forced before marriage to rely on those “poor creatures” who sell themselves. (This distinction is of course class-bound; both the husband and the poet question the sweet girl about her previous lovers.) Similarly, whereas the husband forbids his wife to associate with adulterous women—women whose lives are full of “lies, trickery, deceit and danger”—he admits that he was once involved with a married woman.

In his belief in a double standard Schnitzler's husband typifies the “civilized sexual morality” described by Freud in “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness” (1908). The main intention of this essay, whose claim that civilization is founded on the suppression of instincts anticipates Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), is to lament the debilitating effects of a social code that prohibits sexual intercourse outside of monogamous marriage. As a corollary Freud calls attention to the “double code of morality” that tolerates lapses in the male but condemns them in the female. He points out that this double code is buttressed by women's education, which employs drastic measures to keep them ignorant of sex until marriage. Freud goes on to link women's ignorance in sexual matters and their intellectual inferiority in general:

[Women's] upbringing forbids their concerning themselves intellectually with sexual problems though they nevertheless feel extremely curious about them, and frightens them by condemning such curiosity as unwomanly and a sign of a sinful disposition. In this way they are scared away from any form of thinking, and knowledge loses its value for them. … I think that the undoubted intellectual inferiority of so many women can … be traced back to the inhibition of thought necessitated by sexual suppression.26

Despite his criticism of the conditions that foster the “double code,” Freud offers no alternatives or proposals for reform, and he obviously does not believe that civilization can or should be done away with.27 Later statements on the issue show him to be even closer to the position represented by the husband in La Ronde. In Civilization and Its Discontents, for example, he writes, “Women represent the interests of the family and of sexual life. The work of civilization has become increasingly the business of men, it confronts them with ever more difficult tasks and compels them to carry out instinctual sublimations of which women are little capable”;28 similarly, in “Femininity” he regards women as “weaker in their social interests and as having less capacity for sublimating their instincts than men” (134).

Taking a close look at the fifth scene of La Ronde against this background, we find that the traditional moral code embodied by the husband does not have the last word but that his wife acts as a kind of satiric “corrective” at every juncture. Her fascination with his premarital sex life and with the life of prostitutes already shows her transcending the double standard that did not allow middle-class women to express such interests. Similarly, when her husband feigns pity for the lot of prostitutes, she responds that she does not find such pity appropriate, since she thinks they must lead quite a pleasant life. When he reminds her that these women are destined to fall lower and lower, she observes, “It sounds rather pleasant.” And when he struggles to describe the existence of adulterous women, she supplies the word “pleasure.” As we might expect, her husband is shocked by these formulations. His attitude is encapsulated by his reaction to her veiled threat to withhold sex if he does not answer a pressing question she has: “You do have a way of talking … please remember, you're a mother … that our little girl is asleep in there …” (Schnitzler's ellipses). This response anticipates his anger in the next scene at the sweet girl's suggestion that his wife is as unfaithful as he is. He simply cannot accept the thought that a respectable woman possesses the same kind of sexual desire as a man.

The most graphic manifestation of this attitude is the husband's practice of alternating periods of platonic “friendship” with “honeymoons” in his marriage, thereby rendering his wife newly pure in his mind before each honeymoon. One such instance is depicted in this scene, in which the couple's sexual encounter follows closely on the husband's statement that “one can only love what is true and pure” and his exclaimed wish that he had known his wife as a child. His reliance on the fantasy of renewed virginal purity in his wife is illuminated by Freud's diagnosis in “The Taboo of Virginity,” which describes the demand in civilized societies for virginity in women at marriage as a “logical continuation of the right to exclusive possession of a woman, which forms the essence of monogamy” (193). Freud adds that a woman's experience of losing her virginity “creates a state of bondage in the woman which guarantees that possession of her shall continue undisturbed and makes her able to resist new impressions and enticements from outside” (193). In light of the young wife's adultery, it is hardly necessary to point out the extent to which such attitudes are ironized in Schnitzler's play.

The husband's inability to reconcile sexuality with motherhood and his overall idealization of his wife reflect a further tendency that Freud considered characteristically male, the need to overvalue the love object. In “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love” (1912) he theorizes that this need grows out of incestuous fixations that cause men to make unconscious associations between the women they love and their mothers and/or sisters. But because the incest taboo prohibits sexual relations with such women, the tendency to overvalue the love object produces a counterpart need in men to debase the sexual object in their estimation in order to maintain potency. That the union between love and sexual fulfillment realized in the bedroom scene between the husband and his wife in Schnitzler's play is a rarity for them is evident in her wistful remarks about the encounter.

This dissociation of love and sensuality seems perfectly exemplified in La Ronde in the scene between the young wife and the young gentleman, whose explanation for his impotence with her is “I must love you too much” (iv, 18). As support for this position he brings in Stendhal's De l'amour, which, he tells her, relates tales of cavalry officers who suffered a similar misfortune during their first encounters with the women they most loved. Yet a closer look at both this scene and Stendhal's book suggests that the reason for the young gentleman's failure may not be an excess of love. Just a few lines before the couple's unsatisfactory encounter, the following exchange occurs:

(He undoes her shoes and kisses her feet. She has slipped into bed.)
Oh, it's cold.
Soon, it'll get warm.
WIFE (laughing quietly):
You think so?
GENTLEMAN (unpleasantly disturbed, to himself):
She shouldn't have said that.

[iv, 17]

What “disturbs” the gentleman here is the sexuality manifested by the wife's question and accompanying laughter.29 In her open acknowledgment of her sexuality she strains against the confines of the conventional role that her society assigns to middle-class women and continues the process of subordination prefigured on the gestural level when the gentleman removed her shoes and kissed her feet. Hence we see that his sexual performance in fact suffers not because of an overvaluation of her, as the Freudian diagnosis would have it, but for precisely the opposite reason.

A further explanation for the gentleman's difficulties is supplied by the chapter in De l'amour which he refers to but does not name, “Des Fiasco” (“Concerning Fiascos”), a kind of miniature treatise on impotence. Here Stendhal writes that if a first rendezvous is expected and eagerly awaited, a man often suffers a “fiasco through imagination.” The gentleman's eager anticipation of his tryst in La Ronde is evident in his careful preparations before the wife's arrival at the flat he has rented: spraying the rooms and bedpillows with violet perfume; making sure the blinds are closed; removing a tortoiseshell comb—a remnant of a former rendezvous—from a drawer in the bedside table; laying out cognac, candies, and dishes; combing his hair and moustache. The factor of surprise accounts for the gentleman's success in his second attempt with the wife, which occurs unexpectedly, just after she has announced her intention to leave in five minutes.30

Because De l'amour is so clearly relevant to this scene, it is not inappropriate to compare Stendhal's text to the gentleman's retelling of it. The comparison reveals that the gentleman alters Stendhal's story of the lieutenant who could do nothing but kiss his beloved and weep for joy during his first three nights with her: whereas Stendhal makes no mention of the woman's tears, in the gentleman's narration both she and the lieutenant weep—a version much more in keeping with his traditional notions of what is fitting behavior for women. That this alteration is more than a picayune detail is evident in the wife's reaction; she not only finds it hard to believe that the woman cried along with the man, she goes on to object, “But there are surely a lot who don't weep at all” (iv, 19). She brings these sentiments to a head a few lines later with her sarcastic response to the gentleman's exclamation that he is happy: “But you don't need to cry as well”—a remark that enrages the gentleman in its veiled reference to his impotence and her resulting dissatisfaction. The young wife's skeptical reaction to the gentleman's romanticized tale, indicating her pragmatic approach to sex, once again calls into question the conventional gender roles sanctioned by her society and epitomized in Freudian doctrine.

The Freudian theory that men dissociate love and sexuality and tend as a consequence to choose sexual objects who are ethically or socially inferior to them would seem to be borne out by the entire framework of La Ronde: in every case where there is a class difference between partners, it is the man who belongs to the higher class. Yet the female figures in these scenes also problematize the hierarchical thinking at the foundation of Freud's views on sexuality. The degree to which the prostitute transcends stereotyped conceptions of her role, announced as we have seen in her offer of free services to the soldier, is heightened in the scene in which she reveals to the count that she is on the job at the same early hour every day, like any conscientious employee. The parlourmaid's position makes her appear to be the quintessential incorporation of the association between femininity and servitude implicit in Freud's writings.31 But when her sexual encounter with the young gentleman is interrupted by the doorbell and he irritably says that it probably rang earlier and they didn't notice it, she responds, “Oh, I've been listening all the time” (iii, 11), thus considerably undermining any impression of devoted subservience we may have formed. Her final gesture in the scene—stealing a cigar from the young gentleman's smoking table after he has left the room—caps off the commentary.

A similar pattern emerges in the scenes focusing on the sweet girl, an example of the famous character type that became inextricably bound up with Schnitzler's name early in his career. Based on an actual type—the girl from the petty bourgeois suburbs of Vienna—the süßes Mädel was first “defined” by the playboy Anatol in one of the one-act plays in the Anatol cycle, Weihnachtseinkäufe (Christmas Shopping): “She's not fascinatingly beautiful … she's not particularly elegant—and she's not at all clever. … But she has the soft appeal of a spring evening … and the grace of a bewitched princess … and the spirit of a girl who knows how to love!”32 Both the husband and the poet seem to have a similar image of this type of girl, to judge from their condescending treatment of the sweet girl in La Ronde. Again and again, however, she thwarts their expectations. The husband is repeatedly taken aback by her worldliness, for instance, especially by the fact that she guesses from his behavior that he is married. And when he tells her that he would like to see her on a regular basis but that he has to be able to trust her since he cannot be around to watch out for her, she retorts, “Oh, I can look after myself” (vi, 39), a remark that emphasizes the independence he finds so difficult to reconcile with his idea of what a girl like her should be.

The poet takes an even more patronizing tone with the sweet girl. A caricature of the fin-de-siècle aesthete, he is not interested in hearing about her domestic responsibilities—which as Schnitzler was aware were only too real for girls of this class33—but prefers to beautify everything, including what he perceives as her stupidity: “Of course you're stupid. But that's why I love you. Oh, it's so beautiful when women are stupid” (vii, 41). Following their sexual encounter he stands over her with a candle, declaiming: “You are beautiful, you are beauty, you are perhaps even nature itself. You are ‘sacred simplicity’” (vii, 44). His raptures are ended, however, when she cries out that he is dripping wax on her. Thus his condescending aestheticism is satirically—and symbolically—deflated on the gestural level, the level on which so much happens in this play, dealing as it does with matters that are “not to be spoken of.”

The poet is put in his place much more directly by the actress, who is his intellectual superior. When he tries his patronizing, beautifying phrases on her, often repeating exactly the same expressions he used with the sweet girl in the previous scene, she simply dismisses them as “rubbish” and tells him he is talking “like a complete idiot” (viii, 49). Her pragmatism in sexual matters contrasts sharply with his feigned romanticism; when he leaves her room in the inn briefly, she sarcastically warns him not to start something with the waitress, and she shows her greater sexual awareness in her revelation that a mutual friend of theirs is homosexual, something the poet has had no inkling of.

The actress merits a closer look for a number of reasons. As we have seen, all the characters in La Ronde are role-players. In contrast to Freud's association of secretiveness and insincerity with women (Three Essays, 151), Schnitzler presents men and women alike as partners in a round of deception. (This notion is by no means limited in Schnitzler's oeuvre to La Ronde, as is evident in the last line spoken by the title character in Schnitzler's Paracelsus: “We are always playing; he who knows this is wise.”) Hence the actress in La Ronde, a role-player by profession, is in a sense the most “authentic” character in the play. She is also the most narcissistic, bragging about her acting abilities to both the poet and the count and reminding them that many other men would like to be in their place. She emerges, in fact, as a virtual parody of Freud's conception of the narcissistic woman, in his opinion “the type of female most frequently met with, which is probably the purest and truest one.”34 Such a type results, he writes, when at the onset of puberty a girl's primary narcissism is intensified, so that her ability to form outward attachments is impaired. Especially common in attractive women, secondary narcissism manifests itself in a self-contented coolness toward men, who tend to be fascinated by such women precisely because of their inaccessibility and self-sufficiency. Freud compares this fascination with the charm exerted by children, cats and larger beasts of prey, great criminals, and humorists, all of whom “compel our interest by the narcissistic consistency with which they manage to keep away from their ego anything that would diminish it” (“On Narcissism,” 89). Exemplifying such a personality type in the extreme, the actress mocks both the poet and the count at every turn, tells the poet at one point that he is nothing but a “whim” for her (viii, 52), and insists to both the poet and the count that she hates people and has nothing to do with them—all of which serves to heighten the fascination she seems to possess for both lovers. Similarly, she elicits in both men complaints about her enigmatic nature, a trait Freud singles out as the reverse side of the narcissistic woman's charm.

Such a conception of femininity is unusual in Freud, whose entire theory of sexual development, as we have seen, rests on the definition of women as lacking that which men have, a lack that leads to their denigration by both sexes. Kofman argues that “On Narcissism” opened up a new and frightening path in Freud's thinking in its attribution of self-sufficiency to women and that he overcame this difficulty by defining excessive narcissism as pathological: “It is as if Freud … ‘knew,’ dream-fashion, that women were ‘great criminals’ but nevertheless strove, by bringing about such a reversal as occurs in dreams, to pass them off as hysterics” (Enigma, 66). Not so Schnitzler: one might say that in his depiction of the actress he travels down the path that Freud does not take. She not only strains against conventional female roles, as do the other women characters in La Ronde, she adopts male roles, in effect switching places with various male figures in the play. She addresses the poet as “my child,” the designation that he and the husband have used with other female figures, and she calls the poet patronizing names, as he has done with the sweet girl; her assurance to the count that her bedroom door will not open from the outside echoes the husband's assurances to the sweet girl in their chambre séparée. Most notably, it is the actress who is on the offensive sexually. It is her idea to go to the country inn with the poet, and she sends him away from her room only in order to call him back again when she is undressed and in bed. After the count kisses her hand, she astonishes him by kissing his in return. Having appropriated the power associated with the male role—a transferal symbolized by her request that he remove his saber—she succeeds by gradations in getting him into her bed despite his protestations against making love in the daytime. The description of his final submission—“The Count resists no longer” (ix, 59)—is reminiscent of similar phrases used earlier in the play in connection with female figures. And in a final reversal of traditional role conceptions, Schnitzler suggests that the actress's sexual capacity is greater than the count's: whereas she wants to see him again that evening, he would prefer to wait until two days later.

The count's manifest fear of the actress is elucidated by a passage from “The Taboo of Virginity” in which Freud attempts to explain the primitive custom demanding that defloration of the bride be carried out before marriage and by someone other than the husband-to-be:

Wherever primitive man has set up a taboo he fears some danger and it cannot be disputed that a generalized dread of women is expressed in all these rules of avoidance. Perhaps this dread is based on the fact that woman is different from man, for ever incomprehensible and mysterious, strange and therefore apparently hostile. The man is afraid of being weakened by the woman, infected with her femininity and of then showing himself incapable. The effect which coitus has of discharging tensions and causing flaccidity may be the prototype of what the man fears; and realization of the influence which the woman gains over him through sexual intercourse, the consideration she thereby forces from him, may justify the extension of this fear. In all this there is nothing obsolete, nothing which is not still alive among ourselves.


Perhaps this suspicion of the primitive, untamed nature of female sexuality is at the bottom of Freud's famous statement that “the sexual life of adult women is a ‘dark continent’ for psychology.”35 As we have seen, however, it is not in Freud but in his contemporary Schnitzler that we find an exploration of the powerful and liberating potential that lay within this “dark continent.”

Not surprisingly, although Schnitzler did not take a stand on the women's movement per se, he was enthusiastically received by a number of feminist groups.36 And yet any claim about the emancipatory quality of La Ronde must be qualified in at least two respects. First, on an existential plane, it is with good reason that this play has often been seen as a modern variation on the medieval dance of death, which represented Death as leveling class distinctions by dancing with all social types from poorest to richest. Schnitzler's play, in which sex is the great leveler, is a kind of round dance of dead souls in which men and women alike objectify each other in their easy progression from one partner to the next. The impersonal, even anonymous quality of their intimacies is emphasized by the repetition of the same or similar lines in different scenes, by the observation made by several characters that their partners remind them of someone else, and by the fact that they are frequently unable to see each other's faces. And numerous references to transience and death reveal the deepest motivating force behind these frenzied sexual encounters. Second, on a social plane, it must be kept in mind that La Ronde is above all a portrayal of its time. Indeed, Schnitzler himself described the work as a “series of scenes which … if dug up again in a few hundred years would provide a unique illumination of an aspect of our culture.”37 As a portrait of Viennese society under the Hapsburg monarchy, the play can only go so far in presenting emancipatory possibilities for women. Although it clearly problematizes conventional masculine-feminine distinctions in its depiction of female characters transcending traditional conceptions of their role in the bedroom, these characters nevertheless remain limited to marginal positions in society: the status of the prostitute and the parlour-maid requires little comment; the actress, though a professional, practices an occupation that her society does not respect; and the sweet girl can expect little more than a modest version of the domestic confinement experienced by the young wife.

In its wide-ranging portrayal of sexual desire La Ronde covers the spectrum of all the female character types we will examine in the rest of this book: we will encounter the prostitute again in Wedekind's Lulu; the working-class girl in Synge's Pegeen Mike, Hauptmann's Rose Bernd, and Hofmannsthal's Dyer's Wife; the performer in Lulu and in Wilde's Salomé; the middle-class wife and mother or would-be mother in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, Shaw's Candida, and Strindberg's Laura. But insofar as Schnitzler's female figures belong to a patriarchal society, they are, metaphorically speaking, all daughters. …


  1. Letters of Sigmund Freud, ed. Ernst L. Freud, trans. Tania and James Stern (New York: Basic Books, 1960), p. 339. Schnitzler had begun their correspondence on the occasion of Freud's fiftieth birthday in 1906. For the original versions of Freud's letters to Schnitzler, see Sigmund Freud, “Briefe an Arthur Schnitzler,” ed. Heinrich Schnitzler, Neue Rundschau, 66 (1955), 95-106. Schnitzler's letters to Freud have been lost.

  2. Freud, “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche”), SE, XVII, 234-235.

  3. Quoted in Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, ed. and abr. Lionel Trilling and Steven Marcus (New York: Basic Books, 1961), p. 225. Freud also refers to Paracelsus, with reference to resistance, in a footnote to his case study of Dora; see “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria” (“Bruchstück einer Hysterie-Analyse,” 1905), SE, VII, 44n.

  4. E.g., Frederick J. Beharriell, “Schnitzler's Anticipation of Freud's Dream Theory,” Monatshefte, 45 (1953), 81-89, and “Freud's ‘Double’: Arthur Schnitzler,” Journal of the American Psychological Association, 10 (1962), 722-730 (these essays are revised and combined in Beharriell, “Schnitzler: Freud's Doppelgänger,” Literatur und Kritik, 19 [1967], 546-555); Robert O. Weiss, “The Psychoses in the Works of Arthur Schnitzler,” German Quarterly, 41 (1968), 377-400.

  5. See, e.g., Hartmut Scheible, Arthur Schnitzler und die Aufklärung (Munich: Fink, 1977), pp. 47-48. In “Arthur Schnitzler und Sigmund Freud: Aus den Anfängen des Doppelgängers,” Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift, 24 (1974), 193-223, Bernd Urban, in describing Schnitzler's medical knowledge and experience in the early days of research on hysteria in order to demystify what Freud saw as Schnitzler's “intuition” of his ideas, also invokes Freud's disavowal of his originality.

  6. George S. Viereck, “The World of Arthur Schnitzler,” in Viereck, Glimpses of the Great (London: Duckworth, 1930), p. 333.

  7. Commenting on a study of his works up to Anatol by Freud's student Theodor Reik, one of the first to draw parallels between Schnitzler and Freud, Schnitzler writes that it is “not uninteresting” but that it “lapses into the fixed psychoanalytic ideas toward the end”; Arthur Schnitzler, diary entry of 27 June 1912, Tagebuch, 1909-1912, ed. Werner Welzig et al. (Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1981), p. 339. (Unless I have noted otherwise, all translations are my own.) Ernest Jones, with whom Schnitzler also argued about these matters, mentions that he had particular difficulty accepting Freud's ideas of incest and infantile sexuality (Jones, Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, p. 435). Michael Worbs follows a survey of Freudian configurations in Schnitzler's works with a discussion of Schnitzler's criticisms of psychoanalysis; see Worbs, Nervenkunst: Literatur und Psychoanalyse im Wien der Jahrhundertwende (Frankfurt: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1983), pp. 225-258.

  8. This quotation of 16 August 1922 from the unpublished diaries is cited in Urban, “Arthur Schnitzler und Sigmund Freud,” p. 223. In addition to Urban and Scheible, scholars who have warned against a facile identification of Freud and Schnitzler include Henri F. Ellenberger, who in The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry (New York: Basic Books, 1970) writes that Schnitzler, in contrast to Freud, emphasized the importance of role-playing in hypnosis and hysteria, the unreliability of memory, the thematic rather than the symbolic element in dreams, and the self-deceptive rather than the aggressive component in the origin of war (pp. 471-474); and Wolfgang Nehring, “Schnitzler, Freud's Alter Ego?” Modern Austrian Literature, 10, nos. 3 and 4 (1977), 179-194, who observes that Schnitzler focuses on individuals in a particular society, whereas Freud's findings are universal; that unlike Freudian analysis, Schnitzler's diagnoses do not lead to self-awareness; and that whereas Freud strives to detect the genesis of neuroses, Schnitzler analyzes psychological phenomena only as they appear in the present.

  9. In “Schnitzler's Frauen und Mädchen,” Diskussion Deutsch, 13 (1982), 507-517, Renate Möhrmann points out the abundance and variety of female figures in Schnitzler's works, a feature particularly striking in his dramas, since the unusually high proportion of female characters has caused difficulties in producing his plays (507).

  10. On the film's transformations of the play see, e.g., Anna Kuhn, “The Romantization of Arthur Schnitzler: Max Ophuls' Adaptations of Liebelei and Reigen,” in Probleme der Moderne: Studien zur deutschen Literatur von Nietzsche bis Brecht. Festschrift für Walter Sokel, ed. Benjamin Bennett et al. (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1983), pp. 83-99.

  11. Hofmannsthal and Beer-Hofmann to Schnitzler, 15 February 1903, in Hugo von Hofmannsthal/Arthur Schnitzler, Briefwechsel, ed. Therese Nickl and Heinrich Schnitzler (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1964), pp. 167-168.

  12. Ernest Bornemann, Profil no. 18, 1981, quoted in Renate Wagner, Arthur Schnitzler: Eine Biographie (Vienna: Molden, 1981), p. 338. For a full account of the play's scandal-ridden production history see Wagner, pp. 325-338, and Ludwig Marcuse, Obscene: The History of an Indignation, trans. Karen Gershon (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1965), pp. 165-214.

  13. See Barbara Gutt, Emanzipation bei Arthur Schnitzler (Berlin: Spiess, 1978), for a survey of female types in Schnitzler's works in general. For the most part Gutt focuses on describing and illustrating these types rather than on the attempts of the women characters to break out of them. On character types in Schnitzler's dramas see also Jürg Scheuzger, Das Spiel mit Typen und Typenkonstellationen in den Dramen Arthur Schnitzlers (Zurich: Juris, 1975).

  14. Steven Marcus, introduction to Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, trans. and ed. James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 1975), p. xxxviii; Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (New York: Ballantine, 1969), p. 164. For psychoanalytic views of female sexuality since Freud see, e.g., Female Sexuality: New Psychoanalytic Views, ed. Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel (London: Virago, 1981); Women and Analysis: Dialogues on Psychoanalytic Views of Femininity, ed. Jean Strouse (New York: Grossman, 1974); Harold P. Blum, Female Psychology: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Views (New York: International Universities Press, 1977); and Zenia O. Fliegel, “Half a Century Later: Current Status of Freud's Controversial Views on Women,” Psychoanalytic Review, 69 (1982), 7-28.

  15. Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie), SE, VII, 151, and “Femininity” (“Die Weiblichkeit”), in New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, SE, XXII, 113.

  16. Quoted by Jones, Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, p. 377.

  17. Juliet Mitchell, “On Freud and the Distinction between the Sexes,” in Women and Analysis, p. 33.

  18. Freud, “Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction between the Sexes” (“Einige psychische Folgen des anatomischen Geschlechtsunterschieds,” 1925), SE, XIX, 252.

  19. Freud, “Female Sexuality” (“Über die weibliche Sexualität,” 1931), SE, XXI, 230.

  20. Freud, “The Taboo of Virginity” (“Das Tabu der Virginität”), SE, XI, 201.

  21. Freud, “Anxiety and Instinctual Life” (“Angst und Triebleben”), in New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, SE, XXII, 87.

  22. E.g., in “Instincts and their Vicissitudes” (“Triebe und Triebschicksale,” 1915), SE, XIV, 134, and “Femininity,” 115-116.

  23. Freud, “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” (“Die endliche und die unendliche Analyse,” 1937), SE, XXIII, 250.

  24. Schnitzler, La Ronde, trans. Sue Davies and John Barton (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982), scene vi, p. 37. Subsequent quotations are from this edition and are identified in the text by scene and page number.

  25. Sarah Kofman, The Enigma of Woman: Woman in Freud's Writings, trans. Catherine Porter (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985), p. 49. Subsequent page references appear in the text.

  26. Freud, “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness” (“Die ‘kulturelle’ Sexualmoral und die moderne Nervosität”), SE, IX, 198-199.

  27. Cf. Peter Heller, “Freud as a Phenomenon of the Fin de Siècle,” in Arthur Schnitzler and His Age: Intellectual and Artistic Currents, ed. Petrus W. Tax and Richard H. Lawson (Bonn: Bouvier, 1984), pp. 4, 7. See pp. 4-7 of Heller's essay for a detailed reading of “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness.”

  28. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (Das Unbehagen in der Kultur), SE, XXI, 103.

  29. Martin Swales's association of laughter with sexual excitement in the scene between the soldier and the parlourmaid is applicable to this scene as well; see Swales, Arthur Schnitzler: A Critical Study (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971), p. 237.

  30. Lotte S. Couch's claim, paralleling Freudian doctrine, that the young gentleman fails with the young wife because they belong to the same class does not explain his successful second attempt; see Couch, “Der Reigen: Schnitzler und Sigmund Freud,” Österreich in Geschichte und Literatur, 16 (1972), 221-222. Her article points out a number of similarities between Freud and Schnitzler manifested in La Ronde but does not take note of the ways in which the play problematizes such parallels.

  31. Cf. Maria Ramas, who in “Freud's Dora, Dora's Hysteria,” in In Dora's Case: Freud—Hysteria—Feminism, ed. Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1985), argues that for Freud, “femininity was linked with service specifically with regard to sexuality” (174), that indeed for him “servitude was a metaphor for femininity” (176).

  32. Schnitzler, Anatol, trans. Frank Marcus (London: Methuen, 1982), p. 19 (Schnitzler's ellipses). On a more pragmatic note, W. G. Sebald adds another dimension to the “sweetness” of the sweet girl by pointing out that she was more likely to be sexually hygienic and thus free of venereal disease than prostitutes; Sebald, “Die Mädchen aus der Feenwelt: Bemerkungen zu Liebe und Prostitution mit Bezügen zu Raimund, Schnitzler und Horvath,” Neophilologus, 67 (1983), 112-114. The prevalence of venereal disease in Schnitzler's milieu is evident in the remarks of Theodor Reik, who relates that one of his physician friends speculated about the “tragicomedy” that would have resulted if even one of the characters in La Ronde had had gonorrhea; see Reik, Arthur Schnitzler als Psycholog (Minden, Westphalia: Bruns, 1913), pp. 79-80.

  33. See e.g., the descriptions in his autobiography of the harsh living and working conditions suffered by Jeanette Heger, a girl from this background with whom he had a brief relationship; Schnitzler, Jugend in Wien (Vienna: Molden, 1968), pp. 307-308.

  34. Freud, “On Narcissism: An Introduction” (“Zur Einführung des Narzißmus,” 1914), SE, XIV, 88. To repeat, I am obviously not suggesting that Schnitzler parodied Freud, since “On Narcissism” appeared after La Ronde was written, but rather that Schnitzler's depiction of the actress can be seen as a parody of female narcissism as Freud was later to describe it.

  35. Freud, The Question of Lay Analysis (Die Frage der Laienanalyse, 1926), SE, XX, 212. Freud uses the English “dark continent” in the original. Sander L. Gilman describes it as a “phrase with which [Freud] tied female sexuality to the image of contemporary colonialism and thus to the exoticism and pathology of the Other”; Gilman, Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985), p. 107.

  36. See Gutt, Emanzipation bei Arthur Schnitzler, pp. 157-168.

  37. Schnitzler to Olga Waissnix, 26 February 1897, in Schnitzler/Waissnix, Liebe, die starb vor der Zeit: Ein Briefwechsel, ed. Therese Nickl and Heinrich Schnitzler (Vienna: Molden, 1970), p. 317.

Stephanie Hammer (essay date 1986)

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SOURCE: Hammer, Stephanie. “Fear and Attraction: Anatol and Liebelei Productions in the United States.” Modern Austrian Literature 19, no. 3-4 (1986): 63-74.

[In the following essay, Hammer examines the American production histories of Anatol and Liebelei to unearth American perceptions of Schnitzler in particular and of European art in general.]

The American production histories of Anatol (complete cycle 1910) and Liebelei (1902) are both intriguing and revealing. The divergent fortunes of Schnitzler's two seminal theatrical works in this country provide a useful comparative basis for measuring the image and impact of his plays in the United States. More importantly, however, a comparison of Anatol's and Liebelei's fortunes here not only sheds light on the considerable polarity in American perceptions of Schnitzler, but also points to the paradoxical nature of our own self-perceptions and obsessions as they emerge in our reception of European art.

In March of 1985 Schnitzler's Anatol returned to Broadway.1 This Circle in the Square production, entitled The Loves of Anatol, was developed, adapted, and directed by Ellis Rabb and promised from its very inception to be highly controversial. Rabb had commissioned an in-house literal translation of the play, and from that he and Nicholas Martin created what they probably believed to be a truly American production. This act was in itself a radical departure from the past.2 With his insistence on his own personal translation Rabb indirectly questioned the validity of the British influence which had always pervaded American productions of the play in this country. Most “important” American renditions of Anatol had employed British translations ranging from the Granville-Barker “paraphrase” of the 1912 New York première starring John Barrymore to Frank Marcus' version used in the critically acclaimed 1984 Hartford Stage production starring the play's director Mark Lamos.3 In an even more drastic move Rabb decided first to reshuffle the order of the Anatol playlets, making Episode the frame story in which the other scenes would represent flash-backs, and second, to alter the ending to include Anatol's Megalomania (Anatols Grössenwahn).

The result of these innovations was utter disaster according to most critics. A brief summary suffices to indicate the degree to which the play was panned.4 The New York Times' Frank Rich called the present production a “vulgar and unfunny boulevard farce” in which most of Anatol's lovers appeared to be “shrieking burlesque tarts” (“Schnitzler Reshuffled,” 7 March 1985). Assessment of the lead performances was no more charitable. Mel Gussow, also of the Times, deplored the play's shift in emphasis which made of Max an “ubiquitous presence” (17 March 1985), and Brenda Gill of the New Yorker found that Stephen Collins played Anatol “as a strenuous distraught boyscout” (18 March 1985). Finally, Michael Feingold's Village Voice article “Boo Danube” concluded simply that Rabb had reduced Schnitzler to a Neil Simonesque “Sacher Suite” (19 March 1985). Only TIME magazine stubbornly withstood the tidal wave of censure, praising both the play's rearrangement of the playlets and the “smirky latently homosexual flavor of the exchange of titillating reminiscences between Anatol and Max” (William A. Henry III, 18 March 1985).

In any event, as dreadful—and perhaps as undeserved—as these notices were, they are not surprising when placed within the context of Anatol's production history. At first glance the play seems to have been tremendously successful in this country simply because it has been chosen time and time again for all manner of productions:5 John Barrymore, a matinee idol, used it as his vehicle in 1912;6 in 1921 Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille chose the play's story-line as the basis for a lush and lavish adaptation starring Wallace Reid and Gloria Swanson;7 countless amateur and regional companies performed some or all of the acts; in New York Anatol was revived in the 1930s with Joseph Schildkraut as the lead,8 and again in 1958 with Owen Cunliff (Little Theater, dir. Alex Horn), in 1940 at the Bucks County Playhouse (with Louis Coltern, dir. Heinrich Schnitzler), in 1970 at Purdue University (with George McDaniel, dir. Raffael Nedomansky), at the Hartford Stage (dir. and star, Mark Lamos, 1984), and in New York in the 1980s (Circle in the Square, 1985). In addition to this already impressive list Anatol boasts two musical adaptations during the 1960s—the opulent cast of fifty Broadway production The Gay Life9 and Tom Jones' smaller musical which played at Bucks County, Princeton, and at the American Festival in Cambridge, Massachusetts.10 Last but not least, Orson Wells adapted and starred in a radio version for his Mercury Theater in 1938 (Clipping—Affairs of Anatol [Radio], Lincoln Center) and channel KNXT Hollywood broadcast a ninety-minute teleplay in 1961 (Clipping—Affairs of Anatol [T.V.], Lincoln Center). Yet in spite of all these renditions the overwhelming majority of Anatol productions have experienced little if any critical success.

Why should this be the case? The lack of acclaim may have its source in the reverence of theater critics who still refer with wistful admiration to the original New York production starring the famed John Barrymore. When seen against this mythical backdrop any subsequent attempt understandably appears amateurish, unsubtle, and uncouth. However, it is important to note that the reviews of the 1912 Affairs of Anatol at New York's Little Theater reveal little if any of this critical exuberance. The New York Times in particular expressed admiration for the show's leading-man but not much enthusiasm for the production itself, which was “smart,” “charming,” but also “all very much in one key” (15 October 1912). Similar reactions are echoed later in other production notices. The response to the Schildkraut Anatol, for example, was tepid at best. The New York Tribune found the actor wooden and “lacking in suave persuasiveness” (Arthur Ruhl, “Schnitzler's Anatol,” 16 February 1931), while the Times maintained that he lacked spontaneity (J. Brooks Atkinson, “Schnitzler's Anatomy of Love,” 16 January 1931). More interesting is the fact that these reviews did not speak very highly of the play itself. The Tribune referred to Anatol as “that slightly shopworn matinee idol's delight” (Ruhl). Similarly the Times concluded, “there is a murmur in the heart of Schnitzler's play” (Atkinson).

Given these assessments it is no surprise that the play came increasingly to be dealt with as either a curio or a farce. The latter attitude is clearly (and amusingly) articulated by the Seattle Repertory's flyer describing its 1936 production of Anatol:

From the city of the aristocrats—Vienna—comes … The Affairs of Anatol. Gaiety and sophistication, as well as airy humor abound in the three subtly charming—but aimless—episodes which comprise the play. Each episode deals with one of Anatol's “affairs” which although Anatol would be the last to admit it, nearly always turn to his disadvantage. He fancies himself an irresistible Don Juan and is in and out of love with singular regularity. Yet none of his setbacks affect his unimpressionable ego. You'll thoroughly enjoy his laugh-provoking difficulties. The Granville-Barker translation is full of fun and laughter.

(Seattle Repertory, Playhouse News, vol. IX, November 1936, No. 2).

Only with the off-Broadway production in 1958 did Anatol begin to win some serious respect as what the New York Post called a “comic satire,” but the same review nonetheless dismissed the play merely as “little theater entertainment” (Frances Herridge, “Affairs of Don Juan off-Broadway,” 4 September 1958).

After this point productions began to take a quite different direction. The Lafayette Journal and Courier found the 1970 Purdue production serious enough, but also tedious and wordy (Larry Schumpert, 4 December 1970), and by 1984 the play had become serious indeed. In his program essay for the Hartford Stage John Simon emphasized the importance of the fin-de-siècle world for the meaning of the play; he describes that milieu thus:

… such a dying culture is characterized by world-weariness and a concomitant desperate hunger for living, philosophy scattering itself in bitter-sweet epigrams, wit suffused with a cynicism no less melancholy than biting, sensuality propelled into perversity. There is a frenzied concern with sex as the last possible panacea along with the excruciating awareness of the instability indeed impossibility of loving.

(“Schnitzler: Poet of the Unfulfilled,” Hartford Stage Program for Anatol, Lincoln Center).

We are clearly a long way from Seattle's gay Vienna and the zany fun-loving Anatol of that staging. Hartford's lugubrious-sounding production met with unfavorable reviews in Norwalk (Robert Vigas, Norwalk Fairpress, 24 October 1984) but had glowing notices in the Times. Mel Gussow saw this production as a modern psychodrama of “a hedonist who may in fact be suffering from anhedonia, and is perhaps incapable of love” (“Stage: Hartford Troupe in Schnitzler's Anatol,” 28 October 1984). In that same psychoanalytical vein Gussow concluded, “in his production and in his performance Mr. Lamos captures the self-deluding and self-melodramatizing aspects of Anatol, a man who in the name of romance entraps himself as victim.”

With this interpretation it seems that American Anatols have all but exhausted the gamut of theatrical possibilities: Barrymore's suave, sophisticated homme fatal, stock interpretations of Anatol as a light-hearted, egotistical, and somewhat stupid playboy, Lamos' existential neurotic, and most recently Collins' sexually ambiguous innocent. Surprisingly, then, scrutiny of Anatol's production history in the U.S.A. reveals that a truly definitive theatrical interpretation has never been established. Instead (especially in the case of the major revivals) problematic production follows problematic production, each one differing radically from the last, each one in its own way disturbing and unsatisfying to some of the critics, regardless of whether the director and actors handle the play as comedy of manners, farce, or existential or psychological drama.

An opposite but equally peculiar fate awaited the arrival of Liebelei in the United States. Performed in English for the first time in 1905 at the Berkeley Lyceum in New York under the title of Flirtation, the play received respectful if not especially positive notices from a local newspaper.11 Two years later this production (with translation by Grace Isabel Colbron) was revived at the same theater under the title of The Reckoning to very favorable reviews.12 The play appeared sporadically in the following eighty years under varying titles, The Love Game,Light O'-Love,Light of Love,Playing with Love, and most recently Flirtations. Curiously, although it has yet to have a major American revival (a state of affairs which will probably not be remedied by Tom Stoppard's forthcoming adaptation Dalliance), small companies, theater societies, and university theater departments stubbornly persisted in staging Liebelei with surprising regularity. The Players' Cooperative staged the play in 1929 at the Cherry Lane Theatre (dir. Ruth Collins Allen). In 1939 Johann Reich, former producer from the Josefstadt Theater, directed Liebelei at Ithaca College. German performances of the play persisted from 1897 through the 1940s in such theaters as New York's Irving Place, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, and the Philadelphia German Theater.13 In 1956 a small company performed the play in a New York studio.14

In 1962 the theater department at the University of California, Los Angeles staged what appears to have been an innovative production with a translation by Carl Mueller (dir. William Melnitz). The program notes to the production reveal a significant pairing of seemingly opposed artistic aims. The notes to the play are translated from Albert Schulze's Theaterkritik 1952-60, thereby revealing the director's desire to remain faithful to the work's Germanic origins. However, in his own notes to the translation Mueller anticipates Ellis Rabb's philosophy that American productions of Schnitzler must employ American rather than British translations (UCLA Program for Liebelei, Lincoln Center, 3-5). In this manner the program put forth the very exciting idea that an American performance of Schnitzler using American vernacular and accent would not in any way negate or invalidate the “Austrianness” of the theatrical settings; moreover, only an American translation could make the plays truly accessible to an American audience.

However, the production and the innovative attitude which it proposed seem to have had little success in enhancing Liebelei's visibility. Five years later California State College at Los Angeles staged a theatrical potpourri called The Lovers and The Losers, which included scenes from all three acts of Liebelei (dir. Roger Altenberg). But from that point on the play went underground until 1981, when the Nassau Repertory Theatre (now the Long Island Stage) undertook another strictly American adaptation under the form of Flirtations. This production boasted an excellent new translation by A. S. Wensinger and artistic director Clinton J. Atkinson (in Arthur Schnitzler: Plays and Stories, New York: Continuum, 1982). But, while Mr. Atkinson's balancing of the play's opposing moods—romance with cynicism, gaiety with tragedy—received admiring notices from both the New York Times (Alvin Klein, “A Bit of Daring in Flirtations,” 14 February 1982) and Newsday (Aileen Jacobson, “Golden Old Vienna,” 9 February 1982), this revival was for all intents and purposes ignored by the larger theater world.15

Liebelei's lack of impact on the American theater contrasts dramatically with its constant and continued success in Europe (for example, the major revival at Vienna's Akademietheater in 1972). This discrepancy seems especially bizarre when we consider the praise which the play received from literary critics in reviews of its early appearances in English. In his 1912 article for The Drama Baynard Quincy Morgan regarded the play as Schnitzler's “high-water mark” (No. 7 [August 1912], 13). In his foreword to his translation of the play P. Morton Shand admired its tragic quality and emotional intensity (Playing with Love, Chicago: A. C. McClury, 1914). In 1929 George March devoted an article to Arthur Schnitzler in Poet Lore and concluded that Liebelei was simply the best of Schnitzler's works (39 [1929]: 573-581).16

The peculiarity of this state of affairs becomes even more striking when we compare early translations of Liebelei with those of Anatol. Granville-Barker's highly successful version of the latter victorianizes the play's more off-color moments, as Harro Kühnelt has already noted in his 1981 article “Harley Granville-Barker und Arthur Schnitzlers Anatol” (in Studien zur Literature des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts in Österreich, Innsbruck: Kowatch, 69-77), while early translations of Liebelei are surprisingly true to the language and spirit of the piece.17 Moreover, the immense popularity of Max Ophul's 1932 film version in this country18 and its rediscovery at the New York Film Festival in 1974 with unconditional raves by such critics as Andrew Sarris (Village Voice, 10 October 1974) and Nora Sayre (New York Times, 30 September 1974) provide yet further evidence of the play's contradictory fortunes here.

This brief survey of Anatol's and Liebelei's production history raises an important if seemingly obvious question: Why on one hand stage repeatedly a dated, problematic, non-narrative piece which the American theater world sees as either totally frivolous or deeply depressing, and why on the other hand ignore a play by the same author which is agreed to be an excellent and significant piece of modern theater?

The answer, I suspect, lies in the nature of our expectations of European and especially Austrian theater and in the kinds of characteristics which we as Americans inscribe upon it. Just as we seek our own reflection—that is to say, the reflection of our concerns and problems—in our own art and theater, so do we usually seek the opposite in European art. It is common knowledge that Europe and its culture have traditionally represented the autocratic, amoral, sensual Other to our democratic essentially puritanical Self; not surprisingly, Americans have always been especially fascinated by those periods and those urban centers which have best represented the easy sensuality and decadence of European society.19 This is the essence of the mystique which periods ranging from the late Roman Empire to the 1930s in such cities as Rome, Paris, Vienna and Berlin continue to exercise on the American imagination. Vienna in particular currently enjoys a privileged position within this pantheon as the incarnation of both decadence and fascism.20

It is this Otherness which probably first attracted American producers to the erotic gamesmanship and arch wit of Anatol rather than to the more overtly moral and more evidently tragic Liebelei. But while the European Other is attractive, it is also frightening—frightening because it is not like us and is therefore evil and frightening because our overwhelming attraction to it suggests that it is like us after all. Taken to the limit, attraction to the Other dissolves the lines of demarcation between the Self and the Other, as Jean-Paul Sartre has argued in his discussions of the struggle between these apparent opposites,21 either we become the Other or the Other becomes our Selves.

This ambivalence towards the European—and by European I mean amoral, hedonistic, sexual, and aristocratic—nature of Schnitzler's play surfaces continually in Anatol productions and in the critics' reactions to them but is most blatant—and therefore most useful for our discussion here—in the film and musical adaptations. In an interview with the New York Times Jesse Lasky explained that he was searching for exotic and new stories, specifically from Europe (Charles P. Cushing, “New and Old Faces on the Screen,” 25 December 1921). He apparently found such a story in Anatol, which he decided to film upon the recommendation of Somerset Maugham (Charles Higham, Cecil B. DeMille, New York: Scribners, 1973: 84-5). Schnitzler's play then underwent a remarkable transformation. The story was completely revamped in such a way as to make it morally palatable to an American audience: Anatol became a wealthy and married New Yorker embarking on a series of philanthropic misadventures with various women. The New York Times review tells us, “On the screen Anatol is an exceedingly nice man whose affairs are all entirely innocent. If the girls are not so innocent, they are still not so very, very bad, and promise to be good before they are dismissed from the story” (12 September 1921). Then DeMille added his own—now notorious—directorial vision to the film, turning it, in spite of its new subject matter, into a highly suggestive work.22 In this manner DeMille's Affairs of Anatol ceased to be either Schnitzler's original play or even an adaptation thereof; instead it represents a telling exercise in American fear and fantasy, fulfilling what Aldo Scaglioni once called the mission of all good pornography, which is “to tell you how bad sex is, and to show you how good it feels.”23

A similarly mixed message is emitted from the Broadway musical's sanitized version of the story, in which Anatol is snared by Max's little sister in a combination of Gigi and My Fair Lady plot developments. But visually the production told a rather different tale; the costumes were decolleté, the dancing wild, the language cynical, and the musical ended in quintessential 1960s fashion with the premarital coupling of the bride and groom.24

This state of affairs leads me to suspect that Americans play Anatol obsessively and repeatedly because its eroticism simultaneously seduces and terrifies. The resulting ambivalence expresses itself in a stream of schizophrenic productions and bizarre adaptations. In this context the Hartford Stage's reduction of Anatol to a pathological category emerges as the latest in a tradition of attempts to make Schnitzler's ambiguous hero less threatening to an American public.

Following this line of reasoning, I would like to suggest that Liebelei suffers from a misconception stemming from the same ambivalence. Because the tragic and socio-critical aspects of the play were emphasized by English-speaking critics initially, Liebelei is generally considered to be a terribly serious theatrical undertaking. It is therefore not hedonistic, erotic, and amoral, that is to say, not European, not Austrian, and especially not Viennese enough to satisfy an American audience, which both craves and fears the artistic presentation of continental degenerateness. Sadly it seems that Liebelei must await the magic of Stoppardization in order to win the attention which it deserves on the U.S. stage.

A final observation: is it not ironic that these two Schnitzler plays should have production histories which prove so similar to the plays themselves? Anatol remains an obsession for directors, actors, and translators; it becomes more elusive the more they try to grasp it, just as the play itself deals with obsession, as the worldly but desperate protagonist moves from one woman to the next in a never ending and futile quest for the one true love. Likewise the American fortunes of Liebelei weirdly mirror the dynamics of that play. An artistic creation of recognized aesthetic merit is held to be of little account by a theater establishment, which like Fritz himself pursues another more dangerous love-object.


  1. See Clippings—The Loves of Anatol at the Performing Arts Research Center at Lincoln Center. The primary sources used in this article (newspaper reviews, photographs, programs, flyers, etc.) can be located at Lincoln Center. Anatol materials are cross-listed. For Liebelei, however, separate catalogue entries for each of its various English titles must be consulted.

  2. See Helen Dudar's interview with Ellis Rabb in the New York Times, 26 March 1985.

  3. See Harley Granville-Barker, Anatol (New York: n.p., 1911) and Frank Marcus, Anatol (London: Methuen, 1982).

  4. In addition to the articles discussed here see Douglas Watt, Daily News, 7 March 1985 and Clive Barnes, New York Post, same date. Also worthy of note is Stephen Collins' article for the Daily News in which he affirms his belief in the Rabb production despite its poor reviews, 26 March 1985.

  5. For a survey of productions from the play's première in the U.S.A. through the 1960s see Luverne Walton, “Anatol on the New York Stage,” Modern Austrian Literature 2, ii (1969), 30-44. For a general overview of Austrian plays on the New York stage see Leroy Shaw, “Modern Austrian Dramatists on the New York Stage,” Österreich und die angelsächsische Welt, ed. Otto Hietsch, vol. 2 (Wien: n.p., 1961), 547-563.

  6. The Affairs of Anatol, directed by John Foster Platt, The Little Theater.

  7. The Affairs of Anatol, Famous Players—Lasky Corporation, September 1921. Prints of this film are difficult to find, and special arrangements must be made well in advance to view the film at UCLA, the Library of Congress, or the Eastman Film Collection in Rochester.

  8. Anatol, a play in 4 acts and 6 scenes, directed by Marc Connelly and Gabriel Beer-Hofmann, Brooks Atkinson and Lyceum Theaters, 1931.

  9. Book by Fay and Michael Kanin, lyrics and music by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, starring Walter Chiari and Barbara Cook. The show premièred 18 November 1961.

  10. This rendition traveled to a variety of places. It was first performed by the Bermuda Theater Guild in May of 1960, then moved to Bucks County and to Princeton in August and September of the same year. This production was directed by Ellis Rabb. In July-August 1961 the musical came to Cambridge with a different cast and under the new direction of Warren Enters and then to the Boston Arts Center in the fall for a pre-Broadway try-out.

  11. This production was staged by the Progressive Stage Society under the direction of Robert Whittier. See Program—Flirtation and unidentified Clipping—Flirtation at Lincoln Center.

  12. See Clippings—The Reckoning (especially New York Herald and New York Commercial Herald) at Lincoln Center.

  13. For discussions of all these performances see Clippings—Liebelei, Lincoln Center.

  14. See Promptbook—The Love Game (anonymous) and catalogue entry—The Love Game, Lincoln Center.

  15. During my recent conversation with Mr. Atkinson (25 April 1986) he indicated that, although he was generally pleased with the production (which captured the romanticism inherent in the play), he noticed that the audience had a mixed reaction to it.

  16. The first part of this article is a (plagiarized?) translation of an earlier German essay by Richard Specht. See “Arthur Schnitzler,” Die Neue Rundschau (May 1922), 488-498.

  17. See, for example, Shand's and Morgan's translations.

  18. Liebelei, starring Magda Schneider and Wolfgang Liebeneiner came to the U.S.A. in 1936. The film can be viewed at the Museum of Modern Art Film Archive in New York. For 1936 reviews of the film see Clippings—Liebelei (Cinema), Lincoln Center.

  19. Taking her cue from Jean-Paul Sartre's discussion of the encounter between Self and Other, Simone de Beauvoir astutely links the straight-forward, virtuous male Self to America and the mysterious, morally disruptive, chaotic female Other to America's perception of Europe. See The Second Sex, trans. H. M. Parshley (New York: Modern Library, 1968), 80, 259. The prevalence of this construct in current American popular culture can be seen, for example, in Jed Perl's recent article for Vogue magazine on contemporary art. Significantly, he notes: “Ever since the Puritans came here to escape the wicked ways of Europe, Americans have looked to Europe as the land of sexual secrets.” See “Sex, Love and Art in the 80's,” May 1986: 120.

  20. A good example of this continuing interest is the Vienna 1900 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 16 June-21 October (1986). New York Times art critic John Russell aptly expresses the American perception of this morally ambiguous time and place: “Paradox was everywhere in Vienna, from the first move towards the higher education of women in 1870 to the frenzy of abasement with which, almost 70 years later, the population ran to welcome Hitler's armies … it is worth saying that this was a killer among cities—one in which for every rose there was a poisoned thorn.” See “The Brilliant Sunset of Vienna in its Final Glory,” 29 June 1986.

  21. Jean-Paul Sartre describes the terrifying and contradictory process by which man denies a part of himself, calls it Other and Evil and then feels increasingly attracted to it, gradually recognizes its presence in himself, and finally actually comes to desire to be all that he has heretofore denied: “It is his anxiety, his fundamental disbelief or his individuality that comes to him from without, like Another himself, to tempt him. It is what he wants but does not want to want. It is the object of a constant and constantly rejected will which he regards as other than his “true” will. … And it is himself insofar as he is for himself Other than Self. It is the will to be other and that all be Other.” The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, ed. Robert Denoon Cumming (New York: Vintage, 1965), 387.

  22. A representative example of the film's considerable ambiguity occurs in an early café scene in which Anatol watches Emilie. Although the titles tell us that he is “shocked at her decadence,” the camera focuses on the actress' (Wanda Hawley) mouth as she slowly and suggestively applies her lipstick. See David Cook's discussion of this phase in DeMille's career in A History of Narrative Film (New York: Norton, 1981), 215.

  23. Professor Scaglioni made this unforgettable observation in conjunction with Tasso during a lecture on the Renaissance at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, fall of 1979.

  24. Lincoln Center possesses a fine collection of materials on this musical including photographs, caricatures, clippings, script, and original cast LP recording.

Criticism: Anatol (La Ronde)

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SOURCE: Walton, Luverne. “Anatol on the New York Stage.” Modern Austrian Literature 2, no. 2 (summer 1969): 30-44.

[In the following essay, Walton discusses the production history of Anatol on the New York stage.]

The dramas of Arthur Schnitzler were introduced to New York theater audiences in 1897, when Liebelei made its debut at the Irving Place Theater. The next two years witnessed the American premieres of Freiwild and Das Vermächtnis, plays equally somber in mood as Liebelei, and identified Schnitzler as a writer of tragedy. It was not until after the turn of the century that the world of this “leichtsinniger Melancholiker” was revealed to New York audiences, but since its appearance Anatol has surpassed all other plays of Schnitzler in popularity, longevity, and in the variety of media and languages in which it has been presented to American audiences. Though performed only once in its entirety, there have been seven full productions of the work,1 and on six other occasions individual scenes have been extracted from the whole and performed separately. Adaptations of it have been made for the silent films, radio, television, vaudeville, and musical comedy. As a drama composed of a series of independent one-acts, it introduced a new dramatic form to Broadway. Scenes from it have been produced in English, French and Russian. The only thing lacking to complete its production history is a performance in German, the language in which it had its birth.

Anatol has become the symbol for Schnitzler. The work of the youth has justifiably become the token of the man, for within Anatol are the seeds of many of the concepts and characters which Schnitzler treats in his later dramatic works. Here is the philanderer, the raisonneur, the artist, the “süsses Mädel,” and the woman who exists outside the bounds of respectable society. Here are the themes of illusion and reality—the Lebenslüge—infidelity, the longing to experience life to the utmost, and the self-deceptive centering of that search in the realm of the erotic. In its construction Anatol represents that form in which Schnitzler excelled: the one-act. Each scene is complete in itself. Each highlights a basically similar situation from a different angle and in a different mood. Together the scenes form a whole, but it is not the wholeness traditionally expected of a large dramatic work. Julius Kapp described its unity thus:

So rundet sich der Anatolzyklus trotz seiner bunt schillernden Vielheit unvermerkt zu einem dramatischen Ganzen. Es ist das Drama des Junggesellentums mit all seinen Freuden und Leiden. Der Einzelfall weitet sich dabei unter den zart zufassenden Händen des überall scharf beobachtenden und charakterisierenden Dichters zum allgemeinen Problem. Jeder Hörer fühlt sich ohne weiteres als beteiligt, vor seinem Inneren taucht die Erinnerung an Episoden seiner eigenen Jugendzeit auf.—Die einzelnen Bilder bestehen durchweg aus Dialogen. Die Personen sind Anatol, Max und in jedem eine andere Frau. Die Liebe bleibt immer die gleiche, nur der Gegenstand wechselt!2

Schnitzler did not exhibit great ability to sustain dramatic conflict nor to develop plot complication, but he was a master of the succinct statement about a facet of human personality, he knew how to throw light upon human motivation in a variety of ways, to epitomize a relationship between two people, and he used the one-act with consummate skill as an ideal vehicle for these purposes. In the same way that Anatol is a kind of panorama of Schnitzler's dramas, so the production history of Anatol on the New York stage is a panorama of the history of all Schnitzler's works there. It first appeared only six years after the 1897 premiere of Liebelei, and the most recent production was in 1959, followed by a musical based on the work in 1961. The only other Schnitzler play to be produced in any form in the decade of the 1960's is Reigen. In an English translation titled La Ronde, Reigen was performed at the Theatre Marquee in 1960, and a French film with the same title, distributed in this country as Circle of Love, was shown in 1965. The adverse criticism of Anatol in the course of its fifty-eight-year production history contains all the major objections applied to his other plays: decadence, immorality, datedness, absence of character development and lack of traditional form. The media in which it has been produced encompass and exceed the number of media in which his other works have appeared and, with the exception of sound movies, include all major media of mass theatrical entertainment, even the twentieth century innovations of radio and television. But there is one way in which a view of the stage history of Anatol does not comprise a view of all Schnitzler's works on the New York stage. Generally speaking, the fate of his dramas has paralleled that of actor Oswald Yorke who, in the 1912 production of Anatol, played Max; in the 1931 production, the waiter. In like manner, Schnitzler's works have not completely disappeared from the stage, but the importance of their role in the theatrical repertory has greatly decreased in the course of the century. The general production history is a decrescendo, a decrease of popularity and, in most instances, final disappearance from the stage. In some cases the life of a play was brief and death swift; in others the demise was prolonged but nonetheless sure. Not so with Anatol. Though the first full production in 1912 was on most counts the high point of its history, almost every decade has seen its revival, and each revival has demonstrated the play's capacity to appeal to theater audiences and to elicit enthusiastic comment from the critics.

By 1912, the year of the first full production of Anatol, Schnitzler was already known to New York theater audiences through German or English performances of Liebelei,Freiwild,Das Vermächtnis,Literatur,Die letzten Masken and Der grüne Kakadu. The most popular of the productions had been an English translation of Liebelei, titled The Reckoning, staged in 1907. By 1912 Anatol had also appeared in New York twice in very abbreviated form: the first time in 1903, when Abschiedssouper was produced in French and again in 1906 when the same scene was performed in Russian. The 1903 production of Abschiedssouper marks the beginning of the history of individual scenes from Anatol, extracted from the whole and performed separately. Such productions have included three stagings of Abschiedssouper: 1903 in French, 1906 in Russian, and 1938 in English; two productions of Anatols Hochzeitsmorgen in English: 1926 and 1959; one production of Episode in English in 1959; and another unidentified scene in English in 1953. The introduction of Anatol to the New York stage in 1903 occurred when Madame Charlotte Wiehe and her French company made a guest appearance in New York and, under the title of Souper D'Adieu, included Abschiedssouper on a vaudeville bill which opened at the Berkeley Lyceum on October 21. Schnitzler's Annie, renamed Louise, was played by Madame Wiehe, and English program notes and plot summary aided the audience in understanding the French dialogue. Though Danish by birth, Charlotte Wiehe had reportedly experienced her greatest theatrical success in Paris, and her acting style was characterized with the vague phrase, “distinctly French.” Her appearance on the New York stage drew very fashionable audiences, and the dramatic entertainment which she and her ensemble of actors provided was described as “bright and piquant, [appealing] pleasantly to those who enjoy the light humor of Paris.”3 Again in 1906, Abschiedssouper owed its appearance on the New York stage to a group of foreign actors, a troupe from Russia known in this country as the Russian Players and headed by Madame Alla Nazimova. With Madame Nazimova in the role of Annie, the Russian Players performed Abschiedssouper on the occasion of their last appearance in America, May 2, 1906.4 Three days later most of the troupe sailed for Russia, but Madame Nazimova remained in America under contract to appear on the American stage on the condition that she learn English, and in less than five months she had developed sufficient fluency to perform Ibsen's Hedda Gabler in translation. In 1938, Abschiedssouper was performed in English, when the MacDowell Club Players staged it in conjunction with Thornton Wilder's The Happy Journey in the Guild Hall of the Little Church Around the Corner on March 11. With productions in French, Russian and English Abschiedssouper has the distinction of receiving the most international attention of any of Schnitzler's works in New York.5

On at least two occasions Anatols Hochzeitsmorgen has also been extracted from the larger work for separate performance in English, and Episode once. In 1926 Ye Curtain Players produced the wedding morning scene at the Princess Theatre6 and from May 11-15, 1959, Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre performed both one-acts.7 Twice—in 1952 and again in 1953—the Equity-Library Theatre8 chose scenes from Schnitzler to include in its “Scrapbook” programs, a series of productions described as “the project that brings Shakespeare and the classics without tears to student bodies in the metropolitan area.”9 According to the New York Times these programs were very popular. Both the 1952 and 1953 “Scrapbook” productions were presented, among other places, at the Lenox Hill Playhouse. The 1952 “Scrapbook” included scenes from Schnitzler, Rostand, Shakespeare and Wilde, but the advance publicity material about the program did not identify which of Schnitzler's works was to be performed. Because Anatol had been a part of the Equity-Library Theatre repertory for at least six years,10 it is probable that the scene was an excerpt from this work, but this is only conjecture. The selection in 1953 was from Anatol, though which portion of it was performed was not reported in the newspaper review. The 1953 “Scrapbook” opened at the Lenox Hill Playhouse on November 5, and ran for the rest of that week.11 The Times described the production as an exhibit of the show which would soon tour the public schools and reported that James Lanphier played the role of Anatol, but no other information about Schnitzler's work was given. From the standpoint of their critical reception in New York, little comment can be made on the production of the one-acts as almost no reviews are available, but the fact that they continued to be produced is in itself a critical comment. It is worth noting that two of the three which have been selected for individual production, Abschiedssouper and Anatols Hochzeitsmorgen, have also, along with Weihnachtseinkäufe, been most often singled out from the other one-acts in full productions of Anatol for their ability to entertain and for their dramatic value; and the actresses in these three scenes have most often been applauded for performance of their roles. It is possible that these actresses have always been the most accomplished actresses of the entire cast, but there is no question that these roles offer the greatest opportunities to display acting talent.

The premiere of the first full production of Anatol on the New York stage occurred on October 14, 1912.12 The years of 1916,13 1931, 1946, 1956 and 1958 also witnessed full performances of the play, and there has been one production at the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre for which no date has been established. John Barrymore was the first American Anatol, and the English text used for the 1912 production in which he starred was the Harley Granville-Barker paraphrase. This premiere was an occasion for critical attention not only after the opening, but in anticipation of the event:

When Mr. Ames presents at the Little Theatre next month Arthur Schnitzler's Anatol, he will introduce to American theatergoers a novel form of dramatic composition—a sequence of dialogues. … We shall have a glimpse at five episodes in the life of a very episodical young gentleman from Vienna. Each episode is complete in itself, like a perfect bead, but it is only when they are strung together that they become the finished piece of jewelry. The string that holds them is the unfolding of Anatol's personality. Each bead has a different color, given to it by the individuality of the vis-a-vis in the episode—always a woman, of course. Anatol is an arch-connoisseur of love.14

The question of the play's morality, its fitness for the stage, was discussed in the reviews of 1912. Some reviewers seemed to think that theatergoers would feel that a moral issue was involved, and these reviewers commented on the question in some way. But Anatol's promiscuity was obviously not the overriding issue in the judgment of the audience, as the play found immediate favor with theatergoers. The critics rejoiced and attributed its ready reception to three factors: the growing liberality of the American attitude toward the stage, the paraphrase of the work prepared by Granville-Barker in which he made certain changes in the text in deference to the strict British stage on which Anatol had appeared the previous year, and Schnitzler's finesse and taste in the characterization of Anatol and his composition of dialogue and situation that meticulously and gracefully avoid the coarse and common and concentrate instead on the amusing and charming figure of the incurable lover and the moods through which he passes as he falls in and out of love enroute from his first affair to his wedding day. Two summations of the moral question characterize the views of most of the critics. The first judges Anatol as theater entertainment:

Of course, Anatol is a very reprehensible young man … and yet, as theatrical entertainment, he is such a clever and amusing figure that one almost loses sight of his moral enormities.15

The other is a judgment on Schnitzler's artistry:

To the question whether these episodes are moral, one is tempted to equivocate by saying that they are artistic. Schnitzler's writing is always refined; there is nothing ugly or coarse or vulgar, nothing repellent here. One must be grateful to him for what he does not say. He has the gift of silence and says the unsayable without asterisks and without offending.16

It was a play to appeal to the sophisticates of the day, and the depth of condemnation voiced seldom sank below the level of “naughty.” Perhaps one reason why objections to it in New York did not assume greater proportions was because as theatrical literature Anatol was not taken too seriously. It was considered a charming dramatic trifle,

light but agreeable entertainment, fitted for an audience which has dined pleasantly, drifted in leisurely fashion to the theatre, and brought thither a readiness to accept for the moment the continental habit of treating “love” as an activity apart and sufficient unto itself, and not—as our literature assumes—necessarily associated with marriage.17

One may wonder whether Schnitzler's reaction to this lighthearted, uncritical approach to his work might not have been similar to the reaction of Hermann Bahr who responded indignantly to the “compliment and excuse” which those outside Austria often used when speaking of the works of Austrian writers: “Wir würden jedoch wünschen, strenger benandelt aber dafür ernster genommen zu werden!”18 A search for meaning in the work usually ended in such banalities as “variety is the spice of life,”19 or “no matter how comprehensive a man's experience with the gentler sex may have been; how much he may regard himself triumphant in the duel—in the end he remains their laughing stock,”20 or in the feeling that “a search for either [a philosophy or a moral] is not worthwhile.”21 It was regarded as a novelty, particularly in form, and serious consideration of the play was largely confined to Schnitzler's gift for characterization and dialogue. As always, The Farewell Supper, Christmas Present and Anatol's Wedding Morning were considered to have the greatest theatrical value, with Christmas Present most appealing in its mood of nostalgic melancholy.

The play ran at the Little Theatre until the middle of December, then moved to Chicago for a limited engagement at the Fine Arts Theater. There the criticism of its morality was sharper, one critic even referring to the production as “an unsavory thing for the Chicago Theater Society … to bring before the town.”22 Its appearance there was occasion for a novelty in production. There were two theaters in the Chicago Fine Arts Building: the Fine Arts Theater and the Little Theater. While the professional company from New York performed Anatol in the larger Fine Arts Theater, a group of Chicago amateurs performed it in the Little Theater, a tiny auditorium on the fourth floor which seated ninety-nine persons. The amateurs offered an additional ingenious touch to their production: instead of preparing only five scenes and staging those five at every performance as John Barrymore and the New York cast did, they prepared all seven scenes, but omitted two different ones at each performance. After an engagement of approximately two weeks, the New York cast returned home and opened at Maxine Elliott's Theatre on January 6, where performances continued for several weeks. Their return to New York brought the comment from the writer for the Telegram:

After facing the cultured atmosphere of the Theatre of Fine Arts in Chicago, John Barrymore and five leading women in Schnitzler's “The Affairs of Anatol” were no doubt glad to return to New York again.23

Soon after the play re-opened the role of Max was taken over from Oswald Yorke by Frank Reicher, and it was reportedly on this occasion that Barrymore added to his knowledge the meaning of the German expression “Hals- und Beinbruch!” The New York Sun reported the story:

Half an hour before curtain time Monday night Mr. Barrymore overheard George Foster Platt, producer for Mr. Ames, tell Mr. Reicher that he hoped he would break his neck. As Mr. Reicher received the wish with marks of the highest appreciation, Mr. Barrymore asked for an explanation. He was informed that in Germany it is a sign of bad luck to wish an actor good luck when making his first appearance in a production and that to wish him some bodily harm or bad luck is considered an omen of good fortune.24

Whereupon Barrymore is said to have gone to the nearest telegraph office, from which he sent Reicher the following telegram: “Max Reicher, Maxine Elliott's Theatre: ‘May you break every bone in your body.’ Anatol.”

No reviewer has ever admitted complete satisfaction with the portrayal of Anatol. No American actor has ever been able to capture completely the spirit of the “leichtsinniger Melancholiker” from Vienna, and John Barrymore was no exception. Though praised for his interpretation of the role, he was not able to convey the delicate nuances of mood demanded in the more subtle scenes, but found his greatest strength in the situations which called for farcical and comedy characterization. The 1912-1913 production of The Affairs of Anatol was a new experience for New York, and the novelty of it and its probable future effect on the theatergoer were summed up by Collier's:

It will be seen that “The ‘Affairs’ of Anatol” is in a gallery a trifle remote from Broadway—so different, indeed, that the spectator, having got the “hang” of it, will probably enjoy it more the second time than the first.25

Having got the “hang” of it, New Yorkers did enjoy Anatol again several times, but when it closed at Maxine Elliott's Theatre in 1913, it was eighteen years before another major production of it occurred in New York. In the meantime Schnitzler's name was kept alive through productions of a number of his other dramatic works, and familiarity with Anatol was preserved through a small production at the Astor Hotel in 1916, the Ye Curtain Players performance of Anatol's Wedding Morning in 1926, and a silent movie based on the work in 1921. Titled The Affairs of Anatol, the silent film script, written by Jeanie Macpherson, had little similarity to Schnitzler's work and producer Cecil B. DeMille rightly billed it as “suggested by Arthur Schnitzler's play and the paraphrase thereof by Granville-Barker.”26 The Times called it “only a distant and thoroughly acclimated cousin of the continental work” featuring a married Anatol De Witt Spencer,

an exceedingly nice young man whose affairs are all innocent. If the girls who, one after another, arouse his purely philanthropic interest are not so innocent, they are still not so very, very bad, and promise to be good before they are dismissed from the story.27

Hollywood was Hollywood even in 1921, and not only was Schnitzler's work altered almost beyond recognition though his title retained, his cast of eleven was increased to twenty-three. Although other films based on Schnitzler's dramas have circulated in the United States, The Affairs of Anatol is the only one that has been an American film. Among the cast were some of the famous names of silent movies: Wallace Reid, who played Anatol, Gloria Swanson, Bebe Daniels, Monte Blue, and Polly Moran.

In 1931 Bela Blau revived the Granville-Barker adaptation of Anatol and the point of departure for much of the criticism was the comparison of the new production with the production of 1912. The two most frequent comparisons made were the difference in moral attitudes with which the 1931 reviewers thought that the two generations viewed the play, and the comparison of John Barrymore and Joseph Schildkraut as Anatol. In the realm of moral judgment it is obvious that the reviewers of 1931 felt a superiority of sophistication over the reviewers of 1912. It is obvious too that in their sophistication they exaggerated the indignation with which the New Yorkers of 1912 had greeted the play. Little evidence was found in the 1912 New York reviews to substantiate the comment on that production which John Mason Brown made in 1931: “There were those who not only failed to surrender to its urbane charm but who felt outraged by the conscienceless way in which it chronicled the progress of a Viennese rake.”28 Continuing in this vein, Gilbert W. Gabriel sought for similarity between bathtub-gin America of 1931 and Schnitzler's old world Vienna: “We have caught up with Alt Wien. We can sip our ‘Anatol’ straight, unaffaired, un-affeared.”29 There were two kinds of superficial language changes between the 1912 and 1931 productions, one of which reflected this sophistication which the New Yorker of 1931 felt that he had achieved: into the Granville-Barker adaptation “a few damns [were] sprinkled here and there for purposes of modernization.”30 The other change made the dialogue less obviously British: “the ‘Oh, I says’ and ‘Really, old chaps’ and ‘Frightfully sorrehs’ and other specimens of Londonese” were omitted.31 In the role of Anatol Joseph Schildkraut was even less in his element than John Barrymore had been. He was stiff and strident and lacked the suavity necessary to an Anatol. In the description of his acting, the new importance of the movies and the advent of the “talkies” is obvious. Schildkraut, who had come to Broadway from Hollywood, was reproached for such stage taboos as “looking into the camera”32 and “talking like a talkie.”33 Most often commended for their acting were Patricia Collinge for her portrayal of Gabrielle, “the Lady who Didn't Dare,”34 and Miriam Hopkins in the role of ballet dancer Annie; and, as usual, the corresponding scenes of A Christmas Present and The Farewell Supper received highest critical acclaim of all the one-acts. Even with sets designed by Jo Mielziner and under the direction of Gabriel Beer-Hofmann, the production did not convey a completely Viennese atmosphere, but in spite of this and in spite of the charge that the work was a bit dated and its delights thought to be fewer than in 1912, it was still considered to be one of the better offerings of Broadway 1931, and it ran for forty-five performances.35 Almost all of the criticism in 1931 was confined to aspects of the production. There were few comments on Schnitzler and almost absolute absence of references to his other works. Brooks Atkinson came closest to a literary judgment when he combined his comparison of the 1912 and 1931 productions with a comment on the character of Anatol and his author:

When “Anatol” was first mounted here nearly twenty years ago with John Barrymore it was reputed to be audacious. Anatol is a sinner. But not to Schnitzler, and hardly to the pernicious playgoer of today, for Anatol is a sybarite of love. He is punctilious about the deportment of conquest. He loves love. The six scenes in his affairs reveal his susceptibilities—his anxiety over the fidelity of Hilda, his wounded vanity when Bianca no longer remembers him, his anger when he discovers one of his trollops coveting the booty of previous amours or another planning to supplant him with a chorus boy. For to Schnitzler love is full of savor and deception, honeyed tenderness and sweet languor. None of the hotblooded passion of the modern theatre bursts into his amorous hothouse. There is hardly a kiss visible to the naked eye. Silken in the writing, it is overlong in the acting. If it were half as long it would be twice as good in the theatre. Certainly this production would be brisker amusement if a half hour were taken out of it.36

A vaudeville act suggested by Anatol followed in that same year,37 but except for it and the MacDowell Players production of The Farewell Supper at the Little Church Around the Corner on March 11, 1938, Anatol disappeared from the stage for fifteen years. During this long absence from the stage Orson Welles adapted it for the relatively young medium of radio, and in 1938 it was broadcast nationally on the Mercury Theater of the Air. The episodes were strung together by a narrative in first-person-singular style, related by Welles in the role of Anatol, with incidents enacted by him and other members of the Mercury Theater ensemble woven into the narrative. Anatol seems a strange choice of character for Orson Welles to undertake. He is best known for his characterizations in heavy, suspenseful dramas, and it is not surprising that his portrayal of the urbane, sophisticated Anatol drew the comment from a Massachusetts listener that

The play began and, strange as it may seem, Mr. Welles became Charles Laughton and remained Charles Laughton to the end. Again he was good in the more serious parts, but inclined to be ponderous and monotonous in the lighter ones. I think Anatol was a tenor and Welles is Basso troppo Profundo, unable to portray the unscrupulous frivolity, the disarming wit and charm of the role.38

Eight years later, in 1946, reviewers thought for the first time that a true touch of Vienna was given to a production of Anatol when Mady Christians directed the play for the Equity-Library Theatre. In addition to Miss Christians' own continental heritage and directorial skill, two factors may have benefited her in the creation of the mood of Anatol: the prefacing of the performance with the Prologue by Loris and her own experience as Ilona in Anatols Hochzeitsmorgen in the 1924 Max Reinhardt Kammerspiele production of Anatol in Berlin. Though currently starring in the 1946 Broadway hit of I Remember Mama, Miss Christians worked into her schedule the rehearsals for Anatol, and for a while these rehearsals were held in her apartment but were later moved into the basement smoking lounge of the Music Box Theatre, reportedly because she thought her apartment was “too sunny for the romantic, by-candle-light mood of Anatol.39Anatol was an exception to the regular Equity-Library productions because its cast included a greater than usual number of experienced actors in types of roles in which they were not ordinarily cast. Tonio Selwart, chosen for Anatol, had played “bright boys under 25” on Broadway, and villains—including Nazis—in Hollywood. Carmen Matthews, usually cast as a “regal, suffering woman,” played Mimi40 in The Farewell Supper, and Henry Jones, who “was always cast as older men, caricatures,” was Max.41 Opening June 5, 1946, Anatol was performed four times at the George Bruce Branch Library—all performances free to the public—and closed the Equity-Library Theatre local season on June 7.42 George Freedley, who had helped to found the acting group, called Anatol “the most expert production which [Equity-Library Theatre] has had in its three seasons' existence,” and claimed that with Anatol the Theatre's season had ended “in a blaze of glory and a roar of laughter.”43 Since Freedley was one of the founders of Equity-Library and might naturally be expected to be enthusiastic about the productions, it is gratifying to have a report from another source which corroborated his commendation. Writing for the Post, Vernon Rice said:

To our way of thinking, [Miss Christians] couldn't have made a better choice, for the bill had variety, contrast and consuming interest. If she used wisdom in selecting her plays she also used a touch of genius in selecting her players. So important are just the right actors for these kinds of playlets, that one bit of miscasting would almost prove to be fatal. Schnitzler is a writer of atmosphere and mood. There is a touch of grace mixed in with portions of gentle passion, melancholy, charm, wit and delicacy in his writing and even a slight stroke of heavyhandedness on the part of the director or an actor and the playwright's whole fragile structure is ruined. Through the expert work of Miss Christians, however, and her assembled cast, the spirit of Vienna of 1900, the whirl of the Viennese waltz were retained.44

The only discordant note came from the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold: Miss Christians had indeed succeeded in her direction of the actors and her creation of mood: “Sie hat ein sehr gutes, echtes, Wiener Leben aus den Darstellem herausgeholt;” but she had committed one “Todsünde:” the inadequacies of the English translation used for the production had not been corrected. In Weihnachtseinkäufe two phrases occur which, more than any others, have become tokens of Anatol and his world: “Das süsse Mädel” has become the cliché which captures the essence of Schnitzler's “Mädel aus der Vorstadt;” “leichtsinniger Melancholiker,” a phrase which Anatol uses to describe himself, has come to embody not only Anatol but the entire generation of Viennese young men of whom Anatol was representative. The English translation used by Miss Christians rendered the latter phrase as “amateur philosopher,” a translation which utterly fails to capture the essence of the German. The Staats-Zeitung was indignant over the discrepancy in meaning and the resulting erroneous comprehension of Anatol's character:

Es ist kaum noch eine Ähnlichkeit da zwischen den beiden Begriffen!! Ein Amateurphilosoph—ein Raisonneur, der neben der Handlung steht und gescheite Bemerkungen macht, den kennen wir ja aus hundertunddrei französischen Stücken. Aber Anatol steht ja zutiefst in der Handlung … und was er sagt, ist gar nicht philosophisch überlegen—in den meisten Fällen blamiert er sich gründlich! Aber das ist wahr, dass seine Genusssucht gepaart ist mit einer nachdenklichen Melancholie, die ihn immerfort das Vergängliche, Vergebliche in aller Glucksüche ahnen lässt und damit all seinen Handlungen die Frische und Energie nimmt. Dieser Lebemann, der so viel seinen Pariser Vorbildern verdankt, ist doch kein Pariser—er ist Wiener von 1890—“fin de siècle”! Es ist ein Stückchen Hamlet in ihm—zu viel “Bewusstsein” macht ihn “feige”! Das Bewusstsein hat er freilich mit dem Philosophen gemein, aber in nichts die Lebenshaltung.45

The greatest number of Schnitzler productions in New York occurred in the first thirty years of the century, and by mid-century most of them had disappeared from the stage completely. Only in the case of Anatol and Reigen do the later decades represent a real continuation or upsurge of interest in Schnitzler's plays. In the fifties Anatol was played in New York on four occasions. Twice it appeared in cuttings on bills with other plays when Equity-Library Theatre and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre chose scenes for production in 1953 and 1959 respectively. Twice—in 1956 and again in 1958—full productions were given. Both of the latter were smaller and less elaborate than those in which John Barrymore and Joseph Schildkraut starred, but each had its own small point of distinction. In 1956 six of the seven scenes were staged in Directors Theatre, a second-floor studio half a block off Broadway on West 46th Street. The producers were Laura Malin and Vivian Schectman, and their theater was described as an “off-Broadway showcase for directors.”46 Originally scheduled to open on August 8, the opening was postponed until August 15, and performances were advertised for Wednesday through Saturday nights until September 1.47 The distinction of this production lay in the fact that each scene was staged by a different director, but this very point of distinction was undoubtedly responsible for lessening the impact of the whole, for there was a consequent lack of unity in interpretation of the work: “As some of the directors seem not too sure whether the audience should laugh or shudder at certain crucial moments, it is small wonder that the results are uneven.”48 In spite of this unevenness in interpretation and some amateurish acting, the production was recommended by its reviewer:

As Schnitzler, with his translator, Grace Colbron, makes the rounds of 1900 Vienna's world of cafe lights and boudoir shadows with Anatol, his friend, Max, and assorted past-and-present mistresses, there lurks beneath the ceaseless flow of keen-edged wit, the disturbing comparisons between happiness-and-pleasure and truth-and-illusion which come up more harrowingly and not so well balanced in the same author's Reigen.49

The mention of Reigen suggests the possibility that it may have contributed to the impetus for the two new revivals of Anatol in the second half of the fifties. In 1954 a French film based on Reigen, titled La Ronde, received wide publicity in New York when attempts were first made to distribute it there. Censors objected to its appearance on New York screens and only a ruling by the United States Supreme Court made possible the film's distribution there. The following year the Eric Bentley English stage adaptation of Reigen, also titled La Ronde, had a long and successful run off Broadway.

The significant feature about the 1958 production of Anatol, a translation by Karl Zimmermann, is the fact that it is the only production which has included all seven of the scenes. Once again it was a “Little Theatre” in which the production occurred, but in 1958 it was not the Little Theatre in which the John Barrymore production of 1912 took place, but a newly named theater at 4 St. Mark's Square. Formerly known as the Tempo Theatre, it had produced Schnitzler's one-act, The Gallant Cassian, in 1956. Anatol opened the off-Broadway season there on September 3, 1958. Though one reviewer expressed the opinion that the play “today … belongs in a curiosity shop,”50 another considered it a happy choice for little theater entertainment. The production was executed with artistry and with concern for correct interpretation of the author's intent, and in skillful hands the mood of Schnitzler's Vienna and the fortunes of his hero were not without appeal for another time and place. Reacting to the opening night performance a reviewer wrote:

Although it was written at the turn of the century in a decadent Vienna where gentlemen had little to amuse themselves with but love, its barbs and its wistful mockery will do very well today … [Anatol] is the toy philosopher in a toy world of emotion, seeking a faithful mistress in a society where no one remains faithful, least of all himself. And in each episode, his disillusion is complete. You don't feel sorry for him, only slightly sad at what people accept as love.51

Since the performance by the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre of Anatol's Wedding Morning and Episode in May 1959, the year following the last full production, no appearances of Anatol have been actual presentations of the work itself on the stage,52 but have included adaptations for television and musical comedy. Though there is no indication that the television version of Anatol was shown in New York, the adaptation is recorded here to illustrate the wide variety of media for which the work has been considered appropriate. In 1961 Hollywood TV station KNXT offered a ninety-minute telecast of three of the scenes. It was part of a series of programs made, reportedly, “in the interests of better television,” but the result was disappointing:

[It] was, indeed, better than most of what is seen on tv but, alas, fell somewhat shy of the special excitement one hopes for in what is classified as prestige entertainment. … Its native spirit of witty sophistication, delicate irony and subtlety of style as well as the intended endearing nature of its central characters [have been] tarnished by the passage of time, victimized by the modern viewer's acquired immunity to astonishment when confronted with the “naughty” manners of its rakish, but outmoded “lady's man” hero, and [it is] faintly incompatible with the supercharged requirements of the living room medium itself.53

Though the reviewer was not enthusiastic about the final result, it is worth noting in relating the production history of Anatol that it was chosen to be included as a part of a series intended to upgrade a theatrical medium.54

The years since 1959 have seen two musicals based on Anatol. Neither can properly be called an adaptation, except in the broadest sense, but through them the character of Anatol and the name of Arthur Schnitzler have been preserved for this decade of theater audiences. One of the musicals, Anatol, did not have the opportunity to make an impression on the New York theater world. Based on Schnitzler's work, the book and lyrics for the musical were written by Tom Jones;55 the music was borrowed from Offenbach. It was performed twenty-four times at the Boston Arts Center in 1961,56 and Show Business Illustrated called the Boston production a “pre-Broadway tryout.”57 If it was, as such it was a failure, as it was not performed professionally in New York although one amateur performance there is recorded for it: in 1959 Jones was associated with the theater program at St. Bartholomew's Community House in New York and there in the fall of that year he produced his Anatol.58 The other musical based on Anatol,The Gay Life, was more successful. After pre-Broadway tryouts in Detroit and Toronto, it opened in New York at the Shubert Theatre on November 18, 1961, and was performed 113 times before it closed in February of the following year.59 In keeping with the idea of the need for a special temperament to capture the character of Anatol, in both musicals “latin lovers” were chosen for the role. In the Boston production of Anatol, it was Frenchman Pierre Aumont; in The Gay Life Walter Chiari was imported from Italy for the occasion. The Gay Life was a Broadway “extravaganza” and Schnitzler's cast of eleven—Anatol, Max, seven women, a waiter, and a servant—was inflated to twenty-two, plus singing and dancing ensembles. Though The Gay Life is not an adaptation of Schnitzler's Anatol, the musical's debt to Schnitzler is greater than the acknowledgement which appears on the program might lead the audience unacquainted with Anatol to believe. Neither Schnitzler's name nor the title of Anatol appears on the page which contains all the other composition and production credits; but tucked away underneath the cast of characters is the note: “‘The Gay Life’ was suggested by Arthur Schnitzler's ‘Anatol,’” almost like an oversight remembered just in time. Among the obvious debts to Schnitzler—in addition to theme, characters, and setting—is the incorporation of incidents taken from the various scenes, the reproduction of snatches of dialogue, as well as the episodic nature of a great part of the musical's structure which portrays through flashbacks some of Anatol's affairs. It is a tribute to Schnitzler and his drama that most of the reviewers welcomed a revival of the story of Anatol and the mood of the era which Schnitzler helped to romanticize: “It is still durable and, as it has been treated by its current creators, modernly old-fashioned or, if you prefer, old-fashionedly modern.”60 It is an opulent extravaganza cast in the operetta mood of gay Vienna at the dawning of this century. It is the era of Strauss waltzes, of hansom cabs clobbering on the cobbled pavements, of maidens in billowing full-length skirts, of high living and elite dining. This ebullient period is romantically distilled by every facet of the current production. Here is the charm of a period that may never recur. Here is a fiesta for nostalgic sentimentalists.”61 Its revival and its adaptation for a new medium attest to the continued appeal of the play and its 113 performances witness to theatergoers' approval of the new garb in which Fay and Michael Kanin, Howard Dietz, and Arthur Schwartz clothed it. To the “nostalgic sentimentalists” Anatol still has charm and the ability to delight, and the world that is revealed with the opening of the curtain is the same enchanted world which Alfred Kerr described in 1896, only three years after the work was published:

Mit leisem Zauberschlag erscheint eine schmerzlichsüsse Welt, voll traurigschalkhafter Grazie, voll ironischer Melancholie, voll leiser, lachender Innigkeit. Sie ist von zartem Leichtsinn durchweht, von schwermütigem Zweifel umwittert, von holdem Betrug umspielt … Alles flutet durcheinander: Innigkeit und Eleganz, Weichheit und Ironie, Weltstädtisches und Abseitiges, Lyrik und Feuilletonismus, Lebensraffinement und volksmässige Schlichtheit, Oesterreichertum und Halbfranzösisches, Schmerz und Spiel, Lächeln und Sterben … Das ist die unvergleichliche Welt Arthur Schnitzlers.62


  1. A full production is defined here as one which includes five or more of the seven one-acts in Anatol.

  2. Julius Kapp, Arthur Schnitzler, (Leipzig, 1912), p. 40. A more recent comment on the nature of the unity of Anatol is that of Ernst L. Offermanns: “Trotz lockerer Fügung bildet die Einaktersammlung Anatol … ein Ganzes … : Anatols diskontinuierliche Persönlichkeit, die ihm das Leben zu einer Abfolge isolierter Episoden werden lässt, deren ängstigende Vergänglichkeit durch die turbulente Permanenz ständigen neuen Abenteuers verdeckt werden soll; sein Versuch, Einsamkeit und Langeweile mittels der Fülle immer neuer Beziehungen zu überwinden; wie er sich aber dabei in seinem Verhalten zu Welt und Du gerade nicht von deren Wesentlichem bestimmen lässt, sondern durch die impressionistische Nuance der jeweiligen Situation oder Stimmung, woraus sich die Austauschbarkeit aller Relationen des Ichs ergibt; wie Anatol schliesslich, die mittlere Linie der Klarsicht immer nur kurze Zeit behauptend, Depressionen oder schöner Täuschung erliegt. Diese Problematik erscheint in den einzelnen Akten des Zyklus' mannigfach entfaltet.” Arthur Schnitzler, Anatol, Komedia, no. 6, Helmut Arntzen und Karl Pestalozzi, eds., (Berlin, 1964), pp. 174-175. Through a brief analysis of the one-acts, Offermanns then shows how each of them illustrates this main theme. Other aspects of Anatol dealt with in this present essay which Offermanns also touches upon are: the novelty of the dramatic form, the production history of the play and its reception by the critics.

  3. New York Dramatic Mirror, October 31, 1903, p. 16.

  4. It is possible that Abschiedssouper was performed by the Russian Players in New York before May 2, 1906, but no substantiation of an earlier performance can be made here from programs, reviews or other sources.

  5. In the files of the Theatre Collection of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City there is a note about another English performance of Abschiedssouper at the Lyric Theatre in New York on April 11, 1916, but because no program, review or reference to it in newspapers or periodicals was found to substantiate the performance, it has not been included here.

  6. The exact date of the performance is not available. A brief report of the production was found in Billboard, March 6, 1926, p. 40, and for that reason it is probable that it was performed in February of that year.

  7. Program.

  8. The Equity-Library Theatre was, as its name suggests, a combined effort by members of Actors Equity and the New York Public Library to accomplish three purposes: (1) to create a receptive attitude toward theater in New York neighborhood audiences; (2) to give acting opportunities to new actors; (3) to give established actors opportunities to appear in roles which they ordinarily did not play. New York Morning Telegraph, June 8, 1946.

  9. New York Times, November 6, 1953. The Times added to the above description: “The presentations, usually about an hour long, are designed to demonstrate the vitality of the living theatre. They also are brought to life by experienced professional actors and are shown during the one-hour assembly periods in the city's public schools.”

  10. As early as 1946 the Equity-Library Theatre produced five scenes from Anatol at the George Bruce Branch Library. This production is discussed later in this essay.

  11. Cuttings from other dramas included scenes from Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, Maxwell Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen, and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.

  12. In her unpublished thesis, “The Reception of Arthur Schnitzler in the United States,” (Columbia University, 1931) Beatrice Schrumpf dates the premiere performance and first run of this production as March 12, 1911, indicating that the October, 1912 show was a revival of the preceding year's production. Nothing in her thesis substantiates the 1911 date except the remark years later by Ward Morehouse, who recalled that “it was at the Little Theatre ‘that John Barrymore held forth as Anatol back in 1911.’” (p. 5) All of Schrumpf's bibliographical references to the stage production refer to the October 1912 production. Every reference examined for this present essay substantiates the New York premiere performance date of October 14, 1912. There was a production in London in March, 1911, which used the same Granville-Barker paraphrase, and both the London and New York productions took place in theaters named the Little Theatre. Because of these similarities it is possible that Schrumpf confused the two productions.

  13. This production occurred at the Astor Hotel, May 24, 1916, but no information about the details of the performance is available.

  14. This is the anticipatory comment of E. E. vom Baur, who wrote a lengthy review of Anatol prior to its stage premiere and quoted passages of dialogue from the scenes. Theatre Magazine, XVI (October 1912), 106.

  15. Munsey's Magazine, XLVIII (December 1912), 527.

  16. Theatre Magazine, XVI (October 1912), 110.

  17. Collier's Weekly, November 2, 1912.

  18. Quoted by Julius Kapp, Arthur Schnitzler, p. 11.

  19. New York World, October 15, 1912.

  20. New York Telegram, October 15, 1912.

  21. New York Evening Post, October 15, 1912.

  22. Chicago Record, December 20, 1912.

  23. January 7, 1912.

  24. Undated clipping of January 1913, in the Theatre Collection, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City.

  25. November 2, 1912.

  26. Program from the Rivoli Theatre, New York, week of September 11, 1921.

  27. September 12, 1921.

  28. Evening Post, January 17, 1931.

  29. New York American, January 17, 1931.

  30. Brooklyn Eagle, January 17, 1931.

  31. Times, January 11, 1931.

  32. World, January 17, 1931.

  33. Brooklyn Eagle, January 17, 1931.

  34. New York Evening World, January 19, 1931.

  35. Burns Mantle, The Best Plays of 1930-31 (New York, 1955), p. 480.

  36. Times, January 17, 1931.

  37. Photographs in the Theatre Collection at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City are evidence of a vaudeville production of Anatol in 1931, but research in 1931 periodicals and newspapers has produced no further details about the act.

  38. New York Post, August 26, 1938.

  39. P.M., June 4, 1946.

  40. Schnitzler's “Annie.”

  41. P.M., June 4, 1946.

  42. The performance was repeated at the U.S.O. Theatre on June 14, 1946.

  43. New York Morning Telegraph, June 8, 1946.

  44. June 8, 1946.

  45. June 10, 1946.

  46. Unidentified newspaper clipping of August 24, 1956, in the Theatre Collection, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City.

  47. Times, July 26, 1956.

  48. Unidentified newspaper clipping of August 24, 1956, in the Theatre Collection, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City.

  49. Unidentified newspaper clipping of August 24, 1956, in the Theatre Collection, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City.

  50. New York World-Telegram and Sun, September 4, 1958.

  51. Post, September 4, 1958.

  52. This excludes the possibility that the Cherry Lane Theatre production, for which no date has been established, occurred after 1959.

  53. Variety, April 12, 1961.

  54. The adaptation for the ninety-minute program for television, The Affairs of Anatol, was written by Robert Boon, produced by Alexander Ramati, and directed by Ezra Stone. Members of the cast included John van Dreelen, Oscar Beregi, Kathleen Crowley, Susan Silo, Didi Ramati, Jack Tesler, and Ralph Smiley. Variety, April 12, 1961.

  55. Jones is the author of the book and lyrics for the musical The Fantasticks.

  56. Henry Hewes, The Best Plays of 1961-62 (New York, 1962), p. 41.

  57. September 19, 1961.

  58. Confirmed in a telephone conversation with a staff member of St. Bartholomew's, March 18, 1966.

  59. The Best Plays of 1961-1962, p. 270.

  60. Newsday, November 22, 1961.

  61. Women's Wear Daily, November 20, 1961.

  62. “Arthur Schnitzler,” Neue deutsche Rundschau, Jahrgang VII, 1 (1896), p. 287.

Ian F. Roe (essay date July 1994)

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SOURCE: Roe, Ian F. “The Comedy of Schnitzler's Reigen.Modern Language Review 89, no. 3 (July 1994): 674-88.

[In the following essay, Roe examines comic elements in Reigen, noting that critical analysis of and audience reaction to the play have historically neglected these elements.]

It is now a decade since the ban on the performance of Schnitzler's Reigen came to an end, and the productions that have been mounted during that time have only added to the controversies surrounding what is arguably the most famous and certainly the most infamous of Schnitzler's works. Surprisingly, however, there has been no marked shift of emphasis in the critical appreciation of the play in recent years. On the whole, two major themes still dominate critical analysis: the extent to which the play is a mirror of the Viennese society of Schnitzler's day, and the play's depiction of human sexuality as a repetitive and seemingly empty and meaningless activity.1 What has received almost no attention, even during the years in which it has been possible to see the play performed, is the question of Reigen as a comedy. Such neglect becomes all the more surprising when one considers the traditions of comedy for which the Viennese theatre is rightly famous. Even the one book that sets out to explore the comedies of Schnitzler scarcely mentions the play and confines the few comments that are made to aspects of the characters' behaviour and social roles,2 whilst most studies of German comedy make little reference to Schnitzler, let alone to Reigen.3 It may be that such critical attitudes reflect or have even shaped the reception of the play in the theatre: a performance that I attended at the Akademie-theater in Vienna in 1984 was watched in a mood of reverence tinged with apprehension, with even a transparently comic line such as the actress's post-coital sigh of satisfaction, ‘das ist doch schöner als in blödsinnigen Stücken spielen’, failing to raise a single laugh (my own having been swiftly stifled).

Sex is of course a very serious topic, and probably not suitable as a spectator sport, as one reviewer of the 1982 production at the London Aldwych reminded us.4 Whether it is quite as ‘unbarmherzig und todernst’ as the by-now obligatory critical references to the medieval dances of death would have us believe is open to question, however.5 Schnitzler's admission, after the Viennese premiere in 1921, that he was surprised that the play's ‘Lustigkeit’ had been outweighed by its ‘Melancholie’ indicates that he had intended the former to predominate.6 The comedy is most certainly not one of cheap laughs such as characterized the 1982 Munich production (a flesh-coloured corset for the Count, a floor-length nightshirt for the husband, or a pose modelled on Tischbein's celebrated painting of Goethe for the writer) but Schnitzler's handling of his potentially risqué subject is full of comic touches, whilst some scenes, in particular those involving the young wife, the writer, and the actress, are excellent comic vignettes in their own right.

Nevertheless the play accords uneasily with many of the generalizations that have been put forward concerning the nature of comedy. There is no ‘Antagonismus von dramatischer Anspannung und komischer Entspannung’,7 no comic plot that tightens almost to breaking-point before unravelling in the comic dénouement; no ‘Zuschauer- oder Kommentarfigur’;8 no ‘Spielverderber’ who refuses to play the game or who plays but breaks the rules,9 unless one sees the actress in that role, but the plot is not then designed to integrate or unmask her. One may certainly detect elements of the Konversationsstück beloved of dramatists such as Bauernfield (the conversation in the early scenes is admittedly of a somewhat rudimentary kind!),10 whilst a British reader may see a more risqué variation on the Wildean comedy of manners, although lacking the verbal fireworks and bon mots, or even a precursor of an Ayckbourn comedy such as Bedroom Farce. On the other hand, there is none of the grotesque comedy of Dürrenmatt, nor the audience-involvement or ‘play within a play’ motif that are features of much modern comedy, and it is surely an exaggeration to see Reigen as a pointer to the absurd theatre of Ionesco.11

If the atypicality of Reigen therefore requires one to resist the straitjacket of a ‘typology of comedy’ of the kind that can reduce even the wittiest play to a dry philosophical tract,12 it is nevertheless apparent that one particular source of the comedy is provided by the very structure of the play, in that the audience gradually becomes aware that in each scene the two characters' words, behaviour, and above all their sexual strategies are not to be viewed in isolation, but may either be compared with the preceding scene or judged in anticipation of the one that is to follow.13 Whether such a structural feature needs to be underlined by the introduction of a character who links or supervises the various encounters, as in the 1989 production at the Theater in der Josefstadt, must remain debatable. Indeed, if such a change also adds a voyeuristic touch, then it may detract from an appreciation of the play's comedy to an even greater extent than the impression created in Max Ophuls's film version of La Ronde that the characters are figures on a fairground merry-go-round that have been brought to life under the benign and ironic gaze of the showmaster. Given the motif that links all ten scenes, it may seem strange that one feels the need to stress that all the characters are to a greater or lesser extent individual creatures of flesh and blood,14 but the degree to which they are individualized as such and differentiated from one another is in no small part a result of the comedy that dominates or underscores much of the characterization. It is that comedy that is the main subject of my present investigations; bearing in mind the general agreement, recently reiterated by Bruce Thompson, that the female characters are treated rather more favourably than their male counterparts,15 it will also be important to consider whether such a distinction is borne out in the use of comedy: in what ways does the comedy contribute to our view of the respective roles and characters of male and female; to what extent are the women the source of the comedy of which the men are the object?

In the early scenes the comedy is almost entirely that of situation; indeed, a number of elements acquire an added poignancy and also a certain comic connotation only by virtue of their recurrence in later scenes. Even in the first encounter it is the woman who is interested in a more lasting relationship, as the prostitute thinks of the soldier in terms of a potential lover rather than a client (p. 328), whilst the man's main concern is to expedite the act of sexual intercourse (in this case with a degree of haste that takes even a prostitute by surprise) and afterwards to make his excuses and escape as quickly as possible. The soldier's concern for the right ambience (‘da ist nicht das Rechte’ (p. 328)) is also a brief adumbration of the male concern with creating the right mood and atmosphere that is later explored more fully.16 In the first scene, however, the prostitute takes the initiative to an extent matched only by the actress amongst the female characters, and the second scene is rather more typical of the play as a whole, with its comic contrast of the assertive male and the more cautious but far from reluctant female, a contrast that is underscored by the (from an English point of view) untranslatable interplay of different modes of address. Although she is initially reluctant to use the informal ‘Du’, the maid's final word before the first of two lines of dashes is ‘komm!’, her wish between the two copulations is to see his face,17 and afterwards it is she who uses the informal mode of address as the soldier's total lack of commitment is indicated by his return to the formal ‘Sie’ (p. 331), to which the maid does not revert until she has realized his lack of interest in her and even his desire to go back to the dance in order to find another woman.

As already implied by the emphasis on comedy of situation, the characters encountered in the first two scenes are not particularly witty or humorous in themselves. The soldier's two attempts at jokes are either decidedly feeble (‘Morgen früh ist schon wieder licht’) or predictable (‘Das wär z'viel!’), and the comedy arises chiefly from the repetition of lines already used in the first scene: the references to darkness, the fear that someone may be coming, or the soldier's concern with when he should be back in barracks. Similar remarks could apply equally well to the third scene, although the comedy is slightly more subtle, as the young gentleman desperately thinks of more excuses to call for the maid until he is finally emboldened to take a more direct approach, not least by her coquettish behaviour and her smile that is partly one of amusement and partly one of encouragement (p. 334). Once more the woman's line is that someone may see or disturb them (‘wenns draußen läut—’), but the maid's repeated protestations (‘Aber, Herr Alfred …’) carry much less conviction than in the previous scene, and the sighs that are her response to the kiss that he places on her breast merely add to the impression conveyed throughout the scene that the desire for at least some form of intimate encounter is entirely mutual.18

Indeed, the maid's behaviour in the third scene might even be thought inconsistent with her earlier caution in the encounter with the soldier, who in the meantime has after all provided her with the security of a more lasting relationship, even if, as may be surmised, a not entirely stimulating or socially rewarding one. If she does hope for higher things from the young gentleman, then her hopes are dashed in the by now familiar way, as he fends off her attempts to continue the relationship (p. 336) and rushes away to the secure male domain of the coffee-house, thereby returning to the social normality that he may have neglected and of which the sound of the doorbell rather rudely reminds him.19 The maid is left to gain at least some material reward for her indiscretion by stealing a cigar, presumably for her boyfriend, and in the process inviting us once again to recall the prostitute of the opening scene.

The young man's nervous uncertainty both before and after the ‘climax’ of the scene is potentially a source of comedy, more particularly when contrasted with the woman's behaviour, which indicates a much greater degree of self-assurance despite her lower social status as both maid and female. If at this stage only in embryonic form, the comedy of the scene derives from the contrast between the gender roles demanded by social codes and conditioning, and on the other hand the behaviour that results from the protagonists' actual character and psychology. Such a contrast is clearly evident in the fourth scene, the first in which the female character is more fully prepared to depart from her socially determined role, not only by asserting her intellectual superiority but also by admitting to her sexuality. Whilst the young man's initial behaviour, as he paces up and down inspecting the contents of the flat or jumps nervously at the sound of the doorbell, is simply a more elaborate version of his antics in the earlier scene, the behaviour of the young woman is considerably more complex. Although arriving heavily veiled, although insisting that she can only stay for five minutes and that even remaining for that length of time is a great risk that has drained her emotionally, she nevertheless uses the warmth of the room as a pretext for raising no objection to the young man's removal of her veils and other outdoor garments. Her repeated adieus and references to his promise to be ‘brav’ (pp. 339-42), her apparently painful memories of earlier meetings, are contrasted first with the long-drawn-out kisses to which she readily responds (p. 340), and later with the overtly erotic gesture of offering him half of the glazed pear that she holds in her mouth (p. 342).

Her talk of guilt and vengeance, of the torture, shame, and disgrace she must endure (pp. 339, 341), may at first seem merely a comic parallel to the young man's more exaggerated talk of bliss, of the uniqueness of their encounter in the midst of life's transience: ‘Das Leben ist so leer, so nichtig—und dann—so kurz—so entsetzlich kurz! Es gibt nur ein Glück … einen Menschen finden, von dem man geliebt wird—’ (p. 342). Yet whilst the man's philosophizing appears pompous and shallow, the young woman's melodramatic references to dishonour and social disgrace gradually appear to be part of an elaborate charade designed to frustrate the young man's desire for intimacy until she herself is ready to take the initiative:

DIE Junge Frau:
(ist ins Bett geschlüpft) Oh, mir ist kalt.
DER Junge Herr:
Gleich wirds warm werden.
DIE Junge Frau:
(leise lachend) Glaubst du?
DER Junge Herr:
(unangenehm berührt, für sich) Das hätte sie nicht sagen sollen. […]
DIE Junge Frau:
(zärtlich) Komm, komm, komm!

(pp. 342-43)

Having earlier evoked conventional codes of social behaviour and the consequences of offending such codes as a means of keeping him at a distance, she now draws on and deliberately misunderstands conventional role-models to tease or even to mock him as he desperately seeks literary parallels in Stendhal for his own sexual failure. Such teasing involves an increasing use of irony as she applauds the fact that he has indeed been ‘brav’ and that they can just be good friends (pp. 344-45), as she implies that normally only older men are afflicted by impotence, or pretends that she thought all cavalry officers wept instead of making love (p. 344), a motif to which she continually returns, to his increasing annoyance. It is then no surprise when the comic reuse or reversal of motifs from earlier in the play finds the young man, like the maid earlier with the soldier, asking for proof of the other's love and she in turn suggesting she has just proved it:

DER Junge Herr:
[…] Wenn ich nur überzeugt wäre, daß du mich liebst.
DIE Junge Frau:
Verlangst du noch mehr Beweise?

(p. 344)

It is now the young woman who claims to be in a hurry, a rendezvous with a sister being the latest variation on the excuses that earlier took the form of coffee-house or barracks. But the young man, echoing the young woman's words, begs for five minutes more, and by the end of the scene and after the young man's more successful performance second time round, it is already eight o'clock and more than an hour and three-quarters have elapsed, rather than the five minutes that she had originally been prepared to stay.

Whilst obviously not lasting as long on stage, the fourth scene is the first in which the action is more fully developed around a series of comic parallels and contrasts, but whereas in earlier scenes the comedy had arisen merely from such parallels or through the juxtaposition of words and actions, the ironic comments of the young woman suggest a character with a sense of humour, whose words and behaviour are an explicit as well as an implicit source of comedy. The fourth scene is also the first in which the sexual act seems mutually and lastingly enjoyable rather than being followed by an abrupt change of mood on the part of one or both participants. The young woman's haste to leave is not the lack of involvement exhibited by the male characters of the earlier scenes, and she still finds time to continue with her earlier games, insisting that he will never see her again, allowing only for the possibility of chance encounters, apparently determined to stay away from any gatherings where he may be (p. 346), yet then proposing to discuss any future rendezvous the very next day (p. 347).

The young woman's fears are not to be taken too lightly, even though the emphasis is on the comic aspect of such exaggeration and repetition, and although it is clear that she is turning such worries to her advantage as a weapon in her dealings with the young man. Nevertheless her concern with how to explain her absence to her husband, her contemplation of the disgrace that would result from the discovery of her liaison, and the fear that it could have fatal consequences for both of them, these are real fears, as the young man's reaction (höchst unangenehm berührt) and also a glance at the fate of Fritz in Liebelei make only too apparent. For the woman of Schnitzler's day, the concern was not so much the man's fear of death in a duel as the need to preserve her reputation as an ‘anständige Frau’, unsullied by any sexual experience other than with her husband. The total hypocrisy of the situation and the gulf between appearance and reality is indicated in the young man's delight at finally embarking on an affair with such a woman, who at this point if not long before has ceased to be ‘anständig’ except in respect of the veneer of social respectability that she can still maintain as long as her extra-marital affairs remain undetected. This is not a criticism of the young woman; on the contrary, when the ‘rules’ of socially acceptable sexual behaviour are enumerated by the husband in the fifth scene, the author's and also the audience's sympathy is very much on the side of the young woman forced by social convention to conceal her naturalness, wit, and vivacity behind a façade of subservient innocence or even stupidity.20 The argument that the one entirely legal act of sexual intercourse is the most sordid precisely because of the hypocrisy that underlies the supposed ‘Heiligkeit’ of the marital contract, or that the depiction of sex within marriage goes a long way to explain the need for the relationship in the other scenes, does not need to be demonstrated again here;21 in the present context it is more important to stress that the woman's moral and intellectual superiority is indicated through her sense of humour and irony, which she can never fully suppress despite her attempt to play the role of the naive and dutiful wife, whilst the comedy of the scene is at the expense of the husband, whose pomposity and arrogance not only are comic by virtue of the exaggerated and self-pitying terms in which they are stated but are also cast in an ironic light thanks to the audience's awareness of his wife's earlier behaviour and their expectations of similar indiscretions on his part.

From the very start, the young woman's surprise at her husband's renewed interest in her is revealed in her ironic comments (‘wirklich?’, ‘was hast du denn?’), and the same irony underpins her laconic responses to his excuse that it is the sanctity of marriage which necessitates his frequent suppression of or, as she sees it, lack of erotic interest:

DER Gatte:
[…] hätte ich mich von Anfang an meiner Leidenschaft für dich willenlos hingegeben, es wäre uns gegangen wie den Millionen von anderen Liebespaaren. Wir wären fertig miteinander.
DIE Junge Frau:
Ah … so meinst du das?
DER Gatte:
Glaube mir—Emma—in den ersten Tagen unserer Ehe hatte ich Angst, daß es so kommen würde.
DIE Junge Frau:
Ich auch.
DER Gatte:
Siehst du? Hab ich nicht recht gehabt? Darum ist es gut, immer wieder für einige Zeit nur in guter Freundschaft miteinander hinzuleben.
DIE Junge Frau:
Ach so.
DER Gatte:
Und so kommt es, daß wir immer wieder neue Flitterwochen miteinander durchleben können, da ich es nie drauf ankommen lasse, die Flitterwochen …
DIE Junge Frau:
Zu Monaten auszudehnen.
DER Gatte:

(p. 348)

Her suggestion ‘wenn es aber … bei mir anders wäre’, that in other words she may not at that moment be interested in a renewal of intimacy,22 is ignored or genuinely misunderstood by the husband, as he develops his elaborate image of young men compelled to seek sexual experience from fallen women, whilst the daughters of good families are able to preserve a more ideal vision of love as they wait in cloistered innocence for the ‘men of honour’ to complete their unsavoury and demeaning course of sexual initiation (p. 49). As the wife imagines with a certain envy the delights that such ‘fallen women’ experience and begins to snuggle up to her husband (p. 350), she might be in danger of revealing the truth about herself, were it not for the fact that the husband is quite incapable of conceptualizing her except through the socially defined categories of ‘anständige Frau’ and mother of their daughter. The husband's division of women into the categories ‘Frau’ and ‘Weib’ (he will later refer to the ‘süßes Mädel’ as the latter) is an indication of the cliché-ridden artificiality of his thinking but more particularly a convenient way of justifying his own behaviour and of keeping his wife in what he imagines to be a state of docile innocence.

Not for the first time in the play it is the woman who presses for more details of the man's life and experiences; this is not the desire for a more lasting attachment, which after all she already has, but it does reflect the hope for a more fulfilling one, in which she will be seen as both wife and mistress. The comic irony of the scene lies above all in the fact that it is the husband who knows so little about his own wife; indeed, as he continues to talk in ridiculously pompous terms of fallen women having a ‘Heimweh nach der Tugend’ and dying young, as he sees his wife as an equally unrealistic ideal of ‘Reinheit und Wahrheit’ and asks her not to have anything to do with any woman involved in an extra-marital affair, whilst she however contemplates the pleasure and intoxication of her own such affair (pp. 351-52), one has the impression that they both finally make love to someone else or at least to a figment of their imagination. After they have slept together, they remain in the marital bed, but in other respects the pattern of other scenes is preserved, with the wife keen to maintain the level of intimacy and emotional commitment she has briefly regained, whilst the husband is quick to return, at least emotionally and metaphorically, to ordinary reality outside (‘man muß […] hinaus ins feindliche Leben’ (p. 353)) and to re-establish the distance that he had earlier seen as a prerequisite for married life (pp. 348, 353). Once more he refers to her condescendingly as ‘mein Kind’.

Whilst the audience may find the husband's self-righteousness amusing, he himself is scarcely blessed with a sense of humour, whilst his wife's natural wit is also considerably more muted than in the previous scene. The husband's presence means that the same is true in reverse order of the two scenes involving the ‘süßes Madel’. In the first of these she reveals glimpses of self-assurance and independence beneath the required façade of innocence and malleability, and cleverly evades his probing for details of her past, questions that unlike those of the female characters in other scenes are not designed to find out more about the partner as a person but to elicit confessions of sexual experience that may pave the way for his own enjoyment of similar favours. On the whole, however, the comedy of the sixth scene is more muted than in the previous two, and derives principally from the recurrence of by now familiar motifs,23 not least the contrast between the woman's apparent attempt to keep her distance and an obvious enjoyment of intimacy (langer heißer Kuß (p. 357)), that is particularly clear from the stage-direction immediately after they have made love (lehnt mit geschlossenen Augen in der Diwanecke), even though she once more seeks to blame her lack of resistance on the wine (p. 360).

Also as in earlier scenes, after intercourse the woman loses her desire to leave and instead seeks assurances of genuine affection, but the equally familiar motif of the man's post-coital desire for distance is even more extreme than usual, as his immediate fear is that he has been less than careful and may have contracted some disease, a fear that also informs his increased interest in her previous lovers (pp. 360-61). As the girl emphasizes, the man's mood has totally changed: ‘Du bist aber wie ausgewechselt’ (p. 361), a line that sums up the male characters in a number of scenes, whilst the audience's awareness of the true state of affairs injects a large touch of comic irony into the final section of the scene, as the husband returns to his irreconcilable categories of ‘Frau’ and ‘Weib’ and is enraged by the girl's suggestion that his wife may herself be having an affair (p. 362).

The sixth scene ends with the husband claiming to live in Graz, but apparently prepared to set up the young girl in a place where he may visit her as long as she promises not to entertain any other lovers. If any such promise is made it has inevitably been forgotten in time for her encounter with the writer, the opening section of which is a virtual reprise of the fourth scene, as the girl is persuaded without too much difficulty to take off her hat and cape despite her protestations that she can only stay for a minute (p. 364). The comedy of the scene results largely from the portrayal of the writer as a self-centred poseur who sees every situation, every sentence, as a potential literary gem to be used in a subsequent work (pp. 365-66). His vocabulary is littered with words such as ‘göttlich’ (pp. 365-68), ‘Herrgott’ (p. 370); he calls the girl ‘Engel’ (pp. 367, 369) and idealizes her apparent stupidity as divine (p. 365), her simplicity as holy (p. 369). He is more particularly obsessed with his own importance and fame as a writer, torn between the fleeting delight at realizing that he may have attracted the girl as an ordinary human being (p. 369), yet on the other hand distraught to discover that there may be those who do not know or may be indifferent to his identity as a writer (pp. 367, 369); indeed, he is so insecure without his literary persona that he feels he will know the girl only when he discovers what she thinks of his plays (p. 371).

Considerable comic effect is achieved as she ignores or seems to misunderstand his poeticizing, not least when he apostrophizes her as the ultimate ideal:

DER Dichter:
Du bist schön, du bist die Schönheit, du bist vielleicht sogar die Natur, du bist du heilige Einfalt.
DAS Süsse Mädel:
O weh, du tropfst mich ja an! Schau, was gibst denn nicht acht!

(p. 369)

or when his attempts to elicit an answer to the question of whether she is happy or aware of being alive are met only with a request for a comb (p. 370). On occasions, the comedy is even gentle irony at her expense, as she appears genuinely bewildered by his literary devices and role-playing:

Ja, jetzt kenn ich mich aber nicht mehr aus

(p. 369)

Jetzt, die G'schicht mit dem Biebitz—da bin ich schon ganz blöd

(p. 371)

Yet such responses are not simply the result of naive innocence; in the face of the writer's egoism and artificiality, the young girl appears considerably more self-assured and assertive than in the earlier scene, and at times seems to be deliberately misunderstanding him in the manner of the young woman in the fourth scene, or openly mocking his pretentious language:

DER Dichter:
Deine Augen müssen sich an das Halbdunkel gewöhnen.—Diese süßen Augen—küßt sie auf die Augen.
DAS Süsse Mädel:
Dazu werden die süßen Augen aber nicht Zeit genug haben.

(p. 364)24

Indeed, when she repeats virtually word for word her earlier explanation for having been in a chambre separée (p. 366), again assuring the partner that the only other man she thinks of is her former fiancé and that she is ashamed of her current indiscretion (p. 369), she conveys the strong impression that she has used such lines on other occasions and that she is acting out her role as the ‘süßes Mädel’ to the same extent as the writer adopts his literary poses.

With the exception of the prostitute, the behaviour of all the characters can be seen in that light, and indeed is a feature of so many of Schnitzler's creations, whether it be the eponymous central figure of Leutnant Gustl or Casanovas Heimfahrt, or Anatol, whose playing of an elaborate role inspired Hofmannsthal to capture what he saw as the quintessence of Schnitzler's work but also of his own precocious aestheticism in the famous lines from the prologue. As in Reigen, the roles played in Liebelei are not so much aesthetic posing as socially determined gender roles, accepted by Theodor and Mizi and abandoned with disastrous consequences by both Fritz and Christine. In Liebelei, however, the breaking of rules is often accidental and partly subconscious: Fritz pays for the acknowledged folly of exchanging letters by accepting the need for a fatal duel, whilst even Christine's refusal to allow things to return to normal (‘und in einem Monat ganz getröstet, wie?’) is born of total despair rather than of any conscious challenge to socially conditioned patterns of behaviour. In Reigen, however, a number of the characters are very aware that they are both playing and also subverting an accepted role, and the comedy is often a direct result of that awareness and of the concomitant refusal to take the role entirely seriously. The culmination of such play acting, and arguably the most comic scene of the whole cycle, is the confrontation, one might say thespian duel, between the writer and the actress. The former wheels out the big guns of poetic hyperbole that he has already used in the earlier scene: ‘Du bist das Göttliche, du bist das Genie … Du bist … Du bist eigentlich die heilige Einfalt’ (p. 372). Just as earlier he had contemplated a romantic idyll in the isolation of nature (p. 370), so now he imagines spending time amongst pious, simple country folk (p. 373), and he continues to philosophize right up to the climax of the scene, as he imagines the actress being unfaithful to an imaginary painter of her own invention (p. 375); on this occasion, however, he is met not with incomprehension or unintentional put-downs but with straightforward sarcasm: ‘Rede keinen Stiefel’, ‘Du redest wie ein Idiot’ (p. 373), ‘Ich bitte dich, rede nicht so märchenhaft blöd’ (p. 375). The actress mocks his arrogance by implying that he thinks of himself as God, or by asserting that he has no talent (p. 372). In particular she teases him mercilessly, and the game of seduction is played very much on her terms, as she makes him wait under the window whilst she undresses and tells him not to start an affair with the waitress in the meantime (p. 373), as she suggests he get into bed with her but then tells him not to move a muscle (p. 375). Erna Neuse has suggested that the characters never have any moral scruples about intercourse, only social or aesthetic ones (Neuse, p. 361), and while that is not true of all the characters, the actress openly acknowledges the immorality of the situation by inviting him to imagine whom she is being unfaithful to (p. 375). If this also serves to negate any attempt at a romantic heightening of the episode, then the same is true of her later insistence that he is a mere whim (p. 376).

The comedy of the scene continues as she repeatedly calls him arrogant, again taunts him with names such as ‘Grille’ or even ‘Frosch’. Here there is a further instance of comic reversal of motifs from an earlier scene, as he no longer wishes to be called by his literary pseudonym Biebitz, and certainly not by one of her less flattering nicknames, but by his real name Robert, which she however rejects as far too stupid (p. 377). Her own self-centred arrogance is revealed as she confesses to having nothing to do with her fellow actors (p. 376), or boasts of her sensational performance on stage the previous night (‘Die Menschen sind blaß geworden’ (p. 377)). The link between theatrical and sexual performance is one that the actress specifically makes in the line already quoted at the start of this article, and the parallel is in fact continued in an exchange in which it is not clear what sort of ‘Stück’ is being discussed (p. 375). Certainly the actress and writer reveal a consummate ability to act a part, thereby demonstrating in extreme form what the play suggests is a feature of all human sexual behaviour; in this particular instance, however, both characters appear to be in full agreement as far as the play's direction is concerned (even though the writer may have doubts about some of the lines that the actress has given him!) and neither has anything to hide or be embarrassed about. Significantly this scene is, with the partial exception of the fourth, the only one in which the sexual act is not followed by an obvious change of mood in at least one of the partners, and the uneasy and self-conscious transition from pre-coital assertiveness to post-coital anxiety and introversion that frequently characterizes the male partner is in this case displayed neither by the male writer nor by the female actress who is adopting the conventional male role. Any changes of mood in the actress are quite independent of her desire to sleep with the writer and are in any case entirely artificial and able to be manufactured as and when required. Hence by the end of the scene she has reversed her earlier distinction between her adored Fritz and the writer who is a mere whim: now she is dying of longing and love for the writer, whilst Fritz is dismissed as a galley slave (p. 377).

Much has been made of the suggestion that the actress adopts a male role in the play,25 and she does indeed share a number of lines with the male characters in other scenes, asking for a kiss (pp. 372, 374), tempting the writer into bed (p. 374), or refusing to use his real name and referring to him as ‘mein Kind’ (p. 376).26 However, the actress has an obvious sense of humour that distinguishes her from the all too serious self-importance of her male counterparts and links her especially with a female character such as the young wife. As in the fourth scene, the comedy derives from the reversal of conventional gender roles, but whilst the young woman still pays lip service to those roles and to the social codes that underpin and dictate them, in this eighth scene those codes are quite consciously overturned. Yet precisely because the actress is aware of what she is doing, the part she chooses for herself is so exaggerated and transparent that she cannot take it seriously, unlike the writer, who at times appears genuinely enmeshed in his literary conceits and his own self-importance as Biebitz. Nevertheless, under her influence even the writer is moved to essay the odd witty or ironic comment of which he seemed incapable in the earlier scene with the ‘süßes Mädel’ (joking that he currently has the best chances of starting an affair with her (p. 375)), although his witticisms are more a means of self-defence than a sign that he has fully come to terms with the role assigned to him by his female director.

The extent to which the writer is indeed a match for the actress is revealed only in the following scene with the Count. He, unlike the writer, readily accepts as the truth the actress's protestations of illness (p. 378) and also her claim that she is a misanthropist, or that she was performing only for him (pp. 380-81). Fortunately for his sake, the mockery she had hurled at the writer is here used more sparingly and indirectly, no doubt out of respect for his military rank and concomitant social standing, but she quietly pokes fun at his philosophizing (pp. 382, 384-85), his insistence on a schedule or on the importance of the right ambience for seduction, which she finds ‘süß’ (p. 383), or which drives her to call him an old man (pp. 379, 384). She refrains, however, from any open criticism of his desire to paint a Hungarian sunset (p. 380), where previously she had poured scorn on the writer's similar apostrophizing of nature, and her earlier delight in calling people names is here restricted to her giving him the name of what he describes as a Godforsaken garrison town in western Hungary: ‘Adieu, Steinamanger!’ Although she is also more cautious than before in taking the initiative, it is once more the woman who does so, kissing his hand or asking for a kiss (pp. 378, 382), repeatedly telling him to come nearer or to remove his sword (pp. 381-83), lying to him that they cannot be disturbed because the door (through which he has only just entered!) cannot be opened from outside (p. 382), or being the first to switch to ‘Du’ in yet another instance of the elaborate to and fro between formal and informal modes of address. It is she who then appears to want to impose distance afterwards, although this is very much in the nature of a grand dramatic gesture (‘ich [will] dich nie wiedersehen’ (p. 384)),27 as is her final staging of the formal farewell which she then herself disrupts with her ironic reference to Steinamanger. As in the previous scene, the actress does nothing to hide her enjoyment of sex, and once more performance in that sphere is equated with acting ability: the Count, she suggests, should have been an actor (p. 384)!

The Count has been considered as the most sympathetic of the male characters,28 yet in his way he is just as wrapped up in his own affairs and his philosophizing as the writer, and arguably has rather less intelligence. His cliché-ridden philosophy (people are the same everywhere, there is no such thing as happiness, one must abandon oneself to the moment (p. 380)) can hardly be taken seriously and leads to the actress's ironic comment: ‘Sie haben wohl den Sinn erfaßt’ (p. 381),29 or she reminds him of one of his own clichés:

Ich bin sehr glücklich.
Nun, ich dachte, es gibt kein Glück.

(p. 382)

The actress accuses him of being a ‘Poseur’ (pp. 382-83), which was true of the writer but not of the Count, for the simple reason that he is unaware of the artificiality of his stance. Schnitzler's most scathing criticism of the military is, of course, to be found in Leutnant Gustl, but the Count is just as empty-headed as (if perhaps more idealistic in his acceptance of the military way of life than) the young lieutenant, whose existence is threatened by the very code that gives his otherwise empty life some semblance of meaning. Certainly the Count's language is as artificial and exaggerated as that of the writer (‘gespielt wie eine Göttin’, ‘kolossal’ (p. 378)) and with his insistence on routine and order and his determination to see the actress as a problem or as somehow mysterious (pp. 379, 382), not least because she does not fit in with his male order of things, he is as much a comic character as the young man and the writer, whilst his penchant for philosophizing and his concern for atmosphere, ambience, and routine link him with all other male characters except perhaps the soldier.

If, as the actress suggests, he does revert to his formal exterior, ‘als wär nichts geschehen’ (p. 384), then he is once more conforming to the archetypal male pattern, although his reaction to such an implied criticism may indicate that this is another example of the actress's role-playing. Indeed, if the Count is one of the more sympathetic male characters, then it is in part because he finds himself cast in the female role, seeking excuses for leaving and worried about being disturbed (pp. 382-83), and very much at the mercy of the actress who, as in the previous scene, takes over the behaviour patterns that elsewhere characterize the play's male protagonists. Perhaps it is inevitable that as a result, and also in view of his rather exaggerated chivalry and sense of decorum, there appears to be something of the artist manqué, even of the fop or dandy about him, although the continual references to his male colleagues that may lead a late twentieth-century reader to pursue such a line of enquiry further are almost certainly not to be understood in that way.30 In any case, the actress's implicit praise of his performance also negates any attempt to read significance into his removing his sabre before sex, despite the tempting link with similar imagery in Leutnant Gustl.

The cycle of erotic encounters is completed by the character who makes a living out of man's sexual urges and who has by now progressed from furtive coupling on river banks to a room of her own, admittedly a decidedly dilapidated one, and is even dreaming of a move to the more salubrious Spiegelgasse. In other respects, however, the final scene is somewhat different from the rest. The sexual aspect is already some hours past, and the Count has no recollection of having slept with the prostitute and is quite convinced that he did not. He is otherwise determined to see the prostitute as ‘tugendhaft’ and ‘unschuldig’, as a princess (pp. 386-87), a motif that strikes one as a grotesque variation on the young man's desire for a relationship with ‘eine anständige Frau’. In a way that once more links him with the female characters in the play, he convinces himself that she reminds him of a former love. When forced to acknowledge that his meeting has had the inevitable outcome, he regrets the fact that he has missed out on what would have been a somewhat different experience: ‘Es wär doch schön gewesen, wenn ich sie nur auf die Augen geküßt hätt. Das wär mir beinah ein Abenteuer gewesen’ (p. 390). The Count may wish he could have momentarily escaped the never-ending cycle, but it is known that at midday the prostitute will be seeking her next client, and the play's cycle resists final closure in a way guaranteed to satisfy even the most ardent disciples of Lacan and Kristeva.

The concluding scene is also unusual in that there is no explicit comedy to speak of, certainly not by comparison with the preceding scenes, but merely a certain gentle irony at the Count's expense which arises out of the contrast between his philosophizing and the prostitute's very down-to-earth approach, a contrast reminiscent of the scene with the writer and the ‘süßes Mädel’. What little comedy there is does conform to the established pattern: at the expense of the male character even if not specifically generated by the woman's humour. This contrast applies even where, as in the case of the actress, it is the woman who reveals the usually male characteristics of an unscrupulous pursuit of the sensual goal and a lack of emotional commitment. That a major source of the play's comedy derives from the contrast between the behaviour of male and female characters might be seen as a conventional ingredient of many comedies, but there is the further contrast between the characters' actual behaviour and that which the social codes of Schnitzler's day might lead one to expect. The men in Schnitzler's play range from the slightly pathetic (the Count and the young man) to the unsavoury or simply vulgar (the husband and the soldier), with the pomposity of the writer somewhere in the middle. He at least has some flashes of the humour and irony that is otherwise reserved for female figures such as the ‘süßes Mädel’ and more especially the young woman and the actress.

On the whole, however, the women are more witty and amusing, but also as a result more warm and sympathetic, whilst the men appear shallow and lacking in warmth and humanity. For all the male characters, empty philosophizing and a concern with order and ritual replace or even indicate a lack of genuine emotional involvement. The men may be keen to stress the depth of their love and the uniqueness of the present relationship, but their partial dislike and fear of sexuality, witnessed most clearly in the characters of husband and Count, mean that they are quick to break any romantic spell and to return to the security of male-oriented social normality once they have had their brief moment of pleasure. According to Klaus Kilian, for all characters, including the women, ‘geht es ausschließlich um die Befriedigung ihrer Begierde, um reine Sexualität’ (Kilian, p. 60), yet the women, unlike their male counterparts, retain an awareness of past loves, with which they are happy to compare present experience. They appear to derive a more lasting pleasure from sexual experience, showing less furtiveness and fewer signs of post-coital guilt. Even the prostitute regrets that she could not sleep with the soldier in more comfortable surroundings, whilst the final scene finds her sleeping contentedly after her night with the drunken Count. For the women, sexuality is a weapon that gives them a certain power over men, or at the very least an awareness of equality with them, and the humour displayed by the female characters derives in no small part from that awareness; in this respect, if not in the others so often asserted (see note 13 above), it may be correct to agree with the Count that ‘der Schlaf macht alle gleich’. For the same reasons, however, the men find sexuality a threat, a potential source of inferiority and, not merely in a sexual sense, impotence.

Paradoxically, it is the men's own codes of social behaviour, stated in their most extreme and ludicrous form by the husband in the play's pivotal scene, which demand that they go in search of sex as a proof of their superiority and virility, and which lead inevitably to the more sordid aspects of sexuality depicted in the first and last scenes of the cycle, from which there is no escape except the Count's naively romantic ideal of merely kissing the prostitute's eyes.31 It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that in the final scene ‘Lustigkeit’ is indeed outweighed by ‘Melancholie’, as the cycle returns to the character who owes her raison d'être to the suppression of more natural and mutual sexuality that is codified in social convention. If only by implication, however, Reigen invites us to rethink such socially determined patterns of behaviour and the conventional gender roles they produce. Certainly the actress has manipulated or openly flouted the rules set by male society and turned them to her own advantage, whilst the young woman is prepared to play her own game and assert her superiority although apparently following rules that dictate the opposite, and it is they who communicate the greatest sense of humour and of joie de vivre. To borrow the terminology of the often unsatisfactory distinction between Komödie and Lustspiel,32Reigen not merely is concerned with unmasking the inadequacies and false values of human life and society but also reveals a good-natured understanding of human foibles and limitations that is expressed in the wit and humour of certain characters. As such comedy is surely meant to indicate, sexuality is not to be seen in exclusively negative terms as ‘rein animalisch’, ‘sinnlos und seelenlos’, as a source of disappointment, ‘Ausweglosigkeit’, or ‘experiential impoverishment’,33 and Schnitzler's portrayal of human behaviour is perhaps rather less a metaphor of death and despair than the massed ranks of (predominantly male!) literary critics have so frequently claimed.


  1. Typically Ursula Keller, ‘Böser Dinge hübsche Formel’. Das Wien Arthur Schnitzlers (Berlin: Guttandin & Hoppe, 1984), pp. 177-94; Bruce Thompson, Schnitzler's Vienna (London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 63-68; Johanna Bossinade, ‘“Wenn es aber … bei mir anders wäre”. Die Frage der Geschlechterbeziehungen in Arthur Schnitzlers Reigen’, in Aufsätze zu Literatur und Kunst der Jahrhundertwende, ed. by Gerhard Kluge (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984), pp. 273-328 (pp. 276-77). For earlier critics, see Rolf-Peter Janz and Klaus Laermann, Arthur Schnitzler. Zur Diagnose des Wiener Bürgertums im Fin de Siècle (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1977); Martin Swales, Arthur Schnitzler: A Critical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).

  2. Klaus Kilian, Die Komödien Arthur Schnitzlers. Sozialer Rollenzwang und kritische Ethik (Düsseldorf: Bertelsmann, 1972). Ernst L. Offermanns devotes one short paragraph to what he considers one of the ‘Vorformen von Schnitzlers Komödie’ (Arthur Schnitzler. Das Komödienwerk als Kritik des Impressionismus (Munich: Fink, 1973), pp. 12-13). More recently, Peter Skrine has described the play as ‘a tour de force of comic invention’ but is unable to develop the matter further within the constraints of a general introduction to three dramatists (Hauptmann, Wedekind and Schnitzler (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), p. 131); see also W. E. Yates's reference to the play's intention ‘to function as a sexual comedy’ (Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal and the Austrian Theatre (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 133).

  3. The second volume of Das deutsche Lustspiel, ed. by Hans Steffen (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1969), includes an essay on Der grüne Kakadu by Herbert Singer (pp. 61-78) but otherwise studies of comedy and compilations of essays on individual comedies seldom refer to Schnitzler, let alone to Reigen; see, for example, Wesen und Form des Komischen im Drama, ed. by Reinhold Grimm and Klaus L. Berghahn (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1975), Die deutsche Komödie vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, ed. by Walter Hinck (Düsseldorf: Bagel, 1977). One exception is Morton Gurewitch, Comedy: The Irrational Vision (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1975), but his one brief comment that ‘Schnitzler's Reigen […] splendidly illustrates the imagination of irony’ (p. 18) is difficult to interpret.

  4. Robert Cushman, The Observer, 17 January 1982.

  5. Richard Alewyn, postscript to the edition of the play published by Fischer Verlag (Frankfurt a.M., 1981, pp. 175-76). See especially Helga Schiffer, ‘Arthur Schnitzlers Reigen’, Text und Kontext, 11 (1983), 7-34; also Swales, p. 234; Claudio Magris, ‘Arthur Schnitzler und das Karussell der Triebe’, in Arthur Schnitzler in neuer Sicht, ed. by Hartmut Scheible (Munich: Fink, 1981), p. 73; Gerhart Baumann, Arthur Schnitzler. Die Welt von Gestern eines Dichters von Morgen (Frankfurt a.M.: Athenäum, 1965), p. 15. The only critics who have rejected the link are Hartmut Scheible, Arthur Schnitzler (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1976), p. 65; Jon Barry Sanders, ‘Arthur Schnitzler's Reigen: Lost Romanticism’, Modern Austrian Literature, 1 (1965), 56-66 (p. 57); also Bossinade, pp. 276-77, Janz and Laermann, pp. 56-57, and Skrine, who concludes that ‘there is scant evidence in the text to suggest that the spectre of mortality is waiting in the wings’ (p. 132).

  6. Letter to Dora Michaelis, 5 February 1921, in Arthur Schnitzler, Briefe 1913-31, ed. by Peter Michael Braunwirth and others (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1984), p. 231. Quotations from Reigen are from Gesammelte Werke. Die dramatischen Werke, 2 vols (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1972), 1, 327-90.

  7. Bernd Schoeller, Gelächter und Spannung. Studien zur Struktur des heiteren Dramas (Zurich: Atlantis, 1971), p. 9.

  8. Fritz Martini, Lustspiele—und das Lustspiel (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1974), p. 32.

  9. Introduction to Deutsche Komödien. Vom Barock bis zur Gegenwart, ed. by Winfried Freund (Munich: Fink, 1988), p. 12.

  10. The links between Schnitzler and Bauernfeld are stressed by Helmut Prang (Geschichte des Lustspiels (Stuttgart: Kröner, 1968), p. 280), and more recently by W. E. Yates, who refers specifically to Schnitzler's debt to the Konversationsstück (pp. 68-70). The social uncertainties that undermined the fashion for the Konversationsstück are examined by Hans-Peter Bayerdörfer (‘Vom Konversationsstück zur Wurstelkomödie. Zu Arthur Schnitzlers Einaktern’, Jahrbuch der Deutschen Schillergesellschaft, 16 (1972), 516-75 (pp. 519-20)).

  11. Hunter G. Hannum, ‘Killing Time: Aspects of Schnitzler's Reigen’, Germanic Review, 37 (1962), 190-206 (pp. 205-06); also Swales, p. 251. The modern aspects are more justifiably stressed by Bayerdörfer in the context of the slightly later Zum großen Wurstel; see also Swales, p. 273.

  12. One need look no further than the theories summarized in the Metzler Literatur-Lexikon, ed. by Günther and Irmgard Schweikle (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1990), pp. 243-48. See the comment of Winfried Freund: ‘Fast drängt sich dem Leser all der schwergewichtigen Definitionen und tiefernsten Erörterungen der Eindruck auf, als habe man die Komödie mit der tragischen Elle gemessen, sie gewogen, aber zu leicht befunden’ (p. 7).

  13. The linking motifs have been examined in some detail, if not always entirely accurately, by Erna Neuse, in ‘Die Funktion von Motiven und stereotypen Wendungen in Schnitzlers Reigen’, Monatshefte, 64 (1972), 356-70, but with only the briefest mention of what she recognizes as their comic impact. See also Keller, pp. 182-83.

  14. There is a tendency amongst critics to paraphrase the Count's words in the final scene and stress that ‘die Liebe macht alle gleich’: Kilian, p. 61; Neuse, p. 367; Michaela L. Perlmann, Arthur Schnitzler (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1987), pp. 41-42. Swales (p. 233) writes of ‘faceless, nameless marionettes’, similarly Alewyn, p. 174. Not surprisingly, critics who question such an interpretation are often those who distance themselves from the parallel with the Totentanz (for example, Janz and Laermann, p. 57; see above, note 1). Others seek an uneasy compromise: for Schiffer the characters are ‘sowohl Individuen als auch Marionetten’ (p. 28), whilst Keller's insistence ‘sie sind beileibe keine papierenen Abstraktionen’ (p. 190) is outweighed by her constant references to ‘das Immergleiche’.

  15. Most recently Thompson, pp. 67-68. It is surprising that this view has managed to coexist with the insistence that all are equal: perhaps women are more equal than others! W. E. Yates, however, argues that ‘the sexes are given equal weight and presented with equal irony’ (p. 133).

  16. One is also reminded of Anatol's insistence on ‘Stimmung’ (Die dramatischen Werke, 1, 57).

  17. In this scene especially one can only concur with Robert Cushman (see note 4) that the Viennese had ‘enviably rapid powers of recovery!’.

  18. Swales underlines the contrast between stage directions and verbal protestations (p. 236).

  19. That women lack the possibility of escape to a social normality that is male-dominated and male-orientated is undoubtedly true, but Bossinade's repeated suggestions of ‘eine latent homoerotische Dimension’ (pp. 297, 300, and elsewhere) seem questionable.

  20. To accuse the young woman of being frivolous and coquettish (Thompson, p. 65) is surely to overlook the extent to which she is playing a game according to the rules dictated by her husband. Even more questionable is the categorization of her as ‘die dämonische Frau’ (Barbara Gutt, Emanzipation bei Arthur Schnitzler (Berlin: Spiess, 1978), p. 54).

  21. See Thompson, p. 65; Janz and Laermann, p. 59; Swales, p. 245. Lotte S. Couch writes of ‘die Verbannung der Sexualität aus dem bürgerlichen Familienleben’ (‘Der Reigen: Schnitzler und Sigmund Freud’, Osterreich in Geschichte und Literatur, 16 (1972), 217-27 (p. 223)).

  22. For Bossinade (pp. 313-15) this indicates the young woman's desire for the kind of contact with other women rendered impossible by a male-dominated society in which women have no independent identity but can exist only as a function of male desire.

  23. The to and fro between the forms of address as the husband encourages her to use the more informal ‘Du’; the girl's desire for a more permanent relationship, which in this case leads her to go with someone who reminds her of her boyfriend who abandoned her; her increasingly feeble attempts to resist the husband's advances (sie wehrt kaum ab (p. 360)) and to find excuses to go home to her mother (pp. 357, 360); the usual fear that someone may come in and disturb them (p. 360).

  24. Similarly, as he fantasizes about forgetting her or about overcoming the barriers between near and far (‘Geh, was redst denn—?’ (p. 367)), or as he contemplates the natural idyll of their relationship or their future parting (p. 370).

  25. For example, Janz and Laermann, p. 67. Gutt rightly denies that such an exchange of roles means that the actress is presented as a masculine type: ‘In seinem Werk finden sich die Rollen häufig vertauscht, ohne daß die Geschlechtszugehörigkeit ihrer jeweiligen Träger in Frage gestellt wird’ (p. 117). Less convincingly, Bossinade sees the actress as a plaything of writer and audience (Count) respectively, because she is a product of the male world of the theatre.

  26. It is noteworthy that, with the exception of the actress (and almost inevitably the prostitute), the women more often refer to the men by name, whereas the men are more likely to refer to the partner as ‘Fräulein’ or ‘Kind’. This detail of characterization is inevitably overlooked in any insistence that the characters remain nameless, which is only true of the list of characters (Heinz Rieder, Arthur Schnitzler (Vienna: Bergland, 1973), p. 53; see also Alewyn, p. 174, Swales, p. 233).

  27. The juxtaposition of a farewell for ever and arrangements for a rendezvous again links the actress with the young woman in the fourth scene.

  28. Neuse, p. 364, Keller, p. 181; also Ernst L. Offermanns, in Handbuch des deutschen Dramas, ed. by Walter Hinck (Düsseldorf: Bagel, 1980), p. 332.

  29. Hannum manages to see the actress's words as the summation of a highly significant conversation on the ‘time philosophy of the characters’ (pp. 202-03).

  30. Rather surprisingly, Bossinade appears to find the Count a less productive source of ‘homoerotische Dimensionen’ than other male protagonists.

  31. To see this as the play's message (Sanders, p. 65) is surely to misunderstand the play almost entirely.

  32. Otto Rommel, ‘Komick und Lustspieltheorie’, in Wesen und Form des Komischen im Drama (see note 3 above), p. 49 (first published in Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift, 21 (1943), 252-86); Gero von Wilpert, Sachwörterbuch der Literatur (Stuttgart: Kröner, 1964), p. 397.

  33. Respectively Neuse, p. 367; Rieder, p. 53; Janz and Laermann, p. 72; Schiffer, p. 27; Swales, p. 51.

Criticism: Der Schleier Der Pierrette

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SOURCE: Sullivan, Lawrence. “Arthur Schnitzler's The Bridal Veil at the American Laboratory Theatre.” Dance Research Journal 25, no. 1 (spring 1993): 13-20.

[In the following essay, Sullivan explains the ways in which Schnitzler's Der Schleier der Pierrette allowed stage directors to break away from realist conventions and explore abstract and symbolist theatrical effects.]

Whatever the particular intentions of the playwright, Arthur Schnitzler's Der Schleier der Pierrette (The Veil of Pierrette), a ballet-pantomime first performed in Dresden, January 22, 1910, with music by Ernst von Dohnányi, became, in the first year of its composition, a vehicle of avant-garde experimentalists on the Russian theatrical scene. In October 1910, Vsevolod Meyerhold used Schnitzler's ballet-pantomime for his own avant-garde interests in commedia dell'arte motifs, producing Columbine's Scarf (a variant title) at the House of Interludes in St. Petersburg. Three years later, in 1913, Alexander Tairov, as anti-Meyerholdean as he was anti-Stanislavskian, also staged a version of Der Schleier under the title The Veil of Pierrette, at the Mardzhanov's Free Theatre in Moscow. Both directors, relying on different aesthetic principles, used the commedia dell'arte ballet-pantomime as a statement against Stanislavskian psychological realism1.

The historical significance of Schnitzler's ballet-pantomime was its appeal not only to experimental directors, such as Max Reinhardt, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Alexander Tairov, but also to talented stage designers such as Nicholas Sapunov, Sergei Soudeikine, Antatoly Arapov, Alexandra Exeter, and Natalia Gontcharova. For example, Nicholas Sapunov's setting for Meyerhold's first version of Columbine's Scarf was based on his earlier design for Alexander Blok's anti-realist play The Fairground Booth (Balagantchik). Directed by Meyerhold in 1906, the scenery for The Fairground Booth consisted of a cardboard backdrop with cutouts through which the actors projected their heads, arms, and legs and from which they performed their roles. Such anti-realistic scenic devices, the use of commedia dell'arte stock characters, puppets, and Punch-and-Judy episodes, all aimed to reject the psychological and literal realism found in Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre2.

Something of a novelty in theatrical genre, the ballet pantomime provided these directors with a fresh artistic freedom where action of the drama could be expressed by theatrical devices without the aid of the written or spoken word. Konstantin Rudnitsky, Russian critic and historian, describes the new prevailing attitude aptly:

But from 1910 onwards, an antipathy among Russian theatrical innovators to all “literature,” including the classics—in fact against the written word in general, began to make itself felt. Theories were devised to justify the compulsion to rescue the actor from delivery of text of any kind. Wordless action was attractive because it created the possibility of proving the autonomy and intrinsic value of theatrical art, its complete independence from literature. Practice kept up with theory. Both the experienced Meyerhold and the still very young Tairov experimented with mime. They each staged the same mime by Artur [sic] Schnitzler set to music by Ernst Dohnany—Meyerhold under the title of Columbine's Scarf, and Tairov under the title The Veil of Pierrette. Although the productions were in no way alike, they both aroused lively interest in theatrical circles.3

Not only was there freedom from a literary text, but as one Viennese dramatic critic put it, the ballet-pantomime was “to liberate the dance from the ballet.” The periodical Tanzblätter interprets this comment to mean that there was a need “to eliminate passages from a ballet that were dramaturgically unnecessary, to concentrate on the action, and to interpret it not only through pantomime but through dancing” (p. 11). Thus, Schnitzler's Der Schleier der Pierrette offered directors opportunities to explore new and compelling symbolistic theatrical effects as an alternative to the well-worn devices of realism found in traditional naturalistic presentations.

Given this historical Russian context of Schnitzler's ballet-pantomime, it is surprising that on January 21, 1928 the first American production of Der Schleier der Pierrette, under the title The Bridal Veil, opened in New York at the American Laboratory Theatre. This school and theatre, staffed by Russian emigrés from Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre and dedicated to Stanislavskian theatrical principles, seems to be an unlikely place to stage a work that had earned its reputation in Russian productions as a non-realist vehicle. Yet, The Bridal Veil under the choreography and direction of Elizabeth Anderson-Ivantzova proved, as its critical reception revealed, to be one of the more successful ventures of the Lab Theatre.

Co-founded in 1923 by Richard Boleslavsky, formerly of the Moscow Art Theatre, and Mrs. Herbert Stockton, the American Laboratory Theatre started out as a school and eventually evolved into a “laboratory” theatre in the manner of Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre. After deciding not to return to Russia with the Moscow Art Theatre then on tour in the U.S., Maria Ouspenskaya joined Boleslavsky in 1924 as dramatic coach and acting teacher4. Mme Anderson-Ivantzova, unlike Boleslavsky and Ouspenskaya, did not come out of Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre. The young Anderson's theatrical training began in 1898 or 1899 at the Imperial Ballet School in Moscow, from which she graduated in 1906. She received her primary instruction from celebrated teachers and principal dancers Mikhail Mordkin and Vassily Tikhomirov. In addition, her dramatic coaching for principal ballet roles was from Alexander Gorsky, under whom she made her début in 1916 as Aurora in Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty5. As an emerging, young ballerina, Elizabeth Anderson was specially cited by Oliver M. Sayler during his visit to Moscow in 1917 for her strength as a dramatic interpreter of the roles she assumed in Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake6. Little is known of her connection, if any, with Stanislavsky in Moscow, save that Sayler notes her attendance among the “pillars of the Moscow stage” at a First Studio dress rehearsal of Twelfth Night, describing her as “the bewitching blonde inheritor of Pavlova's laurels in the ballet …”7. Mme Anderson-Ivantzova emigrated to the West during the 1918-1919 season to find a career in exile not only in dancing but also in choreography.

When she arrived in Paris in 1920, she performed with Nikita Balieff's Théâtre de la Chauve-Souris during its opening season and choreographed various dances for the first three programs. Nikita Balieff, an illustrious theatrical entrepreneur and performer from Moscow, was originally an actor with the Moscow Art Theatre before he founded his own Letuchaya Muish or Bat Theatre in 1908. His success in Moscow was legendary, and in Paris the critics declared the Chauve-Souris a sensation and a model avant-garde theatre8. After Mme Anderson-Ivantzova left the Chauve-Souris, we hear of her at Max Reinhardt's Kammerspiele des Deutschen Theaters in Berlin where, in September 1922, she first choreographed Schnitzler's Der Schleier der Pierrette for a production by the Kikimora Theatre Company of Moscow, for which Natalia Gontcharova designed the sets and costumes9. Having completed a season at the San Carlo Opera House in Lisbon in 1922-23, Anderson-Ivantzova returned to Paris to perform with Le Théâtre Balagantchik in a production of Foire de Moscou, directed by M. Korniloff with scene designs by Sergei Soudeikine10. While it is difficult from the sources to associate Mme Anderson-Ivantzova directly with Stanislavsky, we see that she had worked under Gorsky, who was directly influenced by Stanislavsky11, under Balieff, who was a member of the Moscow Art Theatre, and with Boleslavsky, who in New York was an acknowledged spokesman for Stanislavsky's theories of acting and an illustrious product of the Moscow Art Theatre. Nevertheless, it was probably her own natural bent in dramatic performing and her professional experience with protégés of Stanislavsky that led to an invitation to teach ballet and body movement at the American Laboratory Theatre and to her direction of two dance-pantomimes, Arthur Schnitzler's The Bridal Veil (1928) and Jean Cocteau's Le Boeuf sur le toit (1930).

Of the first production, The Bridal Veil, some details are known concerning the lighting, costumes, and set design. Documents on the technical costs, letters to a costume maker and to an agent on royalty matters, a crayon sketch of the set for Scene I and of the costumes for the Bride (Pierrette) and the Groom (Harlequin), and a statement of what seems to be a declaration of aesthetic principles intended for the program notes by James Reynolds, the designer, are the only original sources presently available to the researcher12. From these documents, we learn that the set design required platforms, that Mrs. Walter Fleischer was offered a contract to make the costumes, and that the business manager, Richard Aldrich, expressed what apparently he saw as a unique optimism within the company about the production itself. In his letter to Mrs. Herbert Stockton, a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Lab Theatre, Aldrich reports that “for the first time in the history of the [American Laboratory] theatre, all the departments seem to be uniformly enthusiastic about the production. … They all feel that it is to be the most spectacular and interesting of any of our productions. Due to the costumes and the sets which Mr. James Reynolds has designed, The Veil will literally be a feast for the eyes and something quite unusual and new to New York City”13.

Despite the optimism of Richard Aldrich's letter, according to J. W. Roberts, sometime prior to January 6, 1928 a significant disagreement arose between the choreographer and the designer14. Apparently Anderson-Ivantzova rejected Reynolds's designs for the pantomime because in her judgment they were “static and did not ‘move’.” A dramatic argument ensued between Boleslavsky and Anderson-Ivantzova, but in the end Boleslavsky forced the issue and called for a vote to determine whether to use Reynolds's proposal. Anderson-Ivantzova lost, and the production went forward with Reynolds's designs.

The altercation between choreographer and scene designer notwithstanding, Aldrich's letter contains a number of telling items. The participants, Aldrich writes to Mrs. Stockton, felt optimistic about the successful outcome of the production, and they believed that the aesthetic result would be “spectacular” and “interesting.” It would be interesting because as a ballet-pantomime, a relatively novel genre to New York, The Veil would impose on audiences, as the reviewer in Theatre Arts Monthly later would note, the need to listen with their eyes. It would be spectacular because Reynolds's sets and costumes would be aesthetically effective in the merging of design, color, and lighting with the choreographic movement of the pantomime and with Schnitzler's verbal text and Dohnányi's music. Aldrich's letter concludes with the happy expectation of moving the production to Broadway through the influence of Jed Harris. Aldrich's ardent hope for a Broadway run was not fulfilled, but his judgment about the artistic success of the production seems to be confirmed by some of the details provided by reviewers.

James Reynolds (1891-1954), the designer, coming from such commercial Broadway successes as The Vagabond King (1925) and The Royal Family (1927), has left us with a credo that explains his interest in the American Laboratory Theatre's production of The Bridal Veil. His initial attraction to the theatre, he explains, began with an interest in the ballet, “its twin[,] pantomime,” and seventeenth-century forms of the commedia dell'arte. His interest in these forms, he tells us, embraced “the whole ballet tradition—the classic Les Sylphides as well as the modern work of the Diaghileff group and pantomime.” He goes on to say that “pantomime depends like ballet upon stylized emotion, and like ballet aims above all for a visual effect. It thus provides the surest inspiration for the designer”15.

This credo is significant in its context, I think, because it identifies pantomime with a particular kind of ballet, i.e., a scenario ballet either with character or narrative for its content (as in many of the Diaghilev ballets), and because the choreography or movement communicates its visual effect through “stylized emotion.” From this statement it may be presumed that the design for The Bridal Veil evolved from Schnitzler's written text and from the rendering by the choreographer of the written word into dance movement or gesture. Because of its unknown date of composition, Reynolds's statement may have been written before or after the quarrel between the choreographer and the designer. In any event, the declaration of a unified aesthetic purpose between choreographer and scene designer may have become the basis for Aldrich's claim to Mrs. Stockton that a unique optimism prevailed in the company and that “all the departments seem to be uniformly enthusiastic about the production …”16.

Design created from movement and gesture was something that Reynolds could experiment with at the Lab Theatre since the kind of audience it attracted was receptive to innovation. The freedom offered at the Lab Theatre stood in direct contrast to what he met with in the Broadway theatre, for, as he says, “the designer who seeks expression in the commercial theatre in this country encounters an intolerably unintelligent point of view”17. An experimental theatre, with its low cost budget, its artistic priorities, and its relatively small but generally receptive audiences, afforded theatre artists an opportunity to discard well-worn formulas for innovative enterprises and new discoveries. Even as theatre artists, their commitment to financial success aimed at self-sufficiency rather than at investment returns to stolid stockholders. The judgment of the New York critics partially confirms the optimism of Aldrich, and their criticism, though aiming to reflect what they thought they saw on stage, actually revealed as much about their own tastes and assumptions as it did about the production itself. Thus, in acquiring as many critical opinions as possible, one hopes for a more balanced view of the undertaking of The Bridal Veil than what can be gained from a single assessment. With that aim in view, it is helpful to review the writings of as many critics as are available from press clippings and other sources.

Generally speaking, the critical reception of The Bridal Veil was mixed18. Of the ten reviews consulted, four were clearly favorable, though with some qualification three were plainly unfavorable, with occasional compliments; and two, those of the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune, stood on neutral ground by being anonymous, essentially reportorial, and brief. Theatre Arts Monthly, on the other hand, without ostensibly reviewing the production itself, reviewed the reviewers, leaving little doubt in the reader's mind that the Laboratory Theatre had created something important19. Critical openness, it was urged, shapes a reviewer's attitudes and evaluative judgment. As a case in point, the commentator for Theatre Arts Monthly observed that:

pantomime as a dramatic form has always been particularly popular in theatres where actors have style and where audiences have the listening eyes that belong to people of imagination—a limitation which has made it increasingly unpopular in the modern theatre. … Watching a pantomime takes almost as much grace and flexibility as acting in it. The interesting thing about the response to The Bridal Veil is its diversity—the audience (and incidentally the critics) liked it or disliked it according to their openmindedness and their ability to see without words.

(p. 232)

The writer then goes on to quote Richard Lockridge, assigned by the New York Sun, as an example of a critic with limited vision:

Pantomime is a very definite art. It must have as its background a measurable sophistication and can only, before that background, posture at naïveté. The present cast provides the naïveté in full measure, but its sophistication is on the whole that of so many circus acrobats.

(p. 232)

Ironically enough, this judgment of The Bridal Veil has prevailed down to our own times when one sees in The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1920-1930, published in 1985, the very same quote cited verbatim as representative of the collective critical assessment of the ballet-pantomime20. The Theatre Arts Monthly commentator clearly disagreed with Lockridge's judgment, preferring the review of “the new critic [Robert Littell] at the New York Evening Post” (p. 235), who obviously was able “to see without words”21.

Another approach to assessing the ballet-pantomime was taken by Thomas Barrett, reviewing for The Billboard. In response to what he heard several members of the audience ask—“What's it all about?”—Barrett provided his readers with a note from the performance program that summarized Schnitzler's pantomime. The version of the plot implied the theme that artists and lovers are not survivors in this world. The quote here renders Schnitzler's plot somewhat poetically, omitting, however, some essential elements of the action:

The sculptor is in no mood for merry making. His friends, in holiday attire, come to take him to a ball, but he refuses to be persuaded. He prefers to wait for his love, whom he has not seen for weeks. And then she comes. She comes not as his love but as a bride, for her parents have betrothed her to a rich man. She comes in her bridal veil, for this is the night of her wedding. She comes bringing a wine which will end their sorrows, and the sculptor, draining the glass at a draft, leaves merry making and sorrow forever. Leaves also the bride, to drain as best she may the bitterer cup of dance and song and a love grown hateful. But this cup also proves too much for her strength. From the ball and its sinister gaiety she flees to her dead lover, only to be captured and derided by the bridegroom, balked of his prey, but swift in his revenge. When he has left her with her dead lover, her heart breaks, her mind becomes distraught and she joins him [the Sculptor] at last.22

This synopsis of the plot only cryptically alludes to some important details that make this ballet-pantomime a grotesque. For example, in Scene I the “wine” the Bride brings is a vial of poison to end their lives; the Sculptor alone drinks it and dies before her eyes; in Scene II the ghost of the Sculptor bearing her bridal veil in his hand appears to the Bride (something she alone sees) and pursues her during the dancing; her strange behavior enrages the Bridegroom, whom she then flees to return to the Sculptor's quarters, but the Bridegroom follows her to find the Sculptor lying on the floor. Thinking the Sculptor to be asleep, the Bridgroom picks up the body and props it up on the couch. Then he learns that the Sculptor is dead, and in revenge he locks the Bride in the apartment with the corpse of her dead lover. Frantically trying to escape from the room, she rushes about in every direction to be free, but goes mad in the attempt and dies, dropping along side the body of the Sculptor. The absence of some of these details certainly may have caused some consternation among those in the audience who may not have been able to discover why the characters behaved the way they did.

In the original text Schnitzler identified his main characters as Pierrot the Lover who was a painter (and not a sculptor), Pierrette the Bride, and Harlequin the Bridegroom. The Lab production did not use those traditional commedia dell'arte names, perhaps because they were less familiar to American audiences, but used general character types—a Sculptor, a Bride, and a Bridegroom. Following Schnitzler's text, the pantomime was divided into three tableaux or scenes: the Sculptor's quarters, the Bride's home, and again the Sculptor's quarters. The performance lasted about an hour, with the first and last scenes each taking about ten minutes to play, whereas the second scene, the wedding party at the Bride's house, took about forty minutes. As the reviews suggest, most of the dancing occurred during Scenes II and III, the Ballroom scene and the final scene of the Bride's demise into madness and death. A single piano provided the music for this production, which was something of a liability because the dramatic content of the action was so intense that, as some critics noted, the dance movement required a more substantial musical accompaniment to sustain the dramatic emotion than that afforded by the piano alone.

… As stated earlier, there is a technical design of the platforms to be built for Scene II, and two critics noted that the action took place on several levels. Stark Young, critic for The New Republic, offering us a sense of the visual effectiveness of the overall design, considered the “décor in both scenery and costumes … beautiful and fresh”23, and Oliver Sayler, writing for The Saturday Review of Literature, found Reynolds's work and Anderson-Ivantzova's choreography well coordinated. Sayler says:

Schnitzler's simple retelling of the legend of Pierrot, Pierrette, and the Bridegroom, and von Dohnanyi's score are fused by the choreography. The wedding of the two arts to make a third is blessed and perfected by James Reynolds's boldly original and exotic but strangely blending costumes which flash against his happily conceived settings.24

These observations, unfortunately, do not offer us much specific detail of the actual setting itself for Scene II or of the costumes worn by the dancing ensemble. The remaining critics merely acknowledge visual effectiveness with such remarks as “attractive and colorful costumes,” “stage settings well done,” or “gayly dressed couples.” None expressed any fault with the settings or costumes.

The principals who played the Sculptor, Bride, and Bridegroom generally received good notices for their work. There was no agreement, however, in the selection of the best performer. Anne Schmidt, we are told, by Benjamin DeCasseres of Arts & Decoration, surpassed herself in the role of the Bride, whereas Stark Young, in his review for the New Republic, found her only “fair.” Young felt that Harold Hecht as the Sculptor was “highly successful,” and that “talent appears constantly in what he does, and most of all in that strange, indefinable absorption and awe in the stage movement that he feels—the quality that in this instance most singles him out from all the others of the company”25. Donald Hartman's Bridegroom was well received by all who mentioned the character in their review, except Thomas Barrett, who gave a qualified notice, saying Hartman overacted a bit because of the voice restraints required by pantomime, but otherwise offered “a forceful performance”26. The company players as a group were cited for their “youthful and conscientious performance” in the four-sentence notice by the New York Times, whereas Stark Young and Oliver Saylor noted the dancers' success in ensemble playing, a hallmark of the Stanislavskian legacy.

The reception of The Bridal Veil generally produced some extraordinary comments by the reviewers who did not have a personal aversion to pantomime or to Schnitzler's play. One reviewer found that the production, appearing as it did at the wane of the theatrical season, was a “most delightful surprise.” The American Laboratory Theatre, says DeCasseres, revealed “the highest point of its career and, besides, it has produced one of the most artistic, best directed and best acted plays of the season.” Robert Littell, writing for the New York Evening Post, said The Bridal Veil “is not only the best pantomime I have yet seen but also one of the most competent and imaginative items in a very remarkable New York theatrical season”27. Stark Young remarks that even with its shortcomings in the coordination of the musical accompaniment and movement and with its budget limitations, the American Laboratory Theatre production was “twenty times better than was the production of ‘Pierrot the Prodigal,’ for instance, in which Miss Laurette Taylor was starred; just as it is much more exact, competent and complete with regard to the movement, style and technical pains than the pantomime of the chorus at the Metropolitan Opera House”28. Such observations would have seemed to fulfill Richard Aldrich's prediction that the Laboratory's production would find its way to a Broadway run. While falling short of that happy event, these notices justified Aldrich's expectations and optimism expressed in his letter to Mrs. Stockton about the success of the production.

Even reviewers who liked neither pantomime nor Schnitzler's play tried to distinguish between their predilections and the efforts of the company. Barrett, to qualify his rather severe review, hastened to add that “the performance in reality is no reflection on the workmanship of the cast. On the contrary the players struggle bravely with a most awful theme—a pantomime that cries to the skies for words—and do their best with what from dancing, tugging and mugging might properly be classified as a muscle concert”29. Yet, even critics who were more sympathetic to the efforts of the cast had some reservations about the success of the production as well. Stark Young tempered his comments on the coordination between music and movement, saying that he did so on the “most demanding grounds.” He felt that at times the dramatic texture of the macabre action was too “thin,” and that the production would have had greater dramatic power if the movement had been joined more firmly to the “musical foundation” provided for it (p. 19). Oliver Sayler, like Young, also saw a discrepancy between the movement and the music, but he did not attribute the problem to the choreographic direction as much as to the thinness of the musical accompaniment. He wished that “a string quartet had replaced the single piano to give rhythmic and tonal variety and the strangely vibrant and dramatic quality of that musical medium” (p. 611).

It was, however, Robert Littell, who perceived the purpose of balletic movement of which James Reynolds spoke, namely, “stylized movement” for a “visual effect.” Littell observes that this pantomime, unlike some other Schnitzler stories, does not contain actions and events from life by people we almost feel we know personally. These characters are somehow extraordinary. Thus, he says:

The Bridal Veil, as framed by Miss Anderson-Ivantzova into a whole as delicate and as distinct as a painting on glass, is remote, fantastic, unreal. It isn't the dilution of fantasy or the sort of prettified unreality we are used to in pantomime. It is made of the same stuff throughout, it keeps the same key, and its remoteness comes to us with great strength and beauty.30

Scenes I and III were brief episodes, presented almost as miniatures or “tender little pictures” as Littell calls them, in contrast with Scene II, which was the longest tableau in the pantomime. For this scene, there was a significant change of pace and mood to offset the effects found earlier, lest the whole impression—“that of a strange and richly colored dream,” as Littell expressed it—evaporated before the end of the pantomime. Littell explains later in his review:

But the second act, an ever-changing pattern of gayly dressed couples dancing on several levels of the stage, dancing towards us, dancing away from us, dancing, running, in exquisitely arranged confusion, holds the other two [scenes] together and gives solidity and variety to the whole pantomime without ever breaking its mood. The gathering pace, the changes, the flowing movement and graceful vigor of this scene … in which a sad uneasiness, a reckless gayety and a new despair were expressed subtly by the coming and going of dancing figures, was for me something quite new in the art of the theatre.

Needless to say, Robert Littell gave the production its strongest review, and one likes to think the strength of that review was based on the resolved disagreement on the aesthetic intention between the choreographer/director and the scene designer. Whatever be the case, almost all the critics acknowledged that pantomime, to achieve its dramatic effect, required some sophistication on the part of the audience. That the American Laboratory Theatre took the risk of attracting a sophisticated audience nightly speaks only of their sense of artistic adventure and their commitment as an experimental theatre to introduce unfamiliar forms to their audiences. Aside from a reasonably successful run of forty-eight performances and although the company did not perform on Broadway, they must have taken additional satisfaction in Littell's judgment that “the whole thing [production] was staged by Elizabeth Anderson-Ivantzoff with a skill, a strength and a sense of design which would make a dozen Broadway directors I could think of look like amateurs”31.

As a final word, Robert Littell's assessment of Mme Anderson-Ivantzova's choreographic ability was a foreshadowing of things to come. The Bridal Veil provided her with a showcase for those who would need to consider a choreographer with a special success in dance-pantomime. A year later, in 1929, she was engaged to choreograph the American premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Les Noces for the League of Composers' production at the Metropolitan Opera House. Anderson-Ivantzova proved to be a wise choice. The critical reception of her choreography for the complex Stravinsky ballet was enthusiastic and uniform among the major reviewers, such as Mary I. Watkins (New York Herald Tribune), Olin Downes (New York Times), and John Martin (New York Times), who were in no way reluctant to praise her choreographic talents32.


  1. For an overview of Schnitzler's ballet-pantomime in the hands of Meyerhold and Tairov in Russia, see Elisabeth Heresch, Schnitzler und Russland: Aufnahme, Wirkung, Kritik (Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller, Universitäts-Verlagsbuch handlung, 1982), pp. 103-111. An extended discussion of Alexander Tairov's productions of The Veil of Pierrette is found in Thomas Joseph Torda, “Alexander Tairov and the Scenic Artists of the Moscow Kamerny Theater 1914-1935,” PhD Dissertation, University of Denver, 1977, pp. 162-178.

  2. For an analysis of Meyerhold's Columbine's Scarf, see Edward Braun, The Theatre of Meyerhold: Revolution on the Modern Stage (New York: Drama Book Specialists Publishers, 1979), pp. 102-109. It is interesting to note here also that in 1909 Meyerhold performed the role of Pierrot in Mikhail Fokine's Carnaval and that in 1911 Alexander Benois's set design for Mikhail Fokine's Petrushka was modeled on Sapunov's set design for Meyerhold's Columbine's Scarf. See “Der Schleier der Pierrette, 1898-1981,Tanzblätter, 31 (June 1981): 11-12. For a discussion and the text of Alexander Blok's The Puppet Show (Balagantchik), see The Russian Symbolist Theatre: An Anthology of Plays and Critical Texts, edited and translated by Michael Green (Ann Arbor: Ardis Publishers, 1986), pp. 31-57. On Max Reinhardt's experiments with wordless drama and dance-pantomime, see Margaret Dietrich, “Music and Dance in the Productions of Max Reinhardt,” Total Theatre: A Critical Anthology, ed. E. T. Kirby (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969), pp. 162-174. Schnitzler's German text consulted for this paper was from Der Schleier der Pierrette, Pantomime in drei Bildern, von Arthur Schnitzler, Musik von Ernst von Dohnányi (Leipzig: Ludwig Doblinger [Bernhard Herzmansky]), 1910.

  3. Konstantin Rudnitsky, Russian and Soviet Theater: 1905-1932, trans. Roxane Permar and ed. Dr. Lesley Milne (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1988), pp. 10-11. On the use of the commedia dell'arte characters in Russia, see Kenneth Richards and Laura Richards, The Commedia dell'Arte: A Documentary History, (Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell for the Shakespeare Head Press, 1990), p. 303. The subject of wordless-drama-dance has not received sufficient attention in the critical and historical literature. It is helpful here, however, to know that two major productions of Max Reinhardt parallel Schnitzler's piece: Sumurûn (Berlin 1910), a wordless play in nine scenes by Frederich Freska with music by Victor Hollender that Reinhardt took to London (1911), New York (1912), and Paris (1912). Tanzblätter asserts that Grete Wiesenthal, a popular dancer from Vienna and a well-known performer for Max Reinhardt in Berlin, co-authored Sumurûn. “Die Tänzerin selbst [Grete Wiesenthal] was Mitautorin der Pantomime ‘Sumurûn’, die in der Inszenierung von Max Reinhardt weltberühmt werden sollte.” (“The dancer herself was co-author of the pantomime ‘Sumurûn’, which was to become world-famous in the production by Max Reinhardt” p. 12.) Her name, however, usually does not appear among the credits. The second Reinhardt “big production” (which the Germans refer to as Grossrauminszenierungen) of a wordless play adapted from a book by Karl Vollmöller, with music by Englebert Humperdink, was The Miracle (1912 in Berlin and 1924 in New York). Max Reinhardt's production of The Miracle was thought a huge success by New York critics because it demonstrated that theatre did not need words to accomplish its effects, that “theatricality” had its own ends and could create emotional responses in audiences by virtue of its own instruments. See Peter Bauland, The Hooded Eagle: Modern German Drama on the New York Stage (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1968), pp. 34-36 and pp. 57-60, and Dietrich, pp. 165-166. Interestingly enough, Richard Boleslavsky of the American Laboratory Theatre directed the crowd scenes for Reinhardt's New York production, according to Ronald A. Willis, “The American Lab Theatre, 1923-1930,” PhD Dissertation, University of Iowa, 1968, p. 206.

  4. In addition to his dissertation, the only full-length study of the American Laboratory Theatre I know of, Professor Willis has an abbreviated discussion of the school and theatre in “The American Lab Theatre,” Tulane Drama Review, 9, 1 (Fall 1964):112-116. In the same issue, a brief account of Boleslavsky's and Ouspenskaya's approach to teaching of Stanislavskian theory is given by their former student Francis Ferguson, in “The Notion of ‘Action’,” pp. 85-87. A later study is that of J. W. Roberts, Richard Boleslavsky: His Life and Work in the Theatre (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1981), which covers the theatrical career of the founder and director of the American Laboratory Theatre. Maria Ouspenskaya (1876-1949) began her theatrical training as a coloratura soprano, but lacking sufficient financial support abandoned it for a career on the dramatic stage. She learned her art and seasoned her talent by touring with provincial companies. Out of 250 applicants, she was one of two accepted in 1911 by Stanislavsky into the Moscow Art Theatre. Between 1911 and 1923 she played about 150 roles with the Company. In 1923, she was a member of the visiting Moscow Art Theatre Company on tour in New York, but did not return to the USSR, remaining in the U.S. and joining Richard Boleslavsky at the American Laboratory Theatre the following year. In the 1920s and 1930s she appeared in many Broadway productions before she went to Hollywood, performing in a number of films as a character actress while under contract to Metro-Golden-Mayer. She maintained an acting school in Hollywood during the late 1930s and the 1940s. “Veteran of Character Role in Plays and Films Succumbs to Burn Injuries on Coast,” Obituary, New York Times, 4 December 1949, p. 108.

  5. On Mme Anderson's career, see the interview conducted by Marion Horosko, “In the Shadow of the Russian Tradition,” Dance Magazine, January 1971, p. 37; on Mikhail Mordkin, Vasilly Tikhomirov, and Alexander Gorsky, see Elizabeth Sourtiz, Soviet Choreographers in the 1920s, trans. Lynn Visson, edited with additional translation, Sally Banes, (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1990), pp. 85-153.

  6. Oliver M. Sayler, The Russian Theatre (New York: Brentanos, 1922), pp. 108-109.

  7. Sayler, p. 17.

  8. Lawrence Sullivan, “Nikita Baliev's Le Théâtre de la Chauve-Souris: An Avant-Garde Theater,” Dance Research Journal, 18, 2 (Winter 1986-87): 17-29.

  9. Tanzblätter: 16-17. This essay contains a photograph of Gontcharova's set. The chronology omits Alexander Tairov's first production of Der Schleier at Mardzhanov's Free Theatre in 1913 and a later production at the Kamerny Theatre in 1915 in Moscow, and Vsevolod Meyerhold's second production of Columbine's Scarf in St. Petersburg in 1916, to mention only three. The article, however, documents over twenty different performances of the ballet-pantomime, most in central Europe and one in the United States.

  10. Souvenir Programme for “Le Foire de Moscou, spectacle présente en juillet 1923 par Théâtre Balagantchik,” Dir. M. Korniloff, Théâtre Femina. Rondel Collection, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Ro 9595. Many of the members of this company also appeared in a production called Maria Kousnezoff et sa companie, directed by Richard Boleslavsky. See Comedia Illustré, avril-mai 1922, Rondel Collection, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Ro 12674.

  11. Natalia Roslavleva, The Era of the Russian Ballet (London: Victor Gollancz, 1966), p. 159. Souritz, p. 118.

  12. Copies of these documents were provided through the kindness of Professor Ronald A. Willis, who has in his possession the surviving documents from the American Laboratory Theatre. Unfortunately, the prompt book for this production, to which Oliver Sayler refers in his review for “The Play of the Week,” The Saturday Review of Literature, 18 February 1928, p. 611, appears to have been lost. Prompt books at the American Laboratory Theatre usually had the literary text pasted on loose-leaf pages in a loose-leaf binder. The margins contained handwritten comments on the interpretation of the text, key phrases on character analysis, sketches of directions in movement, and other technical details. One such prompt book is still extant for a production of Eugéne Labiche's The Straw Hat (1926), directed by Maria Ouspenskaya, in which one finds her technical notes on the play. For example, she used the metaphor the “spine of the play” as a means to convey the basic theme of the play and the “spine of the characters” to identify the characters as types, through brief descriptions often with specific details. Memorabilia of Maria Ouspenskaya, Box Number 7, Rare Book Collection, University Research Library, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.

  13. Richard S. Aldrich, “Letter to Mrs. Herbert K. Stockton,” 6 January 1928. Richard Aldrich (1902-1986) had a long career in the theatre, was prominent in the development of summer theatre in America, and produced over thirty Broadway shows during his career. In 1940, he married Gertrude Lawrence and produced a successful revival of Shaw's Pygmalion for her. Tim Page, “Richard Aldrich, a Producer; Influenced Summer Theater,” Obituary, New York Times, 16 April 1986.

  14. Roberts, pp. 203-04.

  15. From an untitled, signed statement by James Reynolds among the papers of the American Laboratory Theatre. For a brief résumé of his scene and costume designs, see Bobbi Owen, Scenic Design on Broadway: Designers and Their Credits, 1915-1990 (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1991), pp. 151-152.

  16. Aldrich, “Letter to Mrs. Herbert K. Stockton.”

  17. Reynolds' “Statement.”

  18. The following reviews were consulted: Anonymous, “American Laboratory Theatre Introduces Pantomime in America,” New York Times, 27 January 1928, p. 15; Anonymous, New York Herald Tribune, 19 February 1928; Anonymous, New York Telegram, 27 January 1928, p. 8; Thomas Barrett, “American Laboratory,” The Billboard, 4 February 1928, p. 10; Benjamin DeCasseres, “Broadway to Date,” Arts & Decoration, February 1928, pp. 72, 115; Robert Littell, “Two on the Aisle,” New York Evening Post, 13 February 1928 [Reprint]; Richard Lockridge, “Pantomime,” New York Sun, 27 January 1928, p. 18; R. S. “The Theatre: A Directoire Tragedy,” Wall Street Journal, 28 January 1928, p. 3; Oliver M. Sayler, “Play of the Week,” Saturday Review of Literature, 18 February 1928, p. 611; Stark Young, “As the Weeks Pass,” The New Republic, 22 February, 1928, pp. 18-19.

  19. “The Great World Theatre,” Theatre Arts Monthly, 12 (April 1928): 232-35.

  20. Richard Lockridge's statement appears in The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1920-1930, editor-in-chief Samuel L. Leiter, Volume I (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985), p. 91.

  21. The ability of audiences “to see without words,” as Theatre Arts puts it, is something expected of dance or ballet audiences. For example, the glittering pyrotechnics of the Black Swan variations and grand pas in Act Three of Swan Lake can create emotional reaction in the viewers. Artistotle's affective reactions of the audience may obtain: fear that Prince Siegfried will indeed abandon Odette for Odile because of her dazzling pirouettes and thirty-two fouettés, and pity that Odette will not be delivered from Rothbart's curse. And all the audience has to do is “to see without words” or “to listen with their eyes.”

  22. Barrett, p. 10.

  23. Young, p. 19.

  24. Sayler, p. 611.

  25. Young, p. 19. At the age of sixteen, Harold Hecht (1908-1985) began his theatrical career in 1924 as an assistant to Richard Boleslavsky at the American Laboratory Theatre. He later appeared as one of the Drushki (Bridesmen) in the American premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Les Noces, April 26, 1929, Metropolitan Opera House, under the choreography of Anderson-Ivantzova, spent several years as a dancer with the Martha Graham Company, and became a dance director with Busby Berkeley in New York and in Hollywood. In the 1940s and 1950s, he collaborated with Burt Lancaster to found the Hecht-Lancaster Productions, later augmented by James Hill, forming the Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions. Esther Fein, “Harold Hecht, Film Producer and a Burt Lancaster Partner,” Obituary, New York Times, 28 May 1985, p. D 16.

  26. Barrett, p. 10.

  27. Littell, New York Evening Post.

  28. Young, p. 19.

  29. Barrett, p. 10.

  30. Littell, New York Evening Post.

  31. It was perhaps this comment by Robert Littell that Herbert Stockton, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Lab Theatre, had in mind when in a letter to Maria Ouspenskaya he briefly alluded to The Bridal Veil as one of the models of the school's success. In a gentle admonishment, Stockton noticed that Mme Ouspenskaya had allowed certain actors (Blanche Tancock and George McCready), active individuals with an “avid reach for leading parts” and “political activities within the Theatre,” to be cast in leading roles to the detriment of the professional reputation of the Lab Theatre. He went on to say that “I do not mean to argue in personalities but you will understand impersonally what I mean when I say that to my mind there is a greater promise for the Lab indicated in the human qualities plus the technique of such performances as [Donald] Hartman's and [Anne] Schmidt's in ‘The Veil’. …” Letter from Herbert K. Stockton to Madame Maria Ouspenskaya, 8 April 1928, page 2. Memorabilia of Maria Ouspenskaya, Box Number 6, Rare Book Collection, University Research Library, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angleles, California.

  32. On the critical reception of the Anderson-Ivantzova choreography for Stravinsky's Les Noces, see Lawrence Sullivan, “Les Noces: the American Premiere,” Dance Research Journal, 14, 1 & 2 (1981-1982): 3-14.

Criticism: Die Schwestern Oder Casanova In Spa

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SOURCE: Schneider-Halvorson, Brigitte L. “Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa.” In The Late Dramatic Works of Arthur Schnitzler, pp. 15-43. New York: Peter Lang, 1983.

[In the following excerpt, Schneider-Halvorson provides a plot overview and critical analyses of Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa.]


The drama Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa1 was published in 1919 by S. Fischer Verlag and produced a year later with some success at the Burgtheater on March 26, 1920. It is one of the rare productions which the author designated as “Lustspiel.” He seems to have reached here the ability to create such “wundervolle Heiterkeit” which was a necessary condition, “um das wahre Lustspiel hervorzubringen.”2 Schnitzler himself confesses his fondness for the work in a letter to Hofmannsthal: “[…] mir selbst ist selten was von mir so lieb gewesen.”3

Whenever a date of completion is mentioned for a work by Schnitzler, it must be remembered that it is really only a “date.” Most of his works took years to grow into their final form, and since he was usually engaged in several pieces of writing at the same time, it is generally possible to find specific links between the emotional content of a given piece and the course of his life at the time of its composition. Casanovas Heimfahrt4 and Die Schwestern, for instance, date from roughly the same years. According to Reinhard Urbach, Schnitzler had his first inspiration on March 28, 1908, at which time the working title reads Eifersucht. It was conceived as a one-act play.5 After Schnitzler's perusal of the Casanova Memoirs in 1914 he changed the title to Spion, and by summer of 1916 he had decided to mold the text into a three-act play which he now called Die Wiederkehr. Only after that year did the play receive its present title. His prose writing Casanovas Heimfahrt progressed parallel with the play, and both works were finished by 1917.

A letter to Georg Brandes explains how he became interested in Casanova: “Meine beiden Casanova-Sachen, das Lustspiel ‘Die Schwestern’ und die Novelle ‘Casanovas Heimfahrt’ sind so entstanden, dass mir zwei Stoffe, die schon geraume Zeit unter meinen Papieren lagen durch die Lectüre [sic] der Casanova Memoiren plötzlich lebendig geworden sind.”6 Here is proof that Schnitzler chose to reconstitute faithfully a fragment of history because of his desire to illustrate a theme, and to study a psychological problem interesting to him.7 These two productions stand outside Schnitzler's “popular” works and therefore are customarily neglected. Josef Körner, who in his study of Schnitzler's “Spätwerk”, for example, does not hesitate to lay the comedy aside because it seems to him of “little importance,”8 shows the Novelle not much more respect in his monograph of 1921.9

The purpose of this analysis is to demonstrate that this play has been underestimated until now and to prove that Schnitzler is better as a dramatist than critics have given him credit for. All major characters in the drama are interpreted in their relationships, problems and challenges. Recurring “Leitmotive” and “Leitgestalten” are discussed to show how they gain in complexity and depth, thus demonstrating a process of maturation and thereby a distinct positive development in Schnitzler's late dramatic works. “Ich empfand es als meinen Beruf,” says the author in a letter to the Austrian historian Richard Charmatz, “Menschen zu gestalten und habe nichts zu beweisen, als die Vielfältigkeit der Welt. Eine Handlung so zu führen, dass jede an ihr beteiligte oder nur an sie anstreifende Figur ihr innerstes Wesen preiszugeben genötigt wird, darin liegt am Ende das Geheimnis aller dramatischen Energie.”10 Indeed, the “Vielfältigkeit der Welt” is a key idea for a better appreciation of the author's late dramatic work. In it he depicts many life styles and also shows the consequences as a result of selecting one over the other; however, he neither condones nor condemns any of his characters for whatever choice they made, because each one represents an aspect of his soul.11 “Every play is produced in the soul of the dramatist before it is staged in a theater,” he tells George Sylvester Viereck in an interview, and continues: “A play is a conversation of the dramatist with himself. In portraying dramatic conflicts the dramatist wrestles with his soul.”12


All conditions are provided in the play to create a staging favorable to the unfolding of frivolous and joyous incidents. The scene is set in an elegant inn in the health resort town of Spa, on a lovely summer day. The characters are nearly all young, beautiful and charming. As age begins to touch them (a case in point is Herr von Gudar, who is over sixty) they make up for their lack of physical attraction by their polished manners and complacent philosophy of life. The less important characters are all “types” and include a nobleman, a rich widow from Amsterdam, eager to find a new husband, and a mother and daughter from Lyon, who are rivals in false prudery. They are all attracted by the preparations for an excursion into the countryside, preceded by a sumptuous outdoor banquet which is given by the false baron named Santis. He is eager to retrieve the cost of the dinner by inviting his guests to a gambling party afterwards. His wife Flaminia is young and sexy and just as scheming as her jealous husband, whom she deceives in order to further her own style of business. Then there is the famous dancer Teresa, who travels through Europe from one theater and lover to the next; and finally Tito, the hotel page, bold and hardworking in the duties of lover as well as servant. All, dominated by the legendary figure of Casanova, surround Andrea and Anina, the central couple, a wealthy young man of Ferrara and a young woman from the same city, with whom he has eloped and whom he counts on marrying very soon.

The play in its time sequence is limited to a few hours; it starts about mid-morning and ends before the feast has taken place. Act I of the comedy serves to disclose Anina's changed attitude toward the question of faithfulness. On the preceding night she received a visit from Casanova and yielded to his advances. Her confession provokes Andrea to outrage and, subsequently, a change of marriage plans at the moment when he discovers by chance conversation with his rival that Casanova, deceived by darkness and the location of their rooms. believed he was visiting Flaminia. Andrea, thus comforted, would be willing to pardon Anina, but she resents the motives which led to his change of mind. When Flaminia learns of Casanova's confusion of the previous night, she reasserts her rights over the man she considers as her conquest.

In Act II Andrea casts the existing quarrel into a fable. Santis and later Casanova himself are invited to bring a solution to the enigma that is posed. The question which justifies the entire play is this: “What does true fidelity consist of?” or, as Schnitzler formulated it: “Welcher Mann hat mehr Berechtigung, eifersüchtig zu sein: der, dem seine Frau gesteht, sie möchte gern einem anderen angehören, oder der, dessen Frau bewusstlos von einem anderen besessen ward?”13

In Act III all of the main characters—the two women, Santis, Andrea, Casanova—discern that what they took for a theoretical debate, the invention of a strict moralist, represents in fact a hurt which each one feels in his or her own vanity. The men conclude by drawing their swords to defend their injured honor at the cost of their lives. At this point, outside intervention is necessary to keep the tenor of the comedy. The dancer Teresa, introduced by Gudar, arrives on the scene just in time to restore peace among the rivals. She returns to Casanova with new plans for their future, thus reclaiming him for herself alone. This scene then brings reconciliation for all concerned, but only on the basis of an anti-social understanding of the term “fidelity.” All except Andrea go off to enjoy the pleasures of the outdoor dinner and thus drown their disappointments and heartaches in the excitement of the evening. Andrea is lost in thought; he learns from Casanova the moral from the standpoint of an adventurer, who considers Teresa the most faithful of all, for “sie kehrte mir zurück. Nur das ist Treue” (733).14


Ernst L. Offermanns is the only recent critic who analyzes the drama Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa in any detail.15 Part of his title for the chapter reads: “Die erborgte Idylle des ‘Lustspiels’” (110), referring to the designation which Schnitzler himself gave to the play. Offermanns recognizes the special position which this drama occupies within the context of the author's entire dramatic work. The carefully chosen term “erborgte Idylle” acknowleges the fact that Schnitzler's experience in writing a “Lustspiel” remained an isolated attempt to work with this genre, “dessen ‘Spielheiterkeit’ und Anmut nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen können, dass jenseits des Festes das Chaos und hinter der Göttermaske das Nicht-mehr-Menschliche lauern. Die nächste Komödie,” Offermanns points out, “impliziert denn auch den Widerruf oder die Zurücknahme des ‘Lustspiels’.”16 He refers to Komödie der Verführung, where the three women characters—Aurelie, Judith, and Seraphine—are not inclined to embrace each other. Max in his rather passive role as “Casanova” reports in the end for military service. “Die für eine Weile erborgte Idylle,” concludes Offermanns, “musste zerbrechen.”17

In theme as well as in terms of motives Offermanns considers this play a continuation of previous comedies, because the phenomenon of “impressionistischen Weltverhaltens” is associated with the Casanova-figure. To see this drama as a continuation of previous comedies is debatable, especially in light of the women characters who have gained in complexity, as this analysis will demonstrate. “Es wird auch, wie zuvor, eine Reihe von Konflikten vorgeführt,” adds Offermanns, “die sich aus dem Gegensatz einer kontinuierlichen und einer auf den Augenblick gestellten Lebensform ergeben.”18 This polarity principle, however, received more attention in this play, as well as in subsequent dramatic works, than in earlier writings. The polar constellation of characters—Offermanns discusses in this respect Anina-Andrea, Anina-Flaminia, Casanova-Andrea—can be amplified by similar arrangements of incidents as well.

Klaus Kilian, on the other hand, does not examine any details of the play. His book, published in 1972 under the title Die Komödien Arthur Schnitzlers. Sozialer Rollenzwang und kritische Ethik, includes only a brief chapter devoted to “Schnitzlers ‘erstes’ Lustspiel.”19 His discussion focuses primarily on the adventurous role Casanova chooses to play which in his later years leads to complete isolation, rejection, and death. Kilian formulates the result of his considerations of the “role”-concept in modern sociology as well as of the range of meaning of the word “comedy”—as Schnitzler used it—in his central thesis as follows:

“Komödien als Bauform”—und zwar im Drama wie in der Erzählung—entsteht bei Schnitzler immer dann, wenn “Komödie als Verhaltensweise des Menschen” thematisch und in entlarvender oder vermittelnder Tendenz problematisch und programmatisch für das soziale Verhalten des Menschen wird.20

Earlier than Offermanns, Kilian considers Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa “am Endpunkt einer geistigen Entwicklung,” and states: “Im Rahmen der Komödienproblematik bietet dieses Werk nichts eigentlich Neues, das nicht latent schon in der Thematik früherer Dramen und Erzählungen angelegt gewesen wäre.”21 Kilian does not find an unequivocal and final answer to the question,

ob Schnitzler hier tatsächlich zu einer echten Vermittlung der Ebenen von Realität und Rolle gelangte, oder ob diese Vermittlung nicht vielmehr erst durch die Aufgabe der Aktualität, eine resignierte Flucht in die Distanz der Historie, erkauft wurde […].22

In line with the explanations Schnitzler provides for his diagram “Der Geist im Wort und der Geist in der Tat,”23 Kilian points out the negative realm of the adventurer who is not bound by “social roles and comedies of society.”24

Similarly, Friedbert Aspetsberger in his article “Drei Akte in einem” addresses himself to the “Formtyp von Schnitzlers Drama”25 and concentrates on the character of Casanova. Because of the double title of the drama, he considers Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa

eine Exempeldichtung; Träger des Geschehens ist hier die Casanova zugedachte Geisteshaltung, der Sinnzusammenhang ihr sich stets wiederholendes Handelnsschema, das ‘Funktionieren,’ mit dem er immer wieder die eigene Wahrheit ins Licht rückt.26

He points out correctly: “Die bedeutendste der Bedingungen für den reibungslosen Ablauf der ‘Drei Akte in einem’ ist der Verzicht auf die Zeit als Bestimmung des Lebens.”27 However, I disagree with his conviction that Anina and Andrea serve merely as background for the unfoldment of Casanova. As the analysis will show, the lack of development within Casanova is caused by his self-imposed isolation from society, whereas Anina and Andrea emerge as more mature human beings by the end of the drama.

Mme Derré by virtue of her all-inclusive study of Schnitzler's works provides excellent explanations for the 18th-century atmosphere chosen for the play.28 Her outline of the play contains some commentary on nearly all characters, with most of her attention directed toward Casanova.29

Richard Alewyn in his article “Casanova”30 provides the most detailed background information with regard to the historical figure of Casanova. He portrays him not only as adventurer and eroticist, but also as “Renaissancemensch” because of the diversity of his talents and interests.31 Alewyn concludes with a valuable discussion of the Baroque and Rococo heritage which is evidenced in Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa.

Several scholarly studies recently published include a discussion of this drama with an emphasis on the women characters. They are important for the present study, because in his late dramatic works Schnitzler provides for more complexity of his women portrayals, no longer presenting them as mere types. Among these doctoral dissertations which deal specifically with women in Schnitzler's works, is the most recent thesis, submitted to the University of Wisconsin in 1973 by Willa Elizabeth Schmidt. It carries the title “The Changing Role of Women in the Works of Arthur Schnitzler,” correcting some areas of neglect by scholars in their research and criticism. She points out that

the most significant deficiency […] is a unanimous failure to take into account the development which occurred in Schnitzler's attitude as he matured as a human being and as an artist. He has generally been judged, especially where his female figures are concerned, on the basis of his early writings, although even these are often seen in too superficial a light.32

She goes on to criticize “observers such as Boner, Derré, Rey and Körner, who are aware that the later works are different” and yet “do not offer detailed evidence of the effects of the change […] but rather tend to persist in their original assessment of the women as all belonging to one or several static types.”33

Schmidt's last chapter, entitled “Woman in Her Own Right,” is still concerned with earlier types such as wives, fiancées and mistresses, but in the late dramatic works these characters have for better or for worse changed their roles, becoming more comprehensive, differentiated individual expressions of being. This chapter includes a brief discussion of the female characters analyzed in my study.34 Schmidt “detects in the author an increasing tendency toward reflection and character analysis” in his late dramatic works which she finds “apparently better served by the prose medium, where he had time to study and dwell on psychological detail.”35 This leads her to agree with William H. Rey “that in the final period of his writing Schnitzler's narrative works are superior in quality to the dramas.”36 I disagree with this notion on the grounds that Schmidt herself overlooks some of the complexities encountered in Schnitzler's late dramatic production.

Another dissertation, submitted in 1949 at the University of Vienna by Susanne M. Polsterer, is entitled “Die Darstellung der Frau in Arthur Schnitzlers Dramen.” Although the title indicates only a study of the dramatic works, the prose writings seem to receive as much attention as the dramas. She depicts Schnitzler as a threat to Austria and Austrian womanhood, accusing him of fabricating women characters in his mind in order to work off his own psychological problems: “Keinesfalls können diese Frauen als typische Wienerinnen aufgefasst werden.”37 She recommends Schnitzler's type of writing only for mature and stable people, and sees the work less fit for youth and for foreigners, because “die Jugendlichen müssen zu unrichtigen Vorstellungen über die Geschlechtsbeziehungen gelangen und die Ausländer zu unrichtigen Vorstellungen über die Österreicher.”38 Her work, therefore, appears to be an attempt to protect the national image of Austria in general and its charming Viennese women in particular rather than to recognize the reasons behind Schnitzler's concerns. As I see Schnitzler, his concern was a search for truth which he pursued with total honesty not only toward himself but also toward facing the prevailing conditions in his country. Such an endeavor most certainly attracts enemies, and Schnitzler, indeed, had plenty of experiences during his lifetime in this respect. Numerous articles have been written on behalf of Schnitzler to correct deliberate and inadvertently damaging criticism. Among those authors are Heinrich Schnitzler, Robert A. Kann, and Rena R. Schlein, to name a few.39 One finds the slightness of such a study as Polsterer's even more striking when one looks at her interpretation of statistics compiled in an effort to justify her own moral and ethical prejudices. I concur with Schmidt's conclusion which states: “[…] her [Polsterer's] study cannot be taken seriously. It is a prime example of poor scholarship […].”40

A third dissertation, submitted in 1930 by Georgette Boner at the University of Basel, entitled Arthur Schnitzlers Frauengestalten is mentioned here mainly for its significance in reflecting a welcome change in critical attitudes toward Schnitzler's women characters.41 Her goal is, “das Besondere von Schnitzlers Frauengestalten im Gegensatz zu seinen Männerfiguren hervorzuheben.”42 A priori, she assumes, “dass Schnitzler durch die Frauen seiner gedichteten Welt ein positives Element beizufügen trachtet.”43 Although the author states at the beginning of her work that she will address herself mainly to the dramatic works, “[…] weil in diesen die Konflikte meistens akuter, die Entscheide dringender sind als in den epischen Werken […],”44 she seems to cite for her discussion almost as many examples from the narrative works as from the plays. A chapter entitled “Schwestern” discusses the polarity of negative and positive members within the male and female categories, which is based on Schnitzler's theoretical essay “Der Geist im Wort und der Geist in der Tat” (1927).45 It also includes a discussion of the play Die Schwestern. Although Boner develops some excellent insights into Schnitzler's treatment of women in his works, she fails to see in his later dramatic production any changes in the nature of these women who, in their quest for emancipation, exert personal freedom and choice in such matters as love and marriage. Furthermore, she overlooks the complexity which the author realizes for his female characters in the later works.46


The title: The first part of the title Die Schwestern […] places the emphasis upon the three female characters in the play: Anina, Flaminia, and Teresa. They are, however, not related to each other by family ties, nor do they share other common interests on the basis of education, life style, personality traits, or family background. What allows them, nevertheless, to move into such a close relationship is revealed in the second part of the title […] oder Casanova in Spa.47 Casanova is the character who combines all three acts into one because through him the three women become “sisters of fate.” He is the sophisticated adventurer, placed in the setting of the Rococo period around the middle of the 18th century, whose travels on a lovely summer day lead him to Spa, a plush health resort city in Belgium, at precisely the right time for another round of passionate relationships.48 He encounters these three women who are united solely by their common ability to give themselves completely to a moment of pure sensuality. They are light-hearted, carefree people, as are most other characters in the play, without too much thought spent on the consequences of their moments of passion.

The Rococo theme: These characters help in bringing alive the Rococo period of the 18th century—Johannes Jahn calls it the end phase of the Baroque tradition—49 which is characterized by fanciful, frivolous and light-hearted modes. Even though the psychological problem in this play was perhaps most interesting to the author, he carried the Rococo theme through the entire play. Because the style of literature in the first half of the 18th century was typified by light-hearted, playful lyric pieces, often with erotic hints, this comedy is written in verse. The tone of the play, as Mme Derré points out, “is livelier, the rhythm often breathless, the phrasing broken up by exclamation points and marks of hesitation; the vocabulary and syntax are adapted to the violent and perverse 18th century.”50

The setting, with its alcove to the right of the stage, further emphasizes this period. Preparations for the evening dinner are made in the garden and not in the banquet hall of a Baroque palace. Most important, however, are the characters in the play, each of whom contributes to the Rococo atmosphere already prevailing. As Richard Alewyn points out:

Das Rokoko ist der Erbe des Barock […]. Man lebt hastiger und gieriger […] man misst auch das eigene Leben nicht mehr nach den Massen der Stände oder der Geschlechter, die man repräsentiert, sondern man lebt sein persönliches Leben, das mit dem Tod unweigerlich ein Ende hat, ja schon vor dem Tod mit dem Alter. Man hat keine Zeit zu verlieren und will sich des Augenblicks bemächtigen, ehe er zerrinnt.51

In Act I, Herr von Gudar, a retired Dutch officer in his sixties, leads this kind of life. In his conversation with Anina he points out that aging people do not sleep: “Uns Greisen frommt kein Schlaf. Zu töricht wär' es, / Dem Wuchrer Tod, der bald des Daseins Schuld / Im ganzen holt, allnächtlich Vorschuss zahlen” (652). He does not find Anina very receptive to his “Lebensweisheit”; as a result of her youth, she is only seventeen, she connects the key words “Schuld” and “Vorschuss zahlen” with gambling. This leads her to believe that Gudar might have lost the game last night to Andrea, her fiancé, who returned with many gold pieces. But Gudar does not care whether he wins or loses, for to him gambling is fate, which he battles every time anew (653). To satisfy Anina's curiosity, he tells her that not he but Herr Casanova lost, thus introducing Casanova to the audience early in the play.

Twice more, to nourish his inspiration, Schnitzler had recourse to an actual personage of petty history, Casanova, attributing invented circumstances to the exploits of the celebrated seducer whom he used in this drama as well as in his Novelle. Thus, Schnitzler continues his treatment of the adventurer, a “Leitgestalt” appearing throughout his work from Anatol to Casanova. In his late work, however, he has reworked the adventurer figure to a greater complexity.52

Polarity: With the introduction of Casanova through Gudar, a polarity between age and youth is provided. Although polarity and inner tension are basic forms of all Baroque thought, of Baroque world experience and art expression,53 Schnitzler carries them over into this play with its Rococo setting as well. This polarity principle appears to be the key to an overall understanding of the message which the poet conveys to us through his entire work. It relates such seeming opposites as youth and age, truth and falsity, dream and reality, gaiety and solitude, love and hate, reason and emotion, skepticism and belief, tragedy and comedy, life and death, fate and chance as equally justified components. Schnitzler says about fate and chance: “In logischem Sinne sind also Schicksal und Zufall niemals Gegensätze, sondern durchaus das Gleiche und um so unwidersprechlicher identisch, von je höherem Standpunkt aus wir ein Ereignis betrachten.”54

This explains in part why Gudar looks upon his gambling activity not in terms of chance but of fate. The world around him may see in gambling nothing but chance; for Gudar, however, it is an important part of his life style. It provides him with pleasant memories of younger years, whether he thinks of his courage in combat or of his amorous adventures in Casanova-style. Gudar has been acquainted with Casanova for more than ten years, long before he “unter dem berühmten Bleidach / Freigeisterei und leicht're Sünden büsste […]” (654). He knows him as part of himself and therefore does not seem to be worried about Casanova's credibility as an honest debtor, but Anina certainly doubts that Casanova can be considered a man of honor (654). Nevertheless, later she calls him a “nobleman.” Now it is Gudar's opportunity to correct the picture in her mind, by saying that Casanova is a nobleman “wie Santis ein Baron, wie ich ein Fürst, / Und wie Flaminia etwa Nonne wäre—” (655).

Another aspect of polarity, that of “Schein” and “Wirklichkeit,”—comes into play at this point, and involves each character. Gudar, as was seen, speaks not only for himself but also for Casanova, Santis, and Flaminia, when he describes the false roles each one of them is playing. Even Anina is not free of falsity. She pretends that she has only heard of Casanova's name; yet the audience sees her write a letter which she has the page boy Tito deliver to Casanova (657). Later on, in the scene with Andrea, she confesses to him her intimate relationship with Casanova the night before, which has changed her concept of faithfulness.

Although Gudar appears only twice on stage, at the beginning of the first and toward the end of the third act, the author has given him the major task of casting the proper light upon nearly all of the main characters, not only in negative, but also in positive ways as in the case of Andrea. When Gudar finds out from Anina that Andrea is not her husband—though twice before she did not correct him regarding her relationship—(653) Gudar pictures him as a respectable “Bürger” who will no doubt settle down to marriage. Later in the play, Casanova has the same opinion about Andrea. He sees himself bring “Ehrbiet'gen Gruss dem edlen Paare” for Andrea's goal “heisst Frieden, Ordnung und Gesetz / Wie Heimkehr Ihrer Wand'rung letzter Sinn” (681). As Gudar describes Casanova to Anina in his various roles as “Exzellenz,” “Dieb,” “Handelsmann,” “Dichter,” “Polizeiagent,” “Millionär,” “Bettler,” “Bürger,” “Falschspieler,” “Lügner,” “Gauner,” “Ehrenmann,” “Frauenheld” (656), he speaks actually of himself just as Casanova later discusses Gudar's life only to reveal the various stations in his own life (681). Thus, Schnitzler expands his polarity concept of age and youth to include a relationship between the two characters on the social as well as the intellectual level.

Ein Gewinn ohne Risiko erscheint ihm schlechterdings als unmoralisch. Er ist eine Spielnatur, jederzeit bereit, alles auf eine Karte zu setzen, und jederzeit gefasst, seinen ganzen Einsatz zu verlieren. Das Risiko ist es überhaupt erst, was dem Gewinn seinen Wert verleiht.55

Even though Casanova had spent his money, he continued his game on borrowed gold from Gudar. But he does not want to stay long indebted to Gudar. In order to return the money to his friend who is not a rich man, according to Casanova (679), we see him appear before Andrea to whom he had lost the night before, offering him an unsecured thirty-day promissory note. Among “men of honor,” he considers his signature enough of a guarantee for return of the money. He reasons that Andrea is rich and, in addition, had won so much the night before. Besides, Casanova might return the money sooner, for he plans to travel with Gudar when he leaves town and hopes to win the money back at that time: “Ein Spielchen—auf der Fahrt, im ersten Posthaus;— / Und lächelt mir das Glück wie gestern ihm— / Und die Wahrscheinlichkeit spricht sehr dafür—, / So hab' vor Abend ich mein Gold zurück” (680). So we see Casanova scheming and manipulating, always taking advantage of the opportune moment, thus living up to the description Gudar gave of him earlier.

However, the real specialty for which Casanova is noted in European history is of course his adventurous love life: “Er sucht weder den Kauf noch den Raub, sondern das Geschenk,” observes Alewyn and explains:

Zu diesem Zweck gab es nur einen Weg: die Verführung, eine Kunst und ein Spiel, dem das Rokoko verfallen war und dem es in Bildern und Büchern gehuldigt hat wie kein zweites Zeitalter, von dem wir wissen. Ohne die Herstellung des seligen Einvernehmens, ohne die völlige Verschmelzung der Wünsche mit denen der Geliebten gibt es für Casanova keine Liebe.56

Andrea's suspicion that Casanova may have gained entrance to their bedroom and to Anina by force (672-673) is not confirmed, because Anina was at the open window expecting Andrea after a long night of waiting, and instead attracted Casanova, as she tells him:

Er war's. Und eh' die Lippen mir
Zu einem Schrei sich auftun, hat er über
Die Brüstung ins Gemach sich frech geschwungen,
Ist mir so nah, dass über meine Lider
Sein Atem weht, dass seiner Pulse Beben
Den meinen sich gesellt;—in seinem Hauch—
Der kühl und heiss zugleich—kein Kuss, viel eher
Ein Flüstern ohne Wort, ein Fleh'n, ein Bann—
Doch endlich, ach, von meinem Mund ersehnt,
Zum Kusse wird—löst all mein Sein sich auf,
Und auf den Traumeswellen dieser Stunde,
Vergangner nicht, zukünft'ger nicht bewusst,
Treibt es, wie von sich selbst befreit, dahin.


This moment in time, “der Augenblick,” turns to an interval outside of time without effect or fear of consequences. Life was for the moment discontinued for Anina in favor of a dreamlike state of being, from which she awakens

So reulos wie aus Kinderschlaf erwacht?!
Unfassbar gestern noch—und heut erlebt?!
Und fühle mich die gleiche, die ich war,
So unverwandelt und so unverwirrt
Und deiner Zärtlichkeit so wert. …


Casanova, after shocking Anina mildly at first, thus achieves total harmony with her. He surrenders to her, and his devotion for the moment in time is reciprocated by Anina and remains lovingly in her memory: “In der Tat übertrifft Casanova alle seine Vorgänger in Schnitzler's Werk durch den Reichtum seiner Natur,” comments William Rey.

Er trägt, wie sie, impressionistische Züge, da ja sein Leben aus einer scheinbar endlosen Folge erotischer Episoden besteht. Aber es wäre doch falsch, ihn deswegen als einen flachen Genüssling zu bezeichnen. Im Grunde sucht er nicht so sehr das eigene Glück, als vielmehr die Beglückung seiner Liebespartnerinnen.57

The adventurer, then, is a frequent character in Schnitzler's work and is present not only in Die Schwestern, but also in other parts of the late dramatic works, where he belongs to nobody and nobody belongs to him. In his diagramm accompanying the essay, “Der Geist im Wort und der Geist in der Tat” (1927), Schnitzler himself relegates the figure of the adventurer to the lower triangle, thus indicating that the adventurer as a state of mind (“Geistesverfassung”) belongs to the negative type. Schnitzler comments: “Das Verhältnis der negativen zu den positiven Typen im Diagramm ‘Der Geist in der Tat’ entspricht völlig den Verhältnissen im Diagramm ‘Der Geist im Wort’.”58 In Casanova, the author created one of those significant personalities which, according to him, can also exist in the negative realm of the lower triangle; really great human beings, however, only occur in the positive area (AuB, 141). The author admits: “Erregend, belebend, öfter freilich noch beunruhigend, nicht nur durch seine Leistungen, sondern schon durch sein Dasein, wirkt manchmal der Repräsentant des negativen Typus in höherem Masse als der positive; wahrhaft fördernd nur dieser” (AuB, 141).

This description fits Casanova, for he evokes excitement wherever he is present, but his philosophy is based on anti-social premises. In his desire for unlimited freedom, he shies away from any responsibility or commitment. Schnitzler remarks in his Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken: “Das muss schon ein Mensch von hoher Art sein, dem die Sehnsucht nach Freiheit etwas Anderes [sic] bedeutete als die Begier nach Verantwortungslosigkeit.”59 By the author's own definition Casanova does not rank with a “hoher Mann.” He lives only one day at a time:

Der negative Typus lebt ohne das Gefühl von Zusammenhängen; das Gestern ist tot für ihn, das Morgen unvorstellbar, nur im Raum vermag er sich auszubreiten, er hat im wahren Sinn des Wortes ‘keine Zeit’; daher seine Ungeduld, seine Unruhe und seine Unbedenklichkeit in der Wahl seiner Mittel.

(AuB, 142)

The adventurer, therefore, follows an impressionistic life style.60 He knows only the present, which consists for him of a sequence of isolated moments. Schnitzler deplores this kind of life, for “Wer aber nur die Gegenwart hat, der hat nur den Augenblick, somit eigentlich nichts” (AuB, 149).61

This restlessness which Casanova demonstrates by his quick change of travel plans, for instance, is a hopeless flight from his nothingness. To be sure, he is the “life of the party” wherever he goes; everybody remembers him and yet one may never penetrate the wall that is built around him, may never know anything beyond that which Casanova is willing to share. He is sociable but isolated, as the author defines the negative type (AuB, 142). Casanova only seems to stand in the stream of life; in reality he is rather distant from it. Gudar, Casanova's polarity, has even less to look forward to. The cardgame appears to be the only pleasure at his age, a means to fight, even though fate seems the only battle left for him, an old retired officer.

In his conversation with Anina, Gudar does not reveal much personal detail about Casanova beyond his amorous proclivity, which was already common knowledge in European resorts. Anina is eager to find out more; her encounter with Flaminia adds much to complete her picture of Casanova. Flaminia does not believe his story of escape from Venice, and therefore calls him a “liar”; his gambling habits are those of a “fraud”; his “age” makes him less desirable to women—just three days ago the famous dancer Teresa “walzed away from him”; and finally, with her last breath of disappointment and jealousy perhaps, Flaminia labels him “Trauerweide,” “Schatten,” “Narr,” “Geck” (661, 666).

Anina, the polar opposite to Flaminia, does not seem to believe much of her talk; in fact, Anina realizes that Flaminia was driven to Anina's room by curiosity. Flaminia sees in Anina her younger sister in “trade” as well as personality, even the innkeeper considered them to be sisters (662). She is eager to share with Anina her own experiences and “tricks of the trade.” We find Flaminia identifying so much with Anina that she ignores completely the latter's feelings and her efforts to set the record straight regarding her own reputation as well as the integrity of Andrea.

Wie lange schon reisen Sie mit ihm umher?
Drei Wochen,—rasch und wir werden uns vermählen.


Much to Anina's dismay, she hears Flaminia speak of “providence” that the four had to share a carriage before they reached the town of Spa, and Santis, we hear from Flaminia, was already calculating:

Wenn zwei Paare sich
Wie ich und du, und Bassi mit der Seinen
Zu Arbeit und Vergnügen klug gesellten—
Zum grössten Vorteil schlüg's uns allen aus.
Denn dieser Bassi—Santis' Worte sind's—
Als meinen Meister muss ich ihn erkennen.


Anina has not been able to stop Flaminia's double-mindedness, for neither did Andrea ever gamble before, nor is he a “Meister”—“in anderen Dingen” (663). She takes every possible opportunity to let Flaminia know that they have nothing in common, that their lives and affairs are miles apart. Her explanation as to why they eloped is cut short by Flaminia's answer:

So fängt es eben an. Aus Flucht wird Reise,
Aus notgedrungener Reise heitere Fahrt,
Leicht wird der Sinn, und in der Fremde lernt sich,
Was uns der Heimat Enge vorenthielt,
Meist nur allmählich,—manchmal über Nacht.


Flaminia even tells Anina how funny it is when she and Santis share their adventurous love affairs, “Denn, ach, die Welt ist dumm. / Zumal die Männer—” (663).

Flaminia seems to consider herself rather superior, and yet her “intelligence” is nothing more than natural calculation and cunning. She has attached herself to Santis who is nearly twice her age, mainly for reasons of social advantage, security, and protection—as a matter of convenience. When Santis had won heavily in his gambling activities, she seized upon the opportunity of acquiring a precious string of pearls. Now she assumes that Anina likewise is receiving pearls this morning from Andrea which, as she conjectures, must be the reason for his absence. Since this is not the case, she immediately judges him to be stingy (661). However, it is Anina who emerges as the intelligent woman from this dialog with Flaminia. With wit and humor she is able to counteract every one of Flaminia's exaggerated stories, whether they depict Casanova, Teresa, and Santis, or attempt to fasten upon Andrea's reputation. She easily sees through all façades and has already proven herself in this respect during her conversation with Gudar. She shows it again with Santis, who at this point enters the scene, boasting about the supper he will give in honor of twelve important wealthy people, while at the same time discrediting Andrea in the eyes of Anina as he blames him for wearing the mask of a philosopher (665-66). It is interesting to note that Flaminia used the same term earlier in the play (661). Thus, she and Santis display the same mentality in their thinking and reactions. They establish a polarity to Andrea and Anina.

In Act II, Anina continues to control her relationship with Flaminia by means of humor, but now it is used as a weapon of defense in her own behalf. She no longer protects Andrea and his reputation by the kind of love, concern and respect we saw her employ before. Her argument with Andrea over the night she spent with Casanova and the ensuing changes in Andrea after his conference with Casanova have left her with heartache and disappointment. She is ready to break her relationship and leave him without delay. This provides a humorous incident when Andrea opens the door to part with Anina just at the moment that Flaminia has come to the door inviting them to the table for the festive evening meal (695-96). She seems to be familiar with marital quarreling, which she calls “Liebeszank.” Probably her own experience of having been beaten by the husband is recalled, as she projects it into this situation. Her advice to Anina is simple: “Man hat gezankt— / Man söhnt sich wieder aus. So ist's der Brauch” (696). Two more reasons for reconciliation are of a practical nature to her: a thunderstorm may break out at any moment and, furthermore, as no carriages are available in Spa this afternoon, walking in such weather is not the thing to do (696).

As soon as the spotlight falls on Flaminia and her disappointing “night in waiting for Casanova,” and Andrea creates suspense in releasing the real reason for Anina's sudden departure, the “older sister” is no longer interested in repairing discrepancies and disharmonies between Andrea and Anina. She turns instead in self-pity to her own misery, throwing insults at them at every opportunity. Her dramatization develops along the lines of polarity:

Ins Leere durstig breitet sich mein Arm—
Indessen schlingt der ihre sich um ihn?!—
Die Nachtluft trink' ich, seine Küsse die—


Flaminia's eyes are red from crying, staring sleepless into the gray dawn; Anina's are slumbering blissfully, dreaming happily into the sweet morning. Another polarity with a double twist refers to their bedrooms. Flaminia is waiting passionately in her “chaste” bedside, whereas Anina knows how to lure Casanova into her “voluptuous” bed (697-98). Apparently, Flaminia regards herself as virginal before each new sexual encounter but considers a rival as innately wanton if the same man is the object of desire.

The insults increase in intensity as she questions Anina's origin and relegates her to a “Mädchenkammer, Freudenhaus” (698), where Andrea must have bought her from a procuress. Flaminia considers herself a good-natured fool to have given them a ride in her husband's carriage to Spa, treating Anina as a “girl friend and sister” in the face of this deception. Her earlier arrogance about “die Welt ist dumm—zumal die Männer” is taking its toll on Flaminia because now “die Welt is dumm—zumal die Frauen” fits Flaminia's situation much better in more than one way. When one compares the two women in their distress, Anina behaves in a more dignified manner, whereas Flaminia shows a rather vulgar personality. Another polarity occurs with regard to the women's intentions. At the beginning of the encounter it was Anina who was rushing after Casanova, according to Andrea; now, it is Flaminia who discloses her desire to forgo the dinner gladly and “fly after Casanova” (699).

Clearly, it is Flaminia who has lost her temper in this mutual rivalry, which has the opposite effect upon Anina. She perceives keenly in Flaminia a reflection of her own fate, and this helps her to gain distance. She is able to adopt an attitude of humorous observation which turns Flaminia to greater outrage, hatred, and bitterness. The stage directions read: “Anina hat zuerst starr, dann immer gelöster und heiterer den Worten der Flaminia gelauscht. Der Ausdruck ihres Antlitzes zeigt, dass sie den Humor der Sachlage zu erfassen beginnt und immer bereiter wird, sich ihm selbst anzupassen” (699). In Anina's reply to Flaminia she repeats the same words of advice given to her earlier about the stormy weather and the shortage of carriages. Flaminia finally resorts to cunning in hopes of winning out over Anina, who insists just as stubbornly now on her right to Casanova as does Flaminia. The dispute in its polar situation becomes a serious psychological problem for both:

Was kommt dich Böse an,
Dass du mir nehmen willst, mir vorenthalten,
Was Rechtens mein?! Du Unersättliche!—
Dass du, sei's nun durch Zufall oder Lust,
Doch unverdient gewiss, die Seine warst,
Ist das nicht Glücks genug? Willst du noch mehr?
Ich war die Seine nicht.
Wer denn als du?
Viel eher du.
Für ihn, doch nicht für mich.
Er weiss nicht, dass ich's war, so war ich's nicht.
Ich war's nicht, denn ich weiss, dass ich's nicht war.
So hätten beide wir ein Recht an ihn.


Both women suffer in their vanity because only a portion of their love has been fulfilled. Anina is longing for Casanova's individual affection, since he only desired her because he thought she was Flaminia; and the latter is longing for the physical consummation of love with Casanova which he gave to Anina. The inner disturbance and disappointment present in both women finds opposite relief. Rage and anger in Flaminia intensify to an open attack against Anina: “Und da die finst're Nacht dir hold gesinnt, / Sei ewig sie um dich. Mit dieser Nadel—” (703). The attempt of blinding Anina with the hairpin fails, but it shows clearly the pinnacle of Flaminia's jealousy, grudging her any daytime encounter with Casanova, just as Anina is too jealous to allow Flaminia a night with Casanova. This day and night polarity finds also a parallel in the behavior of both women. Anina, although she is just as insistent and stubborn as Flaminia, handles the entire encounter from beginning to end with humor, even though the humor is aimed at Flaminia as a challenge. Flaminia, on the other hand, is unable to recognize this maneuver which places her out of control entirely; her only responses are insults.

However, at the moment of greatest danger, Andrea comes to the rescue of Anina by stepping between the women and taking each by the hand. Forgetting his own trouble for the time being, he assumes the role of mediator and tries to handle with reason and objectivity a situation which cannot be resolved in the presence of flaring emotions. He objectifies the happenings by lifting them out of the highly charged personal realm and dressing them in a parable about two sisters, one of whom is to be married soon but finds herself in the arms of her sister's lover before her own wedding has yet taken place. With the consent of Flaminia and Anina, the controversial question from the parable is to be answered by Santis who, “etwas betrunken, noch in der Tür” (703), is urging Flaminia to get ready for the celebration. It is ironic that Santis is considered qualified for the job of arbiter on the supposition that he is facing this question “unverwirrten Sinns” (709). But Santis, by reason of his intelligence and, mainly his physical condition, is unable to tell the end of the story. He suggests instead that Casanova fulfill the task because

… was Erfahrung anbetrifft, so findet
Zu so verzwickter Rätsel Lösung sich
Wohl mancher, der in Liebeslanden weiter
Als ich gereist und mehr sich umgetan.


Nevertheless, Andrea handled this situation with more elegance than he had managed his own quarrel with Anina. This time he succeeded in lifting the circumstances from the sphere of mere passion into the proposition of a mathematical problem (718), and even succeeded in having both women agree with his story in their identification as “sisters” (705), a phrase which translates more accurately into “sisters of fate.” Thus, Andrea in his role as mediator finds his polar counterpart in Casanova.

The name “Casanova,” and Santis' assurance that he is safely back in town as an invited guest to the evening dinner, has an electrifying effect upon Anina and Flaminia. At the end of Act II, they seem to have forgotten their quarrel and are now impatiently waiting for him.

Wo bleibt er denn?
Warum lässt er uns warten?
Er ist es!
Er! Anina und Flaminia öffnen das Fenster.


But why had Casanova left town in the first place? Returning to the first Act, we find Andrea and Anina in an argument over a letter to Casanova. Andrea knows that Anina wrote this letter, but he is even more humiliated that she employed Tito, the lad of the inn, to deliver it. Andrea's reproach grows stronger with every new idea he expresses. He suspects that Anina in her vanity has inquired more in detail about the lace from Brussels which Casanova had promised to buy from a friend at more favorable prices. Andrea had overheard the conversation between them the night before. Anina could have left Andrea in his belief, but faithful to her promise “Du weisst, dass ich nicht lügen will, noch kann” (668), she tells him the truth: her letter contained a request “Dass er noch in dieser Stunde / Die Stadt verlasse” (669). This knowledge creates even more anxiety within Andrea, because his pride and vanity are hurt. “[…] ihm verfallen—? Und ich bin nichts […]?” (669). He continues with ideas very close to Schnitzler's own heart.

[…] Als wäre Sehnsucht nicht
Um Tausendfaches schlimmer als Erfüllung,
Weil sie fortwühlend in der Seele Gründen
Den reinen Lauf ihr bis zur Quelle trübt—!


Andrea gives here the answer to a problem which Schnitzler pondered in his aphorisms:

Ist der berechtigter zur Eifersucht, dessen Frau früher einen Geliebten hatte, mit dem sie nun völlig fertig ist, oder einer, dessen Frau als Mädchen geliebt hat, ohne den Geliebten zu besitzen, so dass sie noch immer voll Begehrens ist?62

Since Andrea senses in Anina a longing for Casanova, not realizing as yet that she has been fulfilled, he has an impulse to leave the place immediately, thus breaking his relationship with Anina. He considers her confession a joke, and is disappointed that she would become so friendly with those adventurous people as to follow through with a type of trick that must have been suggested to her. The fact that she really had spent the night with Casanova and has demanded his departure in return does not register with Andrea at this point. However, he at least recognizes that neither Anina nor he himself fits into this kind of company. He also regrets the gambling activity he engaged in the night before, because he realizes the risk in leaving Anina alone for so many hours. This town, as he sees it, is a potential danger and a source of confusion for them; so he is ready to leave together with Anina at the same hour. This presents a comic situation for the audience, because all negatives have already befallen the couple and they will, in fact, sharpen in focus as the scene goes on into the next act.

Anina's statement “Ob wir uns trennen müssen, steht bei dir” (672) places the proof of true love and continued trust upon Andrea. The thought of searching her own conscience does not enter her mind at all. She explains that all came about because she felt neglected by Andrea, longing and waiting all night for him. She considers her experience with Casanova an involuntary dream state which has passed as quickly as it came upon her, never to return again and not having any consequences “weil nichts geschah” (674). But Andrea needs to go full circle before he is able to gain a similar conviction.

The thought “Weil nichts geschah” would never mean anything to the opposite couple, Santis and Flaminia. They are set up in the play as polarities to Andrea and Anina. We have already heard Flaminia's motives for marrying Santis, who himself is not necessarily a faithful husband. His main purpose in life is to attract money by whatever means available. He speaks about this freely with Flaminia; indeed, she helps him in her own way to reach this goal. Whenever they spend time together, they seem to speak freely about their individual activities, looking upon the world and mankind as an open field to play their cunning game. Andrea and Anina, on the other hand, come from an honest and sincere background; they find themselves temporarily out of place in this company and this resort town.

Andrea regrets his weak moment in accepting a place at the gambling table. However, he does not make any allowance, nor shoulder part of the blame, for what happened to Anina during his absence. He is unable to grasp that moment in time which Anina spent with Casanova as a discovery of her own identity. Neither does he comprehend that in her confession she is releasing the secret of that moment and thereby relegating it to her past.63 No real communication has taken place between the two of them because they cannot see beyond the circle of their personal involvement; thus no understanding is reached.

At present Andrea sees only a prostitute in Anina and considers the money he won from Casanova as ransom which Casanova paid to gain her favors; therefore, he wants to dispose of this “Teufelsgold,” as he calls it, by giving it to Anina as whore money:

Hier ist das Teufelsgold, du wirst es brauchen—
Fürs erste jedenfalls, bis von Flaminia
Das weit're du gelernt.


As Martin Swales points out:

The prostitute is often seen as the female counterpart of the adventurer in that she surrenders over and over again to erotic experience, but without ever being totally committed to the actuality of each relationship.64

Therefore, Flaminia and Teresa fall into this category, for they really are attached to their “counterpart of the adventurer” in this non-committed way. Andrea, however, is never portrayed as an adventurer at any point in the play. By placing Anina in this category, Andrea indeed degrades himself to the role of whoremaster. In addition, he demonstrates a considerable lack of sensitivity in listening to Anina's story as she reveals her thoughts, her feelings, and the circumstances which led her into this experience. But she emerged from it still totally committed to Andrea. His uncontrolled reaction now leads to new difficulties.

Not only has Anina's individuality been damaged, but also his own, for he sadly recognizes that his relationship with her was not so unique after all: he could be replaced, exchanged. We see here that Andrea struggles with the egotism and vanity of which he had accused Anina earlier in their dispute. His motivation to leave her has its foundation in this inner conflict. After this dark hour of personal insult, Anina too, sees no basis for any future companionship. “Das Band ist zerrissen” (677), she exclaims, just as Andrea had said earlier. When Casanova's visit is announced by Tito, she seems to seal their separation with these words: “[…] merke: Kein Bräutigam, nicht meiner Ehre Anwalt— / Du bist ein fremder Mann für mich—wie er” (677). This second Act ends in the disagreement between them. Apparently, Anina felt no obligation to her honor and Andrea's to resist Casanova, who she knew was not Andrea, although he was deceived as to her identity. She is not an inexperienced woman and therefore would be expected to have sufficient loyalty to her prospective husband to handle the advances of a deluded visitor such as Casanova. On the contrary, she thoroughly enjoys the experience and on awakening the next morning feels herself in a state of innocent bliss, for her excessive vanity tells her that no guilt attaches to one who has not sought out a sexual experience outside the stable relationship which she already enjoys with Andrea.

As the discussion shows, it is possible in this argument to take sides for and against Andrea and Anina at the same time. What Schnitzler is demonstrating here is the complexity of the issue which involves the polarity of honor and vanity. Honor in men requires dignity, integrity and especially excellence of character which Andrea did not demonstrate entirely, as shown by the weakness for gambling, thus leaving Anina alone and unprotected. Honor in women involves chastity in light of a marriage commitment, to which she felt not obligated in the loneliness of the night. Both, therefore, were carried off on the wings of vanity.

This polarity of honor and vanity is shown in other characters as well. At this point, Casanova is just as uninformed about events as Andrea was earlier, and as Santis will be later. The purpose of Casanova's visit is to borrow money from Andrea in order to repay Gudar. This desire to honor his debt, however, is not really motivated by genuine principles of honesty and integrity. Instead, Casanova intends to gamble with Gudar during their forthcoming mutual journey and win the money again from him, so that he can repay Andrea, hopefully sooner than within thirty days. This activity of losing and winning is set up here by the author in a polar sequence, and he works with this polarity principle, as has already been shown, throughout the play. Not only are the characters in polar position to each other, but incidents as well.

It can be seen at this point in the “open window.” The night before, Casanova was attracted by it; presently, during his visit with Andrea and before he has started any conversation, he is repelled by it and asks that it be closed. Another polarity occurs within Andrea himself. At first, he is very reserved toward Casanova because he feels uncomfortable in his role as cuckold. Later on, as he regains his bearings when Casanova tells his story, thus revealing that he really does not know whom he seduced the night before, Andrea is more outgoing. He no longer is interested in securing Casanova's promissory note by asking questions about his sources of income; he gathers the gold rather quickly to hand it to him. He is also able to recover from Casanova the letter Anina sent him. Thus, Andrea wipes away all traces of any proof to the contrary, for Casanova assumes that Flaminia sent him this note to warn him of her jealous husband, who already looked for him in the morning. Andrea is now changing his mind about Anina considerably. To make certain that Anina would not fall into another temptation, Andrea suggests to Casanova that he might seek a safer refuge in Holland or England instead of Belgium; at any rate, further away from them.—What is one man's loss is another's gain!

The polarities between Andrea and Anina change in the ensuing scene. Whereas Andrea is ready for reconciliation, Anina wants to be left alone so that she can pack her suitcase. “Neu fängt mein Leben an” (693), she proclaims. The letter which started the original dispute between them is now again the cause of disagreement—this time in the opposite direction. Anina believes it was bought back with gambling money which Andrea had in the drawer and which has now disappeared. “Dafür das Gold—ein Handel?—Schmach und Torheit!” (692). Anina sees in this bargain nothing more than a reduction of human relations and problems, whereas for Andrea it is a reinstatement of his integrity as well as Anina's. When she asks him how he came into possession of this letter he replies by repeating her own words: “Neu fängt dein Leben an” (694); therefore, it should not matter. As she insists on hearing about it, Andrea tells her that Casanova assumes this letter has come from Flaminia to warn him of her jealous husband and his revenge. Andrea admits that he gladly left Casanova in this belief, for he considers this circumstance a special act of fate, thus providing a new level of consciousness upon which to rebuild their relationship. In the measure of forgiveness he sees a first step on their new path. As Anina questions this “big” word of forgiving, he reduces it to mean understanding and forgetting, but Anina at this point is not ready to forget all the insults, mental abuse, and hatred that have been heaped upon her. She repeats the same words Andrea originally said to her:

Nimmt er nicht die Erinn'rung jener Stunde,
Den Duft von meinem Leib, von meinen Küssen
Den Nachgeschmack, der Seufzer Wonnehauch
Für ewig mit—?


thus setting again herself and Andrea in opposition to one another. He thinks he is ready for reconciliation, while she is still trying to cope with the mental damage suffered as a result of these strong accusations and is at the same time questioning the motives behind his sudden change of mood. As she grabs her coat and gets ready to leave, she rightfully poses this question to Andrea:

Genest, weil Eitelkeit des Stachels ledig,
Ein Herz so rasch, das todverwundet schien?
Nun erst verlor ich dich!—Fahr hin!


Schnitzler himself has a dim view of this subject, for he maintains that understanding and forgiving rarely stem from goodness, but from indifference and lack of love. In a series of aphorisms, he explains his standpoint on this matter quite distinctly: “Alles verstehen heisst alles verzeihen;—das wäre sehr edel gedacht und gesagt. Nur schade, dass das Verzeihen neunundneunzig Mal unter hundert aus Bequemlichkeit und höchstens einmal aus Güte geschieht […].”65 In another instance, he observes that these mental processes of “Verstehen,” “Verzeihen,” and “Vergessen” are almost too great for human nature to handle: “Du hast verstanden? Du hast verziehen? Du hast vergessen? Welch ein Missverständnis! Du hast nur aufgehört zu lieben.”66

Andrea's “Eitelkeit” (694), as Anina calls his vanity, is suddenly no longer in distress, only because the fear of being ridiculed as a cuckold has been dissolved, so that his honor has been rescued. On a psychological level Andrea's willingness to forget may translate into suppression, but the more human aspect of Andrea's change of mind can be seen in his explanation to Anina that Casanova did not carry away her “Bild” (694), because her countenance was not recognized by him as Anina, nor was it the face he had expected that night. Since she was taken for somebody else “[…] so ist es nie gescheh'n” (694).

Although different ways of thinking were involved, Andrea arrives at the same evaluation of the situation as did Anina earlier, when she said “Weil nichts geschah” (674). But she no longer has this conviction. Because Casanova has loved her as Flaminia and not as Anina, she has a strong urge from wounded vanity to repair her individuality and integrity. By this revelation of her personality, Schnitzler neatly convicts her of excessive vanity and of delinquency in the most vital area of a woman's honor. “Jetzt lieb' ich ihn … und nun erst wird es Glück” (695) represents a renewed commitment to Casanova, and she held firm on that position during her encounter with Flaminia, as has been seen. The only concession both women have made is to put this dilemma into a fable and present it as a problem to Casanova, who is asked to find the solution.

In Act III, Casanova joins the two couples on stage; his stage directions read: “Er springt über die Brüstung ins Zimmer” (714), which is the same way he entered the night before. Thus Casanova arouses negative emotions and memories immediately in all players with the exception of Santis, whose remark “Er ist's gewohnt” (714) comes ironically close to the truth of which he is not aware at this point. Santis' eyes are geared only to material things; immediately he discovers the emerald on Casanova's snuff box. Casanova generously parts with this jewel box and gives it to Santis, thus paying the husband for the pleasures he thought he had had with his wife. This is another subtle polarity to the scene before, when Andrea considered his gambling money in a similar way. On the surface, of course, Casanova finds another reason for this generosity. He considers Santis his “savior” who through interference in his flight plans “saved” him from running after another “unfaithful woman” and probably into “death” (712).

Because Santis had the original idea of involving Casanova in this affair, he is supposed to tell the story about the two sisters and let Casanova find the proper ending. Throughout the drama Santis has been playing with the terms “Philosoph” and “Dichter” because he saw these qualities in Andrea. Now he has the opportunity to imitate Andrea by telling the story. He enjoys this new role so much that he pays no attention to proper sequence; in fact, Andrea impatiently labels it “Unsinn” (717) and helps out with a short summary. Casanova's answer, which seems to catch everyone by surprise, singles out the young man as being the one who is most deceived of all because he is the victim of a two-fold cheat in that he actually possessed neither one of the women (719).

Before Casanova can justify his decision, they are interrupted by considerable noise from the garden, where the guests are complaining about the fact that they have received neither drinks nor food. Tito appears to collect advance payment from Santis before anything can be served. Santis is outraged: “Ein Arzt herbei, der Wirt ist krank! Ich zahle, / Wenn ich vom Mahle aufsteh', nicht vorher!” (720). But Tito stands firm: “Und meine Bestellung lautet: Kein Bissen auf / die Teller, kein Tropfen in die Becher, ehe die Rechnung / beglichen ist” (720). Santis calls the bill “Betrug,” “Erpressung,” “Gaunerei,” but is willing to pay half of it in advance and give him securities for the other half in the form of jewelry. Finally, Casanova saves Santis from any further embarrassment by paying the entire bill: “Wo Casanova man zu Gaste lud, dort muss der Wirt nicht für die Zeche zittern” (721). In addition, he is still in a position to repay Andrea the gold which he had borrowed from him earlier.

Although Casanova and Santis are both adventurer types, Schnitzler has set them up as polar opposites. In Casanova we see the carefree, self-centered but generous person who does not pretend to be anything other than an adventurer. Santis, on the other hand, has an elevated social consciousness; hence, his title “Baron” as well as his conformity to social customs such as marriage, however open such marriage may be. His self-centeredness is carried to a further extreme by the combination of cunning and of deliberate deception of other people for his own benefit. In contrast to Casanova, he is not a generous person; part of his personality is his suffering from unsatisfied greed. Instead of paying the bill, he first tries to reduce the amount; then to pay half now and the rest at an indefinite later time; then to secure the remaining amount as if at a pawn shop. He even wanted to take away the pearls from Flaminia, but probably had not reckoned with her own crafty skill, for she had had the clasp soldered in wise anticipation. Nor does he measure up to Casanova in terms of intelligence and education. In Schnitzler's diagram Santis would certainly occupy a lower position than Casanova in this triangular arrangement of types and states of mind.

Casanova, through his generosity in paying the dinner bill, has now switched places with Santis in becoming the host of the evening. In that capacity he invites everyone to the garden banquet: “Und nun, es blinkt der Wein, die Schüsseln dampfen. / Ich denk' es wäre Zeit, zu Tisch zu geh'n” (722). But he must first find an end to the unfinished story; so he has the following solution:

Betrogen alle drei: Der Jüngling zweifach,
Einfach die Frau'n auf ihre Weise jede.
So glich sich alles aus, und ich erkläre:
Ungültig war das ganze Abenteuer.


Andrea sees the problem as solved, but not yet the “Novelle,” because the women still have the daggers in their hands and have only agreed to a temporary armistice. What has happened cannot be erased from memory—especially since neither of the women wants to relinquish her claim nor share with the other (722). Santis, with his new suggestion in that matter, is setting himself up as a cuckold, for this time it will be Flaminia who will realize the pleasure with Casanova, while he is dreaming of Anina. Although Santis is still ignorant with regard to the women involved, Casanova is catching on; stage instructions for him read: “[…] hat bei diesen Worten in sinngemässer Weise bald auf Flaminia, bald auf Anina geblickt” (723). He may also remember that he did not feel the string of pearls the night before. Besides, Andrea's drawing his sword gives him the final perception. But Casanova, who has watched the delicious food being served at the table is asking for “zwei Bissen und ein Schluck, nachher der Tod!” (723). This request complies with his impressionistic life style of enjoying always the present moment. Andrea insists that only one of the two will be physically able to go to the table. Santis now surmises that it must have been more than simply “ein Problem” and immediately suspects Flaminia, so that the audience now sees two swords pointing against one.

At this point some outside intervention is necessary because the play is no longer moving along the lines of a comedy. In connection with several earlier experiences during theater visits, Schnitzler speaks in his autobiography “vom Ineinanderfliessen von Ernst und Spiel, Leben und Komödie, Wahrheit und Lüge,” which stirred and occupied him “immer wieder, auch jenseits alles Theaters und aller Theaterei, ja über alle Kunst hinaus” and considers it a “Grundmotiv” in his thinking and in his entire works.67 Indeed, the realms of seriousness and playfulness have moved dangerously close together; not just two but three swords are involved.

Gudar interrupts the duel by bringing in Teresa, who has just arrived to claim her lover and take him along to Vienna, where her next engagement as a dancer is scheduled. With her appearance Schnitzler creates a polar opposite to Casanova, because both characters experience each aspect of their life just for the moment. Teresa had broken her relationship with Casanova only three days ago, as we heard earlier from Flaminia (660); yet, her new sexual adventure has cooled off already. She answers Casanova's curious question: “Liegt er im Grab?” with these words: “Viel tiefer! In Vergessenheit. […]” (726). Death, contrasted here with oblivion instead of life, creates an unusual polarity. However, when this is seen in the context of time and space, oblivion does appear at the opposite end of the scale. A person who has sunk into oblivion in the mind of another has truly ceased to exist for that individual. If, on the other hand, a person had departed through death, he may still be kept alive in the memories of those he left behind.

Teresa, who exists only in and for the moment, and so uses life's opportunities always to her greatest benefit and enjoyment regardless of responsibility and commitment to another person, drops each of her experiences into the sea of oblivion, as soon as it is over. She handles another situation in a similar way later in the play. Tito reports the arrival of two guests at almost the same time, each asking for Teresa. He locked each of them into a room because they acted rather irritated, and is awaiting instructions now. But Teresa is brief: “Ich kenn' sie nicht, man jage sie zum Teufel,” later adding: “Ich kenne sie nicht mehr” (730).

Given the standards which she sets for herself, it can be argued that she lives in harmony with her nature: she exists only in the present moment. According to Schnitzler's diagram she would rank as a negative type: “Der negative Typ lebt ohne das Gefühl von Zusammenhängen; das Gestern ist tot für ihn, das Morgen unvorstellbar […].”68 Quite noticeably, Schnitzler here mentions this loss of the sense of time so characteristic of the negative types, a deficiency which is also the cause of their irresponsibility in the choice of their means. As soon as Teresa finds Casanova again, she becomes very possessive, almost aggressive, past happenings notwithstanding. When she sensed his involvement with the two women, Flaminia and Anina, she could have become jealous, but quickly changed her attitude: “Doch tu' ich's nicht. / Ich hab' dich wieder, so ist allesgut” (727). However, she urges him to pack immediately because they must soon be on their way. Casanova pretends to have other plans, and of course, at present, he still has the duel on his mind. But Santis is swift in extending his hand for peace; whereupon Andrea follows grudgingly: “Wer kann wem was wehren?” (728).

The three women form a polar opposite to the men. Earlier Teresa had embraced Flaminia and called her “teu're Freundin” (725). Now, she turns to Anina with these words, in a sense emphasizing the double meaning: “Auch Sie, mein schönes Kind? Nun ja, wer kann / Ihm widerstehn” (728). These episodes are over; she alone lays claim to Casanova now: “Ewig bin ich dein” (730). Not one of his plans has been acknowledged by Teresa, who in this way shows her insensitivity to any other person outside her own frame of reference. She is certain that they will travel together and has even made arrangements to take along Tito as their servant, since he has proven himself to be rather clever. Casanova's insistence on having dinner first is finally granted under one condition, that she will eat with him with the two other women on her side. Teresa thus becomes the peacemaker in this inevitable encounter between Casanova and the two couples. In this activity she functions like Casanova, who earlier had a similar task as mediator between Flaminia and Anina. Now they have gone hand in hand into the garden in sisterly harmony; it appears so, at least on the surface.

All but Andrea seem to have overcome their injured vanity so as to join the other guests at the evening meal, and nobody but Casanova appears to have noticed Andrea's difficulty in overcoming his inner conflict. “Ich bin Ihr Freund” (731), are the opening remarks which eventually lead to a deeper understanding between the two men on the subject of faithfulness. Andrea at first rejects this offer of friendship, but the gesture is seen correctly as “Knabentrotz” (732) in Casanova's estimation. If Andrea's heart is closed to Casanova, at least it should not remain so toward Anina, the woman he loves. Passionately, Andrea explains that he cannot marry an unfaithful woman, nor is he able to understand Casanova, who seems to have selected the most unfaithful woman of them all as his companion. But Casanova looks at fidelity from a completely different angle:

Ich frage Sie, mein Freund, gibt's bess're Treue,
Gibt's, frag' ich klarer noch, gibt's eine and're
Auf Erden zwischen Mann und Weib, Andrea,
Als die Teresa eben mir bewies?
Sie kehrte mir zurück. Nur das ist Treue,
Die einz'ge, die mit Fug so heissen darf.
Denn was uns sonst Gewähr der Treue gilt,
Das hält nicht stand vor philosoph'scher Prüfung.


The point of return represents for Casanova the highest level of fidelity, for it demonstrates to him a renewed desire for a certain companionship as a result of inner growth toward maturity. What other proof can there be, he asks: “Sexual closeness after a long struggle? A holy oath? To shoulder some danger? To kill herself and hopefully conquer all doubts in the partner?” (733).69 For each of these questions Casanova has his own defeating answer such as the one for the first question: “Wer weiss, von wem sie träumt in Ihrem Arm!” (733).

Recurrently in his work, Schnitzler has pondered over the degree of commitment between two people; in his Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken he gives the following advice:

Nicht früher darfst du dich von einer Frau geliebt glauben, ehe du nicht sicher bist ihre ganze erotische Sehnsucht auf dich allein vereinigt und alle andren Möglichkeiten ihres Wesens, auch die ungeahntesten, zur Wirklichkeit erlöst zu haben.70

Andrea is not convinced by Casanova's argument and creates a polarity to the concept of “Wiederkehr”: “Ja, wenn sie Heimkehr wäre, dann vielleicht” (733). If the woman were coming home, then he might be better able to accept her. The degree of frequency with which one steps outside a relationship becomes the focal point here. “Heimkehr” relates to a close relationship such as a marriage. After previous longings for variety in sexual experiences are satisfied, the partner comes home because of a desire for order and stability, and for a deeper sense of sharing and caring. “Wiederkehr, von wo es immer sei” (733), on the other hand, carries a degree of uncertainty to the point of chaos in the relationship, because it would include maximum freedom for the individual to come and go and as such create a disruptive element. It certainly describes Casanova's life style, for he lives in and for the moment and does not belong anywhere. It might also leave him free of jealousy and anxiety, because he does not feel possessive about any partner.

Jealousy, responsibility, freedom, fidelity are key issues, not only for Andrea and Casanova, but throughout the entire play. These are the points of polarity between “vanity” and “honor,” that is, honor in its basic connotation as “personal integrity.” Schnitzler himself has formulated the difficulty in his Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken:

Dass wir uns gebunden fühlen mit der steten Sehnsucht nach Freiheit—und dass wir zu binden versuchen, ohne die Überzeugung unseres Rechts dazu, das ist es, was jede Liebesbeziehung so problematisch macht.71

Andrea feels obligated to a serious relationship; yet, at the beginning of the play he also struggled with the freedom to gamble and drink and take exception to his commitment to Anina for one night—at least his suggestions to Santis regarding the excursion for that evening seems to indicate his secret desire:

Wenn sich die Nacht senkt, werden schleierlos
Von Busch zu Busch des Waldes Nymphen schweben
Und ihre Gunst an Sterbliche verschwenden—
Weh dem, der sie am Morgen wieder kennt—
Und—rat' ich recht?—anstatt des grünen Tuchs
Wird uns ein leuchtend weisser Frauenleib—
Das Los entscheidet welcher—Spieltisch sein,
Darauf das Glück in gold'nen Wellen rollt—
Und wer verliert—der sei der Hauptgewinner.


Still, Andrea acts extremely jealous and hurt in his vanity that Anina did just that: take leave for one night from her otherwise solid commitment to him.

There are discrepancies in Anina's behavior as well. If she was serious in turning the page on her experience with Casanova by sending him the letter, she should have followed through with this decision. The love relationship between Santis and Flaminia, on the other hand, does not seem problematic at all in the sense Schnitzler formulated it, because they do not take their commitment to each other seriously, nor do they restrict each other in their freedom. Casanova and Teresa are so independent that their companionship does not reach any problematic state, either. Thus, Schnitzler shows here a variety of possible relationships and allows the audience to see their merits and deficiencies.

“Aus einem bestimmten Anlass betrügen, heisst beinahe schon treu sein”73 is another statement Schnitzler gave us in his Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken, which is rather all-inclusive in its application. The key words are “distinct occasion” for being unfaithful. This stipulation would fit the situation of each of the main characters. Their independence would be without restrictions; thus, true fidelity could not exist.

This independence is perhaps the reason for Casanova's total rejection of Andrea's concept of “Heimkehr,” as he expresses himself in this way:

Heimkehr?—O Wahn! Als wenn ein Mensch dem andern
Heimat zu sein sich jemals schmeicheln dürfte.
Ist Wand'rung nicht der Seele ew'ger Ruf?
Was gestern noch als fremd uns angefröstelt,
Umfängt's uns heute nicht vertraut und warm?
Und was uns Heimat hiess, war's jemals mehr
Als Rast am Weg, so kurz, so lang sie währte?
Heimat und Fremde—Worte tauben Klangs
Von Vorurteil, verschüchtert vom Gesetz
Und feig verstrickt im Wirrsal des Gewissens,
Sich Ordnung lügt ins Chaos seiner Brust,
Der aufgetanen Sinns und freier Seele—
Gleich unsereinem aus dem Stegreif lebt.


This last one of Casanova's long dialogs (which seem like monologs) touches upon another polarity which was expressed at the beginning of their first encounter; it is the opposition “Bürger” and “Abenteurer.” The life style which a “Bürger” like Andrea leads, according to Casanova, is hampered by prejudice, adherence to law, fears from one's conscience, and determination to see order where disorder truly reigns (733). Yet, it must be remembered that Casanova used the term “Heimkehr” earlier in the play in a rather positive way. He observed during his conversation with Andrea: “Ihr Ziel heisst Frieden, Ordnung und Gesetz / Wie Heimkehr Ihrer Wand'rung letzter Sinn”—and almost enviously he added: “Ein frühgeschloss'nes ist das stärkste Band, / Weh dem, der ewig sucht; wohl dem, der fand” (691). Andrea, who did not believe his ears, asks: “Ein solcher Spruch aus Casanovas Mund?” He is reassured by Casanova: “Bewahren Sie ihn sorglich im Gemüte, / Noch keinem gab ich höh're Weisheit kund” (691).

A further seeming paradox regarding the adventurer who travels “aufgetanen Sinns und freier Seele” and lives “aus dem Stegreif” (734) appears in contrast to what Casanova had said earlier. To sleep in strange beds, eat in all kinds of inns, and travel in the company of all sorts of people (691) is void of excitement and color; as if Casanova—had he the choice to start his life all over—would this time settle down early with a young woman, “schön wie Anina, klug und tugendhaft” (691). Thus, Casanova has gained certain insights, and he seems to give Andrea the key as to what their conduct in marriage should be. Andrea will have to be Anina's conscience. Casanova seems to feel that women do not have a conscience, and this is one of his reasons for ranking Teresa superior because she has come back to him who is her substitute for conscience. Regret, envy, and a certain weariness seem to emanate from Casanova's words to Andrea, an indication that “Wahrheit” and “Lüge” are polarities equally present within Casanova. For a split second he is able to glance into the future and foresee his later years, which Schnitzler describes to his readers brilliantly in his Novelle Casanovas Heimfahrt (EW II, 231-323).74

Andrea whose objections to Casanova become progressively shorter in this last scene, calls him a “Sophist” and does not recognize him as a “Philosoph.” Casanova seems to accept when he replies: “Mag sein. Daher ist's mir bestimmt, zu irren” (734). The word “irren” in its twofold meaning of making a mistake and of roaming applies ironically in each respect to Casanova, thus pointing to his fate in later years as a result of earlier mistakes. Davis interprets this passage quite differently, when he observes: “Casanova, the ebullient egoist, is proud of his deviation from the bourgeois norm. He can find no connection between himself and another person except for the fortuitous crossing of their paths or meeting of their desires.”75 However, when seen in context with the thoughts Casanova expressed earlier, he does not appear so “proud of his deviation.”

Significantly enough, the play ends with the focus on the three “sisters” who are seen in the garden arm-in-arm, chatting, smiling and laughing, completely reconciled. They have forgotten and forgiven each other, a task which Andrea was not able to accomplish with Anina. “Wie schwesterlich vereint,” remarks Casanova, “[…]—Und könnten Männer je / So Brüder sein wie alle Frauen Schwestern” (735). This expressed desire may not work for all men, but Casanova at least puts it into action for himself and Andrea as he walks arm-in-arm with him into the garden, seeing in him the “Bruder meiner Wahl!” (737).

Boner in her dissertation offers the following interpretation of the term “sisters”: “Es ist die Fähigkeit des Selbstvergessens in Momenten höchster Daseinsintensität, die ein Band schwesterlicher Ähnlichkeit um Schnitzlers Frauen schlingt.”76 This ability is possible for them, because “Sie alle kennen uneingeschränkte Ergriffenheit und Hingabe. Sie alle vermögen das Reflektieren auszulöschen. Sie alle stehen jenseits des Postulates der Rechtfertigung durch Wort oder Tat.”77 Men, on the other hand, function differently. Boner concludes: “Diejenigen Männer dagegen, die in ihrem Geiste das Leben begreifen und durch eine Leistung rechtfertigen wollen, errichten um sich einen Wall.”78 Casanova seems to be aware of this rampart around him which prompts him to imitate the women by holding on to Andrea's arm. Besides, the invitation to join is there. The women have already called the men's names; Anina has called Andrea twice.

It is a happy note upon which the drama ends, demonstrating the perplexity and complexity of human nature. Man is uncertain of himself and uncertain of his relationship with others, a problem which Schnitzler handled throughout his works, and especially with greater detail and seriousness in his late dramatic works. The question of fidelity which the author posed time and time again must also be understood in this context. “Human acts and human emotions are the result of many shifting and interlocked causes that may reach back even beyond the birth of consciousness,” ponders Liptzin. “Hence, none are guilty. All live as they must.”79 He continues to remind us: “Let us, therefore, not judge, Schnitzler would emphasize; and, above all, let us hesitate to condemn.”80

Körner seems to be “guilty” of both judging and condemning. He finds, “[…] dass in jeden Weibes Seele ein Dämon schlummert, den nicht zu wecken höchste Weisheit ist.”81 He sees this “demon” lurking in all of Schnitzler's women characters and upon closer scrutiny considers them “allesamt als Dionysias Schwestern.”82 It is obvious that Körner's assessment represents a gross generalization and does not take into consideration the complexity of the female characters in later works, such as Die Schwestern. Certainly, Boner in her evaluation of the three women characters shows more sensitivity in this respect.

Definite evidence toward a change can already be seen in Schnitzler's selection of the title. The focus is on the women as they present themselves in their various predicaments. They are no longer reflected through the eyes of their male counterparts, as they were in the Anatol-cycle, for example. These women display much more personality and individuality as compared to the women of earlier works. Most dominant is their emancipation in matters of companionship, courtship, and marriage.83

Although only one of the four dramas considered here carries the title Komödie der Verführung, it became apparent that Die Schwestern is also a comedy of seduction. The emphasis, however, is placed upon human relationships rather than a mere act of seduction. In this play, as well as in the other three late dramatic works, “[…] die Bedeutung der Schnitzlerschen Gestalten liegt nicht in ‘ihrem Schicksal,’ sondern in ‘ihrem Wesen’.” Solutions to the various problems in the play are achieved on psychological rather than moral grounds. As we know from his Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken, Schnitzler distrusted any dogmatic system, be it religious, philosophical, political or social laws of morality. Yet Schnitzler was by no means immoral. “Our chief moral fault lies in our not listening to the infallible measuring instrument in our souls,” which Liptzin calls “a moral seismograph that registers every minute deviation from the right path.”85 Because we do not understand ourselves, Liptzin points out:

All moral confusion results from the fact that but few people know their own true nature, and that only a very small minority of these have the courage to act in accordance with it. Yet these alone are on the road to freedom.86

In challenging conventional thought, Schnitzler himself traveled the road to inner freedom, as his diversified writings demonstrate. He realized that there is no absolute knowledge with regard to human nature and the world as a whole. What is true for one person may not be so for another, for each one is unique in his own expression and sees the world according to his level of consciousness and understanding. Schnitzler's literary production shows how he as a humanist has collected these observations from the realm of everyday experience, in protest against old established systems of thought and ancient prejudices. This seems to be the reason for his satisfaction with “Weltbetrachtung” instead of “Weltanschauung”. “‘Dies ist's, woran's vor allem dir gebricht: / Die tief're Weltanschauung hast du nicht.’ / Nun, lächelnd Eurer zünftigen Verachtung, / Bescheid ich mich in Weltbetrachtung.”87 “Weltanschauung” would indicate to him an authoritative evaluation of the world in its entirety, without leaving room for the ever-expanding, ever-questioning mind.88 It would also mark for him a narrower point of view instead of openness and receptiveness.

This suggests distinctly a shift in emphasis from the outer world to the complexity of the inner world of man, which is part of the maturing process in Schnitzler's late dramatic work. In an interview with Viereck, he discusses the relationship between his early works and his later production as follows:

I think the critics are sometimes disposed to overestimate some of my earlier works at the expense of my more mature production. Every talent has a countenance of its own. It took me some time to find myself—to discover my own face so to speak.89

Schnitzler's lifelong struggle for truth is related to these words of the interview, for as he realized the many facets of truth, he also discovered that human action and interaction relates to truth in complex ways. Körner points out that “Arthur Schnitzler vom sittlichen Relativismus, ja Amoralismus seiner Frühwerke sachte aber stetig zu immer strengerer sittlicher Bewertung vorgeschritten [sei].”90 In Die Schwestern, and with each new work, he either revises earlier conceptions or adds another dimension to his literary and philosophical development. This change in adopting a stricter ethical and moral standpoint is the key to a better understanding of his late dramatic works. “Wer diesen Wandel des Standpunktes nicht beachtet,” admonishes Körner, “mag leicht den irrigen Eindruck empfangen, der Dichter wiederhole sich, habe sich ausgeschrieben, wisse nichts Neues mehr zu sagen. In Wahrheit sind diese Wiederholungen Widerlegungen und sinnvolle Absicht.”91

The acceptance of free will and individual responsibility represents a relatively late stage in his work. Asked about free will by Viereck, Schnitzler remarks:

I believe in Free Will. Man is responsible for his actions. He could not live in a world without responsibility […]. In the moral sphere as well as in the sphere of space, conduct is self-determined. Man is the master of his soul, even if his freedom of choice be limited by circumstances and hampered by heredity.92

How did Schnitzler know that the will is free? He gives an answer to Viereck in these words:

If you ask me to prove that the will is free, I must confess my inability. Certain things cannot be argued. One must rely on intuition. One knows that they are so […]. Intuition is an invaluable guide in art, in politics, in business, in love. Even our friendships are largely determined by ‘hunches’.93

The conditions under which any will is able to function are, according to Schnitzler, “Selbstüberwindung, Erkenntnisdrang und Opfermut.”94

In overcoming his ego as the center of attention, man is free to direct his interest toward the world around him and to be of service to his fellow men. As we have seen in Die Schwestern, this noble concept could not easily be carried out; it required great struggle both within and without, for most egos were still self-centered. Some characters such as Santis, Flaminia, and Teresa only exerted free will, but assumed no responsibility. Gudar, Casanova, Andrea, and Anina had usually more desire to express free will than to show responsibility, but exercised occasional responsibility. Gudar interfered in the duel which was about to start; Casanova paid the bill for the banquet when Santis had reached the pinnacle of irresponsibility; Andrea saved Anina from losing her eyesight when Flaminia attacked her with a hairpin; and Anina wrote the letter to Casanova to prevent more serious consequences from happening in her relationship with Andrea.

Working with the concept of individual responsibility in this drama, Schnitzler again placed it on the scale of polarity. Some characters can handle responsibility to a certain degree; others are not as yet aware of it. The principle of polarity, therefore, becomes an important key in understanding the play Die Schwestern and Schnitzler's work as a whole. This idea is based on Urbach's suggestion regarding the method of interpretation: “Die Gestalten müssen zueinander in Beziehung gesetzt werden, aus ihnen und nicht aus Hypothesen oder Ideen entwickelt sich das dramatische Geschehen. Einzig durch Konfigurationen lassen sich Schnitzlers Stücke begreifen.”95 Not only are Schnitzler's “Leitgestalten” used in polar arrangement such as “Bürger” and “Abenteurer,” respectable woman and “Dirne,” but each part of a polarity can give rise to a new polarity within the sphere of “Leitmotive.” Casanova, the youthful adventurer, for example, has his counterpart in Gudar, the aging adventurer. “Letzten Endes also umfasst das Dasein für Schnitzler […] alle Gegensätze,” Rey observes, “[…] und verbindet sie zu einer Ganzheit, deren Wesen zwar geahnt, aber nicht mehr definiert werden kann.”96

Within a single character Schnitzler also develops polarities such as truth and falsity (Casanova), dream and reality (Anina), gaiety and solitude (Casanova), love and hate (Flaminia), reason and emotion (Andrea). Although all characters have these qualities, some seem to become more aware of the polar opposites within them and their synthesis on a different plane; Andrea, for example, remarks that “Irrtum und Wahrheit sich wunderbar verschlingen” (722). On the other hand, we see Santis who recognizes: “Die Rollen sind vertauscht […]” (723), but he is not aware that his statement rings true on different levels, for he only considers the change in hosts for the banquet. His idea of “zweifach glücklich […] zweifach betrogen” (723) does not grasp the whole truth, either.

Boner in her chapter entitled “Vom gelebten Leben” observes this polarity in terms of “Sehnsucht” and “Wollen” which creates suffering in Schnitzler's characters:

Schnitzlers Gestalten bewegt zweifache Sehnsucht, diejenige nach dem Fernen und Unbekannten, diejenige nach Rückkehr und Geborgenheit. Da sind Gestalten, die nur eine, da sind Gestalten, die nur die andere Sehnsucht kennen; aber die meisten haben zwei Seelen in ihrer Brust, und wenn sie der einen leben, sehnt sich die andere nach Verwirklichung.97

This polarity principle, of course, represents an important part of Baroque thought. Austria has a strong Baroque heritage, which significantly influences modern Austrian thought to this day, and which had an impact upon the author's production. Swales summarizes best the Baroque aspect of Austria, when he says:

Many of the themes from Baroque literature are restated in a way that gives them a peculiarly modern resonance. The notion of the ‘theatrum mundi,’ of man as a player on the stage of life, the juxtaposition of ‘Schein’ and ‘Sein,’ of ‘dream’ and ‘reality,’ these and many other legacies from the Baroque assert themselves in one form or another in much of the literature of the ‘Jahrhundertwende’.98

This modern resonance of earlier Baroque themes which Swales mentions is demonstrated in Die Schwestern not only by the lightness of tone in the drama but also by the carefree attitudes of its characters. The Rococo flavor already discussed earlier in this analysis is prevailing on every level: setting, plot, characters. Alewyn's assessment of Rococo serves to highlight the play again:

Das Rokoko ist eine durch und durch ephemere und vordergründige Welt, ohne die barocken Spannungen zwischen Vernunft und Leidenschaft, aber auch ohne die unheilbare Diskrepanz zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit […] eine Welt ohne Tiefe, ohne Dunkel, ohne Geheimnis, ohne Vergangenheit und ohne Zukunft—die Entdeckungen der Romantik. Seine Menschen sind jeden Augenblick durchaus identisch mit sich selbst, freilich um den Preis, dass ihr Selbst von heute selten dem Selbst von gestern gleicht. Man will lieber zu leichtfertig erscheinen als zu schwerfällig.99

Indeed, the concept of “Augenblick” was very important in Die Schwestern; all significant turns in the play were prompted by a momentary action, beginning with Casanova's jump through the wrong window. The “Augenblick” is an important leitmotif in Schnitzler's entire work, one which increases in significance with each new drama in his late period. In Die Schwestern it was used to create this carefree attitude among nearly all characters in the play; it served also to highlight opposite situations, those rare moments in time when a certain understanding or realization was reached within a particular character.

To see in the Rococo aspects of the play merely an escape of Schnitzler's from the political and social realities of the time, constitutes a rather one-sided view.100 Schnitzler indeed was interested in the events of his time in so far as they did not involve revolutionary movements of post-war Europe. Such activities met with his utter disapproval and disdain. The following aphorism most closely expresses his thinking:

Der Pedantismus missverstand die Menschenliebe;—das Resultat ist als Marxismus bekannt. Das Ressentiment missverstand den Marxismus, da wurde der Bolschewismus daraus. Das Literatentum missverstand den Bolschewismus, da galt er wieder als Menschenliebe;—aber nun sah sie auch darnach aus.101

Schnitzler was not a politician by profession who would step on the platform and proclaim the necessity of certain measures for social change. As a writer he certainly gave an accurate “portrait of the intellectual climate of his times” in describing “the kind of psychological situation which individual participation in that society produces.”102 Even though the play takes place in the Belgian resort town of Spa and portrays the summer guests of various European countries, it easily parallels the Viennese society of Schnitzler's time. When once questioned about his country of post-World War I, Schnitzler answered with these words: “Das wird unsere Generation nicht mehr übersehen und schon gar nicht mehr gestalten können.”103

This may be one reason why Die Schwestern remained the only play which Schnitzler designated as “Lustspiel.” He could justify ending it on a happy note in the Rococo atmosphere of light-heartedness and frivolity among the characters. Brandes' admiration is cast into the following words: “Ich finde das Stück sehr fein, sehr unterhaltend und echt, bin leise erstaunt, dass Sie in so trauriger Zeit sich den Muth und die Spannkraft bewahrt haben, ein Lustspiel zu schreiben.”104 Jakob Wassermann in his remembrance of Arthur Schnitzler goes one step further with enthusiasm:

Einer, der das Diktum prägt: mehr Haltung und weniger Geist! muss viel Geist besitzen, um es zu rechtfertigen. Nach meiner Meinung, die ich ihm nie verhehlte, war er der geborene Lustspieldichter. Er hat es bewiesen, er hatte die Leichtigkeit, er hatte Welt, sein Witz war sublim und traf stets in den Mittelpunkt einer Schwäche oder Lächerlichkeit, aber in späteren Jahren hat er diesen Bezirk seines Talents brachgelegt, kaum begreiflich, warum.105

The answer, however, can be found in the psychological depth and complexity which Schnitzler creates for his main characters and in the principle of polarity which involves dynamic action within each character, either to evolve and grow or at least to recognize the limitations imposed upon himself by the nature of his own thinking.

In Die Schwestern, to be sure, we have only witnessed the meager beginnings of greater complexity in characters and psychological insight, which develops even further in the subsequent dramas, as will be seen. Rey in his study Die späte Prosa denies any such development, at least in so far as the person of Casanova in Die Schwestern is concerned. He only observes, “[…] dass Schnitzlers Darstellung des alternden Casanova höheres Gewicht und höheren Rang besitzt. Denn das Lustspiel kennt weder die Schwere des Lebens, noch den Ernst der ethischen Problematik.”106

It is true that the nature of a “Lustspiel” does not detail the difficulties of life; “ethische Problematik,” however, was handled in such characters as Andrea and Anina, and even Casanova saw glimpses in the discrepancies of his own life style. The audience of Die Schwestern certainly had emotions similar to those which Rey experienced when reading the Novelle: “Wir fühlen Bewunderung, Abscheu, Mitleid zur gleichen Zeit—ein Anzeichen dafür, dass es Schnitzler gelungen ist, aus dem Abenteurertyp eine Gestalt von überraschender Komplexität zu entwickeln.”107

Casanova's diminishing attraction to women in the Novelle has very natural physical and physiological reasons and does not constitute greater complexity, only a different range of clientele to be expected. “Erst in seinen späteren Jahren lichtet sich der Reigen der weiblichen Gestalten,” Alewyn points out, “der durch sein Leben zieht: Herzoginnen und Näherinnen, betagte Matronen und halbwüchsige Mädchen, Nonnen und Kurtisanen.”108 To identify the aging Casanova with Schnitzler's own predicament of aging is not true to the facts, either. Even at age sixty-three, Schnitzler considers himself by no means old; instead, he only speaks about “Grenzjahre,” those borderline years which follow the prime of man's life. This is revealed in a letter to Brandes in which Schnitzler also states that he has no reason to complain, “[…] weil ich mich in meiner Schaffenslust eher noch wachsen als abnehmen fühle. Auch an äusseren Erfolgen fehlt es nicht […].109

Rey's study concentrates on five of the later Novellen; he bases his study on the following assumption:

Da die dramatische Produktion im letzten Lebensjahrzehnt des Dichters an Bedeutung verliert, darf in der späten Prosa die Krönung seines Schaffens gesehen werden. Dass auch hier Qualitäts-unterschiede festzustellen sind, versteht sich von selbst.110

Schmidt concurs with Rey, “that in the final period of his writing Schnitzler's narrative works are superior in quality to the dramas.”111 One of her reasons mentioned is the author's tendency to reflect on psychological detail. Yet, the trend in modern drama seems to move in this direction.112

It is not the purpose of this study to argue that Schnitzler is a better dramatist than prose writer; instead, I want to show that his late dramatic work is more significant than has been recognized heretofore. Nevertheless, in order to place Schnitzler in proper context as a dramatist, one needs to be reminded that the author's talent for both genres was exceptionally strong, and many dramas started out as prose works. In this respect, it is perhaps useful to draw upon the characterization Hofmannsthal gave Schnitzler in his Wiener Brief of April 1922, written with the authority of a close friend and contemporary:

Arzt und Sohn eines Arztes, also Beobachter und Skeptiker von Beruf, ein Kind der obern Bourgeoisie und des endenden 19. Jahrhunderts, einer skeptischen, beobachtenden und ‘historischen’ Epoche, nicht ohne innere Affinitäten mit französischem Wesen und der Kultur des 18. Jahrhunderts, wäre es fast ein Wunder, wenn dieser grosse erfolgreiche Theaterautor nicht auch ein bedeutender Novellist wäre; denn in der Tat sind sich nie zwei Kunstformen näher gestanden als das psychologische Theater und die psychologische Novelle der letzten Generation.113

In Hofmannsthal's view, therefore, Schnitzler is a “great and successful playwright.” He is also a “significant prose writer” because of the literary proximity of the two art forms, the psychological theater and the psychological Novelle. Even Schnitzler's narrative works show certain characteristics of the drama which Rey in his interpretation of Casanovas Heimfahrt recognized keenly. “Das Geheimnis der Form,” according to Rey, “besteht in dem meisterhaft bewahrten Gleichgewicht von epischen und dramatischen Elementen.”114 Further on we read: “Seine Gestaltungskraft zeigt sich darin, dass er die formsprengenden Kontraste des Seelendramas einzuordnen vermag in die geschlossene Form des pseudohistorischen Berichts.”115 Earlier Rey wrote about “dramatische Spannung,” “die dramatischen Höhepunkte,” “die Erzählung zerfällt in fünf Akte,” “die Dramatik der inneren Bewegung,” “nach den dramatischen Erschütterungen,” “Akt der Selbstverleugnung,” “die Bühne ist vorbereitet,” “in ihrem dramatischen Kontrast,” “in der ganzen Szene.”116 These details are merely mentioned to show that Schnitzler's preoccupation appears to be that of a dramatist, even when he was writing prose.

In his concluding remarks Rey admitted “die Typenhaftigkeit der Darstellung […] bei den weiblichen Hauptgestalten […]” and contrasts “die Differenzierung der männlichen Charaktere ist viel stärker entwickelt. Hier stehen Abenteurer und Wahnsinniger als Gegensätze gegenüber.”117 “Typenhaftigkeit,” however, points to Schnitzler's earlier works. If this aspect is still present in his late prose works, then they do not seem to qualify as the high point of Schnitzler's artistic achievement.118

His late dramatic works, on the other hand, show distinctly a process of maturation, especially with regard to the women characters. The author's characters in the late dramatic works begin to assume command of their own lives. They no longer are victims of moral and conventional customs which earlier would have hindered their individual expression and freedom of choice. They gain control over their lives and affairs and try to take advantage of social and economic situations to fulfill their inner desires, good or bad. In most cases, Schnitzler's characters show a sense of self-acceptance and self-authority. They authorize their own decisions and deeds, and take responsibility for the consequences, whatever the result may be. Because the emphasis in this drama is placed on the unfoldment of the women characters, I consider this drama—contrary to Offermanns' view, a departure from previous comedies in spite of Casanova's “impressionistischen Weltverhaltens.”119Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa represents the beginning not the “Endpunkt einer geistigen Entwicklung”120 for indeed Schnitzler's women characters take the lead in his late dramatic productions. This point will be developed more convincingly through the analyses of the subsequent dramas.

The key issues raised in the drama Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa, namely the principle of polarity exhibited in both the characters and the incidents in their lives, the complexity of human nature especially with regard to women characters, the question of fidelity in terms of “Heimkehr” or “Wiederkehr,” the acceptance of free will and individual responsibility, also occur in the drama Komödie der Verführung (1924). However, new aspects added to each issue create even more complexity, as the large number of characters in the play demonstrates. The principle of triangularity receives more attention in Komödie der Verführung. In Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa triangular constellations occurred only among characters as for example the triangle of Flaminia-Anina-Teresa, Flaminia-Santis-Casanova, Anina-Andrea-Casanova. The triangularity in Komödie der Verführung not only includes the relationship of characters, but also important political and social themes in addition to psychological issues.


  1. Arthur Schnitzler, Gesammelte Werke. Die dramatischen Werke. Zweiter Band (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1962), pp. 651-737. All quotes from this second volume pertaining to the text will hereafter be referred to by page number only.

  2. Oskar Seidlin, ed., Der Briefwechsel Arthur Schnitzler-Otto Brahm. Schriften der Gesellschaft für Theatergeschichte, Band 57 (Berlin: Selbstverlag der Gesellschaft für Theatergeschichte, 1953), p. 61. (Hereafter referred to as Schnitzler-Brahm-Briefwechsel.)

  3. Therese Nickl/Heinrich Schnitzler, eds., Hugo von Hofmannsthal-Arthur Schnitzler. Briefwechsel (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1964), p. 286. (Hereafter referred to as Hofmannsthal-Schnitzler-Briefwechsel.) The letter to Hofmannsthal is dated October 1, 1919.

  4. Arthur Schnitzler, Gesammelte Werke. Die erzählenden Schriften. Zweiter Band (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1961), pp. 231-323. Reference to the prose works are indicated hereafter by ES I or ES II.

  5. Urbach, Kommentar, pp. 128-29.

  6. Kurt Bergel, ed., Georg Brandes und Arthur Schnitzler. Ein Briefwechsel (Bern: Francke Verlag, 1956), p. 134. (Hereafter referred to as Brandes-Schnitzler-Briefwechsel.) Letter S 49, dated January 30, 1922. Cf. Richard Alewyn's comments regarding the Memoiren: “In ihnen wird — wie immer es um die Zuverlässigkeit des einzelnen bestellt sei — eine Form der Existenz zu Ende gelebt, ohne die unser Bild von den Möglichkeiten des Menschseins ärmer wäre: das Abenteurertum.” (“Casanova,” Neue Rundschau, 1959, 102).

  7. Cf. William H. Rey, “Schnitzler in neuer Sicht. Ein bedeutender Forschungsbericht aus Frankreich,” Modern Austrian Literature, 1, No. 1 (1968), 34: “Erst wird man Schnitzlers Casanova (sei es der junge in Die Schwestern oder der alte in Casanovas Heimfahrt) nicht als historische Figur, sondern als höchst aktuelle und zugleich mythische Verkörperung des Abenteurertums in all seinem Glanz und seinem Elend sehen müssen.”

    Cf. Heinz Otto Burger, “Dasein heisst eine Rolle spielen,” Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift, N. F. 11 (Oct., 1961), 373: “Vom Dichter erwartet man nicht, dass er historisch getreu schildere oder frei erfinde, sondern dass er die ‘Muster der Lebensweisen’ finde und wiedergebe.”

    Cf. Susanne M. Polsterer, “Die Darstellung der Frauen in Arthur Schnitzlers Dramen,” Diss. Wien, 1949, Paragraph 2.27. (There are no page numbers used in the main body of the text. Therefore, one has to depend solely on the numbered paragraph divisions.

    Cf. Urbach, Kommentar, pp. 129-30.

  8. Körner, “Spätwerk,” p. 57.

    Cf. Bernhard Blume, Das Weltbild Arthur Schnitzlers (Stuttgart: Buchdruckerei Knöller GmbH, 1936), p. 29: “Der glückliche Casanova erscheint in einem von Schnitzlers Nebenwerken, in dem Verslustspiel ‘Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa’.”

  9. Körner, Gestalten und Probleme, pp. 26, 81, 97, 111, 115.

  10. Letter dated January 4, 1913, quoted by Klaus Kilian, Die Komödien Arthur Schnitzlers. Sozialer Rollenzwang und kritische Ethik (Düsseldorf: Bertelsmann Universitätsverlag, 1972), p. 89.

  11. Cf. p. 134 of this monograph where Schnitzler places his concept of the soul on a cosmic scale as well.

  12. Viereck, p. 399.

    Cf. Robert Roseeu, Arthur Schnitzler, p. 43: “Die Grösse des Schauspiels beruht eben nicht in der Führung der Handlung, vielmehr in der Schilderung der modernen Seele, in den weiten und grossen Lebensanschauungen, die daraus hervorleuchten.” (Berlin: Wilhelm Borngräber Verlag Neues Leben, 1913.)

    Cf. Theodor Reik, Arthur Schnitzler als Psycholog, p. 301: “Das eigentliche Produktive des dichterischen Schaffens bleibt eben im unbewussten Seelenleben.” (Minden/Westf.: J. C. C. Bruns, n.d., Foreword 1913.) This spiritual concept of the soul conceiving the ideas for the mind appears to be the latest conclusion which Schnitzler reached in his search as to the nature of creativity. Some years earlier in his aphorisms (1927) we hear the scientist speak: “Ebenso, wie nun eine solche Zelle alles in sich aufnimmt, was ihr zur Nahrung, zur Vollendung dienlich ist, so nimmt auch jener Stoff alles in sich auf, was aus des Dichters Erlebnissen, Erfahrungen, Gefühlen ihm nutzbar sein mag, verschmäht das Unverwertbare, stösst es aus und dehnt sich allmählich immer weiter, so dass er endlich den ganzen Inhalt der Dichterseele zu bilden, ja dass die Dichterseele selbst in den Stoff umgewandelt scheint.” (Arthur Schnitzler, Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken.Aphorismen und Fragmente, Wien: Phaidon-Verlag, 1927), p. 191. (Hereafter referred to as BdSp.)

    Schnitzler has frequently allowed us “glimpses” into the active mind of a dramatist: “Dramatiker sein, heisst an den freien Willen glauben, wie, nein als einen Gott. Denn was ist das Drama? Der Widerstand, der Kampf des Einen, des Willens des Einen mit dem Schicksal? Die Summe, das Quadrat, kurz irgendeine Zusammenfassung aller andren freien Willen plus den unabänderlichen Naturgesetzen.” (Schnitzler, “Gedanken über die Kunst,” Neue Rundschau, 43, 1932, 38). An unavoidable prerequisite for the drama is the presence of a distinct “Weltanschauung” and the acceptance of certain paramount ethical values (Schnitzler, BdSp, 181).

  13. Arthur Schnitzler, Gesammelte Werke. Aphorismen und Betrachtungen. Ed. Robert O. Weiss (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1967), p. 287. (Hereafter referred to as AuB.)

  14. For further detail of plot see also Sol Liptzin, Arthur Schnitzler (New York: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1932), pp. 256-58; and Françoise Derré, L'œuvre d'Arthur Schnitzler. Imagerie viennoise et problèmes humains (Paris: Librairie Marcel Didier, 1966), pp. 294-95.

  15. Ernst L. Offermanns, Arthur Schnitzler. Das Komödienwerk als Kritik des Impressionismus (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1973), pp. 110-127.

  16. Ibid., p. 127.

  17. Ibid.

  18. Ibid., p. 110.

  19. Kilian, pp. 110-116. It was originally a 1969 dissertation at the Ruhr University of Bochum.

  20. Ibid., pp. 132-33.

  21. Ibid., p. 114.

  22. Ibid., p. 111.

  23. Schnitzler, AuB, p. 142.

  24. Kilian, p. 113.

  25. Friedbert Aspetsberger, “‘Drei Akte in einem.’ Zum Formtyp von Schnitzlers Dramen,” Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, 85 (1966), 285-308.

  26. Ibid., 291.

  27. Ibid., 296.

  28. Derré, pp. 284-85.

  29. Ibid., pp. 293-96.

  30. Richard Alewyn, “Casanova,” 110-116.

  31. Ibid., 103.

  32. Schmidt, p. 14.

  33. Ibid.

  34. Cf. Schmidt, pp. 248-57; pp. 308-328.

  35. Ibid., p. 243.

  36. Ibid., p. 242.

  37. Polsterer, Paragraph 1.3.

  38. Ibid., Paragraph 1.3.

    Cf. Rena R. Schlein in her more balanced view of Schnitzler: “Schnitzler's writings that have remained unparalleled represent a fusion of scientific insight, intuitive knowledge and perception, and artistic genius. This is the explanation of the renaissance his works are enjoying today. They will be read with joy by future generations, for, as all masterpieces, they are timeless.” (“Arthur Schnitzler: Author-Scientist,” Modern Austrian Literature, 1, No. 2, Summer 1968, 37.)

  39. Heinrich (Henry) Schnitzler, “‘Gay Vienna’ — Myth and Reality,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 15, N. 1 (Jan., 1954), 94-118. Robert A. Kann, “The Image of the Austrian in Arthur Schnitzler's Writings,” Studies in Arthur Schnitzler. University of North Carolina Studies in the Germanic Languages and Literatures. Eds. Herbert W. Reichert and Hermann Salinger (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1963), 45-70. Schlein, 28-38.

  40. Schmidt, p. 6.

  41. Reik dissects female as well as male characters according to psychoanalytic theories. Körner stresses the sensual as well as the emotionally overbalanced nature of women in Schnitzler's works who generally are shown in a state of dependency upon men. (Gestalten und Probleme, p. 34.)

  42. Georgette Boner, Arthur Schnitzlers Frauengestalten (Zürich: Wintherthur Buchdruck, 1930), p. 15. Boner's dissertation was originally submitted at the University of Basel under the same title.

  43. Ibid., p. 16.

  44. Ibid., p. 15.

  45. Schnitzler, AuB, pp. 135-166.

  46. Most other aspects of Boner's study have been mentioned in Schmidt's analysis and need not be repeated here. Cf. Schmidt, pp. 2-5. The drama Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa is mentioned in some other dissertations; however, only certain aspects were treated as they fitted the overall purpose of these writings. These dissertations include: Evan B. Davis, “Moral Problems in the Works of Arthur Schnitzler,” Diss. University of Pennsylvania, 1950; Reinhart Müller-Freienfels, “Das Lebensgefühl in Arthur Schnitzlers Dramen,” Diss. Frankfurt, 1954; John Nelson Whiton, “The Problem of Marriage in the Works of Arthur Schnitzler,” Diss. University of Minnesota, 1967. These dissertations will be recognized in the course of this study.

  47. Aspetsberger, 291.

  48. Whiton points out that “Throughout Schnitzler's works, resorts serve as the locals for the concentration of erotic temptation, and as a symbol of the erotic. This is especially true in […] Die Schwestern, […] Komödie der Verführung,” p. 246.

  49. Johannes Jahn, Wörterbuch der Kunst (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1966), p. 591.

  50. Derré, p. 285.

  51. Alewyn, “Casanova,” 115.

  52. Cf. William H. Rey, Arthur Schnitzler. Die späte Prosa als Gipfel seines Schaffens, p. 30: “In Schnitzlers Spätzeit wird die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Abenteurertum auf einer höheren Ebene fortgeführt […]. Auf der Schwelle des Alters beschwört Schnitzler also noch einmal den Glanz und das Elend des Abenteurers und zeigt damit, wie bedeutungsvoll die schöpferische Auseinandersetzung mit dieser Gestalt für seine eigene Entwicklung gewesen ist.” (Hereafter this work is referred to as Späte Prosa.)

  53. Gero v. Wilpert, Sachwörterbuch der Literatur (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1964), p. 55.

  54. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 70.

    Cf. William M. Johnston, The Austrian Mind. An Intellectual and Social History 1848-1938 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972), p. 165. Cf. Jon D. Green, “The Impact of Musical Theme and Structure on the Meaning and Dramatic Unity of Selected Works by Arthur Schnitzler,” Diss. Syracuse University, 1972, p. 42: “Schnitzler's mind actually seems to have functioned through a keen awareness of polarities. The fact that his works, almost without exception, contain a central conflict created by competing polar forces (Schein-Sein, freedom-determination etc.) creates a dramatic setting not unlike musical conflict and resolution.”

  55. Alewyn, “Casanova,” 105.

  56. Ibid., 108.

  57. Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 31.

    Cf. Swales, Arthur Schnitzler. A Critical Study (Oxford: University Press, 1971), pp. 16-17: “The adventurer seeks erotic experience on the one hand, because it is the most intense form of physical experience, and yet, on the other, he refuses to be bound by it, because ultimately his spirit continues to reassert the insufficiency of each specific erotic experience. Each experience must be known in its intensity and yet transcend each time.” (Hereafter this work is referred to as Critical Study.)

  58. Schnitzler, AuB, p. 164.

  59. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 165.

  60. Bernhard Blume in his study certainly goes too far, when he equates the characteristics present in Casanova with the nature of the author himself: “Der utopische und in sich unmögliche Versuch, den Ablauf der Zeit aufzuhalten und sich in den Genuss des Augenblicks zu retten, wie ihn die Schnitzlersche Lieblingsfigur des ‘Casanova’ symbolisiert, gleichsam die materialistische Verfallsform des Don Juan, ist freilich ein notwendiger Versuch für den Menschen des Verfalls, und deshalb ein Grundzug von Schnitzlers Wesen.” (p. 13)

    See also Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 192. Cf. Heinz Politzer, “Diagnose und Dichtung,” Forum, 9 (1962), 270. He shows a more sensitive view of the author: “Der Dichter Arthur Schnitzler war ein guter Arzt. Stück um Stück, Buch um Buch stellte er die tragikomische Verwirrung fest, die über die Menschheit hereingebrochen war. Er analysierte die Psyche einer dem Untergang bestimmten Gesellschaft, weil er den epidemischen Charakter der Neurosen fürchtete, die hier gebrütet wurden. Aber er war zu sehr eins mit den Gestalten, die er schuf, um sie, wie seine Nachfolger auf dem Gebiet der Tragikomödie — Jean Cocteau etwa, Tennessee Williams, Samuel Beckett — von oben her blosszustellen und einem über sich selbst erschrockenen Gelächter preiszugeben. An ihren Betten, welche Betten der Liebe und des Todes waren, verweilte er lange und litt. Er wusste um ihr Geheimnis, und da er es wusste, bewahrte er es.”

  61. What Uwe Rosenbaum in this context says about the “Graf” can be related to the “Abenteurer” as well. He is also “einer jener im Gesamtwerk Schnitzlers immer wiederkehrenden ‘Augenblicksmenschen,’ unterliegt einer illusionistischen Vorstellung. Denn auch der Augenblick ist in den Zeitlauf mit einbezogen, er ist Zeit, partielle Zeit.” (“Die Gestalt des Schauspielers auf dem deutschen Theater des 19. Jahrhunderts […],” Diss. Köln, 1971, p. 190).

  62. Schnitzler, AuB, p. 290.

  63. Cf. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 64: “Ein Schicksal mag äusserlich abgetan sein, es bleibt immer noch Gegenwart, solange wir es nicht völlig verstanden haben. Erst wenn es geheimnislos für uns wurde, haben wir das Recht, es Vergangenheit zu nennen.”

  64. Swales, Critical Study, p. 17.

  65. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 114.

  66. Ibid., p. 118. Cf. also pp. 80, 97, 106 with regard to understanding and forgiving.

  67. Schnitzler, Jugend in Wien. Eine Autobiographie (Wien-München-Zürich: Verlag Fritz Molden, 2nd. ed., 1968), p. 28.

    Cf. Gudar at the beginning of the play speaking about Casanova: “So wie er oft mit wahren Worten lügt” (656).

  68. Schnitzler, “Der Geist im Wort und der Geist in der Tat,” AuB, p. 142.

  69. This last idea is a problem which Schnitzler examines again in more depth in his next drama, Komödie der Verführung. Falkenir's first wife committed suicide to prove her fidelity. Similarly, the idea of “Wiederkehr” receives Schnitzler's most detailed attention in the present drama. Prior to this play, it occurred briefly in Der grüne Kakadu (1899), where the actress Léocadie for seven years returned periodically to Henri who finally marries her. From that point on, however, Henri no longer tolerated the escapades of his wife and, in fact, killed her lover Von Cadignan in the dressing room of the theater. Nevertheless, this episode only fills a minor detail within the political context of this one-act play on the evening of the French Revolution. The play Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa, on the other hand, deals with the idea of “Wiederkehr” at greater length and also provides entirely different circumstances. Der grüne Kakadu shows life as a crossroad between reality and illusion, wakefulness and dream, as the various entertainers within the play perform their act.

  70. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 118.

  71. Ibid., p. 117.

  72. This is a Dionysian idea which the one-act play Bacchusfest handles in detail; it occurs again in Komödie der Verführung and Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte.

  73. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 116.

  74. Cf. Alewyn, p. 110: “Es bestünde auch für ihn kein Grund, dieses Spiel nicht endlos zu wiederholen, gäbe es nicht eines: das Altern. Casanova hat ein für seine Zeit hohes Lebensalter erreicht; aber schon auf der Mitte seines Lebenswegs, mit fünfunddreissig Jahren, erklärt er, dass er sich alt werden fühle, und mit vierzig beginnt seine Spannkraft nachzulassen, und damit erlischt seine Magie. Er wird von Frauen betrogen und versetzt, er muss betteln, wo er sich zu bedienen gewohnt war.” Cf. Kilian, pp. 111-12. He worked out comparisons between the two stories.

  75. Davis, p. 127.

  76. Boner, p. 30.

  77. Ibid.

  78. Ibid.

  79. Liptzin, Arthur Schnitzler, p. 174.

  80. Ibid.

  81. Körner, Gestalten und Probleme, p. 94.

  82. Ibid.

  83. The dissertation by Georgette Boner represents the first positive contribution in sharpening the focus upon Schnitzler's women figures.

  84. Modified from the original quote which reads: “[…] die Bedeutung der Schnitzlerschen Gestalten liegt nicht in ‘ihrem Wesen,’ sondern in ‘ihrem Schicksal’ (Bergel, Brandes-Schnitzler-Briefwechsel, p. 68).

  85. Liptzin, Arthur Schnitzler, p. 224.

  86. Ibid.

  87. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 26.

  88. Cf. Christa Melchinger, Illusion und Wirklichkeit im dramatischen Werk von Arthur Schnitzler (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1968), p. 131. See also Rey, Späte Prosa, pp. 10-11. Richard Plant, on the other hand, gives a superficial evaluation of “Schnitzler as a juggler of psychological situations which he wheels around and around […]” (“Notes on Schnitzler's Literary Technique,” Germanic Review, 25 (February, 1950), 18.

  89. Schnitzler, quoted by Viereck, p. 407.

  90. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 54-55.

  91. Ibid., 56-57.

  92. Viereck, p. 400. See also Schnitzler in BdSp., p. 56: “Ohne unseren Glauben an den freien Willen wäre die Erde nicht nur der Schauplatz der grauenhaftesten Unsinnigkeit, sondern auch der unerträglichsten Langweile. Verantwortungslosigkeit hebt jede ethische Forderung, kaum dass sie ins Bewusstsein trat, als wesenlos wieder auf: das Ich ohne das Gefühl der Verantwortung wäre überhaupt kein Ich mehr […].” Cf. Herbert Lederer, “The Problem of Ethics in the Works of Arthur Schnitzler,” Diss. Chicago, 1953, p. 159. Selma Köhler, “The Question of Moral Responsibility in the Dramatic Works of Arthur Schnitzler,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 22 (1923), 410, denies that freedom of will and choice are possible. She calls it a “[…] delusion, however, contrasted with the more potent influences of environment, epoch, and heredity, and particularly is the power of choice a delusion when social conventions are brought to bear upon the individual.” Cf. also her concluding remarks (411): “The question of individual responsibility,” she says, “is replaced, in his estimation, by the vaster conception of man as a being subject to laws over which he has little or no control, those of physiological, biological, and social science.” Her statement may have had more application in Schnitzler's early works, certainly not in his late dramatic works.

  93. Viereck, p. 400.

  94. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 65: “Selbstüberwindung, Erkenntnisdrang und Opfermut sind die einzigen wirklichen Tugenden unter allen, die man so zu nennen pflegt, denn nur in ihnen ist der Wille betätigt.”

  95. Urbach, Arthur Schnitzler, p. 27.

  96. “Arthur Schnitzler” in: Deutsche Dichter der Moderne. Ihr Leben und Werk, ed. Benno v. Wiese, 3rd ed. (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1975), p. 243.

  97. Boner, pp. 83, 89.

  98. Swales, Critical Study, p. 23. For a discussion regarding “time,” see p. 21.

  99. Alewyn, “Casanova,” 116.

  100. Cf. Kilian, p. 110, who feels that Schnitzler needed to gain perspective of the political situation.

    Cf. Offermanns, p. 110: “Der impressionistische Abenteurer des Fin de Siècle wird in die kulturgeschichtlich verwandte Epoche des Rokoko projiziert und so der ungleich bedrängenderen aktuellen Wirklichkeit entrückt.” Also see p. 125: “Das Lustspiel ‘Die Schwestern’ mag als der Versuch eines Gegenbildes zum ‘grauenhaften Weltzustand’ genommen werden.”

  101. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 168. In an interview with Viereck, the author expands his position this way: “I oppose Bolshevism, not for political reasons but because Bolshevism denies differentiation. Differentiation is a fundamental law of nature. If man were not differentiated, he would be a monstrosity standing outside the pale of nature. To negate personality is to repudiate culture. I am disgusted by men of letters who coquette with Bolshevism.”

  102. Swales, pp. 28-29. Cf. Offermanns, p. 179.

  103. Max Krell recorded this conversation with Schnitzler. He is quoted by Urbach, Schnitzler, p. 17.

    Cf. Swales, Critical Study, p. 26. He states: “Yet there is more to Schnitzler than this stereotyped image. In a very real way he partakes of the total upheaval that his world is undergoing and he embodies not only the traditional and backward-looking but also the modern and forward-looking aspects of the ‘Jahrhundertwende.’ He does, therefore, claim our attention as a representative figure of an important age, and not just as a patron saint of one limited segment of that age […].”

  104. Bergel, Brandes-Schnitzler-Briefwechsel, p. 126. B 44, dated June 13, 1920.

  105. Jakob Wassermann, “Erinnerungen an Arthur Schnitzler,” Neue Rundschau, 1 (Januar, 1932), 13.

    Cf. Politzer, “Diagnose und Dichtung” (II) who has an answer to Wassermann's ‘warum’: “Aber die Grundspannungen, die Schnitzlers reifes Werk tragen, haben weit eher mit der konkreten Wucht des Barock zu tun als mit der sublimen Eleganz des Rokoko.” (Forum, 102, Juni 1962, 269.)

  106. Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 30.

    Cf. also Blume, Weltbild, p. 29: “Hier wird er fast mehr genannt als gestaltet, dient als Umriss, der vom Wissen des Zuschauers gefüllt werden muss, als die Zitierung eines berühmten Namens, die die Entwicklung eines Charakters erspart […].” It is true that much has been learned about Casanova before he enters the stage in Act II, but this is the kind of information that comes to mind in any audience, whenever the name Casanova resounds. However, he most definitely is involved in the central conflict raging about fidelity and imposes his antisocial convictions rather strongly upon all characters involved.

  107. Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 30.

  108. Alewyn, “Casanova,” 107-108.

  109. Bergel, Brandes-Schnitzler-Briefwechsel, p. 148, S 58.

  110. Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 14.

  111. Schmidt, p. 242.

  112. Cf. Chekhov, Pirandello, Maupassant, Beckett, Dürrenmatt, Frisch — to name a few writers.

  113. Hofmannsthal, Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben. Aufzeichnungen, ed. Herbert Steiner (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1959), p. 272.

  114. Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 48.

  115. Ibid.

  116. Ibid., pp. 40-45.

  117. Ibid., p. 191.

  118. See Swales, who seems to have similar objections in his “Kritik an ‘Arthur Schnitzler. Die späte Prosa als Gipfel seines Schaffens’ — Rey,” Modern Language Review, 65, No. 1 (January, 1970), 224: “And yet, for all the virtues of this study, one has reservations about many of its conclusions. One wonders firstly if the late prose works are in fact the high-point of Schnitzler's artistic achievements. It could, for example, be argued that none of the stories analyzed approaches the mastery and subtlety of ‘Leutnant Gustl’ […]. Indeed, one feels at times that Professor Rey tries too hard to demonstrate the maturity and richness of the late work; he seems, for instance, excessively determined to prove the moral worth of the various characters involved.”

  119. Offermanns, p. 110.

  120. Kilian, p. 114.

Criticism: Im Spiel Der SommerlüFte

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SOURCE: Schneider-Halvorson, Brigitte L. “Im Spiel Der Sommerlüfte.” In The Late Dramatic Works of Arthur Schnitzler, pp. 113-135. New York: Peter Lang, 1983.

[In the following essay, Schneider-Halvorson discusses various critical commentary, as well as Schnitzler's use of themes and symbols in the play Im Spiel Der Sommerlüfte.]


The first performance of Schnitzler's play Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte took place on December 21, 1929, at the Deutsches Volkstheater in Vienna.1 First publication was in 1930 by S. Fischer Verlag, Berlin.2 According to Schnitzler's diary notes, he completed this three-act drama between February and April of 1928.3 His first ideas, however, date back to 1898, when he recorded: “Ein Stück ‘Sommernacht’ wird lebendig […]. Im Kaffeehaus entwarf ich den Plan eines dreiaktigen Stückes ‘Sommernachtstraum’.”4 More sketches and notes were added between 1911-1913; five years later a new sketch was written under the present title, Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte. The term “Spiel” points to the fluctuating atmospheric conditions of summer, which, as analysis will demonstrate, affect significantly not only the various moods of the characters in the play, but also turn some of these characters further inward where life is truly lived.

Hartmut Scheible measures the success of this drama merely in terms of respect paid to the author and calls it an “Achtungserfolg.”5 It is a play, he states without further elaboration, “[…] das alte Motive aufgreift, sie aber in einer Schwebe lässt, die sonst nur von Chekhov erreicht wurde […].”6 The present study reveals some of the reasons Schnitzler may have had for leaving these motifs in limbo. The conflicts between generations in the play remain without consequences and catastrophes, it is true. The fact that everything ends well in it, even secondary plot lines, can only be attributed to the protagonists' regaining reason and recovering their internal balance, which had been disturbed by a troublesome confusion of the senses or of the imagination, just as after a brief violent thunderstorm the sun begins to shine again. In this respect, Scheible's comparison of Schnitzler to Chekhov discloses a number of similarities. A detailed comparison with Chekhov's plays, however, exceeds the scope of this work.7

The analysis discusses essential problems of modern individuals who find themselves living in a complex society. It shows how this society threatens their feelings of human worth and self-respect and why they are pushed, at times, into passive patterns of living. The symbolism of the weather is examined, along with its relationship to emotional patterns such as jealousy, doubt, guilt, despair. The antinomies of life as expressed in the thoughts, emotions, and concerns of the characters are discussed as they are exposed in youth and age, in art and love, in love and hate, “Pflicht und Neigung.” The chapter closes with a study of comparative points as they can be found in the other late dramatic works (Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa,Komödie der Verführung,Der Gang zum Weiher), thus providing for detailed analysis of most aspects of the play. Each character is analyzed and also viewed in polar relationship to other persons in the play as well as comparative characters in works previously discussed.


Vincenz Friedlein, a prominent sculptor in Vienna, his wife and former model Josefa, and their seventeen-year-old son Eduard occupy a summer house in Kirchau, a village in southern Austria, not far from Vienna, where the action takes place around 1900. In the morning, Vincenz generally leaves for the city to conduct his business. He returns late in the evenings and sometimes not until the next day. Thus, he gives the audience the impression of being liberal in his morals and unconventional in his manners. His appearance is that of a successful artist; he is cheerful and positive about his talent. The marriage is merely an arrangement of convenience. He enjoys all the pleasant features without giving of himself in return. He takes Josefa's loving devotion to husband and child for granted without realizing that she might feel neglected in her desires as a woman of only thirty-six years of age. They have invited their niece, Gusti Pflegner, to their country home to help her regain health and strength before taking up her first engagement as an actress in Innsbruck. Only eighteen years of age, Gusti is aware of her attractiveness and uses this gift flirtatiously. Vincenz looks at her with the eyes of a sculptor, always in search of new models; young Eduard becomes her ardent admirer while assisting her in the study of Romeo and Juliet. Dr. Faber, a Viennese physician, considers himself virtually engaged to her. Lieutenant Robert Holl, the twin brother of the village chaplain, Ferdinand Holl, is attracted to her acting and hopes to resume acquaintance in Innsbruck, where he is to be stationed. He has left a deep impression upon her and with that confession to herself, “Der hat mir aber besonders gut gefallen” (994), the first act closes.

Act II unfolds the life of each of these characters as it is lived on deeper levels, where hidden desires and longings are exposed and waiting for expression. Vincenz uses the arrival of the “Exzellenz” from the Kassel theater as an excuse to spend the night in Vienna. Josefa hears about it by telegram, when she is on her way to the railway station to pick up her husband and walk home with him. Eduard is disappointed about the afternoon because the botanic excursion with the Kaplan has been cancelled on account of the sudden visit of the latter's twin brother. He now seeks to interest Gusti to follow him on a hike to Fallenböckhütte, a place in the mountains, where he will be waiting for her. Gusti will hike with Eduard, but first she has to finish a letter to her friend, Dr. Felix Faber. This letter contains a sensitive message: she decided not to bind herself to him at this point. Her career and the prospect of meeting other men are more attractive and important to her. After mailing the letter, she follows Eduard into the mountains to avoid disappointing him. Throughout the play Eduard has been forcing himself upon Gusti on every occasion, and her presence under the same roof keeps him inflamed. The unstable weather which is mentioned throughout the drama affects the balance of nearly all the characters. Finally, the rain begins to fall, trapping these young people in a mountain cabin. The closeness intensifies their emotions “and, without making any serious effort at resistance, they yield to the temptation of the moment. Gusti is delighted by the freshness and naturalness of the boy in contrast to the premature seriousness of […] the physician. For Eduard she signifies the first experience of manhood.”8

The relation between the Kaplan and Josefa develops within the last part of Act II. It is characterized by restraint on physical levels. Of course, they are more mature than their younger counterparts, but on the other hand, they have allowed greater frustration and even resignation to build up within themselves. The sultriness of the evening moves them to be more at ease in disclosing their innermost feelings.

The Kaplan, who is linked by friendship to Eduard in their common interest in botany, but also in the young man's need for tutorial help, has always performed his priestly duties with exactness and devotion. However, various references in the play indicate that he had been promised a different destiny, for he is a man cultivated in all subjects and full of the most varied intellectual curiosities. He might have become, for instance, an officer like his twin brother, if his mother had not decided to send Ferdinand to the seminary from his fourteenth year. His officer brother is now bound to him by profound affection mixed with gratitude. The priest soon confides to Josefa that his brother, who has just paid him a visit, left behind a letter in which he announces his intention of fighting a duel. The text ends in these words: “Und Deiner Liebe werde ich es zu danken haben, Deiner Fürbitte, wenn ich frei von Sünden vor den höchsten Richter trete. Und so wage ich in unerschütterlichem Gottvertrauen, diesen Brief mit dem Wort zu enden: Auf Wiedersehen! Dein Robert” (1010).

This event and Josefa's words of comfort give rise between them to a free conversation that soon takes on the aspect of a confession in which each person admits doubt. Their discussion of faith brings both of them to the brink of a great temptation. A juxtaposition develops in which Josefa helps him to recognize challenges of everyday life, and the Kaplan leads her into higher, previously unsuspected regions where she can see in new perspective her role of wife and mother. This enables them to resist the temptation, and their reward is not long delayed.

In Act III, Robert Hall, the lieutenant, retires unharmed from the duel, only lightly wounding his adversary; the Kaplan finds his balance again and continues reading of the mass. Josefa regains the love of her husband; Eduard tries to forget in botany his first disappointment in love. Gusti decides to leave the next morning in preparation for her acting career. Felix, whom she left in uncertainty about her contract in Innsbruck and who heard about it through the newspaper, does not want to accept the end of their relationship. But Gusti reminds him: “Wir gehen ja beide nicht aus der Welt. Wir werden uns ja wiedersehen. Wir wollen ja Freunde sein, Freunde bleiben—Freunde werden” (1024-25). Disappointed, Felix resumes his hospital practice. Josefa continues her devotion to her husband who in turn may give more of himself than before. The action closes in the light of a beautiful summer morning, just as the characters emerge untroubled by last night's storm.


In general one can observe that Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte has not received such extensive reviews and criticism as the other three late dramatic works. In February 1930, Robert Arnold reviewed the play with his usual negative attitude toward Schnitzler and his dramas. In the end, however, he concedes that the play in its Christian and worldly resignation is an appreciated complement to the erotic “Reigen.”9 A year later the play was performed in Giessen. It received the attention of Hans Thyriot, who finds it impossible to give a plot summary of the play, “das weniger ein Drama als eine dialogisierte Novelle ist und völlig von Umrissen, Andeutungen und verschwebenden Stimmungen lebt.”10 As a possible motto, he suggests the Paracelsus verses: “Es fliessen ineinander Traum und Wachen […],” the favorite stand-by quote of many critics.11

In Scheible's view the respect paid to the author saved the play from being rejected. It has nothing new to offer so far as motifs are concerned; they have already surfaced in previous dramas. The only difference, according to Scheible, can be seen in the happy ending.12 Nevertheless, this difference constitutes a significant change which must be recognized. It prompted Schnitzler in a similar situation to write the following lines in a letter to Rilke: “Aber Sie wissen ja; ich bin in das Kastl mit der Aufschrift ‘Liebelei’ hineingethan (sic); die Kritiker haben das nicht gern, wenn die Taferln gewechselt werden.”13

In the view of Mme Derré, the author in this play “semble avoir voulu pour une fois encourager la maîtrise de soi et donner une leçon d'optimisme.”14 But she admits: “Si tout y finit bien, et même les intrigues secondaires, c'est moins […] grâce a l'intervention de données suprarationelles que parce que les protagonistes redeviennent raisonnables, retrouvent leur équilibre interne un temps rompu, par un trouble emballement des sens ou de l'imagination […].”15 “Still,” she maintains, “Schnitzler has made a pretense of this somewhat slender plot, for at the end of it nothing has happened to compound the serious debate” (between the priest and Josefa) […].16 She considers it false to see in the play anything other than a psychological study or to seek in it a profession of faith.17 Although Schnitzler parted early with his profession as a physician, he maintained nevertheless throughout his life a certain interest in the progress achieved in the field of depth psychology and dream interpretation. Schnitzler's diaries reveal numerous entries in this regard.18 It is this depth psychology which in Schnitzler's late dramatic works receives ever-increasing attention, thus reducing its content to a “slender plot,” as Mme Derré has chosen to call it.

Körner, who is concerned with Schnitzler's “Spätwerk” in a lenghty article, does not even mention this play.19 A. E. Zucker in his review of the drama states that it “deserves full recognition” and places it above Die Schwestern and Komödie der Verführung,20 but he does not substantiate his argument. To Martin Swales, on the other hand, the drama is “a deeply flawed work,” because “moral thinking is not intrinsically conducive to great literature.”21 Referring to the “threatening storm” which “passes and leaves the secure, simple order cleansed and refreshed,” he considers the play “reminiscent of Stifter” in its thematic and structural progression.22

In Offermanns' view, Komödie der Verführung represents “das letzte bedeutende Stück, das Schnitzler vollendete—und das sicherlich beziehungsreichste.”23 He completely ignores even the existence of Der Gang zum Weiher, a significant play, which likewise combines Eros and war, a major point of discussion in Offermanns' study. The play Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte turns his audience to the inner realms of the soul, where life is really experienced. With this new focus on the total human being, it is a logical consequence that exterior events are less well illuminated.

In his study entitled “Das Lebensgefühl in Arthur Schnitzlers Dramen,” Müller-Freienfels admits, “Schnitzler will nicht in einem völligen Nihilismus enden und den Menschen jede Hoffnung und Zuversicht nehmen.”24 He seems to lean too much on Blume's evaluation of Schnitzler's Weltbild, which the latter placed on the level of pessimism and nihilism. Körner's viewpoint serves as another guideline closely followed by Müller-Freienfels. An example is the following conclusion about the play: “Man darf jedoch nicht übersehen, dass dieses letzte Stück des Dichters Märchencharakter besitzt und dass der gute Ausgang nicht dem eigentlichen Lebensgefühl seines Schöpfers entspricht. Im Grunde bleibt Schnitzler bis zu seinem Lebensende der Skeptiker und Zweifler, der er immer war.”25 Without referring to textual evidence, it is difficult for the reader to follow Müller-Freienfels' argument in pinpointing the “Märchencharakter,” particularly in this rather realistic life situation. Furthermore, who is to say with certainty that this last play was written in an effort to represent the actual “Lebensgefühl seines Schöpfers?”

Sol Liptzin separates the author from his characters. He deals with this drama in his chapter entitled “Dream and Reality” and observes that Schnitzler has two ways to return his characters from dangerous experiences: “[…] they may either awaken, as from a dream, and return to their accustomed ways, or they may be transformed in body and soul. After employing the latter ending in many serious works, Schnitzler chooses the former alternative for his drama ‘Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte’.”26 During his summary of the play, Liptzin also analyzes each character in his particular predicament. However, not all characters appear to be in a dream. Josefa, for example, truly is engaged in soul searching which lifted her to a higher level of consciousness.

“Das Abenteuer,” writes Reinhard Urbach, “[…] gewinnt im Spätwerk eine therapeutische Funktion […] oder löst sich in eine fast schon selbstverständliche Form augenblicklichen Lebens und momentaner Gemeinsamkeit auf, jenseits von Vorurteilen und Problemen der stickigen Luft der Jahrhundertwende.”27 The relationship between Felix and Gusti would be an example of such “momentaner Gemeinsamkeit.” While no details are given in the play as to the nature of Vincenz's overnight stays in Vienna, Josefa seems to feel intuitively when an extramarital adventure is involved. The therapeutic effect Urbach speaks about can be seen in the end of the play. Vincenz renews his interest in the marriage. He shows again greater affection toward his wife. Long-promised travels are discussed more seriously. He also wants to take her along to participate in the festivities on the occasion of his latest work of art which he completed recently. Urbach further points out: “Das unbedenkliche—und früher als leichtsinnig oder zerstörerisch und schuldhaft Empfundene—gewinnt die Dimension des Harmlosen und Verantwortungsfreien.”28 With regard to Schnitzler's last work, Urbach concludes: “Diese Einstellung stiftet noch Verwirrung, aber nicht mehr Zerstörung […].”29

Mme Derré seems to think that Schnitzler gave one of the principal roles to the priest, not as a “profession of faith” but rather to demonstrate the ease with which the author is able to manage the religious values in a central dialog.30 Her interpretation is certainly valid, provided that one recognizes this aspect as part of Schnitzler's larger frame of reference: his never ending quest for truth. In his aphorisms he wrote down many statements pertaining to religion, all of which seem to underline his conviction against any kind of dogmatism.31

Willa Schmidt, on the other hand, finds that Josefa and Gusti have the most important roles. “It is in the portrayal of these characters that is found one of the most noteworthy elements of the play, since the difference between the past and the new era in the making, so typical of Schnitzler's later works, is emphasized in Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte mainly by means of the two women.”32

This brief review of criticism demonstrates the variety and discrepancy of views, a situation which usually occurs when only certain aspects of the play are discussed to the exclusion of other important parts. Let us now turn to an attempt at a comprehensive analysis, viewing the play as a totality.


The title in view of Goethe's Faust: “Sind wir ein Spiel von jedem Druck der Luft?”—This verse from Goethe's Faust33 was used by Schnitzler as motto for his last drama. It was a popular question to ask at that time of world-wide disarray, for it had application to all aspects of human existence.34

The scene in Faust in which this verse occurs is entitled “Abend” and shows Margarete's small but immaculately neat room which Faust soon enters. The function of this scene is to make vivid the basic antagonism between Margarete's simple purity of heart and the baseness of the threat to her peace. Neither Faust's heedless passion nor Mephistopheles' lewd sensuality is compatible with the cleanliness of this room and its occupant. The atmosphere of the room, therefore, translates into simplicity, serenity, and contentment which has its effect upon Faust. He recognizes the despicable nature of the intention which brought him there. His passion is, for the moment, sublimated in a romantic analysis of the objects around him, until he realizes the incongruity of his present endeavor with his former standard of conduct. Although his biological urge is strong, some change has come over him. The forthright impulse to animal indulgence has changed, with the disillusion of his emotions, into a dream of love.35 Thus, his unrestrained nature that might have erupted like a storm and destroyed everything with its intensity is momentarily arrested, and a new, deeper aspect of Faust emerges in his quest for truth. But under the influence of Mephistopheles, events take their turn, and when Faust in the end returns to his nobler self, it is too late to alleviate the suffering which he has caused to Gretchen. Although Faust is dazed in the last scene of the drama, Gretchen's voice still reaches him; it is the voice of love which will not pass away from his memory.

The detail recalled from Goethe's Faust serves as an important point of reference to understand Schnitzler's interpretation of the verse “Sind wir ein Spiel von jedem Druck der Luft?” in his play. The atmospheric pressure Faust experienced in Gretchen's room influences his moods and emotions. In Schnitzler's play the self appears not dependent on moods but on weather conditions; thus, the rain after a sultry evening clears the air and returns every character to reason. The evening scene in Faust, on the other hand, is characterized by more “Streben,” however inconsistent as this striving may be in Faust's yet confused understanding of his services to God.36 It is not on the strength of “good deeds” but of his human striving that Faust is granted ultimate salvation. The real world of Faust's actions and meditations, of his physical experiences and spiritual endeavors, is surrounded by another and “higher” reality.37 In Schnitzler's Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte, on the other hand, earthly lives are not interrupted from the realm of the transcendental. Urbach observes correctly that Schnitzler's style of the late period places emphasis upon “little causes and large effects which remain, however, without great consequences. And the causes disappear and are charged to the account of summertime.”38

The games initiated in Faust, therefore, represent man's “journey” through life, as he is torn by two forces: the dictates of his nature and the demands of his reason, a duality which can be observed in Schnitzler's characters as well without the experience of their entire earth journey. In contrast to the game played by Faust, which had disastrous consequences for Margarete, her mother and brother, the games in Schnitzler's Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte have a happy ending. Some characters are more or less drawn into the game and, because of their passivity, they have no control over it. They wait and, because they do not use their will power, they are “ready to follow every lure which presents itself until a thunderstorm ends everything.”39

Faust, on the other hand, exerts tremendous will power in his strivings. He needed to stay active and use his will power, for the negative force tried every moment to keep Faust at rest and in one place, in an effort to deliver him from life to destruction, thereby gaining control over his soul and winning the wager with Heaven. By comparison the games played in Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte are of less serious nature by far, but they likewise constitute matters of the soul.

Character analysis in light of triangularity: Different from Goethe's drama, Schnitzler's places his women characters in the foreground. The two women in their contrasting representations of “the past and the new era in the making,” in Willa Schmidt's words, are also at opposite ends in their activity of playing the game in their relation with others. Gusti, who represents “the new era in the making”—relating to political and social change, is instrumental in setting the game in motion in her relationship with Eduard and Felix, whereas Josefa, who signifies “the past,” is for the most part “Mitspieler” in her position as part of a triangle with Vincenz and the Kaplan.

a) Gusti-Felix-Eduard. Gusti's attractiveness has drawn both men for different reasons into her orbit. Felix is seriously interested in Gusti, but in his capacity as “Sekundararzt im Krankenhaus […] mit einem Monatsgehalt von sechzig Gulden” he finds it impossible to start a family (988). His visits to Kirchau on weekends are “im Grunde nur eine Quälerei” (987), for it is no pleasure for him to spend the night away from Gusti in a guestroom at the nearby inn. Still, he is happy that he can see her early in the morning for a hike in the forest. In his possessive nature he suffers from feelings of jealousy. With “gerunzelter Stirne” (984) he shows displeasure toward Gusti as she lets Eduard drink the rest of her milk. What bothers him even more is the fact that Gusti practices her roles with Eduard. Felix considers this activity utterly unnecessary (986). When he finds out that Gusti might stay two or three weeks longer in the countryside, he wants to persuade her to return to Vienna earlier (986), since her health has already improved enough for the journey.

Quite concerned over the possibility of Gusti's engagement at the theater away from Vienna, he inquires whether she had received any more letters in that respect. “Liegen keine neuen Engagementsanträge vor? Deutschland, Amerika, Australien—?” (987). He would like to see her study another winter in Vienna, he says, so that she can ask for a larger honorarium the following year. This is a thin veiling of his own selfish interest in such a proposal, for it would keep her away from other possible suitors until his own promotion. Already we have seen him “verstimmt” (985) when Gusti asks the Kaplan whether his brother Lieutenant might visit him a longer time. Her decision to return to Vienna the next day, and from there in a few days to Innsbruck, may have something to do with the officer's transfer to Innsbruck and the possibility of meeting him there soon. In fact, Felix is suspicious of the Kaplan as well. He would bet that Josefa “mit dem Kaplan was hat” (988), admonishing Gusti at the same time by saying, “Du bist übrigens auch verliebt in ihn” (988). Gusti leaves that possibility open just to underline again her point made earlier: “keine Lust” (988) of getting married so soon.

The relation between Eduard and Gusti develops along different lines. In contrast to Felix, Eduard admires Gusti's talents as an actress. He is happy to provide Romeo's lines as prompter, especially since he has a chance in that role as Romeo to give Juliet a kiss, a moment for which he waited long, always trying to be near Gusti. She denies him that privilege because “auf den Proben wird nur markiert” (991). Eduard, too, is jealous at the thought that any strange man in Innsbruck might kiss her just because he is cast in the role of Romeo on stage. The name Innsbruck creates other associations in Eduard's mind as well. Jealously he asks Gusti: “Was sagt denn dein Doktor dazu, dass du nach Innsbruck gehst?” (990), thus revealing that he knows about Gusti's secret. In fact, Innsbruck arouses the desire in him of becoming an actor likewise. “Möchtest mich nicht mitnehmen nach Innsbruck?” (1004) is his candid question to Gusti. It would serve two purposes: First, he would be close to Gusti, as he really begins to like her very well; and second, he would not have to finish his school, especially since he does not like to learn Greek in the first place, and would have no need for it as an actor, anyway. “Der Vater hat auch keine Matura gemacht und ist ein berühmter Mann geworden und Professor dazu” (996), he reasons more confidently from the time his mother mentions at the beginning of Act II that Felix, the physician, is not betrothed to Gusti but is only an acquaintance (995). Many ideas and questions apparently fill his mind and distract him from his studies. Finally he closes his notebook and with the question, “Möchtest du vielleicht später mit mir spazierengehen?” (996), he addresses himself to Gusti, obviously in the hope of firming up his future plans with Gusti's help.

It is easy to open his heart to Gusti for still another reason. She looks upon him as an equal, thus placing him in the adult world. This is first indicated by her manner of address to him: “junger Herr,” “junger Mann” (984, 1033). Although in Eduard's absence or in conversation with his parents, she picks up on “Bube,” a term his parents like to use—not just out of habit. At one point in the drama, however, Gusti and Eduard have a quarrel over the word “Bube.” In Gusti's eyes Eduard behaves like an adolescent when in a moment of jealousy he speaks his mind regarding Felix, whom he would prefer to kill because of the favored position with Gusti (1002). When he realizes his negative behavior, he begs forgiveness from Gusti and in a theatrical gesture throws himself on the floor crying — later laughing, truly playing a role (1002-1003). The serious point underlying this encounter is made by Eduard. He wants to erase the image of a child and be counted among the adults, especially since he is only one year younger than Gusti. So he tells her: “Ich versteh' überhaupt mehr, als gewisse Leute meinen,” and further, “Ich bin kein Bub, Gusti” (1002-1003).

He has a more difficult time establishing himself as an adult among the members of his family than elsewhere. Both the Rainer-Mädeln, for example, address him without hesitation as “Herr Eduard,” and Kathy, the servant at Friedleins, has breakfast “für den jungen Herrn” (979); later on she praises “Herrn Eduard” for his diligence in his study habits (995). The real initiation into manhood, however, results from his mountain experience with Gusti during the night of the rainstorm. The next morning, his heart is overflowing; he wants to share with everybody, but Felix, above all, needs to know about the tables that have turned—no more visits in Kirchau to see Gusti! Some more guidance is necessary on Gusti's part, for discretion is a man's first duty (1018); Eduard must learn this right from the beginning. When she sends him affectionately to sleep (1018), he does not know yet that she has decided to leave the next morning for Vienna.

Liptzin describes Gusti as being “delighted by the freshness and naturalness of the boy in contrast to the premature seriousness of her betrothed, the physician.”40 But the text does not reveal any such statement, nor is she betrothed to Felix, as has already been pointed out in the discussion. Stage directions only tell “nimmt plötzlich seinen Kopf zwischen beide Hände, sieht ihn zärtlich an […]” (1018). She shows some emotions but is silent about the experience. Her conduct suggests a logical reason with regard to the advice she gave the young man: “Diskretion ist die erste Pflicht,” a rule pertaining to both partners.

Indeed, she seems to have her emotions very well under control, especially with respect to farewells. The night spent with Eduard appeared to both of them a joyful experience, unhampered by feelings of parting. She uses a similar pattern in her relation with Felix. Knowing that he is already troubled by jealousy and the prospect of her engagement in Innsbruck, she withholds any further information in order to make their time spent together as harmonious and pleasant as possible. Finally, she reminds him: “Wir haben's doch immer gewusst, vom ersten Monat an, Felix. Du genau so gut wie ich, dass es so kommen wird […]. Deswegen haben wir uns um nichts weniger gern gehabt und sind um nichts weniger glücklich gewesen. Vielleicht sogar mehr—als wenn wir an die Ewigkeit geglaubt hätten” (1024).

Müller-Freienfels, who is concerned in his study with the “Lebensgefühl” of Schnitzler's characters, summarizes relations of short duration as follows: “Gerade das Wissen um die Kurzfristigkeit der Verbindung kann manchmal auch noch den Genuss vertiefen und ihm den Charakter der Einmaligkeit verleihen.”41 These sudden farewells have, according to him, still another advantage: “Man vermeidet durch die zeitliche Begrenzung auch das allmähliche, qualvolle Absterben und Verfallen einer Liebesbeziehung, das Schnitzler's Personen noch mehr fürchten als das Ende selbst.”42

It is, therefore, best to avoid the word “Abschied,” as Gusti suggests to Felix: “Sag nicht Abschied. Durch so ein Wort macht man sich das Schwere, das man ja doch durchmachen muss, nur noch schwerer, als es sowieso schon ist” (1024). Bernhard Blume, who discusses this subject also, adds: “Sich schmerzlos zu verabschieden, wird also ihr Bemühen. Natürlich sind es die eigenen Schmerzen, die sie vermeiden möchten, nicht die des anderen, auch wenn sie das Gegenteil behaupten.”43 Schnitzler, of course, knew best the problems involved in love relationships. The following aphorism from Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken laments the discrepancy of commitment involved in any more or less long-term relationship: “Dass wir uns gebunden fühlen mit der steten Sehnsucht nach Freiheit—und dass wir zu binden versuchen, ohne die Überzeugung unseres Rechts dazu, das ist es, was jede Liebesbeziehung so problematisch macht.”44 The concept of freedom, however, cannot be viewed in isolation—other areas of human conduct enter into it, such as a sense of responsibility and commitment to oneself as well as others. Liptzin reads Schnitzler this way: “Freedom is, to Schnitzler, that ideal state in which a person understands himself and the world around him. No person can enter on the road to freedom so long as he lies to himself, nor so long as he feels conscience-stricken when others condemn those actions of his which he deems justified.”45 The key words are “to understand oneself,” which is such a difficult task because one has to master honesty with oneself first. Schnitzler's characters are always shown in various stages of their own understanding, which therefore influences their concept of freedom accordingly. Gusti also values freedom most of all, and so she tells her aunt Josefa: “Und—was den Doktor anbelangt—du hast gestern schon recht gehabt […] ich werde Schluss machen, noch ehe ich ins Engagement fahre. Wird g'scheiter sein” (1019). The real motive, however, is her desire to make the acquaintance of the Lieutenant in Innsbruck.

b) Josefa-Vincenz-Kaplan. Josefa's decisions, on the other hand, are not as easily made, for she is married and has responsibilities. For various reasons I call her “Mitspieler” in her triangular constellation with Vincenz and the Kaplan. To begin with, her husband's extensive absences from the family disrupt the flow of communication between the two partners considerably, and this in turn affects their affinity and reality. On the surface she appears to be a complacent wife and mother, devoted to her husband whenever he is home. In her devotion she is motivated by admiration of the artistic talent that brings him recognition and success. Her expression of love has lost spontaneity because her husband does not reciprocate; in fact, he pays her almost no attention. That has changed her, and when the play begins, Schnitzler gives the following description of her: “[…] etwa 36, sehr jugendlich […] spricht und bewegt sich etwas müde, doch häufig und immer häufiger bricht durch ihr Wesen die Lebhaftigkeit ihres Temperaments” (976). Her sense of unfulfillment creates a great deal of frustration hidden behind a rather transparent facade. Her role as mother provides a partial outlet for pent-up emotions; she is interested in her son's activities, especially those which he undertakes with the Kaplan of the village. On occasion she participates in their excursions, the highlights of which are stimulating discussions with the Kaplan. This contrasts with the small talk that takes place with her husband about weather, Gusti's fling with the Doctor, and her theatrical engagement in Innsbruck. In the eyes of Gusti and probably of Vincenz as well, Josefa appears as a harmless, simple person; Felix is the only one who senses a deeper involvement between Josefa and the Kaplan:

Harmlos? Die? Ich—wette—
Was denn?
Dass sie mit dem Kaplan was hat.
Aber du bist ja verrückt.
Pass nur einmal auf, wie sie ihn anschaut […].


The underlying reason, of course, goes back to Vincenz, who is so occupied with himself and his work that he has neither time nor courtesy to give her approval, encouragement and appreciation. Naturally, Josefa becomes insecure and turns against herself in judgment and self-condemnation, thus losing self-confidence. Twice stage directions describe her as tired: “[…] bewegt sich etwas müde” (976); “kommt langsam, etwas gedrückt durch die Gartentür” (1006).

At only thirty-six years of age, she feels herself old and unattractive. She probably interprets her husband's frequent solitary travels as rejection. “Berufsreisen—Geschäftsreisen sozusagen” (982), he explains to the Kaplan; however, he still hopes to go to Italy on a vacation trip with Josefa, but she shrugs her shoulder in a gesture of doubt and disbelief (982). Earlier, when Vincenz had spoken about his trip to Kassel for the unveiling of his newest piece of art and had turned to Josefa with these words: “Und du fährst mit—diesmal!—Wenn's dir Spass macht” (982), she only looked at him “befremdet” (982). Later in the play, this gesture translates into a question to her husband: “Liegt dir denn was dran, dass ich bei so was dabei bin?” (1027), which is another expression of her deeper feeling of inadequacy.

In a reminiscent mood she looks back to her youth, when she was engaged as a model for Vincenz. Now she is jealous of the girls which he may have used in his “Dionysoszug,” his latest work, for they may be more beautiful than she was. Even her husband's protest does not erase her deep-seated suspicions to the contrary. “Also das kann ich beschwören, Josefa, ein schöneres Modell hab' ich nie wieder gefunden als—,” and Josefa continues: “—als ich einmal gewesen bin” (980), indicating again how far into the past she places everything. Vincenz tells her: “Also, Josefa, auf die ältere Dame brauchst du dich wirklich noch nicht hinauszuspielen” (980), but his words lack the warmth which only comes from a loving heart and therefore draw a somewhat stubborn response from her. Previously, she has already reminded him not to call her “Madame,” a term she probably associates with older age.

The reason for this irritation goes in part to Gusti, the cause of Josefa's jealousy. When Gusti tells Josefa how her mother was able to rent out the large room but kept “das gelbe Kabinett,” jokingly adding that this was done in case she might be sent home from Innsbruck, Josefa replies spontaneously: “Sie werden dich schon nicht nach Hause schicken. Mit dem G'sichtl und mit der Figur! […] Das ist immer die Hauptsache beim Theater” (997). Of course, she speaks from experience, because attractiveness and a good figure were important factors in her own short profession as a model. Once she married Vincenz, he did not use her as a model anymore, especially since their son was born a year later. One might surmise that her early marriage was necessitated by the pregnancy and that she has not reconciled within herself the changes in her life style.

When Gusti mentions that Felix will visit her regularly in Innsbruck, at least once a month, Josefa advises: “Es tut kein gut. In solchen Fällen gibt's nur ein Entweder—Oder. Sei froh, dass du hinaus in die Welt kommst mit deinen neunzehn Jahren, in die Freiheit und ins Leben …” (998). In retrospect, Josefa actually regrets the development her career took, for Vincenz, too, might have visited her too often, thus ending her life as a single person and with it the prospect of freedom, as she sees it. Gusti, in a moment of ill humor, exclaims in reply to Josefa's advice: “Ich wollt', ich wär' lieber neunzig, und alles wär' vorbei” (998). In a passion, Josefa admonishes her, for Gusti does not know what it means “all over.” Gusti deems Josefa ungrateful, especially since she has an attractive husband and a boy of eighteen. Josefa finds it necessary to register a correction about the boy's age; he is only seventeen. If this situation was not such a sore spot in Josefa's heart, she might have reacted differently by not placing so much importance upon it. Josefa's somewhat subdued and disillusioned “happiness” in her marriage is another indication that she faces difficulties within herself. Her devotion to Vincenz and the child might be motivated by a sense of duty instead of her heart's desire. Therefore, she is more of a “Mitspieler” rather than wholeheartedly in it, letting circumstances rule her life instead of accepting the turn of events in the knowledge that she has primary responsibility in her life and affairs.

“Jeder muss seinen eigenen Weg gehen,” points out William Rey, “Er muss aber auch die Verantwortung für seine Entscheidung auf sich nehmen. Das Wagnis der Freiheit bleibt keinem erspart. Nur wenige erkennen, dass der höchste Sinn der Freiheit die Bindung ist.”46 Both partners, therefore, have the same responsibility to work toward a happy marriage. Schnitzler, however, seems to demand more of his women characters because of their finer insight, of which his male characters without exception seem to be incapable. John Nelson Whiton, who studied the problem of marriage in Schnitzler's works, places Vincenz in the category of “the dull, complacent husband who provides his wife with status and material security, but not with love.”47 The kind of double standard which Vincenz has created in his marriage, as indicated by his frequent late returns home, is not conducive to a happy marriage, especially since it is clear that he reserves these evenings or overnight stays for extra-marital pleasures. Of course, these extra freedoms on the part of Vincenz are thinly veiled under the pretense of work that has to be accomplished, but Josefa intuitively knows the truth: “Nur ihr Kunstwerk interessiert diese Menschen,” writes Müller-Freienfels, “und das lebendige Modell ist ihnen gleichgültig geworden, sobald es seine Aufgabe erfüllt hat.”48

Vincenz is not vicious, however, as was his artistic counterpart Gysar in Komödie der Verführung; a certain amount of ignorance in understanding himself and others prevents him from recognizing Josefa's deeper desires as a woman. “Es kümmert sie auch nicht, ob dieses lebendige Modell dadurch, dass es von ihnen nur als Instrument und Mittel für ihre künstlerischen Zwecke gebraucht wurde, vielleicht selbst Schaden genommen hat,” observes Müller-Freienfels.49 “Der Weg zum Mitmenschen besteht nur für denjenigen, der keine Maske trägt, beständig und innerlich gefestigt ist,” says Anna Stroka.50 But Vincenz hides behind the image of a successful artist and Professor; he is not as steadfast and secure a person as he shows in outer ways. His frequent absence from home indicates that he needs constant reassurance as a man. His marriage is for him a matter of convenience more than anything else, and this places a twofold responsibility upon Josefa. Not only does she have the same responsibility in working toward a happy marriage as her husband does, but also an additional accountability toward the child.51 Her sense of devotion and her unselfishness help her to shoulder these responsibilities remarkably well, even though occasional frustrations upset the balance. The paradox of “Selbsterfüllung in der Selbsthingabe,” which Rey discovers in some of Schnitzler's women characters, applies in general to Josefa also, so that “die männliche Eroberungslust […] ihren Gegenpol in der weiblichen Opferbereitschaft [findet].”52

Her moments of frustration on the one hand find a pleasant relief on the other hand in the challenging and inspiring dialog with the Kaplan, and the understanding and sensitivity he shows her toward the end of the discussion uplift her in consciousness. No physical enjoyment takes place between them, but they both had their weak moments, to be sure. Significantly enough, the long dialog between Josefa and the Kaplan is placed in the center of the drama, preceded by one of the more disappointing moments in Josefa's marital experience. She had intended to meet her husband at the railway station and looked forward to walking home with him. But she returns alone, having received a telegram on the way which informs her that Vincenz is staying in town, entertaining his guest from the Kassel theater. Seeing that she is somewhat depressed, Gusti tries to console her aunt: “Es ist ja nicht das erste Mal, dass der Onkel drin übernachtet.” This prompts Josefa to say: “Nein. Es kommt sogar ziemlich oft vor. Aber manchmal muss man's im Gefühl haben … Ob man einen allein lassen darf oder nicht” (1007). It appears that her feelings this time are mixed, and suspicious as well. Her churning emotions find a corresponding expression in the embroiled state of nature: the wind has increased, there is summer lightning on the horizon with a rolling of distant thunder, and people hurry by to get home before the rain begins. Among them are the Rainer-Mädeln (1007-1008).

Just at that moment the Kaplan is passing by the fence and, looking into the garden, he unintentionally hesitates. He is not looking for Eduard this time; instead his goal is the railway station, but Josefa invites him to seek shelter there until the rain has passed. Thus their encounter not only takes place in the middle of the drama, but also at the height of a storm and in the absence of most occupants of the house. Vincenz, Eduard and Gusti—all have left to experience their own pleasures. Josefa has a keen perception of the situation which at one point in the dialog she communicates to the priest this way: “[…] keine Mutter hat ihren Sohn, und keine Frau hat ihren Mann—so, wie sie ihn haben möchte. Wenn es gerade ruft und lockt von irgendwoher, so laufen sie ins Wetter, in die Nacht und ins Leben hinaus—und man bleibt allein” (1013). Indeed, her son has gone off with Gusti into the storm, her husband into the night—all three for the purpose of experiencing life differently. The combination of weather, night, and life has symbolic meaning which will be discussed later on. The fact remains that Josefa finds herself alone at a moment when she most needs the presence of some company. In contrast to her previous role as “Mitspieler,” she now initiates the game with the priest. In keeping with her generally unselfish nature, she allows him to speak his mind first, but during the course of their conversation she is able to reflect upon her own concerns as well, not always accepting as advice or reassurance the cleric's convictions which at times seem to her to be out of touch with the reality of life.

An alarming letter from Robert Holl, informing his brother, the Kaplan, indirectly of a serious duel, gives rise to a philosophical discussion about guilt, temptation, inner struggle, self-conquest, doubt; it also brings these two people to a better understanding of themselves and of each other. The Kaplan resigns himself to an attitude of waiting and praying, although he is painfully aware that prayer in its miracle-working power cannot undo what has been done—the sin remains, in his way of thinking. Josefa is an understanding woman, knowing that there are many temptations for a young person. But the Kaplan in his stoic attitude insists that it is one's duty to fight temptation, for weakness in this regard is a sin as well. “Not everyone is probably created for such a struggle,” replies Josefa, reminding the priest of God's concept of mercy for those who miss the mark (1011). Unaware that Josefa's words might be based on experiences of herself and her family, the Kaplan considers her a “Good woman” and expresses his gratitude for her empathy which comes from “the peace of her pure heart and the shelter of this home” (1011). This invites opposition from Josefa: “Wer ist denn überhaupt geborgen, wer in dieser Welt? Wem ist ein friedliches Herz geschenkt?” (1011). Again, the Kaplan's answer is remote from any real life situation: “Through inner struggle and self-conquest to peace and happiness” (1011). His words sound like a mindless slogan to Josefa, who had just raised the question as to whether or not everyone is equipped to handle such inner difficulties. In her mind, it takes more courage to accept happiness on the basis of life's polarities—joy and sorrow, good and bad, beauty and ugliness, but she is told that this kind of courage often looks more like sin because the happiness attained is followed by remorse (1012).

The argument is brought down to more concrete levels, when Josefa applies the priest's line of thought to the situation of his own brother. How can he be so sure about his brother's state of mind? Perhaps he cherishes the very same experiences that brought him into the present position so much that they are worth any remorse felt afterwards. Josefa's daring ideas are foreign to the Kaplan and perhaps a bit frightening, because he hides now behind the word “Absolution” (1012), mentioned in his brother's letter, giving it his own clerical interpretation. Actually, Robert expressed gratitude toward his priestly brother for everything he had done for him in the past, at the same time assuring him that every word, handshake and embrace will mean absolution to him, when they see each other tomorrow (1009-1010). In a sudden move, the Kaplan puts the spotlight back on Josefa, interpreting her behavior as adverse reactions to the letter that must have caused anxiety and perhaps even doubt. However, Josefa considers doubt as a part of her nature and emphasizes instead those rare moments in a person's life when the real truth from within is revealed, when a new perspective of life is gained (1012-1013).

In light of Josefa's profound realization about herself and her family, the priest's position on the various issues raised seems rather inflexible, merely touching the surface of Josefa's concerns. Even when she speaks about the lure which draws husband and son into the weather, the night, and life, his only consolation is that they will be back soon (1013). Josefa's reply: “Und werden beide nicht da sein” (1013) opens up a whole new vista of her psychological insight. She knows well that they will return, but for a while thereafter they are only physically present, while on mental and emotional levels they are still involved with the experiences gained from those nocturnal activities.

Finally, the priest changes his attitude and becomes “beinahe herzlich” (1013), only to miss the point again, as he interprets Josefa's words to be a kind of confession, consoling her that tomorrow her anxiety will have passed. He is perplexed by Josefa's quick response: “Ja, das wird sie gewiss. Und man wird sich wieder belügen, sich und die andern dazu” (1013). Josefa's ideal is a truthful life, and this kind of role-playing does not satisfy her any longer. Throughout the dialog she is searching for deeper answers beyond conventional religious views of guilt, temptation, inner struggle, and self-conquest, but every one of her concerns has been misinterpreted or superficially answered. Step by step she has drawn a tighter mental circle around the priest in the hope of hearing words of deeper sincerity. She is greatly puzzled, therefore, to hear the priest abruptly change the subject by pointing out that it is time for him to attend his duties elsewhere. She considers this latest move on his part nothing less than flight, and wonders whether he would leave if there had been a true confession on her part. She had wished to speak to him as a friend, for in her mind a priest is above all a human being, and as such a friend. Of course, he cannot deny his human nature, which does not give him any greater virtues or rights, but he does believe that his vocation exacts higher duties, and as a priest he sets himself apart. Certainly, one such “higher duty” might have called for a more distinct effort to understand Josefa's concerns, which were born out of a sudden realization of the discrepancies between ideal and real life situations, as well as states of consciousness.

There is still more disagreement in store for her which finally breaks the distance which the priest tries to maintain under all circumstances:

[…] Kommen Sie zur Besinnung, Frau Josefa. Versuchen Sie Ihre abirrenden Gedanken wieder auf den richtigen Weg zu leiten.
Wissen das Hochwürden ganz bestimmt, welches der richtige Weg ist? Mein rechter Weg?
Der ist vorgezeichnet, wie nur je einer war, es ist der Weg einer Gattin, einer Mutter.
einfach Ich bin auch eine Frau, Hochwürden, und ich bin nicht so sicher, ob ich meinen Weg als Frau so gehe und gegangen bin, wie Gott ihn mir vorgezeichnet hat


When the Kaplan tries to tell her that such thoughts have nothing to do with God, Josefa closes in on him. How does he know where thoughts come from; which thoughts reach us from above and which from below and which are within us? And what about our prayers? Is Heaven or Hell responding to them?

Josefa in Schnitzler's character portrayal demonstrates deeper insight than the priest, for she knows that everything in life is of rather complex nature. Just as in the beginning of their discussion, she now draws again upon his brother to demonstrate her point. As he prays for Robert and wants him to be saved because he is his brother, does he not at the same time invite death for the other person, who most likely is less guilty than the brother? The discussion about a “believing heart” (1015) finally helps the Kaplan realize that he himself has been a doubter all along, and that he had no right to judge Josefa for her doubts. Of course, the difference between these two characters lies in the degree of self-honesty. Josefa felt free to speak to the priest about her innermost concerns. This was perhaps easier for her to do than for the Kaplan, for she revered him, as was already apparent by her form of address. He, on the other hand, as one sworn to strict vows before the altar of the priesthood, wanted to uphold this priestly aura of strength and faith, thus forgetting that he still is a human being and as such troubled with certain weaknesses as well. He finally has the courage to reveal to Josefa that he is more than a doubter, because when he read the letter he felt rebellion, dissatisfaction with his calling as a priest, even jealousy toward his brother who experiences life in such diversity. He fears, therefore, that his prayers may have dissipated in space, for they were spoken without belief and conviction (1016).

There seems to be a lack of balance within the priest, for when he condemns himself for being worse than a doubter, he leaves out his feelings of love and concern for his brother. Josefa can see these connections very clearly, and when the Kaplan passes by the garden in Act III to meet the mailman, she knows intuitively that he will carry a good message to him. This time the priest is freer in his expression toward Josefa. He even tells her about last night's dream he had, which involved the two of them in reverse roles and how his earthly longing for her through confession changed at the end of the dream to clarity of thought, purpose, and action. Josefa does not consider it a sin “[…] dass wir einander—beinahe—verstanden hätten” (1021). The priest understands now that Josefa is stronger than he himself, but she corrects him “frommer, Hochwürden” (1021). It seems, however, that each has learned from the other and emerged as a stronger and more balanced personality in the end, ready “to return to their daily life with renewed appreciation for its values,” points out Davis.53 “Everything ends on a conciliatory note.”54

Concerning the first part of the dialog, Müller-Freienfels' observations are correct: “Der Kaplan erscheint im Grunde unehrlich: er sucht sich in seine Kirchen und seine Dogmen zu flüchten, allen Fragen und Bedenken ängstlich auszuweichen und nach aussen hin einen festen Glauben vorzutäuschen, den er innerlich gar nicht besitzt.”55 A significant change, however, has occurred within the priest at the beginning of Act III as a result of the dream. Vicariously, he experienced with Josefa what Vincenz and Eduard that night looked for in the physical world. He also seems to be closer now to his God, strengthened in his faith, and more in tune with his inner nature.

Herbert Lederer's evaluation of the Kaplan is, that he does “not quite come up to the high ideals expected of [him].”56 One must ask the question here: How valid are expectations? In general, the Kaplan is portrayed as a devoted “shepherd of the flock” at Kirchau. He sees people, comforts those near death like the Hofrat, and also has time for the interests of the younger generation, as seen in his relation to Eduard. Only in his encounter with Josefa does one find his human nature revealed in all its hidden aspects. He had repressed a broad scale of emotions, including the aspect of doubt, so that what might have appeared insincere within him was really a result of this long history of emotional repression.

Schnitzler addressed himself to this problem in connection with belief: “Auch Glaube und Zweifel sind nicht allzu häufig als Charakteranlage vorhanden. Gerade sie sind fliessende Seelenzustände […] und häufig genug kommen sie sogar nur als Stimmungen vor. Wie könnte man sonst verstehen, dass auch gläubige Naturen nicht selten an ihrem Gott irre werden—und dass immer wieder Zweifler sich zu einem Glauben oder ganz allgemein zum Glauben bekehren.”57 Furthermore, since Schnitzler gives the Kaplan these words: “Ich bin Priester, Frau Josefa” (1014), it is clear that he wanted him to be a positive character on the left side of his triangular diagram as “Erfüller einer Sendung […] einer göttlichen Aufgabe.”58

Davis believes that the Kaplan's “doubts are dangerous to him, but he has the touch of mysticism essential to his calling.”59 This cannot be proven with certainty through textual evidence, unless the dream is considered as a “touch of mysticism.” Indeed, priests should have a mystic inclination; “[…] doch fehlt es nicht an Priestern […] die zweiflerisch oder skeptisch angelegt sind […],” Schnitzler adds in his discussion.60 This reflects more truly the role of the priest in his particular drama. Georgette Boner sees this polarity of doubt and belief, balanced by a new courageous attitude, in the context of Schnitzler's effort to eliminate impressionistic elements from his work.61

Polarities: Schnitzler uses this concept of courage to establish a synthesis for such polar opposites as doubt and belief. Referring to Boner's observation (footnote 61), the priest has the courage to express the “heroic belief” of the woman, and Josefa finds the courage to address herself to the “heroic doubt” of the man. This was only possible when both were willing to take off their masks, particularly in the case of the priest. Other polarities find a balance as well, which could be considered a synthesis along Boner's line of thinking. The Kaplan spoke of inner struggle and inner peace: “Niemandem bleiben innere Kämpfe ganz erspart. Aber ohne die wäre wohl auch der innere Friede nicht viel wert […]. Erst Selbstüberwindung ist Friede, ist Glück” (1011). If this somewhat negative attitude of “self-conquest” could be seen in light of “self-mastery,” it represents a much desired synthesis. Self-control through inner guidance creates a balanced person who can face the antinomies of life and still remain peaceful at heart. This would also include the polarities Josefa pointed out: “Freude und Leid—Gutes und Böses—Schönes und Hässliches auch” (1012). These, too, are “fliessende Seelenzustände,” to use Schnitzler's expression, which can be controlled through knowing the self.

Related to this concept of self-mastery is the polarity of “Stadt und Land.” The lure and complexity of the city, as opposed to the sheltered atmosphere and simplicity of the countryside, demand balance. Throughout the drama, there is movement between these two poles.62 Every morning Vincenz leaves for the city to carry out his work, but instead of returning home in the evening, he often stays overnight to experience the night life of the city. Finally, when feelings are held in check, there is less urgency to be in the city. Vincenz at the end of the play tells Josefa to her surprise: “Dass du gerade jetzt auf die Idee kommst, in die Stadt zu ziehen, wo ich mir vorgenommen habe, einmal vierzehn Tage lang in Ruhe da heraussen auf dem Land zu verleben” (1030).

Regarding the urban motif, mention must be made not only of Vienna but of Innsbruck as well. Innsbruck is the city where Gusti found her first employment as a professional actress. In that respect, it corresponds to Vienna where Vincenz' art studio is located. What lures Gusti away from her countryside “spa” several weeks earlier than she had planned, is the expectation of excitement. She is motivated not only by her desire to stay away from Felix in Vienna, but by her need to gain distance from Eduard. Furthermore, the lieutenant's transfer to Innsbruck presents an opportunity for new adventure in her quest for freedom of expression.63

But in all fairness to Gusti, one must not forget her sincerity as an actress. Although she is on vacation, we observe her immersed in the role of Shakespeare's Juliet, which is her first assignment at the Innsbruck theater. She demonstrates energy and enthusiasm for her profession, and talent in addition, as indicated by the nature of her first role in Innsbruck. Even the mere practice of her lines earned heart-felt “bravos” from passersby such as the lieutenant (992). She also reveals a seriousness of purpose when she speaks of her work. In a discussion with Eduard, her ardent admirer, about her contract for the coming season in Innsbruck, she explains rather firmly: “Ich hab' was Gescheiteres und was Wichtigeres zu tun in Innsbruck, als Besuche von Herrn zu empfangen oder Schulbuben. Ich hab' zu arbeiten. Ich muss schau'n, dass ich vorwärts komm'. Ich muss Geld verdienen für mich und für die Mutter. Seine Pflicht hat man zu tun vor allem” (1006). Uwe Rosenbaum, who investigates “Die Gestalt des Schauspielers auf dem deutschen Theater,” offers this comment: “Es ist das Verhältnis des bürgerlichen Mädchens, das den Beruf der Schauspielerin als einzig möglichen ergreift, um sich eine Lebensgrundlage zu sichern, weniger aus künstlerischen Gründen.”64 Whether or not Gusti had artistic reasons for her career as an actress is difficult to evaluate, because the information given in the drama is limited. But her family background seems to point to an artistic orientation. Gusti's aunt Josefa probably selected her brief career because she was attracted to artistic circles.65

The characteristics of the two women relating to polar opposites have already been discussed, but ultimately Josefa and Gusti achieve a synthesis through better understanding of each other's innermost nature. When Gusti returns with Eduard from the mountain, having spent the night together in the cabin, she is prepared to give Josefa all kinds of excuses: “[…] grad' noch im richtigen Moment bin ich in die Hütte gekommen. Sonst—ich glaub', es hätt' mich heruntergeschwemmt” (1019). But Josefa suggests smilingly: “Ich glaub', es ist besser, du redest nichts” (1019), which is a gesture of understanding. Later on, the embarrassment is Josefa's, because Gusti wants to know how she knew about the lieutenant's duel. Josefa is prepared for a lengthy reply, all in an effort to justify the priest's evening visit, when nobody else was in the house. But Gusti helps her out—even the tone of her voice and the words are the same as Josefa's: “Ich glaub' halt, es ist besser, du redest nichts” (1030). A further gesture seals the secret between them: “Dann nimmt Gusti Josefas Kopf in ihre Hände und küsst sie” (1030).

The harmony which exists now between the two women, in spite of age differences, is not apparent between Vincenz and his son Eduard. Unlike Josefa, Vincenz is never outwardly concerned about his own age, to judge by anything he says in the course of the play. His experiences in town seem to give him assurance that he is still attractive to women. At home, the fact of a seventeen-year-old son might remind him of his age, but he handles that on psychological levels. He does not recognize his son as an adult. First he laughs when the Rainer-Mädeln send a greeting to “Herrn Eduard,” repeating this form of address to himself as if he were rather amused about it. Perhaps he has been away so much that he has not really had a chance to watch his son grow up. He is complaining to Josefa about it early in the drama: “Ich hab' überhaupt nichts von dem Buben da heraussen (978). Josefa and Gusti pick up on this term also, at one point adding “insult to injury,” when they call Eduard “dummer Bub” (996). However, Josefa is keenly aware of Eduard's feeling in this respect and tries to convince her husband also: “Der ist kein Bub mehr. Das ist ein väterlicher Wahn. Ein junger Herr ist er, ein Jüngling. ‘Ein schlanker Jüngeling’ hat gestern der Doktor gesagt. Hast du denn noch gar nicht bemerkt, wie die Weiber ihn anschau'n?” (980).

As his mother, Josefa is deeply conscious of this stage in Eduard's life, for it signals to parents that the time has come to release their child to make his own life.66 The Kaplan is the only one who never calls Eduard “Bube.” But he uses the term, when he talks about his own childhood: “[…] wie wir noch Buben gewesen sind—Kinder—” (999), referring to his twin brother Robert also. The age of twelve, it seems, is the last year of childhood in the mind of the priest, for, as he entered his teens, serious considerations were given to his future career. His twin brother went to the Military Academy at the same time that the Kaplan entered the Seminary. With regard to Eduard, much emphasis is placed on his school work, for he seems to have failed his examinations or part of them once before. Now his parents are concerned that he pass “die Nachprüfung,”67 and he is constantly reminded to take tutoring lessons from the priest rather than going on hiking tours with him (979). Whenever Eduard is interested in some aspect of the adult world, the magic word “Nachprüfung” resounds and pushes him back to the childhood level: “Schau lieber, dass du bei der Nachprüfung […] nicht durchfliegst.”68 Thus, there is a correlation between “Bube” and “Nachprüfung,” neither of which Eduard cares to hear about. Thereafter, the word “Bube” occurs in the drama only in passing, among the various characters, but hardly in the presence of Eduard.69

An exception can be observed in the relation between Gusti and Eduard, who wanted to establish himself as an equal adult (1003, 1005). At the end of the play Eduard is uncontrolled in his disappointment over her sudden decision to depart. She copes with his outburst by reminding him that he must show that he is a man. But to Josefa and Vincenz she admits: “Er ist ja doch noch ein Bub” and, asking his permission, she kisses him with these words: “Also denk manchmal an mich, junger Mann!” (1033).

Symbolism (weather, Dionysos, the mountains): The one term which is mentioned consistently by almost every character in the play is the weather.70 It is already anchored in the title Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte and indeed involves many components: wind, thunder, lightning, rain, sunshine. Weather usually is related to the sensation of the characters. In the beginning of the drama, Vincenz justifies taking his overcoat along in spite of the warm weather: “Ich trau' dem Wetter nicht. Und wenn ich abends drin in der Stadt bleib'—” (977). That he does so is indicated by the telegram he sends later.

Gusti during her vacation in the countryside “ist förmlich aufgeblüht” (984), and Vincenz attributes this improvement either to the milk she drinks or to the good air. In the late afternoon of that day, Josefa knows “Es kommt ein Wetter,” but Kathi does not think much will happen before the night (995). It is interesting to observe Schnitzler's method: he lets a simple girl utter some simple words that prove to have far-reaching consequences. Gusti finds the weather sultry and, just in case of rain, takes an umbrella along as she goes to the mailbox (1007, paralleling Vincenz' earlier provision for the coat, for she will need that umbrella as she follows Eduard into the mountains.

A dramatic turn in the weather occurs when the Kaplan visits Josefa. “Stärkeres Wetterleuchten” is accompanied by a “Windstoss” as he greets her; “Windstoss” again as she invites him in (1008). “The wind,” points out J. E. Cirlot, “is air in its active and violent aspects, and is held to be a primary element by virtue of its connexion with the creative breath or exhalation.”71 Although no overt act takes place during the ensuing dialog between the priest and Josefa, their heightened mental activity certainly stirs up inner turmoil. This sheds light not only on traditionally accepted concepts but also on spiritual horizons, as “Wetterleuchten” does in nature. Cirlot points out that “Jung recalls that in Arabic (and paralleled by the Hebrew) the word ruh signifies both ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’.”72 Spirit, of course, is recognizable by its luminous intensity, just as lightning for a split second releases large amounts of energy. Through the long process of dialog, Josefa and the priest are able to understand themselves better, as they turn to the spirit of truth.

Josefa, in the course of their discussion, speaks about her husband and son who run into the weather, into the night, and into life, leaving her alone (1013). The common symbolic denominator of this triangularity of concepts is creativity and light. Weather in this drama is synonymous with rain which “has a primary and obvious symbolism as a fertilizing agent, and is related to the general symbolism of life and water,” according to Cirlot.73 As with the water symbol, rain “signifies purification,”74 a creative power at work. Purification involves a clearing process which seems to be active within Vincenz, Eduard, and Gusti. Their nocturnal experiences clear up false ideas and thought patterns to achieve clarity in their future actions. “Night is related to the passive principle, the feminine and unconscious,” writes Cirlot.75 The feminine principle in man is also the creative aspect within him, and the Greeks thought that night and darkness preceded the creation of all things. Night “is an anticipatory state in that, though not yet day, it is the promise of daylight.”76 It is symbolic of the principle of understanding in the mind. Thunder is also an active force, “a symbol of the supreme, creative power […] at the same time, the flash of lightning is related to dawn and illumination.”77 The night, therefore, with its outbursts of illumination in nature, brought light into the mind and heart of each character who was away from his usual habitation.

A related symbol, perhaps less complex than weather, is that of Dionysos. Vincenz has just finished a large sculpture for the Kassel theater which he calls “Dionysoszug” (980). It represents “einen Fries für das neue Schauspielhaus in Kassel. Zwölfeinhalb Meter lang” (981). When asked by the Kaplan whether he created it in antique style, Vincenz replies: “[…] in ziemlich freier Auffassung” (981). This reply includes not only the physical aspect of the artwork, but also Vincenz' moral and ethical convictions regarding the relations between an artist and his various models. Dionysos is described by Cirlot as “an infernal deity, and a symbol of the uninhibited unleashing of desire, or of the lifting of any inhibitions of repression.”78 Vincenz seems to answer all. In Komödie der Worte (1915), consisting of three one-act plays, Schnitzler devotes the third play to the Dionysian aspect. He calls this play Das Bacchusfest. What Felix the poet created in words, Vincenz the sculptor changed into visual form, allowing himself the freedom to experience every aspect of his creation. Felix explains to Guido the details of this custom in these words:

Das Bacchusfest war […] ein religiöser Brauch […]. Er bestand darin, dass einmal in jedem Jahr, eine Nacht hindurch, zur Zeit der Weinlese […] der Menschheit—in gewisser Hinsicht uneingeschränkte Freiheit gegönnt war […]. Für diese eine Nacht waren alle Bande der Familie, alle Gebote der Sitte einfach aufgehoben. Männer, Frauen, junge Mädchen verliessen bei Sonnenuntergang das Haus, dessen Friede sie sonst umgab und behütete, und begaben sich in den heiligen Hain […] um dort unter den schützenden Schleiern der Nacht das göttliche Fest zu feiern […]. Bei Anbruch des Tags—war das Fest vorbei, und jeder Teilnehmer war verpflichtet zu vergessen, mit wem er für seinen Teil das göttliche Fest gefeiert hatte. Verpflichtet. Das gehörte mit zum religiösen Brauch—wie die Feier selbst […]. Und wie die Sage berichtet, sollen die Festteilnehmer zuweilen etwas ermüdet, aber doch erfrischt, ja gewissermassen geläutert nach Hause wiedergekehrt sein”

(DW II, 551).

Vincenz, too, returned home the next morning with no trace of fatigue, but rather refreshed in spite as well. He bought the atlas for Eduard; he now has travelling plans for the family, and meets Josefa in her somewhat embarrassed behavior with an embrace and these rather symbolic words: “Es muss doch ziemlich arg gewittert haben da heraussen” (1031). The promise of a new, different life becomes apparent—a life that will be spent in closer sharing of interests.

When Eduard receives the atlas, he feels that this wonderful illustrated edition is not his alone to enjoy; he thinks immediately of the priest as well: “Und der Herr Kaplan wird auch eine Freud' haben” (1031). Indeed, a deep friendship connects these two men, a friendship that has taken them on many excursions into the mountains. As the drama ends, the Kaplan appears “im Touristenanzug” (1031), ready to hike with Eduard just as he had hiked with his brother a year ago for a whole week in Kärnten and around the Grossglockner (999). This time their goal is the Gaisental, where they hope to find some rare orchids that grow usually only in the Dolomites (998). When Eduard first appears in the drama, he has just returned from the Katzenstein in record time (978). He meets Gusti at the Fallenböckhütte which later gives them shelter for the night (1006, 1019), and even Josefa has been up there to testify to the beauty of the surroundings.

The mountains represent an exalted state of mind: the priest finds new inspiration and enthusiasm for his calling; Eduard seems drawn to the mountains whenever his book learning overwhelms him; Josefa joins her son and the Kaplan on their hikes, whenever she is disturbed by marital frustration. The mountains, therefore, can symbolize a state of spiritual realization and uplift, but in the case of Gusti and Eduard that is also a state of physical enjoyment. Deriving from the idea of height “are interpretations such as that of Teilhard, who equates the mountain with inner ‘loftiness’ of spirit, that is, transposing the notion of ascent to the realm of the spirit.”79 One also gains a clear view from the mountain top. The characters in the play see their lives more clearly, and have a better perspective, whenever they return from the mountains.

Comparison with other late dramatic works: The symbolism of the mountain can be compared with that of the tower in Der Gang zum Weiher. Both are symbols of ascent and denote also spiritual elevation. Yet, the tower experience in Der Gang zum Weiher did not achieve anything comparable to the mountain experience in Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte. All characters, except Vincenz who had never time to be in the mountains, enjoyed them, because they felt uplifted; whereas the guestroom in the tower only involved Sylvester and Konrad. It had an adverse effect upon Sylvester, who did not even spend a single night there. After burning his diary notes page by page, he still had not been able to lift himself into a new state of awareness by accepting the truth about himself at his present station in life. He felt uncomfortable with himself and, rather than facing himself in self-honesty this time, he ran away—as so often before—to avoid this promising lifting experience.

Konrad enjoyed the tower guestroom as he would have any other bedroom after his experience of sex with Leonilda. The memory of his encounter lingered on. In that respect he can be compared with Eduard who experiences his sexual initiation in the mountains. Another comparison between Konrad and Eduard involves the question of adolescence. Both young men wanted to be counted as adults. In contrast to Eduard, Konrad was only once called “Bube” when he was challenged by Sylvester to a duel (834). That was an issue of biological difference in age. Eduard never had strong feelings toward age, because unlike Konrad (cf. 805), he did not perceive a threat to his self-esteem from this direction.

The idea of the duel is present in all four dramas. In Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa and Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte it is actually carried out, but no serious difficulty arises; in fact, Casanova and his two opponents are prevented from fighting through the intervention of Teresa, the dancer (726). In Komödie der Verführung, it was established that Prince Arduin was rather duel-happy but never entered a fight; in Der Gang zum Weiher, the outbreak of war prevented the duel between Konrad and Sylvester, but Konrad had already indicated that their ages were incompatible (834). With regard to Schnitzler's position in this matter, Davis concludes that “if Schnitzler […] were really concerned about this point, we should expect to find the same process of constant clarification of his attitude that we have found on other subjects.”80 No death is caused by any duel in the late dramatic works, and this represents a significant difference from Schnitzler's earlier dramatic writings. According to Davis, “Schnitzler in his late works uses the duel frequently as a tool to point out something important about a character, and as poetic justice.”81

On the other hand, one could suspect that the issue of the duel may be rooted in Schnitzler's inability to accept the changes from Old Vienna to postwar Vienna. The duel is a holdover from the past which he retains to keep evergreen the precious memories of his own youth. In his book Jugend in Wien Schnitzler recalls vividly his feelings of younger years about the duel:

Es war vom Duell die Rede, und wir alle, ohne uns gerade als prinzipielle Anhänger dieser Sitte zu fühlen, betonten aus unserem Studententum heraus und mehr noch als Einjährige-Freiwillige und künftige Reserveoffiziere unsere Bereitschaft, erforderlichenfalls ritterliche Satisfaktion zu geben […]. Wir waren zwar alle weder Raufbolde noch besonders tüchtige Fechter, und keiner von uns lechzte daher nach einem Waffenhandel, aber ebensowenig hätte es einer versucht, sich einer studentischen Mensur oder selbst einem Duell zu entziehen, wenn es den geltenden Regeln nach als unausweichlich gegolten hätte.”82

One can glean from this discussion that Schnitzler never believed in any procedure justifying the duel, but that he would not have retreated, had there been a serious necessity of fighting one. Schnitzler, therefore, did not change his position throughout his life. His stand had always been against this convention, but in the last analysis dueling is a matter of inner conscience. If one does not heed inner guidance, one will find himself no longer balanced, no longer centered, a condition which some characters in the various plays call “Schuld.”

To Leonilda in Der Gang zum Weiher guilt is present only when one knowingly turns the wrong way (789). In this she moves away from conventional thought patterns, by which a person is made to feel humiliated by imputations of guilt made by someone else. Gusti, in Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte, continues in Leonilda's footsteps. When Felix tries to blame her for his anxiety, fear, and painful thoughts during her absence from Vienna, she defends herself: “An denen bin ich nicht schuld. Das ist nur deine unglückselige Natur. Wenn du mehr Vertrauen hättest—” (1024). Schnitzler indicates here through Gusti that the responsibility for one's emotional wellbeing rests within each person. Strong negative emotions such as hate, anger, fear, jealousy, guilt hamper a person's ability to master life's challenges successfully.

The priest, on the other hand, represents traditional theological thinking in the matter of guilt: he blames himself for Josefa's stirred-up emotions on account of the letter he has read to her: “[…] morgen wird Ihre unruhvolle Stimmung—an der ich leider auch mir einige Schuld zumessen muss—, morgen wird sie wieder vorbei sein” (1013). He does not comprehend that his visit to Josefa that evening was “mehr freundschaftlicher als amtlicher Natur” (981), just as the Hofrat needed to confide in a friend, when he called for the Kaplan.

In Komödie der Verführung, the question of guilt rests with Falkenir. He blames himself for the suicide of his first wife, which shapes his decision to withdraw from his marriage proposal to Aurelie. “[…] du wagst es nicht, glücklich zu sein—als hättest du irgendetwas zu sühnen—, was du doch nicht verschuldet” (871), she tells him, in order to remind him that he has a choice in life. Falkenir does not grasp this idea at all, for he accepts guilt. “Ist Vorhersicht nicht Schuld?” (871) is the question to which he finds no answer, and when he meets Aurelie again at the Danish coast, he has accepted additional guilt for her present state of abandon. “Wenn es hier etwas wie eine Schuld gibt, so liegt sie bei mir allein” (950).

An interesting polarity is created with the term “Rechenschaft oder Treue schuldig sein”: Judith wants to enjoy irresponsibly without being accountable to anybody (865); Gysar lures Aurelie by reminding her of independence (894); Arduin asks Aurelie: “Bist du irgendeinem Menschen, wer es auch sei, Treue schuldig?” (947). In Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa, the term “Schuld” has likewise two connotations. On the one hand, Casanova is constantly concerned with his obligation of paying his debt83—on the other hand, the question arises as to whether the two women feel any guilt for their assignations with him (694, 699).

The theme of “Schuld,” then, has been treated by Schnitzler in all four dramas, the lighter aspect of which is represented in Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa. The more conventional concept of feeling guilty for another person's actions is developed in Komödie der Verführung. The absence of “Schuld” is demonstrated in Der Gang zum Weiher through Leonilda, the emancipated woman, who determines for herself what course her life will take instead of feeling compelled to bow to a hypocritical social code. Her father likewise showed this conviction when the message reached him about Sylvester's drowning. He knows: “Sie trägt keine Schuld” (840), speaking of Leonilda. Each person rules his own moral actions and is responsible for them. The last drama, Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte, deals again with a juxtaposition between old and new ideas in this respect, thus connecting to the first drama and completing the circle. Schnitzler's contemporaneity rests on his assumption for his characters that no guilt attaches to any behavior so long as one accepts the responsibility for the consequences of one's decisions and actions.

There is another correspondence between the first and the last drama in terms of the women characters. Flaminia and Anina considered themselves sisters in that they both felt a strong attraction to Casanova, once they had physical contact with him. But the quarrel over Casanova brought out the worst within them and even their seeming harmony at the end of the play was not sincerely demonstrated. Josefa and Gusti, on the other hand, became sisters because of their states of mind. They understood each other's concerns on deeper levels, so that no significant disharmonies interrupted their life in the countryside. Gusti and Leonilda are mental sisters in their desire to remain unmarried for a while, and both offer friendship to their suitors. Neither Sylvester nor Felix, however, feels inclined to accept it (824, 1025).

Another combination justifies a brief comparison: Josefa and Aurelie. Both were models for artists, one for a sculptor and the other for a painter. Whereas Josefa was trained professionally for this work and enjoyed her brief career, Aurelie never had such ambitions for the profession and only yielded under pressure from Gysar. In consequence, her despair of soul confused her. Josefa married and has, apart from certain frustrations, lived a sheltered life in devotion to her husband and son. She is a mature woman who deepens her understanding of herself through a healthy quest for truth, even if it means doubting the validity of certain traditions and conventions. Aurelie, rejected as a marriage partner, is left without balance or discernment, in a state of mental disarray. She never reaches a state of healthy introspection.

The polarity of “Stadt und Land” in Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte finds a correspondence in all four dramas. The complexity of city life—its business atmosphere as well as the lure and excitement after working hours—related to one's personal code of conduct in Schnitzler's last drama. The movement between the two poles of “Stadt und Land” in Der Gang zum Weiher has its cause in political maneuvers. The main reason for the entire drama's taking place in the countryside of castle Mayenau is the dismissal of the Freiherr as chancellor to the emperor six or seven years earlier. Whereas the main characters seem to have adjusted to this quiet, peaceful life, Dominik, the servant, is bored and nostalgically awaits the moment when he can be with his master in the stream of events again. Leonilda breaks the news of pending war by talking about the two messengers on horseback who stopped briefly in the village on their way to the emperor to deliver secret documents. Konrad, who carries a letter from his father to Mayenau, is moving on to the capital. Finally, Mayenau himself is on his way to the city—first, to catch his adversary and then, together with him to be on a peace mission to the emperor. After Mayenau is reinstated as chancellor, preparations begin for moving to Vienna to take up permanent residence at the court.

In Komödie der Verführung the movement is first between countries, as Arduin fulfills his diplomatic mission. Money speculations carried out by Westerhaus also take place between countries, as the various telephone calls are interpreted. Later, when most of the characters meet again away from Austrian city life in the simplicity of a Danish sea resort village, the declaration of war sends them into frantic preparations to meet the last train in Copenhagen to cross the border. The polarity of “Stadt und Land” in this drama involves its greatest complexity of the international political situation.

In Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa, it is the Belgian resort town of Spa which has become “unsafe” to some characters on account of Casanova's presence. Andrea, therefore, suggests at one point to Anina that they should leave this place so as to expose themselves no longer to the lure of the various pleasures which are there. The polarity of “Stadt und Land” shows a gradual increase of importance and urgency, as each drama unfolds from a personal realm to international politics, then local politics, to end up again on a note of personal conduct, thus completing a circle.

In summary: There is a coherence among the last four plays which in terms of their publication dates all appeared after the First World War. Of course, one must not forget that Schnitzler began collecting ideas for these dramas over a long period of time. Anna Stroka's observation about “Schnitzlers Tragikomödien” can also apply in part to these four weeks: “Mit diesen Werken hat Arthur Schnitzler ein ernstes Problem des Menschen seiner Epoche behandelt und gleichzeitig kritisch zu diesem Stellung genommen. Er deckte die feinsten Seelenregungen dieser Menschen auf, enthüllte ihre innere Leere, wollte mithin nicht nur entlarven, wollte seiner Zeit nicht nur einen Spiegel vorhalten, sondern auch warnen.”84

The soul had always been an area of interest and concern to Schnitzler because of his own training in psychology. Each drama is concerned with the souls of its characters, but the most complete study takes place in Der Gang zum Weiher.85 One of Schnitzler's aphorisms speaks of the immortality of the soul, a conviction seldom dwelled upon in his works: “Unsere Seele ist ewig, ja, aber nicht mehr in gleicher Weise die unsere. Das, was in uns Seele war, ist ewig, wie auch das, was in uns Körper war, ewig ist, wie überhaupt alles ewig ist, da innerhalb der Unendlichkeit nichts verloren gehen kann.”86 “That which in us was soul is eternal,” says Schnitzler in a carefully worded way which places the soul on a cosmic scale, “das All” in Schnitzler's words. For Karl Joël the soul is the center of life,

nicht weil sie zufällige Mitte […] sondern weil sie Einheit des Lebens ist, und mehr, weil sie bildende Kraft des Lebens ist. Sie ist das eigentlich Lebende, der Leib das Gelebte, Durchlebte, ja das grosse Mittel des Lebens; denn die Seele lebt durch den Leib hindurch, in die Welt hinein. Der Leib ist die letzte Gliederung der Seele, ihre Instrumentierung auf die Welt hin, und die Seele waltet durch den Leib so unsichtbar wie der Dirigent unhörbar durch das Orchester.”87

The soul, therefore, is the most important part of a human being. Within the soul antinomies are unified to a harmonious concert. As Joël says so eloquently:

Die Seele ist Mann und Weib, Krieg und Frieden, Scheidung und Bindung, Spannung und Lösung, Lust und Leid. Sie ist wie das von ihr beherrschte Leben gerade der Ineinanderklang von Gegensätzen. Es ist das Wesen des Lebens, dass es nicht eindeutig ist, sondern Reibung und Ausgleich. Noch jeder hat gelogen, der das Leben auf einen Begriff zog. Optimismus und Pessimismus sind hier so parteiisch wie Monismus und Dualismus. Denn die Gegensätze bedingen sich.”88

The soul, as the part of man that is forever searching, is a characteristic ingredient of Schnitzler's own career and his fascination with Goethe's Faust. He questioned himself in the same way Faust did: “Sind wir ein Spiel von jedem Druck der Luft?” Schnitzler's own answers would be based upon the antinomies of life, the polarities—as I called them throughout the study. The more man turns within for answers, the stronger mastery he gains over these opposites.

It is in light of this inner search that his last drama, Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte, gains in value and deserves more recognition than it has been accorded so far. Without violence, each character in the play emerged as a more complete person with deeper understanding of himself and the world around him, through the searching of his soul. Each character reaches a synthesis, so to speak. The answer to the question: “Sind wir ein Spiel von jedem Druck der Luft?” depends upon the strength of character to maintain its identity89 and to govern the intensity of one's life experiences.


  1. Arthur Schnitzler, Gesammelte Werke. Die dramatischen Werke, Zweiter Band (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1962), pp. 975-1034, 1042. All quotes from this second volume pertaining to the text will hereafter be referred to by page number following the quote.

  2. Urbach, Kommentar, p. 197.

  3. Arthur Schnitzler, Tagebücher, Mappe 126-127. Cf. Gerhard Neumann und Jutta Müller, Der Nachlass Arthur Schnitzlers (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1969), p. 64.

  4. Arthur Schnitzler, quoted by Urbach, Kommentar, pp. 196-97.

  5. Hartmut Scheible, Arthur Schnitzler in Selbstzeugnissen. Rowohlts Monographien, Ed. Kurt Kusenberg (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, 1976), p. 127.

  6. Ibid. With regard to Chekhov, Scheible reminds his readers that Schnitzler himself entered a note in his diary on February 10, 1929: “Die Russen könnten es spielen.”

  7. Cf. Gerhart Baumann, “Arthur Schnitzler: Die Tagebücher. Vergangene Gegenwart — Gegenwärtige Vergangenheit,” Modern Austrian Literature, 10, Nos. 3/4 (1977), 159.

  8. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 253.

  9. Robert F. Arnold, Die Literatur 32, V (1930), 290: “Mag die betreffende Erörterung sich auch etwas lang gestalten, sie liegt auf so hoher Ebene, dass wir ihrer nicht entraten möchten und den erotischen Reigen gerne durch christliche und durch weltliche Resignation ergänzt sehen. Überraschungen freilich hat das anmutige Spiel nicht zu bieten, es wäre denn die, dass die Hand seines Schöpfers noch immer mit alter Leichtigkeit und Sicherheit gestaltet und lenkt.”

  10. Hans Thyriot, Die Literatur 33, IX (1931), 514.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Scheible, p. 127.

  13. Schnitzler's letter dated July 4, 901 [sic], published in Wort und Wahrheit, 13 (1958), 288.

  14. Derré, p. 408.

    Cf. also A. E. Zucker, “Criticism to ‘Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte’,” Germanic Review, 6 (1931), 92. He underlines “the hidden depth of the souls of (Schnitzler's) characters” which allow for an optimistic conclusion of the play.

  15. Derré, p. 408.

  16. Ibid., pp. 408-409.

  17. Ibid., p. 409.

  18. Cf. also Baumann, “Tagebücher,” 157.

  19. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 53-83; 153-163.

  20. Zucker, 93.

  21. Swales. Critical Study, p. 75.

  22. Ibid.

  23. Offermanns, p. 128.

  24. Müller-Freienfels, p. 191.

  25. Ibid., p. 192.

  26. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 251.

  27. Urbach, Kommentar, p. 38.

  28. Ibid.

  29. Ibid.

  30. Derré, p. 409.

  31. Cf. Schnitzler, AuB, pp. 51, 84, 85, 254-266.

  32. Schmidt, p. 255.

  33. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethes Werke. Hamburger Ausgabe in 14 Bänden, Dramatische Dichtungen, Dramen I, Band 3, 8th ed., ed. Erich Trunz (Hamburg: Christian Wegner Verlag, 1967), Vers 2724, p. 88.

  34. According to Urbach, Richard Beer-Hofmann also worked with this motto for his Novellen (Kommentar, p. 197).

  35. Faust I, Vers 2723, p. 88.

  36. Ibid., Vers 308, p. 17.

  37. At the end of Part I, when Gretchen is dismissed by Mephistopheles with a rude “Sie ist gerichtet!”, this other reality appears in the “Stimme von oben: Ist gerettet!” (Part I, 4611), thereby indicating that the supernatural, “heavenly” world may at any time assert its judgment in the empirical world of human affairs.

  38. Urbach, Schnitzler, p. 94.

  39. Ibid.

  40. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 253.

  41. Müller-Freienfels, p. 81.

  42. Ibid.

  43. Blume, p. 32.

  44. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 117.

  45. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 211.

  46. Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 17.

  47. Whiton, p. 141.

  48. Müller-Freienfels, p. 139.

  49. Ibid.

  50. Anna Stroka, “Arthur Schnitzlers Tragikomödien,” Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis, No. 128, Germanica Wratislaviensia, XIV (1971), 66.

  51. Cf. also Davis, p. 185.

  52. Rey, Späte Prosa, p. 17.

  53. Davis, p. 153.

  54. Ibid., p. 152.

  55. Müller-Freienfels, p. 190.

  56. Lederer, “The Problem of Ethics,” p. 195.

  57. Schnitzler, “Ein Zwischenkapitel über Begebungen und Seelenzustände,” in AuB, p. 158.

  58. Schnitzler, “Der Geist im Wort,” in AuB, p. 142; cf. also p. 146.

  59. Davis, p. 153.

  60. Schnitzler, “Der Geist im Wort,” AuB, p. 142.

  61. Boner, p. 25: “Die Müdigkeit des Impressionismus wird durch einen neuen stosskräftigen Mut überwunden. Schnitzler hat diesem Mut durch das unerbittliche Zu-Ende-Denken des ‘Reigens’ einen Grundstein gesetzt und ihm eine Spitze gemeisselt durch das Gespräch in ‘Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte,’ in dem die menschliche Maskierung es mit sich bringt, dass der Kaplan den heroischen Glauben der Frau und Josefa den heroischen Zweifel des Mannes ausspricht. Der Weg ist weit vom frühen Impressionismus bis zu diesem Dialog, in dem der Mut sich zum verzweifelten Wort steigert: ‘Auch Schwäche ist Schuld, Schwäche ganz besonders’.”

  62. The train or necessity to reach it in time is mentioned many times: Cf. pp. 978, 983, 984, 985, 995, 997, 1000, 1001, 1007, 1008, 1011, 1027.

  63. The name “Innsbruck” is mentioned most frequently by Gusti herself, but almost as often by Eduard and Felix and the rest of the family. Cf. pp. 978, 985, 990, 993, 994, 997, 1004, 1005, 1006, 1022, 1023, 1026, 1027, 1032.

  64. Uwe Rosenbaum, “Die Gestalten des Schauspielers auf dem deutschen Theater des 19. Jahrhunderts mit der besonderen Berücksichtigung der dramatischen Werke von Hermann Bahr, Arthur Schnitzler und Heinrich Mann,” Diss. Köln (1971), p. 84.

  65. Rosenbaum concludes: “Die Flucht aus der Wirklichkeit in die Welt des Theaters ist die Flucht vor der Lüge, vor dem Schein in neue Lüge, neuen Schein” (p. 219) which does not apply to Schnitzler's last drama, either. Gusti is serious about her career. Perhaps she is able to reverse the opinion commonly held about the theater. Rosenbaum summarizes one such opinion as follows: “Der schlechte Schauspieler, der Komödiant, der Gaukler ist zum ‘Symbol’ der Zeit geworden” (p. 219).

  66. Schnitzler had dealt with this theme on previous occasions, last in Das weite Land (1910), where the center of dramatic interest gradually shifted to the new theme, namely, the conflict of generations: age giving way to youth. Cf. Liptzin, p. 172: “Mrs. Meinhold-Aigner has no […] illusions. She has frankly capitulated to the younger generation, and she does not feel obliged to maintain even a semblance of authority over her Otto. She reminds Genia that sons, also, grow up to be men.” Cf. Singer, p. 139.

  67. Cf. pp. 979, 990, 995, 996, 1006, 1028, 1032.

  68. Cf. pp. 990, 995, 1006, 1028.

  69. Cf. pp. 998, 1000, 1007, 1008, 1028.

  70. Cf. pp. 976, 977, 981, 982, 984, 995, 996, 1004, 1006, 1007, 1008, 1011, 1013, 1017, 1018, 1028, 1031, 1032, 1034.

  71. Cirlot, p. 353.

  72. Ibid.

  73. Ibid., p. 259.

  74. Ibid.

  75. Ibid., p. 218.

  76. Ibid.

  77. Ibid., p. 324.

  78. Ibid., p. 78. Cf. also Wörterbuch der Antike 7th ed. (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1966), p. 124: “Gott des Weines und des drängenden Lebens in der Natur, deren zeugende Kraft in ihm Gestalt gewinnt.”

  79. Cirlot, p. 208.

  80. Davis, p. 174.

  81. Ibid., p. 175.

  82. Schnitzler, Jugend in Wien, p. 155.

  83. Cf. pp. 690, 721, 732.

  84. Stroka, 73.

  85. Cf. pp. 745, 746, 751, 759, 761, 773, 775, 777, 778, 788, 794, 803, 810, 817, 827, 828.

  86. Schnitzler, AuB, p. 257.

  87. Karl Joël, Seele und Welt. Versuch einer organischen Auffassung (Jena: Eugen Dieterichs, 1912), p. 123.

  88. Ibid., p. 121.

  89. Cf. Richard Alewyn, with regard to Hofmannsthal: “Der junge Hofmannsthal schon ist tief bewegt von der Erfahrung, dass die Seele keinen Grund hat und keine Grenze. Wir sind ‘nicht mehr als ein Taubenschlag,’ ein ‘Spiel von jedem Druck der Luft,’ wie die jungen Wiener gerne aus dem ‘Faust’ zitieren. Es ist diese Beschaffenheit, die es ihnen schwer macht, gegenüber dem unendlichen Andrang der Dinge die Identität der Person zu behaupten, es ist aber gerade auch diese Beschaffenheit, die Hofmannsthal zum Dichter macht. Denn sie erlaubt ihm jenes mystische Kommunizieren mit dem Kern aller Dinge, das diesen ermöglicht, aus dem Dichter mit seiner Stimme zu sprechen.” (Über Hugo von Hofmannsthal, 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1958/1960, p. 8).

Criticism: Der Gang Zum Weiher

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SOURCE: Schneider-Halvorson, Brigitte L. “Der Gang Zum Weiher.” In The Late Dramatic Works of Arthur Schnitzler, pp.83-111. New York: Peter Lang, 1983.

[In the following essay, Schneider-Halvorson discusses various critical commentary, as well as Schnitzler's use of themes and symbols in the play Der Gang Zum Weiher.]


Although Schnitzler had reached a preliminary conclusion of this play by June 11, 19211 and had written in 1924 to his friend Georg Brandes “[…] und ein Versstück wird vielleicht auch bald fertig sein […],”2 this five-act verse play was not published until December of 1926 by S. Fischer Verlag, Berlin.3 As a serious artist, Schnitzler rarely allowed publication of any work until he had convinced himself that it expressed truly his innermost convictions and that it had reached the most perfect form which he could create for it. As in other cases, this dramatic work was first conceived as a prose work entitled Der weise Vater in 1907. More sketches and notes were added between 1907 and 1914 and the new title Der Weiher given to it in 1915.4 This new designation announces a shift in focus. In the final version of the drama water has even more significance than in the previous play Komödie der Verführung. This points to another aspect in Schnitzler's artistic career which heretofore has rarely attracted attention in the field of literary criticism. Eight months before his death (October 21, 1931), Schnitzler attended the premiere of the drama on February 14, 1931. During the first theater season the work had fourteen performances within two months.5

Upon first acquaintance with Der Gang zum Weiher, it is possible to become literally overwhelmed by the complexity of its thematic structure. For almost four decades Schnitzler had wrestled with essential problems of life, seeking to divest them of the conventional thought associations of his own time and place, in order to suggest their universal importance among mankind and to reveal all facets of their inner meaning. With some justice Josef Körner writes that even “der grösste Dichter” would find it difficult to force “so Mannigfaltiges zur Einheit.”6

But was it unity which really captured Schnitzler's interest? Is it perhaps not more important to recognize that he concerned himself primarily with the diversity of human relationships as he observed them in the course of daily life, concluding that the ideal premises, such as unity and harmony, desirable for well-balanced personal interactions are rarely present. Schnitzler recognizes that these are worthwhile goals to strive for, but to attain them, one often experiences adverse states of mind first. Therefore, he emphasizes the dialectic pulse of the world, where polarities reign supreme. The analysis of this drama reveals that the antinomies of life are expressed in attraction and repulsion, intimacy and detachment, realism and surrealism, youth and age, art and life, life and death, peace and war, love and hate, selflessness and egotism, for gratification of physical desires and those of the psychic personality exist side by side, and often within the same personality.

It is the purpose of this analysis to show how Schnitzler's characters face the antinomies of life on physical, mental, and spiritual levels in an effort to achieve balance and restore inner peace. Beyond the desire for truth and well-being in their own lives they have an urge to better understand their relations to other people. The discussion indicates that Schnitzler's use of symbolism allows some insight into the mystical content of his Weltanschauung. More than fifty years have passed since Körner wrote his assessment of Schnitzler's play. I share the predictions of recent criticism which states that “Many will come to regard this poetically beautiful play as one of his supreme achievements, a pinnacle in his lifelong struggle to express his uniquely personal view of life.”7


The action takes place in the mid-eighteenth century, paralleling in this respect the period of Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa. However, the setting in Der Gang zum Weiher is presumably Austria. The first act introduces the ex-chancellor, Freiherrn Albrecht von Mayenau, in peaceful retirement at age fifty, dictating his memoirs. He lives at a distance from the city, in his castle, previously just a vacation place (741). In his company are his unmarried sister Anselma, over forty but still beautiful (741), and his lovely daughter Leonilda, a precocious young woman of nineteen, who has recently finished her education in a convent. They expect the arrival of Sylvester Thorn, an aging poet and friend of Mayenau, who is returning to his homeland after ten years of self-imposed exile. Among the preparations for his visit are instructions from Leonilda to decorate the guest room in the tower of the castle with fresh lilac. Many branches have already wilted because Sylvester is several days late. Meanwhile, Mayenau and his sister speak about Leonilda, thus preparing for her late appearance on stage. Anselma expresses her concern for her niece as she tells the brother of Leonilda's nocturnal walks to the pond, a secluded place in the forest, where she has been bathing in secret. This activity in the solitude of moon-flooded summer nights is always climaxed by a ritualistic dance around an ancient stone. The chancellor does not share Anselma's worries; he only sees innocence in his child and insists that they both keep silent about their knowledge of Leonilda's secret, her nightly “Gang zum Weiher.”

With the appearance of Leonilda begins the historical theme of the drama. She brings news from the village that war is imminent. The youthful Konrad von Ursenbeck, officer and son of the military commander, enters the stage shortly. He informs the chancellor that war with the neighboring state is unavoidable and conveys the hopes of his father, an old friend of the house of Mayenau, that the ex-chancellor will persuade the indecisive emperor without delay. The arrival of Sylvester Thorn interrupts their conversation and leads into Act II.

Schnitzler portrays both Sylvester and the chancellor so affectionately and in such detail that one could easily suspect a superimposed self-portrait. Sylvester has returned to Mayenau primarily to retrieve his past, captured in diary notes which he left in safekeeping with Anselma. Prior to burning each page in the fireplace, he wants to read his old writings again. Today he is confident of being able to compare himself with his own youth, thus preserving the sense of progress in his life. He is growing old, and he will soon be forced to admit that he no longer possesses the talent and vitality of his youth. He can try to forestall this conclusion by burning the papers and turning to the present and future, for he is in the process of preparing a home for the mistress he plans to marry and the child they are expecting. Sylvester meets Leonilda briefly, and she recalls all the fairytales he once told her in her childhood, hoping that he would add new stories. Meanwhile, the chancellor resumes the dictation of his memoirs, but the political discussions of the morning have excited his mind so that he stops the dictation.

Act III takes place late that evening; Sylvester has burned his papers and wants to leave the castle that same night. He is delayed by Andreas Ungnad, the secretary of the chancellor. In his role as a psychopath he entrusts Sylvester with a secret. Because Sylvester is conscious of his own egocentricity, he tends to see in his interlocutor a caricature of himself. While still baffled, he meets Leonilda, who with youthful admiration expresses concern about his future. This he interprets as a declaration of love. Flattered by Leonilda's words, he misunderstands them entirely and suddenly is prepared to desert the woman he supposedly loves. Instead, he asks the ex-chancellor for Leonilda's hand in marriage. Mayenau is appalled and speaks to his friend harshly. Finally, he tells Sylvester that he may return after he has put his own house in order. This decision will also provide time and distance for Leonilda to think things over. Should Sylvester still love her and find her the same, Mayenau will not withhold his blessing. Neither man is aware as yet that Leonilda is a free spirit and does not intend to bind herself in marriage. Anselma enters and intuitively knows what has happened. She withdraws with her brother into the darkness of the trees, from which they see Leonilda on her walk to the pond. Anselma foresees also Mayenau's reinstatement as chancellor and envisions for Leonilda the fulfillment of “ein fürstliches Geschick” (796-97).

The sudden appearance of Konrad returns the scene to the level of reality, as the threat of war looms more seriously now than ever. The document from the emperor restores to Mayenau all rights as chancellor. Mayenau, however, appears a disappointment to Konrad and the war party, for he will intercede only for the sake of peace. As he leaves immediately on this peace mission to the capital, Konrad stays in the castle impatiently. He wants to cool off and remembers the pond from his childhood days. Mayenau denies at first the existence of such waters, but his cryptic remarks made later on are actually intended to direct Konrad to the pond. When the chancellor returns from his trip to the emperor in Act IV, the inevitable, of course, has happened: Leonilda and Konrad have found each other and are “married before God” (832). A sharp argument follows between Mayenau and Konrad about the political situation and its consequences. The latter becomes suspicious of the chancellor's motives for keeping him at the castle; he sees in him nothing but an adversary and refuses to appear before the emperor.

Act V begins with the official return of Sylvester, who has had a brief encounter with the foolish secretary Ungnad in the previous act. He reports that his mistress and child have died in the travail of birth. “Von kaum geschloss'nen Särgen” (822), he comes still with the desire to marry Leonilda. Mayenau informs him of the changed circumstances, but only a long conversation with Leonilda convinces him of his wrong assumption. Mayenau is in error also about Leonilda's relationship to Konrad. “[…] mir beliebt es nicht […] so bald mich zu vermählen” (832) she replies to her father. The last phase of the drama returns to the political scene. Mayenau has failed to preserve the peace. Konrad becomes more hostile as he disagrees in matters of strategy. He is finally free to leave, but Sylvester steps in his way by challenging him to a duel. The first shots of war are fired, thus averting Sylvester's provocation. While Konrad takes leave, not without properly addressing Leonilda and her father, Sylvester disappears unnoticed to start his walk to the pond. Schnitzler has no official exit for him. Ungnad, who followed Sylvester and observed his drowning in the pond, returns with this message to the house. His state of mind is very confused. Meanwhile, Mayenau prepares to move to the capital and Leonilda begs him to take her along because “dreifach gespenstisch schleicht Alter, Wahnsinn, Tod durch dieses Haus, / Nicht eine Nacht mehr will ich hier verweilen” (841). The work ends with the hope for early peace and a happy future for Leonilda.


In Körner's view the drama does not hold together because the various themes are not developed in order of their priority.8 He criticizes Schnitzler for the fact that his characters, happenings, and thoughts appear “mehr ersonnen als erlebt, mehr durchgrübelt als durchlitten […]” and attributes the unsatisfactory impression it leaves with the reader to the circumstance, “dass der Dichter in einer seelisch-sittlichen Wandlung begriffen ist, die uns von ihm in jedem Sinne neue Werke noch erwarten lässt, die aber vorläufig nur zu einer zwiespältigen, unausgeglichenen Dichtung geführt hat.”9

Sol Liptzin sees this work as an epilogue which Schnitzler wrote in loneliness and concern for age “in the last decade of a contemplative career” where “he gives utterance to his deep disillusionment with art as a substitute for active life, and to his sad recognition of the fact that fame is not in itself an end worth striving for.”10

Françoise Derré, who in her detailed presentation of Schnitzler combines creatively historical, biographical, and thematic aspects, finds that the drama concentrates upon two aging characters: Thorn, the poet thwarted in his effort to recover wasted younger years through marriage with young Leonilda, and Freiherr von Mayenau, the statesman unsuccessful in his attempt to prevent the outbreak of war with the neighboring country. Her interpretation stresses the issue of war and peace, which she feels constitutes the center of the drama, “le heurt entre la bonne volonté des hommes et leur méchanceté, le conflit de la liberté avec le destin.”11 Although he is less carefully drawn, the emperor in this play is reminiscent of Rudolf II, as he is represented in Grillparzer's Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg, for his weaknesses are marked by indecisiveness.12 In Sylvester she seems to recognize an extension of Schnitzler's own experience, who like his protagonist, was suffering from discrimination, deliberate misunderstanding, and false criticism.

Martin Swales in his chapter, “Schnitzler's World: Restriction and Resonance,” focuses on the “dialectic of attraction and repulsion” which “is central to Schnitzler's vision of human relationships.”13 This attraction can be felt toward another person, as Konrad experiences it with a young man in the opposing army. At the end of the play Konrad's main interest in war is to kill his “Doppelgänger.”14 Another form of “Doppelgänger,” Swales shows, can be observed appearing in characters like Leonilda, Sylvester, and the Sekretär, who “have a sense of other people's existing as another part of their own being.”15 These states are further explored in an excellent article by Harold D. Dickerson.16 He points out the “significance of the pond” as “the one symbol in the drama that gives coherence to its disparate and seemingly unrelated parts” because it is “both a place and a state of mind.”17

Although all of the above interpretations contribute to an understanding of the drama, the analysis given by Dickerson is to date the most comprehensive effort in focusing on aspects of water and vision.

The present analysis explores the idea of unity in diversity from the standpoint of the polarity principle. In his late dramatic works Schnitzler creates frequently polar opposites in order to find answers in his search for truth and the deeper meaning in life. Often he establishes a synthesis which is equivalent to his concept concerning “die Ganzheit des Lebens.” It also includes those states of consciousness beyond the rational mind. The tower symbolism in addition to that of water and vision is discussed in an effort to show how various characters in the play leave the firm ground of reality to seek answers from the higher mind.


Symbolism: The symbolism begins with the carefully chosen title Der Gang zum Weiher. “Der Gang” refers to the means, the path which various characters seek to get to their goal. The path is symbolic of life itself. It represents the burning path of life's desires. In connection with the second part of the title, “zum Weiher,” the path to the water is important to all major characters in the play, because they recognize the pond as a point of reference which connects earlier experiences with the present moment and gives them a sense of direction for the future. For example, Konrad recalls his childhood days, when he was playing with Leonilda by the pond and one day lost her ball in the water. After a long day's journey on horseback, he now wants to return to the place and refresh himself (802-03).

For Leonilda, the pool seems to provide more than physical comfort, now that she has returned from the convent as a mature young lady, who is sensitive to the difference between life in a sheltered, restricted, cloistered atmosphere and life in a worldly environment with its social, economic, and political issues. During her nocturnal walks and activities at the pond she is seeking insight from the higher mind, that part of the mind which transcends the waking conscious and subconscious mind—the superconscious mind, the voice of intuition. With regard to the water symbolism Juan Eduardo Cirlot points out that “a secondary meaning […] is found in the identification of water with intuitive wisdom.”18 Thus, the water represents mental potentiality, that is, unexpressed possibilities in the mind.

Commonly it is said that a man is “at sea” when he is in doubt about a mental process; in other words, he has not established his thoughts in line with the principle involved; he is not balanced. The sea is capable of production, but must come under the dominion of the formative power of the mind, the imagination. Leonilda is moved by the power of her imagination, whether she is dancing or immersing herself in the cool water. The waters, according to Cirlot, symbolize the universal convergence of potentialities which precedes form and creation.19 Immersion intensifies the life force, and Leonilda certainly experiences in her nocturnal walks to the pond the awakening of her body as well, between mysticism and myth.

Sylvester, on the other hand, experiences the opposite: death and annihilation. In earlier years, the pond inspired his creative talent to tell Leonilda many fairytales, as they walked together along the water. When his endeavor of turning their friendship into a love relation fails, he loses the purpose in life and is ready to end it.

To Anselma who secretly observes Leonilda's nightly activity, the situation appears quite different. She is convinced that Leonilda engages in pagan worship which may lead her to other temptations as well. Indeed, she questions the wisdom of her brother and wonders, whether it was such a good idea “aus des Klosters Schirm und Frieden / Ein Kind— / […] eh' sich ein Eidam fand, / In eine ringsum aufgetane Welt / Der Rätsel und Versuchungen zu stellen” (745). Hesitatingly, she tells him that she has been aware for a long time of Leonilda's nightly visits to the pond in the forest. She witnessed Leonilda's nocturnal swim and only “der Wellen Sang” (747) disclosed her proximity until she reached the other side, culminating in mystic dances around an ancient stone—“ein ungefüger Block” (748)—with arms outstretched, as if transfigured in the moonlight.”20

Anselma's description, so vividly alive, seems to create a sensual atmosphere around the pond, Anselma herself being drawn momentarily into a magic spell as if she re-experienced her own years as a young woman and projected her feelings onto Leonilda. At this point Anselma's eyesight is transcending human limitation, when she recounts minute details from across the pond: “Es rinnen langsam / An ihrem Leib die blauen Tropfen nieder” (747). To her description on the physical level she adds mental and emotional aspects. In her mind's eye she observes the countenance of a god, embracing this beautiful naked child who gave herself “ahnungsheiss dem Blick des Gottes” (748). “Es war kein Menschenantlitz,” she confides to her brother, but it was attuned to Leonilda's spirit—“es gab sich kund” (748) to the extent that Leonilda became aware of her own beauty in the presence of the onlooking god: “Wie sie berauscht von diesem Wissen war, / Und zwiefach trunken, weil ein Gott sie sah—” (749).

Anselma's vision is paralleled later in Act IV by an exceedingly charming and enchanting love scene between Leonilda and Konrad as they recall the moment, when they—as if by magic—found each other at the edge of the pond and under its spell entered together the domain of sexual love. The experience represents to Leonilda her initiation into womanhood, answer to and fulfillment of her spiritual dance around the “ungefüger Block” (748). This change within her is further evidenced by her firm attitude toward Sylvester to remain on the level of friendship with him. To Konrad these nights of love are the consummation of a strong attraction to Leonilda that began by the same pool in their childhood days. He is so overwhelmed by his powerful feelings for Leonilda that he prepares to leave the castle even before the Freiherr has returned. However, when Mayenau's arrival is announced and Leonilda unselfishly tries to help Konrad escape through a side door, the young man reveals to her his real reason for leaving: “Noch eine dritte Nacht an dich, / An diesen Mund, an dieses Herz gedrängt,— / Und all mein Wesen trankst du so in dich, / Dass ich mit Leib und Seele dir verfiel. / Und davor war mir bang. D'rum wollt' ich fliehn” (810).

The motif of flight as it relates to the pond is of antithetical significance to Sylvester Thorn. In contrast to Konrad, Sylvester flees because of unrequited love for Leonilda. Whereas Konrad, after the second night, draws away from the pond, the magic place of his spellbound relationship with Leonilda, Sylvester is attracted to the pool in his final moments of existence. “… als wenn / Der Waldpfad, den er ging, sich unsichtbar / Fortsetzte unterm Wasserspiegel,” reports the Sekretär, “schritt er / Vom Ufer immer weiter in die Flut— / Und immer tiefer, bis sie ihn ihn verschlang” (838). Contrary to Leonilda's experience in the water, which imparted vital energy to her, Sylvester's immersion brings him death. Again, the path serves as a means to achieve a goal, which was not reached at the edge of the pool. Watching Sylvester on that path, Ungnad felt the path continued invisibly under the surface of the water. This may suggest a continuation of existence beyond physical limitations. Reinhard Urbach points out: “Selbstmord kann als Selbstbestimmung und nicht nur als Selbstverlust gedeutet werden […] er kann […] auch als bewusste Entscheidung und freiwillige Aktion begriffen werden, als Verfügung über die eigene Person […].”21 The Freiherr feels that his friend decided his departure “mit letzter Würde / Und eben noch zu rechter Zeit” (840). His thoughts this time are very tactfully expressed in contrast to the blunt words he used in the dispute which they had had previously.

Water in its different negative aspects represents weakness, lack of stability, negation—all of which can be linked to Sylvester. In his lifetime he has not found the spirit of the law which governs human existence in its actions and interactions. His selfish concept of freedom and detachment let him always stand alone in the world, free of commitment or obligation of any kind: “Und also schwebt' ich über fremder Erde, / Von Wurzelkräften nirgends festgehalten, / Ein Gast und frei” (769). His adventurous life, exciting as it might have been in younger years, has never taught him a sense of responsibility and concern for anyone else; now the aging poet stands alone. He has never known the simplest but profoundest of human emotions, a loving feeling for another human being.

Too late Sylvester recognizes the futility of such an egocentric life and even the changes he is prepared to make upon his return to the country are marked by weakness, lack of stability, and dishonesty. On the one hand, he wants to prepare a home for his mistress and the child they expect; on the other, he hopes for their demise so that he could be free for Leonilda: “In meiner Seele Gründen / Hab' ich's gewollt” (826). With these words he admits to Leonilda his feelings of guilt for having wished their death. He shows no remorse for having forgotten, or having been prepared to abandon them in favor of Leonilda. Every thought and word, of course, is recorded in his consciousness, and all the weak and characterless words and expressions gather in the subconscious mind as water collects in holes. Mayenau, who cannot hide his astonishment over Sylvester's return as suitor immediately after the funeral, receives this answer from him:

Als Freier ging ich schon.
Und gab ich an der Beiden Totenbett
So heissem Schmerz mich hin, wie je ein Gatte,
Ein Vater ihn gefühlt,—mich drein verlieren
Wär' Schwäche;—zu verweilen, wo mich nichts
Mehr hielt, wär' Heuchelei […].


Sylvester's selfish attitude demonstrates a polar opposite to the author's own ideas which Liptzin captured in these words: “Schnitzler himself specifies in the codicil to his will, dated April 29, 1912, that, after his death, absolutely no one is to wear mourning for him. He forbids funeral orations and elaborate funeral rituals […] he feels that no amount of oratory or weeping can warm the dead, and that the living should not succumb to gloom because of those who have passed on.”22 Schnitzler wanted to relieve everyone of a burden in the event of his death. Sylvester, on the other hand, burdened himself by wishing for the death of Alberta. In time of need there is nobody to sustain him. One such moment arrives in Act V, when the poet reveals the complete emptiness in his heart and pleads for acceptance of his marriage proposal. At that time Leonilda reaffirms her position of friendship and admiration for him as an eternal artist, because youth does not understand nor respond to the suffering of age and loneliness. As contorted as Sylvester's reply appears, it closes with the essential word which takes away any positive outlook on life: solitude (828).

It is again this despair that wells up in protest against Konrad's youth, when he challenges him with these lines: “Nur mir verstattet, […] / Ein Abschiedswort Euch nachzurufen. Bube!” (834). It is a complement to Sylvester's earlier remark: “[…] ‘s wär eine arme Welt, / Wenn Jugend alles wär’—” (822). Even though he tries to end his life in a duel, the message about the outbreak of war at the border interrupts everything and he cannot even have the satisfaction of a “heroic” death. Ironically enough, the death by duel of one man is prevented by the bloodshed of many in war. But Konrad would not have agreed to such a fight, because it would have been “ein ungleich' Spiel” (834). He recognizes that Sylvester is “[…] wen'ger / Zu töten als zu sterben aufgelegt” (834). Therefore, the real issue is not moral but biological. It is a struggle not between the two personalities but between youth and age. As the Freiherr pointed out to Sylvester earlier: “Du bist ein ausgelesen’ Buch, ein Name / Auf einem Grabstein” (823). The ensuing exchange between the Freiherr and Konrad allows Sylvester to leave unnoticed and start his final walk to the pond. He seeks the water to find not atonement but escape from this present state of affairs.

Water, however, stands not only for mental potentialities, weakness, negativeness, vital energy, regeneration, and birth; according to Arnold Whittick it is also a symbol of purification.”23 In this play so abounding with symbolism, there is the possibility that Sylvester's suicide can be interpreted as an act of purification. He is escaping from his egoism, thereby releasing himself from the narrow confines of his selfishness. In this sense his death is “inseparably linked with the theme of man's purification.”24 In Whittick's view death, as we commonly understand it, affects only physical man, while the rebirth is that of spiritual man, a dimension of which Schnitzler's characters indeed rarely are aware during their lifetime. “They pass their lives with no hope of ever penetrating the essential mystery,” points out Dickerson. “But Schnitzler relieves the intransigency of this situation by endowing his characters with an instinctive and mystic awareness of life's secrets which enables them ultimately to come to terms with the unknown forces that both create and destroy them.”25

It is hard to determine, however, where the Sekretär, the mad solipsist, stands in his “awareness of life's secrets.” He looks upon other characters in the play as figments of his imagination. Schnitzler arranges to have scarcely any importance attached to Ungnad's notions, which, rather than a reasoned conviction, translate into a fixed idea bordering on insanity.26 He is the only witness to the suicide: “Er sprang / Aus meinem Schädel in die Welt hinaus, / Wir waren zwei mit einmal auf der Erde” (838). The influence of the pond to which the Sekretär was exposed while watching Sylvester drown seems to have helped him clarify the “Doppelgänger”-problem he struggled with throughout the play. As he tells the Freiherr, Sylvester gave the sign for the rest of the world to come to life: “Nun leuchtet, braust es, heult, es lebt ringsum— / Und wider eine Welt steh' ich allein” (841). Thus, the Sekretär experiences a sense of separation which he might have picked up from Sylvester, who not only felt separated from the outer world, but also from the innermost part of his being.27 Kammeyer sees in this character only a technical means to an end, namely, to carry out stage effectiveness: “Schnitzler stellt diese Figur als schweren Psychopathen dar, um an die Irrealität des gesamten Bühnengeschehens erinnern zu können. Der Zuschauer soll durch diesen allerdings nicht leicht zu durchschauenden Kunstgriff, wie schon in der Überleitung zum zweiten Akt, Abstand gewinnen.”28

The term “Irrealität” is perhaps ill-chosen to describe “das gesamte Bühnengeschehen” because the drama also deals with politics and the looming war issue which certainly have a realistic basis. The important concept which dominates all four of Schnitzler's dramas discussed here is the principle of polarity.29 Life's expression would not be complete without the two poles. William Rey summarizes this principle of composition as follows: “Letzten Endes also umfasst das Dasein für Schnitzler […] alle Gegensätze, Kosmos und Chaos, Sinn und Unsinn, Gut und Böse, und verbindet sie zu einer Ganzheit, deren Wesen zwar geahnt, aber nicht mehr definiert werden kann,” and concludes: “angesichts dieser Ganzheit, deren Schrecken und Wunder ihn immer von Neuem faszinieren, wird Schnitzler zu dem, was Hofmannsthal einen Mystiker ohne Mystik nennt.”30

On the one hand, Schnitzler's concern is the question of reality, but in order to understand reality, one must look at the opposite as well, which in Der Gang zum Weiher leads some characters to a search beyond the physical senses. Richard Specht calls Schnitzler a “Dichter der seltsamen Zusammenhänge.”31 Oskar Seidlin, who recognizes that the Schnitzler research has bypassed certain aspects of Schnitzler's work, summarizes these neglected sides of the author's artistic development by stating: “[…] es lässt sich kaum leugnen, dass hinter der eleganten Fassade, hinter der weltweisen und abgeklärten Skepsis, die gesamte Apparatur des Spuks und der Zauberei am Werke ist.”32

Surrealism: Schnitzler has no ready answers to any of the problems posed, for he recognizes that it is not a condition he is dealing with but it ultimately narrows down to states of consciousness, states of mind. Quite often he has been misunderstood and harshly criticized for this.33 “Was er immer wieder darstellt,” observes Rey in defense of Schnitzler, “ist die Einsicht in die unerhellbare Hintergründigkeit des Daseins.”34 This impenetrable ambiguity is not only related to the symbolism of water and vision, it also finds application in the political realm discussed later. The focus again is on “Ganzheit.” Herbert Cysarz in his excellent comparative study broadens the spectrum, when he admits: “Doch freilich ist Schnitzlers Erscheinungswelt immer auch ein Spiegelsystem, ein Medium unsichtbar-unsagbarer Mächte. Oft bilden sie gleichwie einen Schleier vor transzendierenden Weiten, bisweilen gewinnt sie ihr Relief wie unter metaphysischer Matrize.”35

The influence of the inexplicable upon man, Cysarz's “Spiegelsystem,” is seen by Gerhart Baumann as a two-fold activity which takes place “halb vor und halb hinter der Wirklichkeit […]; die Gestalten erleiden dabei ein Doppelschicksal: ein unwichtiges, das sich an ihnen vollzieht, und ein wichtiges, das sie nicht erfahren. Die Mehrzahl verbringt ihr Dasein im Vorfeld des Noch-nicht-Eingetretenen oder im Schatten eines längst unwiderruflich Vollzogenen.”36 Sylvester belongs to this category. He lives either in the past or projects into the future, bypassing the only opportunity for constructive activity: the present. The first critic, however, who became aware of the conflicting element in Schnitzler's work is Körner, who wrote as early as 1921: “Wider Willen fast scheinen sich diese Okkultismen dem Dichter aufgedrängt zu haben, denn sein waches Bewusstsein liebt dergleichen durchaus nicht.”37 Perhaps Schnitzler's own ideas in this respect will help to clarify his position: “Das Wesen der sogenannten okkulten Erscheinungen liegt nicht darin, dass sie geheimnisvoller sind als tausend andere, die wir nur darum nicht als okkult bezeichnen, weil wir sie gewohnt sind, sondern dass sie sich den uns bekannten Naturgesetzen nicht einfügen, sondern ihnen gerade zu widersprechen scheinen.”38

It seems that Schnitzler uses the natural laws known to science as parameters to place so-called “occult phenomena” in their proper perspective. There appears nothing mysterious about them to him; the mystery is only in man's mortal concept of them, because not all natural laws are known to man as yet. Thus Schnitzler, the natural scientist, the realist, allows space to grow, and this is reflected in Der Gang zum Weiher. Its complex symbolism includes that aspect of the work which Michael Imboden, in his examination of Schnitzler's prose works, calls “die surreale Komponente.”39

Although the concept of “Surrealismus” originates in a movement in French literature, Imboden found a quote by Maurice Nadeau which redefines the term and allows its application to certain works of Schnitzler: “Die surrealistische Gesinnung, d.h. die surrealistische Verhaltensweise kommt […] zu allen Zeiten vor, sofern man sie als die Bereitschaft auffasst, das Wirkliche tiefer zu ergründen, ohne es damit sogleich transzendieren zu wollen […].”40 Seen in this context, surrealism in the work of Schnitzler helps to complete “das Bild der Wirklichkeit und bringt es zu einer Ganzheitsdarstellung.”41 This total picture by necessity includes also phenomena which defy rational explanation, interpreted by Imboden this way: “Der Surrealismus stellt eine Welt dar, die dadurch mehrdeutig wird, dass sie nicht nur Oberflächen-Realität darbietet, sondern auch das Geheimnis jenseits des Verständlichen miteinbezieht. Die Gestalten der Dichtung leben in einer Alltagswirklichkeit, die durch das Hervortreten des Hintergründigen, der Dinge hinter den Dingen, brüchig geworden ist.”42

Surrealism can be discovered not only in Schnitzler's prose works, but also in his dramatic production, and increasingly so in his late dramatic works. In Der Gang zum Weiher emphasis is placed upon “die surreale Komponente” as it occurs in the symbolism of water, vision, and the tower, discussed in the following pages.

Water and vision: The pond had immediate attraction for Leonilda, Konrad, and Sylvester. They were physically drawn into its seeming magic water for various reasons, whereas the Sekretär, Anselma, and the Freiherr kept a physical distance, but their mental activity displayed a vivid imagination about the pool. The Sekretär calls the pond “Zauberweiher” (838), because he witnesses an event peculiarly different from any of his previous experiences with water. The forest path in his state of mind magically seemed to continue for Sylvester directly underneath the water. In reality Sylvester is drowning, but Ungnad is not aware of it in this context. The spell of the water attracts him. The word “Zauberweiher” invites the immediate response from the Freiherr: “Wer sagt, dass hier ein Zauberweiher sei?” (838); yet, in his earlier conversation with Konrad he refused to give him direction to the pond because “Es heisst, der Weiher sei / Verzaubert, / Seit Märchenzeiten” (804). Adding to the “Märchen”-atmosphere, the Freiherr tells about evil spirits present there at night and nixies who are not necessarily from the spirit world, hinting at Leonilda's nocturnal dances (804-05).

The pond clearly has a deceiving influence upon the chancellor: Not only does he misguide Konrad by being vague regarding the existence of the pond, and by creating curiosity in Konrad with his reference to the nixies, but he is also duped by his own failing eyesight. His memory tells him the water “ist eher / Ein Sumpf zu nennen” (804), while Konrad can “swear” that he remembers from his childhood “Quellklares Wasser, wiesengrün umrandet, / Durchsichtig bis zum kieselblauen Grund” (804). At this point the Freiherr readily admits: “Vielleicht, dass Kinderaugen tiefer schau'n” (804), a comment prompted by his morning's activity in dictating another chapter of his memoirs. Dickerson, who correctly recognizes “that the eye plays a role only second to that of the pond,”43 concludes that “in youth the chancellor had also enjoyed the mystic vision of ‘Kinderaugen’ and was able to grasp intuitively the common bond of humanity that joins all men.”44

Indeed, in his case it was a special bond, for when they were twelve years old, the Freiherr felt a great sense of loyalty toward his playmate who was to wear the crown of the emperor later (751). This loyalty turned into a deep friendship with the emperor which seemed “ewig unzerreissbar” (783). As everything in human nature is subject to change, he learns that this “Band von Mensch zu Menschen […] zerriss, wie jedes Menschenband” (783). There is a parallel yet different experience in Konrad's military life which draws again upon the water symbolism in the meaning of separateness. A small brook divides two opposing armies, and each side is carefully patrolled because they await orders to go to war against each other. Instead of feeling hostile toward one another, Konrad has found a friend of his age and rank across the water: “Und unbedenklich spinnt sich das Gespräch / Vertraut und heiter über das Gerinnsel, / Das uns zu Füssen weiter Grenze lügt” (763). They talked about everything and even embraced as friends and brothers before Konrad received orders to go to the chancellor and then to the emperor (764). But suddenly Konrad experiences a change. The friend becomes an enemy: his “Kinderaugen,” which could see clearly to the depth of the pond before, suffer blurred vision; no longer are they a source of light, inspiration, and understanding: “Und nicht eher / Will ich ihm wieder Aug' in Auge stehn, / Als—meiner Schmach in Blut mich zu entsühnen— / Ich's mit gezücktem Degen darf und muss” (764).

Distrust and suspicion interfere with his intuitive nature. He questions the chancellor's honesty in his dealings with him, and when he finds Leonilda by the pond one night, he is uncertain two days later whether she may not have waited for somebody else, and wonders who may have seen her and been with her on other nights. He reasons that the place is “nicht eben unzugänglich” (808) and hardly doubts “dass auch vom Dorf ein Weg zum Weiher führt” (808). The chancellor, however, is convinced that nobody else ever saw his daughter because nobody knows the gate and the path “Und zu dem Weiher führt kein zweiter Weg” (749). Anselma, too, considers the path unknown to anybody and only sees a “weglos abgeschied'nen Weiher” (747), which lifts this location from the physical into the mental realm: it becomes a state of consciousness in the lives of certain characters. In fact, she equates this pond with “einem schillernd grünen Riesenauge” (747). It is the single eye which suggests one-pointedness and a spiritual equivalent to the possession of two eyes, which in human beings conveys physical normalcy.45 Imboden calls this spiritual intuitive vision “Blick nach innen.”46

According to Cirlot, it is the center of clairvoyance and vibrational perception. However, it also relates to the “symbolism of the number three: for if three can be said to correspond to the active, the passive, and the neutral, it can also apply to creation, conservation, and destruction.”47 All three processes are likewise related to the symbolism of water in the drama, constituting an ongoing cycle in nature from start to completion. The water has creative as well as conserving and destructive powers, forming a cycle in nature which also relates to the life cycle in man. Because of man's diverse emotional nature, life is complex. Schnitzler demonstrates this complexity in his drama Der Gang zum Weiher. Each character has reached a certain station in life which becomes the motivating factor for his human actions and interactions. Together they convey the author's concept of “Ganzheit,” a total experience.

The life-giving forces of the pond have their complement in the human experience of love as it came to Leonilda and Konrad; while the destructive forces of the water correspond to death, as seen in Sylvester's case and to an extent in the clouded mind of the Sekretär. Anselma and her brother are the characters who are neither positively nor negatively affected by the pond. They observe everything from a distance: Anselma watched her niece from afar during the latter's nocturnal activity at the pond. Mayenau draws his sister into the darkness of the trees, as Leonilda begins her walk to the water another time. In their own personal experiences brother and sister come more closely in contact with the forces of fate than others, because they believe in such powers. An example is Anselma's status as an unmarried woman. Whatever happiness prevails in her life, she never experienced the joy of sharing it in an intimate one-to-one relationship. It is easiest for her to dismiss any future possibilities of companionship in the name of fate. There is a hint that Sylvester may return for her sake, but Anselma has released this affinity from her mind: “Ich und er … / Wie lang ist das vorbei—wenn's jemals war!” (744). Time has indeed weakened Sylvester's memory because he addresses Leonilda with “Anselma?” (776), thus giving away, through gesture and the question mark in his voice, the difficulty he faces in associating the correct name with the right person. A second intervention by fate occurs toward the end of Act IV.

The Freiherr speaks of his guilt feelings toward Anselma for having prevented a possible marriage between the emperor and his sister, who, though equal on emotional and intellectual levels, “doch nimmermehr / Den kühnen Blick so hoch erheben durfte” (817). Anselma does not want unwarranted sympathy: “Hätt' ich mich für mich selber nicht bewahrt,— / Mehr als nur einem müsst' ich dann gehören. / Und dass ich's wusste, —das bewahrte mich” (818). Her brother's answer suggests a different viewpoint: “Und wär's vielleicht ein Dirnenlos gewesen, / Du hättest doch dein Frauenlosgelebt” (818). However, the question arises as to which of the two possible relations could have been meaningful to Anselma. Sylvester's negative attitude toward responsibility and commitment may have been more suggestive of a type of open marriage, especially in light of his suggestions to Leonilda (827). The question of “Dirnenlos” versus “Frauenlos” arises after Anselma and her brother have discussed the emperor and his unhappy marriage, which has just concluded. The Freiherr feels guilty toward the emperor also, for, in an effort to protect his own sister, he also guided his friend in another direction. The whole country might have experienced happier times had he not given distorted advice (818). Although these guilt feelings are self-inflicted, they constitute a heavy burden. In addition, the Freiherr was dismissed as chancellor, an event which for years unpleasantly interrupted his friendship with the emperor. Fate, therefore, has left its mark on both their lives.

Although the neutral attitude which Anselma and the Freiherr have toward the pond is more pronounced on the physical level, it should be pointed out that on the intellectual level Anselma is very active. Her intuition produces a prophetic vision three times in Act III. Intuitively she knows that Sylvester is serious about Leonilda (796). She also predicts that her brother will be reinstated as chancellor (796) and, at that time, should consider taking Leonilda along so that “a princely fate” (797) may be fulfilled, especially since the year of mourning for the death of the emperor's first wife has just ended (797). Anselma speaks “seherisch,” according to Schnitzler's own stage instructions (797).

The end of Act V emphasizes Leonilda's intuitional gift again. In her mind's eye, the process of Sylvester's disintegration and return to the “All” speeds up “Und wesenlos zu nichts sein Bild verzittert […] Denn keine Welle bringt, / Was jemals in des Weihers Tiefe sank, / Nicht Ding noch Mensch bringt je die Welle wieder” (841). The “Ding,” of course, may relate to the event in Konrad's childhood, when he lost Leonilda's ball, which never surfaced.

Sylvester and the Sekretär, on the other hand, are blind to inner vision and the truths that are revealed. In fact, the opening lines of the drama emphasize the “meist offenen, wie ins Leere schauenden Augen” (740) of the Sekretär. The same emptiness is present in Sylvester's eyes, for he is not able to remember his experiences from younger years for the purpose of adjusting to his present station in life. Instead, he had to undertake a long journey in order to read his diary notes again. By physically releasing page after page of his past into the fire, he believes himself able now to direct his efforts and aspirations to the present and to the future. But in his limited, ego-bound expression of life, Sylvester is imperceptive, unable to effect a release of the past intellectually. He is blind to the necessity of facing himself with honesty. It is impossible for him to recognize the natural progression in life from youth to age; neither can he see the difference between art and life, past and present. This intellectual burden in the end contributes to his self-surrender to destructive forces.

Among the minor figures Dominik deserves to be mentioned in this context. Although his physical station in life is only that of a servant, on intuitive levels he is more advanced than other characters in the drama. He has taught himself to concentrate on each letter that arrives in the mail: “Man lernt allmählich / Auch hinter unerbrochne Siegel schau'n” (741), which the Sekretär does not comprehend in its significance.

Even the term “Aug' in Auge” (764, 812) is used antithetically. On the physical level, Konrad wants to meet his enemy-friend “Aug' in Auge” in order to kill him; the chancellor, however, meets with the ambassador of the opposing country, on occasion that enables them to dissolve prejudice, misconceptions, inharmonies, arrogance and to step before the emperor as peacemakers (812-13). The chancellor, therefore, can be viewed as the balancing force in the drama. Not only does he influence Sylvester during his sudden outburst of passion for Leonilda, he also “cools off” temporarily Konrad's fanatic ambitions to involve his country in useless war with the neighbor. Although the Freiherr is not able to remove the blindness from their eyes—this task is one that each must do for himself according to his level of awareness, Mayenau's hospitality provides an opportunity for reflection.

Tower symbolism: It is probably no coincidence that the guestroom is located “im Turmgemach” of the house (772, 803), which at first is prepared for Sylvester's visit and later serves to accommodate Konrad. The tower, as well as the house, carries ancient symbolic meaning. House means consciousness. The idea of ascent and spiritual elevation is implicit in the tower which connotes transformation and evaluation. Unfortunately, Sylvester does not experience any change; he intends to run away from it, as indicated by his desire to return home on the same night he arrived. According to Cirlot, the tower “is a determinant sign denoting height or the act of rising above the common level in life or society.”48

At the beginning of Act II, Sylvester has just returned to the life and social customs of his native city, and he now prepares to settle down with his mistress Alberta into marriage and parenthood. But he is still filled with misconceptions and distorted views about himself and his earlier life. He mentions his house “in der Residenz” in which he lived “So lang, bis man den Fremdling d'raus verjagt” (767) because his mother's ancestors came “aus fremden Land hieher gewandert” (767). He equates “Fremdes” with such negative terms as “verhasst,” “niedrig,” “gemein” without realizing that his erroneous thinking may have been the cause of his own flight into “fremdes Land.” In his desire to rise “above the common level of life,” Sylvester had submitted to self-imposed exile rather than ask his friends for help. It is Mayenau who interrupts Sylvester's distorted presentation to Konrad in an attempt to balance the scales of truth: “Kein Mensch hat dich verjagt” (768), he tells him, and had somebody tried, not only the law of the land but also his friends would have been strong enough to protect Sylvester.

This exile, however, was more than just physical distance from his friends and everything dear to him. It was at the same time an escape from his own self: “Mir selbst entronnen, / Ein and'rer wandelt' ich durch kühle, klare, / Von keiner Ford'rung überhang'ne Welt” (769). Although he was “Wunschlos und keinem als [sich] selbst verpflichtet” (769), he recognizes slowly that nothing was gained during these ten years: as a “fool” he left, and he is returning in like manner (769), for to run away from challenges is to never meet them. As he communicates his feelings to the Freiherr and to Konrad, he appears to reach a certain perspective over his life which helps him to untangle its intricacies.

However, the most important task of coming to terms with life's progression from youth to age seems to fail him. He takes his diary notes to the tower guestroom, the place of spiritual elevation, but he is not able to free himself from self-deception, from his concept that the power of language is superior to the intuitive insights of the inner eye and the human heart. Mayenau tries in vain to call Sylvester's attention to the power of the word which continues to linger in memory long after it has vanished from the page, but Sylvester does not accept memories at all. In his view memory is “Ein Ungestaltes, Niezu-Fassendes” (775), but the written word is “ein Zaubergriff” which connects “Verfliessendes, Verflossenes […] / Und schafft, wenn's aus erfüllter Seele kam, / In übermächt'ge Wirklichkeit es um” (775).

Sylvester does not fit into the group of characters who, in Schnitzler's words, experience life three-dimensionally: “Man erlebt alles Wesentliche in dreifacher Art: im Vorgefühl (auch wenn man es nicht geahnt hat), in der Erinnerung (auch wenn man vergass) und endlich in der Wirklichkeit: diese aber bekommt erst ihren Sinn in Hinsicht auf Vorgefühl und Erinnerung.”49 Because Sylvester rejects memory, he is never able to come to terms with reality in the present moment. Instead, he is afraid that in later years he might discover that his past, the youth of his life, is better than the aging process of the present. By burning his diary, he believes he can destroy the domination of the past because: “Heute bin ich meines Sieges noch gewiss, / Ob über's Jahr, ob ich es morgen wäre? / Drum sei es heut gelesen—und verbrannt” (775).

But the past is closing in before he has a chance to reach the tower guestroom to destroy it. Leonilda leads him back in memory to the time when she was a child listening to the fairytales he told her. She proves to him: “Ich weiss sie alle noch— / In Worten nicht, doch besser als in Worten. / Sie träumen stumm in meiner Seele fort” (777). She is the second person who tries to awaken Sylvester from his lifelong deception, to assist him in removing the blindness from his eyes which are the windows of his soul. Just as the pond reflects in its “Riesenauge” the truth of his soul, his inner being. Yet he is afraid of the truth. Finally, Leonilda urges him to look into her eyes and see the reflection of his true nature: “Und siehst du mir nur lang genug ins Aug', / Erblickst du selber durch den Maskentrug / Dein mir vertrautes, wahres Angesicht;—” (778). His poetic talent shall create a new beautiful fairytale, and it shall belong to both of them as a child is shared by father and mother (778). Little is she aware yet of the dual role which Sylvester would have to play as father: However, she is keenly aware that Sylvester would follow her “trotz aller Geister— / […] üb'rall hin, wo's [ihr] beliebt” (781).

Later on the drama reveals that Sylvester's experiences in the tower have not brought him any closer to present realities, for his reaction is the one usual to him, that of flight in order to reach less complicated territory. “Die Menschen hausen meistens nur im mittleren Stockwerk ihrer Lebensvilla,” observes Schnitzler with his psychological insight, “dort, wo sie sich behaglich mit guten Öfen und sonstigen Bequemlichkeiten eingerichtet haben. Selten steigen sie in die unteren Räume hinab, wo sie Gespenster vermuten, vor denen ihnen schaudern könnte; selten klimmen sie zum Turme auf, wo der Blick ins Tiefe und Weite sie schwindeln macht.”50 Sylvester's abrupt change of plans would indicate his uneasiness at the prospect of spending the night high up in the tower. He is mentally unprepared for any uplifting experiences. Schnitzler is aware of two kinds of people when he says: “Manche Leute freilich gibt's, die sich just im Keller aufzuhalten lieben, weil ihnen im Dämmern und Gruseln wohler ist als in Licht und Verantwortung, und andere wieder klettern gerne auf den Turm, um den Blick in unergründliche Fernen zu verlieren, die ihnen ewig unerreichbar bleiben.”51

If the basement can be compared to the past, then Sylvester tends to remain there for fear of facing his present and future desires. He wastes the precious moment, the only time for him to fill with meaningful activity. But in his tower symbolism Schnitzler considers a third group of characters and comes closer to describing Sylvester's state of mind: “Die unseligsten Subjekte aber sind diejenigen, die zwischen Keller und Turm ruhelos treppauf und treppab rennen und die zum eigentlichen Wohnen bestimmten Räume verstauben und verwahrlosen lassen.”52

This restlessness within Sylvester is a result of his nonchalant nature. During his carefree life he had crossed paths with Alberta numerous times, only to drift apart again after a while. This time he wants to create a permanent relationship through marriage because they are “des Schicksals vorbestimmtes Paar” (773). This is a deception when compared to the statement he makes to Leonilda later (829). Furthermore, he tells Mayenau they stay together “um immer wieder, nach erfüllter Zeit, / Aufs neu' zu scheiden” (773). Mayenau in his balancing nature issues a warning, indirectly pointing to the responsibility and commitment involved in marriage: “Und dennoch denkst du ernstlich an Vermählung?” (773), but his words fall on deaf ears. This insincerity on the part of Sylvester, together with the fact that he is suffering from self-deception, apparently is the cause of his sudden change in marriage plans. In Leonilda's presence he misunderstands every word she speaks, especially when she touches upon the concept of sin in life: “Mit seh'ndem Aug' den falschen Weg zu geh'n” (789). This Sylvester interprets to mean that the right path leads along Leonilda's side. “Hielt Treue mir dies wunderbare Kind? / Und stürzt aus ihrem glaubensjungen Herzen / Sich Glaub' und Jugend endlich auch in meins—?” (789), he says, conjuring up his youth again, which he said he had come to leave behind by burning the pages of his diary.

Konrad, on the other hand, has little trouble with the tower guestroom. He has his first sexual experience during this stay. As soon as the chancellor leaves him at the end of Act III, he frees himself from the idea of adolescence (805). Suddenly, he knows “Ich bin ein Mann” (805). However, in Act V he is faced with a challenge with regard to his newly gained consciousness of being an adult, when the Freiherr for reasons of political differences demands his sword. The sword, as Whittick explains, is the symbol of power, authority, protection, justice, and knighthood.53 When taken away, these attributes would reduce Konrad again to the status of adolescent. But Leonilda intervenes in the name of justice to let him be a free man (834). It is this new state of consciousness which leads him without difficulties to the pond, where he finds Leonilda likewise ready for her first sexual experience. The hours Konrad spends in the guestroom up in the tower are filled with his memories of that joyful experience. However, with the awareness of manhood often comes that of jealousy, and Konrad proves to be no exception. Two days later he begins to wonder why Leonilda was not frightened when he suddenly appeared and disturbed her nocturnal devotion. Something else puzzles him: “Mir war, als hätt'st du mich, nein Leonilda, / Nicht eben mich—nein, irgendwen erwartet” (808). Leonilda's simple but serious answer does not satisfy him, for there may be other paths that lead to the pool, and if so, who has seen her emerge from the pond on other nights? When she playfully leaves this possibility open, Konrad at the height of his jealousy wants to die, but not without taking her life also (809).

Whenever the chancellor is not present to balance onesided views, it is Leonilda who takes his place. As she stepped into this role with Sylvester, she now does so with Konrad. With distinct self-authority she places the situation in perspective: “Hab' ich in dem Augenblick, / Da wir verzaubert ineinanderglitten, / Zum Herrn dich über mich gesetzt? Gab ich / Mit meinem Heut mein Gestern und mein Morgen,—” (809), thus maintaining again the freedom of her own choice.

Her words are a firm rejection of Konrad's assumption that he now has a voice in what she does. She requires that he first earn the right through responsible behavior: “Nein? Jetzt gilt es erst zu werben. / Dein war die Nixe. Willst du auch das Weib,— / Mit Jünglingsfrechheit wirst du's nicht gewinnen. / Und auch die Nixe, gib nur acht, steigt wieder, / Wie sie emporgetaucht, hinab zum Grund” (809). Although Leonilda dislikes being called “Nixe,” she now uses the word twice herself as a means to distinguish Leonilda, the woman, from the water sprite, an incomplete state of being. Seen in connection with the term “Jüngling,” it indicates a state of spiritual incompleteness on both their parts; sheer sensuality without responsibility lacks the foundation of truly deep love that is desired in marriage. With the words “hinab zum Grund,” she establishes the need to know more about her potential as a woman in order to feel the same harmony as she does with the forces of nature signified by the pond, which are the same forces that underlie the secret of life and love. Leonilda, this “âme indépendante et fiere,” as Mme Derré characterizes her,54 represents the woman of the future, who moves beyond the conventions of a romantic idealization of love and marriage.

Leonilda's awakening: Her experience with Konrad also provides better understanding of her own feelings toward Sylvester. Davis points out that “she wakes from adolescence and dreamy fantasy into the reality of womanhood. Before the encounter with Konrad at the pool, she is vague, uncertain, and remote in her mind […].”55 Such generalizations contribute little to the interpretation of this important character. It is necessary to recognize that Leonilda actually becomes aware of deeper levels within her nature. This awareness helps her to realize that her attraction to Sylvester was not based on love but admiration. In the beginning of the drama she insists to her father: “Er lebt in mir” (754), because she was inspired by Sylvester's fairytales and his spirited artistic temperament, which impressed her so strongly as a child that Leonilda, the woman, could not forget him. As a woman, she has reached a new level of maturity; she refuses Sylvester's marriage proposal in lieu of friendship, which seems to her “das edlere Geschenk” (825), begging him to reciprocate forgivingly: “Lass mich nicht entgelten, / Dass ich nicht früh'r erkannt, was mich zu dir— / Das Kind schon übermächtig zu dir zog, / Und jenseits meines Irrtums bleib mir nah” (825). But mere friendship does not comfort Sylvester, who is longing for a youthful wife to regain his own youth. He does not understand Leonilda's new state of awareness and in fact is led to believe that she is “unter allen Frau'n auf Erden / [ihm] bestimmt von Anbeginn der Welt” (829). With these words he alienates her even more.

Leonilda is similarly upset at her father, who attempts to arrange a marriage ceremony to give his daughter honorably to Konrad before the young man leaves to meet an uncertain fate at the front. She however rejects even the thought of a wedding: “Verzeih, mein Vater, mir beliebt es nicht, / Mit wem's auch sei, so bald mich zu vermählen” (832). Without hesitation she grants to Konrad the same freedom which she desires for herself: “Frei zieh' er hin. Ich bleibe frei zurück. / Wie und—ob wir einander wiederfinden, / Weiss nur der Gott, vor dem wir uns vermählt” (832). Konrad accepts her terms, although he declares himself “feierlich verlobt” (836). However, when Leonilda emphasizes for the second time that Konrad should be free from any past memory to experience joyfully whatever life has in store for him (836), Konrad senses a note of farewell rather than a blessing or an assuring message from her heart that would give him courage during the lonely hours of his war mission.

Unity: The two parts of the play. In his desire to contrast matters of the heart with political issues, Schnitzler has carefully proportioned the two parts of the drama. It is unfortunate that this intentionally created balance of the plot has been mostly overlooked by Schnitzler critics. Körner insists: “Im ‘Weihergang’ ist das politische Geschehen, trotzdem es mit der Liebeshandlung im Grunde nichts zu tun hat, zu sehr ausgedehnt, macht sich mit seiner eigenen Problematik breit, benimmt der Haupthandlung Lust und Raum.”56 He fails to recognize that the “Haupthandlung” really spreads over two-thirds of the drama. In addition to the war issue pushed by Konrad and his father, the remaining part of the play deals with peace efforts on the part of the chancellor, as well as with the problem of friendship between himself and the emperor. This complexity is Schnitzler's tool to sharpen the conflict which arises from human action and interaction.

Further criticism is raised in terms of the various arguments. Körner asks: “Handelt es sich um das Problem des zum Weib erwachenden Mädchens? Oder um das der freien Frau? Um den alternden Mann? Um das Heimatproblem? Um den Pazifismus? Oder verbirgt sich der eigentliche Sinn des Stücks in dem wahnsinnigen Sekretär Ungnad […].”57 Schnitzler defends himself in a letter to Körner, dated July 11, 1927, in which he can barely hide his anger and annoyance: “Niemals ist ein Einfall in mir mit solch zwingender Einheitlichkeit aufgetaucht, vom ersten Augenblick an […] waren die erotischen Vorgänge in die politische Atmosphäre gestellt, das Verhältnis des Dichters zum Krieger, des Kriegers zum Politiker, der Leonilda einerseits zum Dichter, andererseits zum Soldaten war mir von Anbeginn an das Wesentliche, unter einem anderen Himmel als dem, den ich über sie gespannt habe, konnten die seelischen Vorgänge, auf die es mir ankam, sich überhaupt nicht entwickeln […].”58

Consequently, the drama does not outline a single problem, but deals with the complexity of life which affects human conduct. Schnitzler's insight into human nature reveals that there are no ready answers. He reproves Körner for not recognizing “die Notwendigkeiten der Verknüpfungen und die Verknüpfung der Notwendigkeiten” which ‘“hätten lhnen aufgehen müssen.”59 Furthermore, he clarifies Körner's question with regard to “Probleme”: “Es handelt sich ja in der Kunst—verzeihen Sie die Selbstverständlichkeit—überhaupt a priori nicht um Probleme, sondern immer nur um Gestalten und um das Schicksal der Probleme, in den vom Dichter geschaffenen oder der Wirklichkeit nachgebildeten Gestalten.”60

Liptzin's observation, on the other hand, is more applicable than Körner's, when he says: “[…] though Schnitzler fails to solve the important questions which he poses, he does remove a maze of prejudices with which these questions are normally surrounded, so that they stare at us in their sphinxlike majesty.”61 They remain questions, indeed, “[…] denn Lösungen gibt es nicht,” according to Schnitzler.62

Polarities: Schnitzler's dialectic approach allows him to show various aspects within one character as well as the relationship to others in the play. Leonilda combines within her filial love such natural polar qualities as loyalty and rebellion. So too does Konrad project the same opposites in his war interest. Leonilda is devoted to her father but rebels when he tries to hasten her into marriage. She shows loyalty toward Sylvester, for she not only remembers him and his artistic talent, but feels that he lives within her and tells her father that the same poet will return, who left ten years ago (754). Yet, when Sylvester wants to bind her to his side, she withdraws in protest. Konrad, eager to prove himself as a warrior, is faithful to his father's interests which stand in sharp contrast to Mayenau's philosophy as a statesman. The reader and audience are already familiar with the chancellor's viewpoint from his conversation with Leonilda, who carries the war issue into the play as a distinct antithesis to the aspect of Eros, likewise initiated by Leonilda. Her visit to the village that morning did not result in play, as her father suspected, but in a political discussion because “ein schwarzer Reiter” came through the village with documents presumably containing a decision to go to war. Pensively the chancellor questions: “Entscheidung—für den Krieg?—[…] Befehl zum Angriff?” (753). He imagines it possible, especially since the proper moment—as so often in the past—had already been lost because of the emperor's indecisiveness. It has always been this way, always is, and always will be the same: “[…] inmitten des Zufrüh und des Zuspät / Ratlos einher, von jedem Hauch erschüttert” (753).

“Encore que moins nettement dessiné,” Mme Derré has opportunity to show, “l'empereur de ‘Der Gang zum Weiher’ n'est pas sans rappeler un autre célèbre monarque de la littérature autrichienne, Rudolf II tel que le représente ‘Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg’.”63 In her excellent discussion she discovers relationships between Schnitzler and Grillparzer in that they both deal in their dramas with polarities such as loyalty and rebellion, hesitation and action. These associations between the two great Austrian dramatists have hardly been noticed in earlier criticism. Five years later Swales points out: “The shadow of Grillparzer falls unmistakable on Schnitzler's ‘Der Gang zum Weiher.’ Human action is seen as an inevitable caricature of the intention from which it sprang.”64

Unfortunately, Swales does not support his idea beyond this general statement. It is important to recognize the close relationship between these two monarchs. The emperor in Der Gang zum Weiher, like Rudolf, is a wise man but incapable of acting. He does not like to make decisions and so creates within himself a conflict between “Pflicht und Neigung.” He also tries to ignore the demands of a changing society, thereby resembling Rudolf closely.65 In Schnitzler's play the emperor is drawn between war and peace, between introversion and the public life of a politician, between thought and action, leaning toward a contemplative rather than an active style of life. He, too, has to deal with the conflict between individual interests and the welfare of the entire empire. There exists an antithesis between earthly anarchy and cosmic order, between his role as a human being and that of an emperor. This latter conflict has been the reason for withdrawing his friendship from Mayenau. As emperor he developed a strong feeling of distrust, which the chancellor recalls not without sadness in a conversation with Konrad: “düst're Hast” was disguised “als Drang zur Tat, / Unschlüssigkeit als kluger Vorbedacht, / Schwachheit als Güte, müd' geword'ner Hass / […] als Gerechtigkeit / […] kaum bezwung'ner Ekel […] als Menschenliebe” (759-60). In Rudolf's situation there exists also a conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism, but this religious aspect is not apparent in Der Gang zum Weiher.

Instead, more emphasis is placed on intuition, present in degrees within all major characters. Mayenau is the first one to emphasize “Ahnung” when he answers Anselma: “Muss Leonilda wissen? Ihrer Ahnung / Vertrau' ich mehr als and'rer Wissenschaft” (744). William Rey explains Schnitzler's dialectic approach in these words: “Als überzeugter Feind eines jeden Dogmatismus, ob nun religiöser oder wissenschaftlicher Natur, entwickelt er ein dialektisches Denken, das von der Einsicht in den gleichberechtigten Geltungsanspruch des Gegensätzlichen beruht und durch die Bejahung der im Dasein angelegten Widersprüche eine höhere Ebene der Erkenntnis zu gewinnen sucht.”66

It follows that Schnitzler in his dialectic thinking recognizes a deeper meaning in that which is commonly considered negative. In his Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken he formulates this idea as follows: “Das Sinnvolle hat nur Bedeutung, ja Daseinsmöglichkeit durch die Annahme des Sinnlosen […]. Gerade der Schmerz über das unvermeidliche Scheitern des Menschen kann zur Quelle innerer Bereicherung werden.”67

Sylvester experiences this kind of pain in his sudden passion for Leonilda, but instead of gaining inner strength and enrichment, he is overcome by despair. His polar opposite, Konrad, the warrior, is not successful in his political mission and withdraws to a position of rebellion, but in the end he is able to reconcile the differences with Mayenau. For the third time within seven weeks, he carries the same message to the emperor and this time invites the ex-chancellor to accompany him in order to lend more force and urgency to the task at hand. But Mayenau, who was forced to leave his political appointment seven years ago (759), declines his help. Even after he is reinstated as chancellor in Act III, he does not share Konrad's philosophy of war, namely, that this hostile encounter is an inevitable destiny. Instead, Mayenau believes in the power of thought whose energies have influence upon the cosmos: “Ich fühle nicht geheimnisschwer vom Schicksal / Mich überhangen. Über mir die Wolke / Ist auch nur Nebeldunst aus Menschenland, / Und am Verhängnis über mir braut so / Mein Will' auch mit” (802). Unfortunately, his peace mission comes too late, war has already broken out. In loyalty to the emperor, Mayenau joins his regiment, thus restoring a better relationship with Konrad.

Significantly enough, the “dialectic,” in Swales's terms, of intimacy and detachment, of attraction and repulsion, which is a central issue in Schnitzler's vision of human relationships,68 also plays an important role in the chancellor's loyalty to his emperor. In his memoirs the Freiherr recalls a certain attraction to an intimacy with the young man who was to become emperor. His position as chancellor increased the closeness and friendship between them. Yet, when the emperor detached himself, Mayenau ceased to maintain an active interest in his country and its destiny. To him Schnitzler gives his own view of intellectual pacifism, that war is a waste of human values and the triumph of injustice (761). Much to Leonilda's surprise, her father draws a distinction between “Reich und Vaterland.” When he fails to accomplish this task, then the political power struggle invites duality, as seen in the conflict between the emperor and the marshal. If the emperor decides against the marshal's recommendation to go to war, which was outlined in the letter Konrad delivered, then Konrad is convinced the army will decide in favor of the marshal (765). In this event the chancellor speaks of rebellion, but Konrad calls it “obedience to the proper master” (765). Similarly, he is of the opinion that the letter to the emperor provided choice and not a threat, as Mayenau sees it.

This polarity between the conservative judgment of the older statesman and the liberal ideas of Konrad creates differences between age and youth. At the end of Act II Mayenau proclaims: “Und nach Jugend riecht die Welt!” (783); whereas Act IV ends with Konrad's disgusted expression: “Vergiftet ist die Welt von Greisenateml!” (806), an inner rebellion of youth against age. It is a sensitive issue with Mayenau, who corrects Konrad in his reference to Sylvester as “der sonderbare alte Herr” by saying: “Nicht eben alt, doch sonderbar, mag sein” (804). He needs to take this position, for whatever is said about Sylvester would also ring true for himself as Sylvester's friend. Konrad does not change his mind at all and indeed insists, when alone on stage later: “Ich bin ein Mann—und er ist grau und alt” (805), referring to Mayenau. Leonilda, on the other hand, looks at Sylvester differently. Interestingly enough, she is correcting her father: “Der, den ich meine, Vater, altert nicht, / So wenig jemals Jugend von ihm strahlte” (754). Age in her frame of reference is not an issue of chronology; she sees him in his spirit nature, forever young. Yet, at the end of the play she no longer has this idealistic view. Because of the most recent incidents of suicide and Ungnad's psychopathic behavior, the castle has turned into a nightmare for her, and she begs her father to be taken along to the court: “Vater, nimm mich mit dir. Dreifach gespenstisch / Schleicht Alter, Wahnsinn, Tod durch dieses Haus, / Nicht eine Nacht mehr will ich hier verweilen” (841).

Sylvester, however, knows that the storms of youth have gone by; his only chance to bring them back to life is by reading the diary notes, but the spirit of his youth (778-79) will not be redeemed, not even by way of Leonilda as a marriage partner. Twice Sylvester addresses Mayenau as “Freund meiner Jugend” (791), until he stands corrected “entschwund'ner Jugend Freund” and furthermore is reminded: “Schlimmer als alt—wir beide—nicht mehr jung” (792). The Freiherr, conscious of the limitations that age may impose upon him, agrees in the presence of Sylvester to accommodate himself to this situation of being no longer young on a physical level. These limitations, however, by no means have influence upon his mental capacities. He would call any man a fool if not “ein Geck” (793), because he knows that at this age a man may be able to conquer the heart of a teenage girl but not to keep her happy in marriage.69

Sylvester refuses to accept his friend's viewpoint, defending himself with these words: “[…] ‘s wär eine arme Welt, / Wenn Jugend alles wär’—” (822). This philosophy parallels that of Fenz, the old “Kammersänger” in Komödie der Verführung. Interestingly enough, Schnitzler discloses the age of neither of these two characters. The only reference with regard to Sylvester is contained in a letter to Brandes where he says: “In meinem nächsten Stück soll der neunzigjährige [sic] als Sieger übrig bleiben.”70 Because the final version of the drama did not grant the victory to Sylvester, it is perhaps safe to assume that Sylvester was not ninety years of age either, possibly closer in age to Mayenau. Schnitzler, of course, addresses himself to the problem of age and aging numerous times in his late dramatic work. His own conviction is perhaps best expressed in the letter cited above to Brandes: “[…] das Alter ist nur eine Intrigue, die die Jugend gegen uns einfädelt.”71 But another cycle of seven years expired in Schnitzler's life between 1924 and 1931, which left Jakob Wassermann with a different impression. He visited Schnitzler six months before the latter's death and recalls the following: “Was ihn von Mal zu Mal tiefer bedrückte, war die Tatsache des Alters und Alterns, die er sich nicht mehr verbarg. Ich [Wassermann] las neulich ein entzückendes Wort von Alice Berend: Das Schlimme im Altern ist nicht, dass man älter wird, sondern dass man jung bleibt. Damit ist der seelische Zustand des alternden Schnitzlers umfassend gekennzeichnet […].”72

Wassermann's statement reverses Mayenau's earlier convictions: “[…] schlimmer als alt […] nicht mehr jung” (792). This really amounts to a matter of attitude toward the complexity of this problem. Wassermann seems to come to the same conclusion about Schnitzler, when he writes: “[…] Mit jedem Atemzug wehrte er sich trotzig und angstvoll gegen das unerbittliche Gesetz, bis zum Zorn, bis zur Paradoxie oft, wobei zugleich der Arzt in ihm, der Denker, das aufsässige Kind zur Ordnung rief.”73

Not only is Schnitzler the thinker at work in an attempt to come to terms with this problem, but especially Schnitzler the poet. Freud offers the following consolation in a letter to him: “Zum Schluss aber—ich weiss nicht ob Sie dieses Trosts bedürfen—lassen Sie sich sagen, dass der Dichter später altert als gewöhnliche Menschenkinder, und dass nach dem Dichter noch der Denker herauskommt.”74 Earlier, however, it was the poet whom Freud jealously admired in Schnitzler, because this poetic talent seems to have given Schnitzler access to knowledge which opened up for Freud only after laborious efforts of scientific research.75

This knowledge is based upon Schnitzler's dialectic approach to presenting a problem. The anger and indignation which Wassermann spoke of are not Schnitzler's last words about the deficiencies in human existence, such as age. “Auch Leid ist Gnade,” we read in Der Gang zum Weiher (789). And his aphorism in Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken underlines this statement even further: “Dass wir geschaffen sind, das Unfassbare zu fassen und das Unerträgliche zu ertragen—das ist es, was unser Leben so schmerzvoll und was es zugleich so unerschöpflich reich macht.”76 It is truly an acceptance of human existence in all of its contradictions which Schnitzler stresses. In Der Gang zum Weiher, Mayenau is the character whose wisdom strikes a perfect balance between Konrad's unstructured vitality of youth and Sylvester's inability to see his age in proper perspective. His philosophy reveals a firm belief in the power of the spirit, which allows life's energies to expand within the context of responsibility and commitment. Friedrich Wilhelm Kaufmann observes this polarity of youth and age in a similar way: “In ‘Der Gang zum Weiher’ aber wird eine Synthese der ziellosen Vitalität der Jugend und der rückwärtsschauenden, begrifflichen Unlebendigkeit des Alters in der Forderung und Schaffung eines Jugend und Alter gemeinsamen höheren Zieles gewonnen.”77

It is certainly exaggerated to say that the problem of aging forms the center of the drama, as Körner does.78 Rey recognizes the situation more accurately when he stresses Schnitzler's view of the adventurer: “Es ist aber bezeichnend, dass sich in dieser Periode die Kritik Schnitzlers am Abenteurertum noch verschärft […]. Hier wird der Abenteurer, auch wenn er Künstler ist, entlarvt als der grosse Egoist, der nie ein Opfer gebracht hat, der nie wahrhaft geliebt hat.”79 Therefore, Mayenau and Sylvester are opposite yet complementary characters; opposite because the chancellor is a man of action and not an egoist, a combination rather rare in Schnitzler's work; complementary because he, too, is unable to comprehend women's souls. He misunderstands both Leonilda and his sister Anselma. Worried by the thought that he might have sheltered Anselma too well, he now is in a hurry to arrange for Leonilda's marriage to Konrad. But neither as father nor as brother could he fulfill their destinies. Schnitzler goes with his ideas beyond the customs of the day, because in his drama each woman is responsible for her own life and essentially accepts the freedom of her own choice. But Mayenau is motivated in all his actions by a sense of responsibility, whether it be the war issue or more sensitive emotional matters within his own household.

In this respect too he is the opposite of Sylvester who really wavers between frivolity and responsibility. Most of his frivolous life has been given to debonair selfish pleasures. He has never committed himself beyond the narrow limits of “I, me, and my,” and even now he withdraws from his commitment to Alberta. Herbert Lederer, discussing the problem of ethics, finds other ethical concepts which Schnitzler arranges in contrasting pairs such as: “Altruismus und Egoismus, Erlebnis und Sensation, Sachlichkeit und Opportunismus, Stolz und Überheblichkeit.”80 Each one of these concepts can also be found in Der Gang zum Weiher, for they are motifs, all connected to the central conflict in human relationships.

Another form of polarity can be recognized in the “Doppelgänger” motif, discussed by Swales.81 Schnitzler presents this motif in different variations. Konrad, for instance, was attracted to the young man in the opposing army because they shared many interests; but when war is declared, he is eager to find his “Doppelgänger” again and destroy him, thus cancelling human relations in favor of political differences. Leonilda, on the other hand, feels Sylvester's existence as another part of her own being. Early in the play, she tells her father “Er lebt in mir” (754); later she urges Sylvester to capture his true self in the reflection of her eyes in an effort to erase his false identity (778). Sylvester, who for the most part cannot look beyond the periphery of his personality, constantly compares earlier images of himself or escapes from them. He tells his friend: “Mir selbst entronnen, / Ein and'rer wandelt' ich […]” (769). The purpose of reading his diary notes again is “Den, der ich bin, an dem zu messen, der / Ich einmal war” (775), a false competition within himself. His own fierce egocentricity, the only thing he is conscious of, culminates in the encounter with the Sekretär. In him Sylvester tends to see his own “Zerrbild” (787). Andreas Ungnad is Schnitzler's most extreme version of subjective ideals. The “confusion of dream and reality borders on the insane,” one reads in Liptzin's account.82 Ungnad has strange notions about himself and the world: “[…] wenn ich sterbe, stirbt / Die Welt mit mir.—Herr Sylvester Thorn / zerfliesst in nichts, wenn ich mich von ihm wende” (786). Just the opposite occurs, however, and Swales describes it in this way: “Significantly, the collapse into total insanity of the Sekretär is parallel to and in part caused by the collapse of Sylvester Thorn.”83

At the expense of any social relationships, this solipsist cultivated such extreme indulgence of and concern with the self that at the death of his only contact he sank into total oblivion also. Schnitzler's aphorism in Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken sums it up best: “Manche flüchten sich in den Wahnsinn wie andere in den Tod:—und beides kann sowohl Mut als Feigheit gewesen sein.”84 Sylvester's death is linked with the water of the pond and can be interpreted as his desire for purification rather than as a lack of courage.85

Other polarities in the drama are Anselma and her niece Leonilda. They are opposites in age and in their relationship to Mayenau and to the established order he represents. Anselma's cautious nature conforms to the rules of society. Susanne Polsterer, discussing the symbology of names in her study of women, asks the question: “Sollte es ein blosser Zufall sein, dass die einzige Aristokratin, die virgo intacta bleibt, weil ihr Bruder liebevoll aber streng über ihre Mädchenehre wacht, den Namen Anselma trägt, das bedeutet: ‘Gott als Helm,’ von einem Gott beschirmt?”86 She ignores Anselma's own assessment with regard to “brüderliche Strenge” (818). Of her own choice Anselma leads “a useful life,” Willa Schmidt points out, “is fulfilled and happy in her own way, and is loving and perceptive where others are concerned.”87 It is her own choice to forgo any intimate relationship (818).

Leonilda, however, is searching to find different ways. She is “an excellent example of Schnitzler's increasingly positive feelings about emancipation of women.”88 Though Leonilda, “the nixie,” has given herself to Konrad, the woman Leonilda does not want to enter a permanent relation with him, sanctioned by either Church or State. The intimacy experienced with Konrad does not leave her with feelings of remorse, either; she only answers to her own conscience, which Liptzin considers as “inner fulness” or “conforming to the laws of her personality.”89 Boner, who was the first among critics to see Schnitzler's attitude toward women in realistic perspective, explains the change within Leonilda this way: “[…] sie gewann Konrad […] die Übertragung des Glaubens an einmalige Idealität in gläubige Bereitschaft jedem Lebendigsein gegenüber. Sie wirft die Fesseln der Konvention von sich, da sie die wertvollere Fessel ihrer eigenen Konzessionslosigkeit fühlt. Sie vermag die Tragik eines Einmaligen durch die Annahme des Vielmaligen aufzuheben.”90 Boner's sensitive observation with regard to Leonilda's sexual behavior represents a sharp contrast to Polsterer's semantic interpretation of Leonilda's name: “Ich würde ihn als Leon + Hilda deuten, die ‘Löwenkämpferin.’ Die Kaltblütigkeit, Rücksichtslosigkeit und Entschlossenheit mit der die erst 19-jährige Baronesse im ‘Gang zum Weiher’ um die von Schnitzler's Frauen so hoch gehaltene völlige sexuelle Freiheit kämpft, würde jedenfalls diese Namensdeutung rechtfertigen.”91

Attributes such as “kaltblütig” and “rücksichtslos” can hardly be proven through textual evidence. Leonilda's role in the drama is that of an emancipated woman who desires the freedom to choose and to decide her own fate, just as Anselma exercised choice to experience her life in harmony with her inner nature. Their physical desires are, of course, on opposite ends of the scale, perhaps as a result of age difference. On mental levels, however, Anselma and Leonilda are complementary characters. They both have highly developed intuitional gifts, and lead strong inner lives which give them self-acceptance and stability. Leonilda's nocturnal dances by the pond may be considered as freedom to express one's inner feelings in line with Wolfdietrich Rasch's findings about the dance, which he considers: “[…] als Mittel der Befreiung und Ausdruck jener geistigen Freiheit, Freiheit der Frau […] als Ausdruck der übermässigen und nicht aussprechbaren Spannung.”92 The movements of the individual body and soul find expression in the dance and “mit diesem individuellen Ausdruck ist der Tanz zugleich Verbundenheit mit den überpersönlichen, universalen Mächten, mit den—wie man damals sagte—cosmischen (sic) Kräften.”93 Anselma quite accurately sensed Leonilda's spiritual experience and felt it was “kein Menschenantlitz” but “Blick des Gottes” (748). Rasch calls it “die Verbundenheit alles Lebendigen, der grosse Zusammenhang”94 which made itself known to Leonilda. Seen in this larger context, the dance symbolizes “Lebenstanz” which never ends, but Rasch points out “seine symbolische Darstellung durch den Tanz eines einzelnen Menschen endet, wie das Einzelleben, mit dem Tod.”95

Comparison with other late dramatic works: Schnitzler used the motif of the dance in addition to other symbols in the previous drama Komödie der Verführung as well. Each situation, however, is unique, so that a comparative study is in order. Leonilda carries out the dance in the quiet of the night, as if spirit was dancing through her. The joy which she expresses during the dances, as observed by Anselma from afar, signifies a sense of harmony with herself and the world around her. This harmony is also with her during the day, when she frequently strolls through the meadows to pick flowers and explore nature.

The dance that ends in death for Aurelie, who is only six years older than Leonilda, was imposed upon her by Falkenir, who gained pleasure in watching her dance first with Max and later with Gysar. It was not a spiritual dance, although it likewise took place near the waters of a pond in the park. It became a fateful dance for Aurelie, for it changed the direction of her life. Her dance movements emphasized her youth and so prompted Falkenir to withdraw his marriage proposal. His action pushed Aurelie into a state of bewilderment. Gysar took advantage of her confused state of mind, from which she never recovered, and eventually she and Falkenir ended their lives by drowning. Leonilda, who is balanced on physical, mental, and spiritual levels, understands the concept of self-authority increasingly as the play unfolds. Aurelie, on the other hand, is motivated by a feeling of insecurity, hiding her true self behind masks. When a critic fails to recognize these subtle psychological differences which Schnitzler so carefully develops in the two dramas, it is easy to draw superficial conclusions such as the one in Körner's evaluation of Aurelie: “[…] sie nimmt sich bloss Freiheiten heraus, sie handelt nicht in einer selbstverständlichen Ungebundenheit, sondern aus Trotz und Widerspruch […].”96

Willa Schmidt has corrected Körner's viewpoint with regard to Leonilda: “He thereby both distorts the character and misses the author's message, i.e. that women share with men not only the need to express their sexuality but also the desire to determine for themselves what course their lives will take regardless of their experience in this realm, rather than being compelled to bow to a hypocritical social code.”97

The water symbol also pertains to both women. Whereas Leonilda is reticent about the refreshing bathing activity at night which leads her into the dance afterwards, Aurelie speaks freely about her boating on the ocean. To Falkenir, she relates her ability to hear “die ewigen Stürme rauschen” (964-65), just as he first confided the same phenomenon to her (872).

With regard to the contrasts between Mayenau and Sylvester, Schnitzler uses similar configurations in each of his late dramatic works, but his characters seem to grow older with each play he writes. Andrea and Casanova in Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa are young; the dominant male characters in Komödie der Verführung are about forty; in Der Gang zum Weiher and Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte they are in their fifties. The dialogs between these characters often express Schnitzler's deepest feelings and wisest thoughts. Liptzin compares them with Schnitzler, who is also growing older and observes that “they change form and clime, but they rarely leave him. They point to a dualism in his nature.”98 On the other hand, one must guard against identifying the author too closely with the characters he has created and the opinions they put forward. As Schinnerer points out: “Every creative artist will resolve the complexity of his nature by creating a variety of characters all of whom may be to some extent his spiritual and intellectual offspring.”99

With regard to the major male characters in both dramas, Komödie der Verführung and Der Gang zum Weiher, Schnitzler contrasted youth and age. Arduin would like to marry Aurelie but is refused in favor of Falkenir, the older of the two. Konrad, on the other hand, who had no marriage plans at all upon his arrival at the castle of Mayenau, was “married before God” to Leonilda one night by the pond. Both men share a similar childhood experience in that they recall pleasant hours with their playmates at the pond (855, 803). Falkenir in turn did not believe in his “Spätglück”100 and allowed his doubts to destroy not only a potentially happy marriage but also both their lives through drowning. An antithetical situation exists in Der Gang zum Weiher. The aging poet Sylvester Thorn reaches confidently for a “Spätglück,” but is not able to capture it and so ends his life by drowning likewise.

In both dramas, therefore, water and death by drowning play a significant role. For Aurelie and Falkenir it is a joyful moment as they swiftly sink beneath the surface of the sea, “as if they were kissing,” and smiling “blissfully” (973). For Sylvester it is “ein Gang zum Weiher” in utter loneliness and disappointment just in time to save his dignity, as the Freiherr puts it (840). Sylvester's name is significant. Sylvester is the patron saint for the last day of the year—in the drama Sylvester lives the last day of his life. In both of these works water transcends its natural qualities in that “Nicht Ding noch Mensch bringt je die Welle wieder” (841), predicts Leonilda, whereas Gilda knows with certainty “noch in dieser Nacht wird die See beide an den Strand bringen” (973). However, the Direktor had commented earlier that only “die irdischen Ursprungs sind, die werden von den Wellen ans Ufer gespült” (934), and indeed, when Gilda's mother drowned, the sea did not return “ihre sterbliche Hülle” (934). Gilda like her mother spends much time in the water, earning the description “Nixe,” an epithet she shares with Leonilda as well.

The significance of the pond has already been discussed in this chapter, but it is also a central motif in Komödie der Verführung. In both dramas, emphasis is placed on the fact that no other paths lead to the pond (749, 808, 853), which would indicate that only certain characters are attracted to the pool. Indeed, these waters effect changes of inner direction not only within the lives of Leonilda, Konrad, and Sylvester, but also within Falkenir and, most ominously, within Aurelie. She lost her mother's necklace near the pond, where Max found it and returned it. If she were superstitious, Falkenir suggests, she would not wear it again, or she would throw it into the pond (873). At this point in the play, Aurelie is still in control of herself and her life, and does not follow this joking advice, but at the end of Act I she “löst ihren Schmuck, wirft ihn in den Teich” (889), thereby symbolically giving away authority over her life, self-identity, personal freedom, and power of choice.

A certain magic surrounds the ponds in both dramas. Leonilda asks Konrad: “Weisst du nur, ob ich mich selbst dir gab” (809). A similar question arises within Max, but he feels that Aurelie gave him “unendlich viel—nur nicht (sich) selbst” (897). Judith reminds Max of her individuality in a way similar to Leonilda's with Konrad (865). In each situation the woman character seems to view her experience remotely, removed from reality into a world of dreams.

Related to the pond is the park, present in both dramas, and the significance of the tree symbol. “Alleen” are frequently mentioned in Der Gang zum Weiher.101 Sylvester was most creative when strolling with Leonilda down the “Alleen” to tell her fairytales. Leonilda's creativity inspired her dances under the trees by the pond. Mayenau and his sister Anselma seek shelter under the trees so as to remain unseen by Leonilda as she starts her “Gang zum Weiher” (796). In Komödie der Verführung all important aspects of the plot take place in the park under the trees (Act I).

The obvious symbolism about the tree is that it is capable of developing from a small seedling into a large, upright, calm, stable, sturdy plant with its roots firmly anchored in the ground. In that respect the symbolism relates to man and his ideal relationship to life. When man has strong roots, firm values, he is able to withstand the storms of life by drawing upon inner resources. Mayenau and his sister Anselma are examples. As father, he has been able to impart this secure feeling to his child Leonilda. Aurelie, on the other hand, experienced insecurity on account of an unstable household because of unfaithful parents. She conducts her own life without firm values. The adventurous characters such as Sylvester, Arduin, Gysar, Santis, and Casanova fall short of the qualities attributed to the tree as well. “The tree is one of the most essential of traditional symbols,” points out Cirlot. “In its most general sense, the symbolism of the tree denotes the life of the cosmos: its consistence, growth, proliferation, generative and regenerative processes. It stands for inexhaustible life, and is therefore equivalent to a symbol of immortality.”102

Schnitzler rarely elaborated on the question of immortality beyond his term “Aufhebung des Individuums ins All” for reasons he conveyed to Körner in his letter of July 11, 1927.103 But as a psychologist he is interested in what Rey formulates as “Undurchdringlichkeit der Zusammenhänge” and “Ganzheit des Lebens.”104 It is the author's “Staunen vor dem einfachen Sein” which Rey considers a significant trait of Schnitzler's “religiosity.”105 “Wenn er es als Agnostiker auch ablehnt, den Schöpfer näher zu definieren,” Rey continues, “der Ehrfurcht vor der Schöpfung kann er sich doch nicht entziehen.”106

Along similar lines, the symbol of lilac branches is used in both plays in an intriguing way, which rules out any argument suggestive of coincidence. From the many spring flowers Schnitzler selects lilac, a flower which prevails in many love songs as a symbol of spring and love, just as its scent permeates a garden. In Komödie der Verführung it is Max who shares his branches with the women who invite him later for closer relationships.107 Twice Aurelie mentions “den Duft des Flieders” (890, 964), which influences her senses and allows her to glide willingly into the arms of a lover. The lilac branches in Der Gang zum Weiher serve to decorate the guestroom for Sylvester. Although the maids handle this task, they are directed by Leonilda who also watches carefully to make sure they are fresh each day (741-44). Because Leonilda worships the ideal poet in Sylvester and later rejects any closer relationship with him beyond friendship, it would be farfetched to assume sexual overtones similar to those of Komödie der Verführung.108 The wilted lilac branches in Der Gang zum Weiher have symbolic importance in this respect. Sylvester's spring of life has long passed and his efforts to win Leonilda's love are likewise in vain, as predicted at the beginning of the drama symbolically through the wilted lilac in his room.

Not only symbols but also trends of thought provide a foundation for comparison in Schnitzler's late dramatic works. Just as the symbols imply deeper levels of meaning, trends of thought are re-examined for the purpose of deeper understanding and awareness. Ideas which in Komödie der Verführung were presented in triangular arrangement are considered as polarities in Der Gang zum Weiher. Foremost in Schnitzler's mind rank the ideas of war and peace because he wrote both dramas under the influence either of war or of its devastating consequences for Germany and Austria. In Der Gang zum Weiher this idea comprises one-third of the drama. The chancellor has played a great part in the history of his country and is shown now in his peacekeeping efforts, combining his capacity both as a diplomat and as a wise friend to the younger generation, represented by Konrad, who can see only the excitement of war. Komödie der Verführung emphasizes the powers at work in an effort of profitmaking by plunging the country into war; the drama also pointed out the irresponsibility in diplomatic and banking circles as represented by Arduin and Westerhaus. The ideas in Der Gang zum Weiher, however, move beyond the war issue to register also the abuse of the word “Vaterland,” which Schnitzler had so often noticed in German and Austrian power politics. Alfred Apsler points out that the author “differentiates between Vaterland and Heimat” and explains that “‘Heimat’ is the noble conception of home, ‘Vaterland’ the catchword of the politicians.”109

Schnitzler expresses this viewpoint through Mayenau, the wise statesman. Davis, on the other hand, emphasizes a moral adversity within Mayenau: “Once he has left his retirement, however, and moves in the field of power and action […] the land becomes his fatherland, when he can use it to express his demand for power […]. Albrecht sees only a field for action whether in war or peace.”110 All indications in the drama, nevertheless, point out that Schnitzler's idea of pacifism was not intended to be merely an intellectual exercise.

The idea of “Heimat” is also picked up again in the context of love relationships, as a temporary place of peace and immunity to which a loved one can return after physical and emotional detours. In Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa it was Casanova who introduced this idea and considers that place as “Rast am Weg” (733), since in his frame of reference a more permanent place would pose a threat to his concept of freedom. In Komödie der Verführung, Falkenir has the desire to provide a temporary “Heimstatt” for Aurelie, “deren Frieden niemand stören darf” (952). In Der Gang zum Weiher the term “Heimat” recurs most frequently.111 The emotionally most intense expression comes from Sylvester, who would be so happy to watch over Leonilda's sleep even if it was only for one night (827).

Schnitzler judges progressively more severely the behavior of his “Abenteurer,” for the deeper problem is the question of commitment and responsibility. These adventurers try to preserve a state of isolation because they shy away from either inner or outer relations with other human beings, in an effort to maintain unlimited freedom. They limit their emotional involvement to short periods of time and never attempt continuity and lasting relationships. Marriage looks to them like all other ties to family and country, that is, an encroachment on their personal freedom. In no way are they prepared to commit themselves to another being because they do not want to shoulder responsibility or any sharing-caring attitude. This desire for noncommitment is apparent not only in relationships with other human beings, but in other areas as well. It certainly is not by chance that these adventurers mostly belong to independent professions, for they would reject any activity that tied them down to regular working hours and a permanent seat of residence.

Müller-Freienfels concludes: “Gerade zu den Beziehungen zu ihren Mitmenschen zeigt sich immer wieder, dass sie nicht nur die äusseren, sondern ebenso sehr auch die inneren Bindungen fürchten. Sie scheuen im Grunde jedes echte, tiefgehende Gefühl für einen anderen Menschen, da sie auf diese Weise innerlich an ihn gebunden werden würden.”112 He poses the question whether or not these people really stand with both feet in the stream of life, and suggests: “Im Gegenteil, ein solcher Mensch, der niemals etwas von seiner inneren oder äusseren Freiheit einbüssen möchte, distanziert sich im Grunde vom Leben, will sich in einem Abstand halten. Dieser Gedanke der Distanz vom Leben und von den Menschen ist bei den meisten von Schnitzler's Personen auch der tiefste Sinn ihres gesamten Strebens nach Bindungslosigkeit.”113 Bernhard Blume, who discusses the problem of distance also, feels that these characters stay away from the “Strudel des Daseins […] der ihnen unausweichlich mit Vernichtung droht.”114 He attributes this behavior to the life style “des Lebensschwachen, der in der Flucht sein Heil sucht.”115 Casanova is able to avoid serious consequences,116 but Falkenir and Sylvester pay with their lives. As will be seen in the last drama, entitled Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte, a summer rain clears the air and returns everybody to their senses before it is too late.

The idea of “Gespenster” and “Geister” from the past invading the present moment form a close connection. The common denominator would be “die Macht der Erinnerung.” In the last act of Komödie der Verführung Aurelie fearfully raises this question, but Falkenir believes they are both strong enough to avoid recalling the past for the sake of a harmonious marriage. But he himself is not able to do it, even moments after Aurelie has left him to change into a bridal dress (966-67). In Der Gang zum Weiher Schnitzler deals with these problems more in detail. Mayenau does not believe in “Geister der Vergangenheit” (762), yet tells Konrad about “böse Geister” which reign at night near the pond (804). But he is firmly convinced that “Erinnerungen” continue to glow (774), a fact he demonstrates most vividly by dictating his memoirs. Sylvester, on the other hand, discredits “Erinnerungen” (774), but “die Geister der Jugend” are so vivid in him that he needs to destroy them by fire in the hope that they may never return. Even Leonilda, who triumphed over Sylvester's “Geister” (781), wants in the end to flee her surroundings because they are “dreifach gespenstisch” (841) and quite real to her.

The question might be asked: Why was Schnitzler the rational scientist interested in these ideas? Ideas can be reduced to thought forms meandering mostly uncontrolled through the mind. As such they would fall into the same category of intuition and vision for which Schnitzler himself has the following definition: “Gewiss handelt es sich auch hier um nichts anderes als um eine nicht mehr zu kontrollierende Geschwindigkeit des Gedankenablaufs. Scheinbare Gleichzeitigkeiten von Eindrücken, die durch grosse Geschwindigkeit vorgetäuscht wird.”117

To have a vision means to form a mental picture, “ein Bild.” This idea of “Bild” occurs first in Die Schwestern oder Casanova in Spa, but it seems to become more important with Schnitzler as time went on. In this play the idea of “Bild” is central to the dispute between Anina and Andrea over the night she spent with Casanova, who had intended to be with Flaminia. Anina maintains that Casanova still takes along eternally “die Erinnerung dieser Stunde” (694), but Andrea insists “doch nicht dein Bild” (694), thus providing a basis to forgive and forget, because the whole affair can remain a secret between the two of them. “Erinnerung,” therefore, is not identical to “Bild,” although both are mental processes, because even Anina's picture would have to be a mental vision. In Komödie der Verführung the idea of “Bild” relates to Aurelie. The picture which Gysar painted of her and which she rejected at first for not representing her true nature, becomes more real to her as the play unfolds. In her outer life she lives up to the sensuality which Gysar's picture portrayed, until she finally transforms her entire being into the picture, thereby losing her inner balance completely. She reduces herself to “Maske und Lüge” (962) and suffers the consequences of this total rejection. The “Bild” is symbolic of replacing her self-image with a mask to hide behind. In her “Erinnerung,” the devastating garden party at Gysar's house has grown into a mental monster, dangerously impairing her sanity. In this drama “Erinnerung” and “Bild” have become one and the same in a negative way.

The concept of “Bild” in Der Gang zum Weiher is related to Leonilda's idealistic vision of Sylvester. She tells him that in her mind's eye “dein ewig Bild hab' ich in mir bewahrt” (788). Looking beyond the personality, she beholds Sylvester's poetic soul which is forever perfect and pure. When he later pleads with her to marry him, she speaks about “dein edles Bild” (827), which refers to the neveraging spirit self of Sylvester. On the physical level, she knows that more than thirty or forty years of age difference are not a realistic basis on which to build a lasting marriage. At the end of the drama she speaks about Sylvester and visualizes how “wesenlos zu nichts sein Bild verzittert” (841)—perhaps as indication of Leonilda's concept of death. At that point all earthly riddles are resolved.

Connected with Sylvester is the idea of “Märchen” in this drama. Leonilda remembers the fairytales he told her in her childhood days, but he denies “Nein—Märchen waren meine Sache nie” (777). In Act V Sylvester renounces the idea of immortality as a fairytale and equates “Märchen” with “Lüge.” In Komödie der Verführung the concept of “Märchen” received much more extensive attention. Since it was used there within the context of triangularity, one might conclude that Schnitzler redefined the idea of “Märchen” and narrowed it down again to its original meaning of telling stories, as Sylvester did before his exile.

In contrast to Komödie der Verführung, where the triangularities connected certain ideas with various characters, Der Gang zum Weiher emphasizes the characters in their triangular position. Mayenau stands between the emperor and Konrad, who is motivated by his father, over the issue of war and peace. Leonilda forms a triangle with Konrad and Sylvester with regard to the expression of love and marriage. Sylvester stands between Anselma and Leonilda in his effort to create a deeper relationship: the one with Anselma failed years ago; the one with Leonilda never gets started. Mayenau has a triangular relationship with Anselma and Leonilda in an effort to correct his mistake of overprotection.

The contrasts, however, seem to have been more important to Schnitzler, since he mentions them especially in his letter to Körner: “[…] das Verhältnis des Dichters zum Krieger, des Kriegers zum Politiker, der Leonilda einerseits zum Dichter, andererseits zum Soldaten, war mir von Anbeginn an das Wesentliche.”118 Many polarities are sharply delineated in the lines of various characters (759, 762). Especially significant is the contrast relating to the political part of the drama, i.e., the friendship between Konrad and the enemy soldier, and Mayenau and the emperor (763, 783), as well as the concept of “Aufruhr und Gehorsam” (765), “Treue und Verrat” (827), “Geisel und Gast” (830). Through Mayenau, Schnitzler emphasizes again his concept that opposition can be links of the same chain as “Wild und Jäger,” “Herz und Pfeil,” “Mörder und Opfer” (801), just as on ethical grounds “Schuld” is related to “Sühne,” and “Verdienst” to “Tat” (801).

In summary, the results of the preceding analysis of the drama, Der Gang zum Weiher, add another view to Schnitzler's already established reputation as a writer concerned with complex issues. Imboden's conclusion regarding the prose works can also be extended to Schnitzler's late dramatic works: “Das scheinbar Immer-Gleiche der von ihm beschriebenen Welt hat weit auseinanderliegende Pole. Nicht wenigen seiner Gestalten gleitet plötzlich der feste Boden der Realität unter den Füssen fort; viele werden in die pfadlosen Bezirke des Geheimnisvollen hineingestossen. Von wem? Weshalb? Fragen, die in Hinsicht einer heilen Welt berechtigt wären, doch, auf doppeldeutige und unkontrollierbare Weiten bezogen, vergeblich gestellt werden.”119

Considerable skill is required to treat in literary prose the complexity of this world, which extends, in Imboden's words, to far-reaching poles, often reaching beyond the area of scientifically acknowledged information, “that area of reality and truth which is not accessible to the cerebral capacities of man,” as LoCicero formulated it.120 The task seems even more complicated when the information needs to be compressed into drama form. But Schnitzler achieved it convincingly, proving that he is a better dramatist than critics have been willing to acknowledge. Imboden sees two factors as being responsible for Schnitzler's newly increasing interest in surrealism: “Nach dem Kriege verliert Schnitzler den Kontakt mit der Umwelt; sie versteht ihn und er sie nicht mehr. Ferner entfremdet ihn auch der fortschreitende Verlust des Gehörs den Menschen und dem Alltagsgeschehen.”121 While these points cannot be disputed, one should not forget that Schnitzler to the end of his life was interested in the events of the world around him. In Der Gang zum Weiher, he presents the rebellious activities of the young generation as an opposite to the peace-loving loyalty of the old statesman which, according to Rey, “demonstrieren Schnitzlers Bemühungen, sich für die Auseinandersetzung zwischen politischen Ideen offen zu halten.”122

The idea of freedom formed an important aspect, for without freedom there cannot be individuality. But Schnitzler conveyed clearly his message that freedom in itself is no absolute value. It is connected to the question of responsibility and commitment, and the willingness of human nature to accept these premises. If the concept of freedom is misunderstood, it leads to selfishness and thus in the end to utter loneliness.123

Schnitzler's main concern in the drama, Der Gang zum Weiher, centered on the area of the I-Thou relationship, the all-important basis for the concept of the total human being. It is true, as Foltin points out, that the total human being is “not just the well defined, rational ‘ego,’ but also the rebellious, not conscious, subconscious, unconscious, irrational ‘id’.”124 But this human being, as total in itself as it may be, only leads a balanced, fulfilled life in its relationship to others through sharing of love on different levels as the highest form of living; for living means giving in its various ways—to be of service to others. This purpose in life, this high call, is hard to achieve, but being on the road to this goal is better than not trying at all. Schnitzler's characters in Der Gang zum Weiher show the degrees of effort in this respect. Liptzin describes this struggle most appropriately in the following way:

During our all too few years on earth, however, we make frantic efforts to escape from our absolute solitude. In work we find a drug that helps us to forget, but it is only during the intoxication of love that we are enabled really to break through the bars that separate individual existence. Schnitzler's men—cool, rational, ironic—may, at best, resign themselves to work and forgetfulness. His women, on the other hand, do, at times bridge the gulf between soul and soul; and in ecstatic abandon they do attain perfect communion with the All. His women are, on the whole, more courageous than his men. The latter hesitate, deliberate, weigh all possible risks, and seek to postpone their decisions. If forced to act, they try to minimize their responsibility and to avoid every possible consequence of their act. The women, on the contrary, answer the call of life heroically, brave all dangers readily, and lose themselves successfully in others. They, thus more easily, experience true love […]. Western civilization for a long time emphasized male superiority, and thereby made man ever more self-centered and egoistic. While woman has retained her capacity to respond naturally, naively, instinctively, man has been handicapped by an overabundance of rationalization. Schnitzler's women want love, Schnitzler's men offer understanding.125

Schnitzler's interest in this complex area of the I-Thou-relationship continues in his last drama Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte. It is relatively unknown and appears to be merely concerned with the moods of its characters and their feelings about themselves and those with whom they interact. In the end, no drastic changes take place, no deaths occur, but great gains have been made in human understanding which was, after all, Schnitzler's own search in life. In his last drama, he turns further inward where life is truly lived.


  1. Urbach, Kommentar, p. 195.

  2. Bergel, Brandes-Schnitzler-Briefwechsel, pp. 142-143. Letter dated December 14, 1924.

  3. Arthur Schnitzler, Gesammelte Werke. Die dramatischen Werke, Zweiter Band (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1962), pp. 739-843. All quotes from this second volume pertaining to the text will hereafter be referred to by page number following the quote.

  4. Cf. DW II, 1038; also Urbach, Kommentar, p. 195.

  5. Urbach, Schnitzler, p. 127.

  6. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 82.

  7. Harold D. Dickerson, Jr., “Water and Vision as Mystical Elements in Schnitzler's ‘Der Gang zum Weiher’,” Modern Austrian Literature, 4, No. 3 (1971), 24.

  8. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 70.

  9. Ibid., 83.

  10. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 260.

  11. Derré, p. 452.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Swales, Critical Study, p. 45.

  14. Davis, p. 142.

  15. Swales, Critical Study, pp. 45-46.

  16. Dickerson, 24-36.

  17. Ibid., 25. Cf. Davis, p. 138: “This pool is mysterious and symbolically treated.”

  18. Juan Eduardo Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, transl. Jack Sage (New York: Philosophical Library, 1962), p. 345.

  19. Ibid.

  20. “Natürlich ein Phallussymbol,” determines Körner, “Spätwerk,” 69 (footnote). Anselma does not go that far. She relates “ungefüger Block” to “Opferstein,” which places its existence back in ancient times, prior to Christianity. Mayenau does not share his sister's view. For him it is a stone like a thousand others, standing at that particular spot by mere chance (DW II, 748).

  21. Urbach, Kommentar, p. 37.

  22. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 10.

  23. Arnold Whittick, Symbols — Signs and Their Meaning and Uses in Design (London: Leonard Hill, 1971), p. 348: “Cleansing by water appears to have been a purification rite with many religions before Christianity, as it was with the Jews. In Christianity the symbolism of water has survived chiefly in the rite of baptism. Its significance appears to cover purification, regeneration or rebirth.”

  24. Lore B. Foltin, “The Meaning of Death in Schnitzler's Work,” Studies in Arthur Schnitzler, eds. Herbert W. Reichert and Hermann Salinger (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1963), p. 39.

  25. Dickerson, 30. “Mystic awareness” is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence; it is spiritual insight, intuition. Cf. LoCicero, 18.

  26. It is important to pay attention to the name symbolism related to Ungnad, which means “without mercy.” He is treated with compassion by Mayenau, Sylvester and everyone he comes in contact with, but Ungnad does not have compassion for himself nor for others. He is ill adjusted and therefore incapable of overcoming.

  27. The idea of separation in connection with water symbolism has also been mentioned by Whittick (p. 348), who points out that “water has also been considered symbolically with the significance of separation, because rivers and seas are natural barriers.”

  28. Kammeyer, pp. 104-05.

  29. Cf. pp. 99f. of this study for a more detailed discussion of this important concept in Schnitzler's late dramatic work.

  30. Rey, “Schnitzler,” p. 253.

  31. Richard Specht, Arthur Schnitzler. Der Dichter und sein Werk. Eine Studie (Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag, 1922), p. 153.

  32. Seidlin, Schnitzler-Brahm-Briefwechsel, p. 28.

  33. Cf. Herta Singer, “Zeit und Gesellschaft im Werk Arthur Schnitzlers,” Diss. Wien (1948), p. 22.

  34. Rey, “Schnitzler,” p. 256.

  35. Herbert Cysarz, “Das Imaginäre in der Dichtung Arthur Schnitzlers,” Journal of the International Arthur Schnitzler Research Association, NS. 1, III (1968), 8.

  36. Baumann, Schnitzler, p. 30.

  37. Körner, Gestalten und Probleme, p. 171. “Okkultismen” relates to surrealism in the terminology used by Imboden.

    Cf. Specht, Schnitzler, p. 152.

  38. Schnitzler, AuB, p. 73.

  39. Michael Imboden, Die surreale Komponente im erzählenden Werk Arthur Schnitzlers (Bern, Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Herbert Lang & Cie AG, 1971).

  40. Maurice Nadeau, Geschichte des Surrealismus, deutsche Übersetzung von Karl Heinz Laier, rde. Bd. 240/41 (Reinbek b. Hamburg, 1965), 8. Quoted by Imboden, p. 9.

  41. Imboden, p. 9.

  42. Ibid., p. 11.

  43. Dickerson, 30.

  44. Ibid.

  45. Cirlot, p. 95.

  46. Imboden, p. 19.

  47. Cirlot, p. 95.

  48. Ibid., p. 326.

  49. Arthur Schnitzler, “Bemerkungen aus dem Nachlass,” Neue Rundschau, 3 (1962), 351.

  50. Schnitzler, AuB, p. 278.

  51. Ibid.

  52. Ibid.

  53. Whittick, p. 329.

  54. Derré, p. 372.

  55. Davis, p. 141.

  56. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 70.

  57. Ibid.

  58. Schnitzler, letter to Körner, dated July 11, 1927, quoted by Davis, p. 185.

  59. Ibid.

  60. Ibid., p. 187.

  61. Sol Liptzin, “The Genesis of Schnitzler's ‘Der einsame Weg’,” The Journal of English-Germanic Philology, 30 (1931), 392-93.

  62. Schnitzler, letter to Körner, quoted by Davis, p. 187.

  63. Derré, p. 452.

  64. Swales, Critical Study, p. 53.

  65. Franz Grillparzer, Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg in Sämtliche Werke. Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe, Part 1, vol. 6, ed. August Sauer (Wien: Verlag von Anton Schroll & Co., 1927), 182-83.

  66. Rey, “Schnitzler,” p. 251.

  67. Schnitzler, BdSp, p. 139.

  68. Cf. Swales, Critical Study, p. 45.

  69. We recall that Flaminia already used the term “Geck” to refer to Casanova (DW II, 666), and Andrea uses the same word for him (p. 670).

  70. Bergel, Brandes-Schnitzler-Briefwechsel, p. 143.

  71. Ibid.

  72. Wassermann, “Erinnerungen,” 12.

  73. Ibid.

  74. Freud to Schnitzler, letter dated May 14, 1912, Neue Rundschau, 1 (1955), 96.

  75. Ibid., 95.

  76. Schnitzler, BdSp., p. 66.

  77. Friedrich Wilhelm Kaufmann, “Zur Frage der Wertung in Schnitzlers Werk,” PMLA, 48 (March 1933), 215.

  78. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 56.

  79. Rey, “Schnitzler,” p. 254.

  80. Lederer, p. 76.

  81. Swales, Critical Study, pp. 45-46.

  82. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 244.

  83. Swales, Critical Study, p. 46.

  84. Schnitzler, BdSp. p. 86.

  85. Cf. also Foltin, 42.

  86. Polsterer, Section 3.3. She continues that “[…] die diversen süssen Mädels aus verschiedener Herren Länder dagegen Namen tragen wie Annie, Anita, Annina, Annette, Ninette […]. Auch wissen wir ja aus verschiedenen Aussprüchen seiner Figuren, dass der Dichter sich wohl über die Bedeutung der Namen und ihrer Verbreitung Gedanken machte.”

  87. Schmidt, p. 310.

  88. Ibid., p. 316.

  89. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 269.

  90. Boner, p. 38. Cf. also Schmidt, p. 314.

  91. Polsterer, Section 3.31 entitled “Semasiologische Deutung.”

  92. Wolfdietrich Rasch, “Tanz als Lebenssymbol im Drama um 1900,” in: Zur deutschen Literatur seit der Jahrhundertwende (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1967), p. 64.

  93. Ibid.

  94. Ibid., p. 77.

  95. Ibid.

  96. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 62.

  97. Schmidt, p. 314.

  98. Liptzin, Schnitzler, p. 32. Cf. also p. 4.

  99. Otto P. Schinnerer, “The Literary Apprenticeship of Arthur Schnitzler,” Germanic Review, 1 (1930), 67.

  100. Körner, “Spätwerk,” 71.

  101. Cf. pp. 777, 778, 784, 785, 796.

  102. Cirlot, p. 328.

  103. Quoted by Davis, pp. 186, 189.

  104. Rey, “Schnitzler,” p. 253. In Judeo-Christian theology, this is called the “Brotherhood of Man.”

  105. Ibid., p. 252.

  106. Ibid., pp. 252-53.

  107. Cf. pp. 860, 864, 878, 971.

  108. Lilac in Schnitzler's work dates back to Liebelei (1896).

  109. Alfred Apsler, “A Sociological View of Arthur Schnitzler,” Germanic Review, 18 (1943), 105.

  110. Davis, pp. 145-46.

  111. Cf. pp. 755, 766, 767, 769, 770, 771, 772, 773, 782, 788, 789, 791, 792, 825.

  112. Müller-Freienfels, p. 97.

  113. Ibid., p. 101.

  114. Blume, p. 34.

  115. Ibid.

  116. Schnitzler's later prose work entitled Casanovas Heimfahrt (1918) catches up with the old adventurer and pursues him into death.

  117. Schnitzler, “Gedanken über Kunst. Aus dem Nachlass,” Neue Rundschau, 43 (1932), 37.

  118. Schnitzler, letter to Körner, quoted by Davis, dated July 11, 1927.

  119. Imboden, p. 125.

  120. LoCicero, 18.

  121. Imboden, pp. 124-25.

  122. Rey, Schnitzler, Späte Prosa, p. 18.

    Cf. Kammeyer's statement (p. 127 footnote 93) regarding Schnitzler and the first World War which shows a rather hasty assessment: “Die geistige Auseinandersetzung mit dem ersten Weltkrieg hat Schnitzler aus seinem dramatischen Schaffen ausgeschlossen; es existieren jedoch essayistische Aufzeichnungen aus seinem Nachlass […].”

  123. Cf. Rey, “Schnitzler,” p. 262.

  124. Foltin, 36.

  125. Liptzin, Schnitzler, pp. 47-48.

    Cf. also Boner, p. 8: “Es sucht nach dem internen Gleichgewicht des Menschen, nach dem geistigen Jenseits der materiellen Aktionen und Gegenaktionen.”

Further Reading

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Alter, Maria P. “From Der Reigen to La Ronde: Transposition of a Stageplay to the Cinema.” Literature Film Quarterly 24, no. 1 (1996): 52-56.

Comments on the differences in tone between Reigen and its film version, La Ronde, noting in particular the less banal, romanticized attitude towards sex depicted in the film.

Nehring, Wolfgang. “Schnitzler, Freud's Alter Ego?” Modern Austrian Literature 10, nos. 3-4 (1977): 179-94.

Uses Freud's letters to Schnitzler to address the extent to which Schnitzler may have been influenced by Freudian psychoanalysis in his plays and novels.

Norden, Edward. “From Schnitzler to Kushner.” Commentary 99, no. 1 (January 1995): 51-59.

Examines similarities in themes of and critical reaction to the plays of Schnitzler and contemporary playwright Tony Kushner.

Yates, W. E. Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal, and the Austrian Theatre. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992. 286 p.

Book-length treatment of Schnitzler and his friend and contemporary Hugo von Hofmannsthal, focusing on their roles in turn-of-the-century Viennese theater.

Additional coverage of Schnitzler's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vol. 104; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 81, 118; European Writers; Literature Resource Center; Reference Guide to Short Fiction; Reference Guide to World Literature; Short Story Criticism, Vol. 15; and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 4.