Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 328
GOAT SONG belongs to a period of modern dramatic history when dramatists were struggling with new forms and symbols. O’Neill probed his characters’ real attitudes and emotions with interior monologues, gave life to inanimate objects, and explored the forces of nature and time in his plays. Elmer Rice created a powerful symbol of modern life in THE ADDING MACHINE. Brecht strove to work past the audience’s emotions and grip their intellects with his attacks on capitalism and modern corruption. Franz Werfel’s GOAT SONG was part of this great experimental ferment which dominated European and American drama for two decades. Werfel was also influenced by his native Czechoslovakia and by the middle-European legends and attitudes, much as was his contemporary and fellow countryman, Franz Kafka. Utilizing the ancient character of the scapegoat, Werfel attempted in this play to create a modern myth.
Like Eve and Pandora, the girl Stanja begins the sequence of events by asking questions and urging her man to explore mysteries best left alone; and the doctor, with the arrogance of science, meddles foolishly and impotently in the affair. But it is the student, Juvan, the intellectual leader of the gipsies, who precipitates the action that leads to the violence and the ultimate destruction of the human “monster.” The drama vividly illustrates the tendency human beings have toward irrational violence. Not only the ignorant are capable of cruelty and unreasoning acts of violence; not only the poor and hungry, are caught up in the passion of bloodletting. In retrospect, GOAT SONG seems almost a foreshadowing of the events which were to occur in Europe in the decades following its creation.
The hair-raising conclusion of the drama, when Stanja announces that she is carrying the monster’s child, suggests that the seed of the perverse, the cause of evil, will always be with humanity, however men try to eradicate it. The evil lurks within them, not in outside forces or unseen and feared demons.
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