Characters

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Dreissiger

Listed in the character list as the "fusitan manufacturer," Dreissiger really serves as the voice of the upper class in the play. He looks upon the poor weavers with distaste, blaming them for their own condition and offering no sympathy. He believes them powerless, never seeing the threat they could pose until it is too late. As such, he proves himself condescending, arrogant, and cruel. When the weavers begin to riot outside his house, he comments, "It's possible that some good may come of it yet. Such occurrences as this will not pass unnoticed by those in authority, and may lead them to see that things can't be allowed to go on as they are doing—that some means must be taken to prevent the utter ruin of our home industries." Of course, things could not go on this way, but Dreissiger proves himself utterly detached from the reality of both the lower class and the situation as a whole with his comments. Ultimately, the group storms his house, looting and destroying it. He remains a static character for whom the reader has no sympathy.

Pfeifer

Pfeifer is hired by Dreissiger as a middleman of sorts between himself and the weavers. Pfeifer proves himself just as uncaring as his boss, and he doles out no compassion for the needy. He is in charge of taking the weavers' cloth and issuing payment, and he has impossible standards. The cloth is too dirty, too irregular, or too knotty. No one is given ample payment for their work, and several ask for advances on their pay in order to feed their families. He doesn't even listen to those begging for money and dismisses them with callous remarks. When one weaver's wife is denied an advance and mutters, "O Lord," Pfeifer tells her, "It's no good whining, or dragging the Lord's name into the matter. You're not so anxious about Him at other times . . . We can give no pay in advance . . . People that are industrious, and understand their work, and do it in the fear of God, never need their pay in advance. So now you know." Pfeifer proves to have seriously underestimated the weavers when they storm Dreissiger's house in act 4 and also proves himself a coward, screaming, "It's serious!" repeatedly. He has never considered that the poor could be a serious threat to him until this moment.

Old Baumert

First seen in act 1 in the scene of weavers trying to collect payment, Baumert tells another weaver that in his cloth sack is his pet dog, whom he has had slaughtered in an effort to feed his family. When Jaeger comes to visit in act 2, the men begin talking about how their situation has to improve. He becomes part of the uprising in acts 4 and 5, turning to pillaging the wealthy for what he needs to survive. He tells his friend, "When luck's with him a man gets roast hare to eat an' champagne wine to drink—I'll tell you all something: We've made a big mistake—we must help ourselves." Baumert represents the effects that desperation have on otherwise ordinary men. Once he determines that he has nothing left to lose and that his family has no other means of survival, he decides to leave behind his ways of trying to make an honest living in favor of stealing what he needs.

Jaeger

Jaeger once depended on weaving but has recently been trained as a soldier. When he visits the Baumerts, he commiserates with their struggle. He tells them that "things can't go on...

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like this. I'm dumbfounded when I see the life people live here. The very dogs in the towns live better." He begins to organize a better effort of rebellion using his new skills. When he leads the charge against the Dreissiger household, he tells the group, "If we can't lay hands on that brute Dreissiger himself . . . we'll at any rate make a poor man of him." Jaeger symbolizes the power that is often overlooked at the core of a rebellion. He has the intelligence, skill, and determination to lead a group against forces of oppression, but he is discounted until it is too late for the wealthy.

The Hilses

The Hilses are symbolic of the segment of an oppressed society that sees a problem but is unwilling to make changes. They believe that suffering in this life will lead to a better afterlife. They cling to tradition. They believe those who are rising up against oppression are of the devil. They tell the group that vengeance belongs to God and not to man. While as oppressed as the other weavers, they do not support the uprising.

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