Spring Awakening

by Frank Wedekind

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Characters Discussed

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Melchior Gabor

Melchior Gabor (MEHL-shee-ohr gah-BOHR), a promising high school student. He is beginning to feel the effects of sexual phenomena. In a note, he imparts his knowledge of sex to his friend, Moritz Stiefel. When Moritz commits suicide and the note is found, Melchior is condemned for moral corruption. His mother upholds him until she is confronted with the fact of his classmate Wendla Bergmann’s pregnancy, for which he is responsible.

Moritz Stiefel

Moritz Stiefel (MOH-rihts STEE-fehl), a friend of Melchior Gabor. Plagued by sexual urges and fear of failure in his studies, he commits suicide.

Wendla Bergmann

Wendla Bergmann (VAYN-dlah BEHRG-mahn), a fourteen-year-old who conceives a child by Melchior Gabor. She dies during an attempted abortion.

Mrs. Bergmann

Mrs. Bergmann, Wendla’s mother. She evades the truth in answering her daughter’s questions about love and sex.

Mr. Gabor

Mr. Gabor and

Mrs. Gabor

Mrs. Gabor, Melchior’s parents.


Martha and


Thea, friends of Wendla, with whom she exchanges confidences about love and sex.


Ilse (IHL-seh), a prostitute who attempts to seduce Moritz Stiefel.

Mr. Stiefel

Mr. Stiefel, Moritz Stiefel’s father, a pensioner.

Dr. Von Brausepulver

Dr. Von Brausepulver (BROW-seh-pool-fur) and

Mother Schmidt

Mother Schmidt, abortionists whose concoctions cause Wendla Bergmann’s death.

A muffled gentleman

A muffled gentleman, who appears to the ghost of Moritz Stiefel and the living Melchior Gabor as they converse among the graves. He upbraids Moritz for his attempt to lure Melchior into the land of the dead. He and Melchior withdraw together.


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Boa, Elizabeth. The Sexual Circus: Wedekind’s Theatre of Subversion. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987. Excellent exploration of Wedekind’s primary and subversive purpose in attacking bourgeois authoritarianism and speaking out for the rights of the individual. Useful interpretation of Spring Awakening as a critique of social roles and an examination of moral authority. Extensive bibliography.

Bond-Pable, Elizabeth. Introduction to Spring Awakening. Translated by Edward Bond. London: Methuen, 1980. Gives a brief biographical introduction to Wedekind’s life and career, and points out central themes in the play. The volume also includes Edward Bond’s “A Note on the Play,” in which he concludes that the play is about “the misuse of authority” and shows the effects of the state on the individual.

Del Caro, Adrian. “The Beast, the Bad, and the Body: Moral Entanglement in Wedekind’s Frühlings Erwachen.” Colloquia-Germanica 24, no. 1 (1991): 1-12. Focuses on the influence of Georg Büchner and Friedrich Nietzsche and the difficulty of integrating morality, humanity, and nature. Wedekind criticized society’s attempts to expunge the natural from human existence.

Gittleman, Sol. Frank Wedekind. New York: Twayne, 1969. A somewhat dated but still useful general introduction to Wedekind’s life and work. Analyzes Spring Awakening, focusing on the tragic effects of society’s failure to teach children about their instincts. Concludes that the play blends tragedy, absurdism, allegory, surrealism, and morality.

Jelavich, Peter. “Wedekind’s Spring Awakening: The Path to Expressionist Drama.” In Passion and Rebellion: The Expressionist Heritage, edited by Stephen Eric Bronner and Douglas Kellner. New York: Universe Books, 1983. An excellent analysis of the play’s central themes, as well as the connections between Wedekind, expressionism, and Brecht.

Shaw, Leroy R. “Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening.” In Alogical Modern Drama, edited by Kenneth S. White. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1982. A good general analysis of the play. Calling it a critique of rationalism, Shaw suggests the play is an alogical and amoral indictment of bourgeois Christianity.

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Critical Essays