Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Frau Wolff

Frau Wolff, a washerwoman and the ringleader of a gang of dealers in stolen goods. Protected by her reputation as an honest woman, she sets about stealing from her daughter’s employer, Krüger, a load of wood and a beaver coat for delivery to the fence, Wulkow. By virtue of her own wit, the false testimony of other witnesses, and the incompetence of the justice of the peace, von Wehrhahn, the innocent in the affair are made to appear guilty, and Frau Wolff emerges as the soul of honor.

Julius Wolff

Julius Wolff, Frau Wolff’s husband, a shipwright and ferry captain who uses his nautical activities as a front for his real business in life, the illegal snaring of game.


Leontine (LAY-ohn-tee-neh), the elder daughter of Julius and Frau Wolff. She is hired out to Krüger but returns home complaining that he sends her after wood late at night. Her flight is used by Frau Wolff as an opportunity to steal the wood.


Udelheid (OO-dehl-hid), Julius and Frau Wolff’s younger daughter. She is used by her family as a verifier of invented evidence.


Wulkow (VOOL-koh), a boatman and a receiver of stolen goods. When he makes known his desire for a fur, his request is cheerfully filled by Frau Wolff, who delivers to him, for a price, Krüger’s beaver coat.


Krüger (KREW-gur), Leontine’s well-to-do employer, who is relieved by her thieving family of his load of wood and his beaver coat.

Von Wehrhahn

Von Wehrhahn (VAYR-hahn), the justice of the peace. He is so taken up with rigging evidence against Dr. Fleischer for a supposed slight that he cannot see to it that justice is done in his court.

Doctor Fleischer

Doctor Fleischer (FLI-shur), Krüger’s friend, a liberal democrat who incurs the wrath of von Wehrhahn and, unwittingly, blocks the path of justice.


Motes, an informer and giver of false evidence.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Gassner, John. Introduction to Five Plays by Gerhart Hauptmann, translated by Theodore H. Lustig. New York: Bantam Publications, 1961. A general introduction that sketches Haupt-mann’s achievement as a dramatist, highlighting his contributions to the naturalist movement. Comments on the topicality of The Beaver Coat, but claims that it is an “outstanding character comedy” that transcends the limitations of the time and place of its initial production.

Maurer, Warren R. Gerhart Hauptmann. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Overview of Hauptmann’s life and work intended for the nonspecialist. Organized chronologically, it shows the development of Hauptmann’s theory of the drama. Discusses the principal themes of The Beaver Coat, highlights its politically charged undertone, and cites the author’s use of imagery and dramatic structure.

Maurer, Warren R. Understanding Gerhart Hauptmann. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992. Excellent overview of Hauptmann’s works. Discussion of The Beaver Coat focuses on the comic aspects of the play and on the character of Mrs. Wolff.

Osborne, John. The Naturalist Drama in Germany. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1971. Discusses The Beaver Coat as a naturalist comedy, citing various devices Hauptmann uses to achieve comic effect. Points out parallels to Molière’s plays.

Sinden, Margaret. Gerhart Hauptmann: The Prose Plays. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957. Studies the major dramas, including The Beaver Coat, which Sinden calls a work of great vigor. Discusses the play as an exploration of the impact of the modern era on a traditional rural settlement.