Georg Kaiser Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Georg Kaiser published film scripts, essays, and two novels: Es ist genug (1932; it is enough), an autobiographical work whose plot unfolds in an imaginary setting, and Villa Aurea (1940; Vera, 1939), which is—like many of Kaiser’s plays—based on an abstract thought or thesis: Humankind is afraid of nothingness; it knows that nothingness is the only truth, but it does not want to acknowledge it.

During his exile in Switzerland, Kaiser wrote several short stories. Many of them draw their inspiration from political events, such as the occupation of Czechoslovakia by German troops (“Lieutenant Welzeck”) or the rise of Adolf Hitler and his hypnotic power over the German masses (“Nach einem verlorenen Krieg”). Like many (former) expressionists (such as Ernst Barlach, Reinhard J. Sorge, and Alfred Döblin), Kaiser used the fairy-tale genre to express his philosophical and theological views (humanity as the devil’s creation in “Die Ausgeburt”; love as a purifying force in “Das Märchen des Konigs”). Kaiser’s poetry, especially the poems written during his exile, shows the strong influence of Rainer Maria Rilke. The film scripts, essays, novels, stories, and poems have been collected in the fourth volume of the 1971 edition of Kaiser’s collected works, edited by Walther Huder.


Georg Kaiser was one of the most prolific playwrights in the history of German drama. He wrote approximately seventy plays, many of which were performed throughout Germany in the 1920’s. Among all the expressionist dramatists, he developed the most progressive antinaturalistic dramaturgy. His influence on younger playwrights both inside and outside Germany was considerable. Bertolt Brecht, a major and influential dramatist himself, has acknowledged that he learned much from Kaiser’s dramatic techniques, particularly from Kaiser’s views about the role of the audience. Kaiser did not want his audience to adopt an attitude of passive empathy. Spectators were not supposed to forget themselves by means of uncritically identifying with the protagonist onstage. Kaiser’s abstract style was devised to counteract such an attitude and foster an alert and critical mental disposition on the part of spectators. The fact that many of Kaiser’s plays have been translated into English and other languages attests his international reputation.


Benson, Renate. German Expressionist Drama: Ernst Toller and Georg Kaiser. New York: Grove Press, 1984. A study of German expressionist drama, focusing on the works of Kaiser and Ernst Toller. Bibliography and index.

Henn, Marianne, ed. Bibliography of the Georg Kaiser Collection at the University of Alberta. Edmonton: University of Alberta, 1998. A bibliography of the Kaiser collection at the University of Alberta, Canada. Index.

Lambert, Carole J. The Empty Cross: Medieval Hopes, Modern Futility in the Theater of Maurice Maeterlinck, Paul Claudel, August Strindberg, and Georg Kaiser. New York: Garland, 1990. A scholarly study of the influence of medieval thought, particularly the concepts of futility and frustration, on the works of Kaiser, Maurice Maeterlinck, Paul Claudel, and August Strindberg.