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Saturday, November 21, 2015

WEDEKINDIANA/BERGIANA

Speranza

Earth Spirit (1895) (Erdgeist) is a play by Frank Wedekind.

It forms the first part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays, the second is Pandora's Box (1904), both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed".[1]

In German folklore an erdgeist is a gnome, first described in Goethe's Faust (1808).

Together with Pandora's Box, The Earth Spirit forms the basis for the silent film Pandora's Box (1929) starring Louise Brooks and the opera Lulu by Alban Berg (1935, premiered posthumously in 1937).
In the original manuscript, dating from 1894, the ‘Lulu’ melodramma was in 'cinque atti' and subtitled ‘A Monster Tragedy’.

Wedekind subsequently divided the work into two plays: Earth Spirit (German:Erdgeist, first printed 1895) and Pandora’s Box (German: Die Büchse der Pandora, first performed 1904).

The premiere of Earth Spirit took place in Leipzig on 25 February 1898, in a production by Carl Heine, with Wedekind himself in the role of Schön.

Wedekind is known to have taken his inspiration from at least two sources:

-- the pantomime Lulu by Félicien Champsaur, which he saw in Paris in the early 1890s, and
-- the sex murders of Jack the Ripper in London in 1888.


In a Prologue, the characters in the drama are introduced by an ‘Animal Tamer’ as if they are creatures in a travelling circus.

Lulu herself is described as “the true animal, the wild, beautiful animal” and the “primal form of woman”.
When the action of the play starts, Lulu has been rescued by the rich newspaper publisher Schön from a life on the streets with her alleged father, the petty criminal Schigolch.

Schön has taken Lulu under his wing, educated her and made her his lover.

Wishing however to make a more socially advantageous match for himself, he has married her off to the medic Dr Goll.
In the first Act Goll has brought Lulu to have her portrait painted by Schwarz.

Left alone with him, Lulu seduces the painter.

When Dr Goll returns to confront them, he collapses with a fatal heart attack.
In Act Two, Lulu has married the painter Schwarz, who, with Schön’s assistance, has now achieved fame and wealth.

She remains Schön’s mistress, however.

Wishing to be rid of her ahead of his forthcoming marriage to a society belle, Charlotte von Zarnikow, Schön informs Schwarz about her dissolute past.

Schwarz is shocked to the core and “guillotines” himself with his razor.
In Act Three Lulu appears as a dancer in a revue, her new career promoted by Schön’s son Alwa, who is now also infatuated with her.

Schön is forced to admit that he is in her thrall.

Lulu forces him to break off his engagement to Charlotte.
In Act Four Lulu is now married to Schön but is unfaithful to him with several other men (Schigolch, Alwa, the circus artist Rodrigo Quast and the lesbian Countess Geschwitz).

On discovering this, Schön presses a revolver into Lulu's hand, urging her to kill herself.

Instead, she uses it to shoot Schön, all the while declaring him the only man she has ever loved.

She is imprisoned for her crime.
Her escape from prison with the aid of Countess Geschwitz and subsequent career down to her death at the hands of Jack the Ripper in London are the subject of the sequel, Pandora’s Box.

It is now customary in theatre performances to run the two plays together, in abridged form, under the title Lulu.


The play has attracted a wide range of interpretations, from those who see it as misogynistic to those who claim Wedekind as a harbinger of women’s liberation.

Central to these divergent readings is the ambiguous figure of Lulu herself.

Arguably, she embodies not so much the “primal form of woman” (a nebulous and subjective concept) as perceptions – in particular, male perceptions – of that “primal form”.

It is significant that we never learn Lulu’s true name, only the names imposed on her by a succession of lovers.[4]

To Schigolch she is “Lulu”, an a-sexual name suggestive of children’s earliest speech.

To Schön she is “Mignon”, the name of the mysterious girl in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship who pursues the hero with submissive fidelity.

To Schwarz she is Eva, mankind’s first mother but also alleged agent (in the biblical narrative) of our undoing.

Each man, secure in the patriarchal society to which she is a potential affront, finds in her what he wants to see.

Her own needs, meanwhile, remain obscured.

A key stage prop throughout the play (and its sequel) is Schwarz’s portrait of Lulu, which depicts her dressed as Pierrot.

By further associating his heroine with this “naïve, comic, yet also pathetic” figure, Wedekind reminds audiences of her “essential vulnerability”.[5]


The play was adapted for film twice, in 1923 by Leopold Jessner, starring Asta Nielsen,[6] and by Walerian Borowczyk for French television in 1980, starring Anne Bennant.[7]

It is currently being adapted for comics by John Linton Roberson. [8]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. Jump up^ Article "Frank Wedekind" in Banham 1998, pp. 1189-1190).
  2. Jump up^ Finney 1989, p. 80
  3. Jump up^ Lewis 1997, p. 29
  4. Jump up^ Finney 1989, p. 89
  5. Jump up^ Skrine 1989, p. 89
  6. Jump up^ Erdgeist, "1923"
  7. Jump up^ Lulu, "1980"
  8. Jump up^ Roberson, John Linton. "Lulu"
Bibliography
  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
  • Finney, Gail. 1989. Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism and European Theater at the Turn of the Century. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-2284-1.
  • Lewis, Ward B. 1997. The Ironic Dissident: Frank Wedekind in the View of his Critics. Columbia, SC: Camden House. ISBN 1-57113-023-3.
  • Skrine, Peter. 1989. Hauptmann, Wedekind and Schnitzler (Macmillan Modern Dramatists). London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-43530-3.



Pandora's Box (1904) (Die Büchse der Pandora) is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind.

It forms the second part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays, the first being Earth Spirit (1895), both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed".[1]
G. W. Pabst directed a silent film version Pandora's Box (1929), which was loosely based on the play. Both plays together also formed the basis for the opera Lulu by Alban Berg in 1935 (premiered posthumously in 1937).
In the original manuscript, dating from 1894, the 'Lulu' drama was in five acts and subtitled 'A Monster Tragedy'.

Wedekind subsequently divided the work into two plays: Earth Spirit (German:Erdgeist, first printed in 1895) and Pandora's Box (German: Die Büchse der Pandora).

It is now customary in theatre performances to run the two plays together, in abridged form, under the title Lulu.

Wedekind is known to have taken his inspiration from at least two sources: the pantomime Lulu by Félicien Champsaur, which he saw in Paris in the early 1890s, and the sex murders of Jack the Ripper in London in 1888.

The premiere of Pandora's Box, a restricted performance due to difficulties with the censor, took place in Nuremberg on 1 February 1904.

The 1905 Viennese premiere, again restricted, was instigated by the satirist Karl Kraus.

In Vienna Lulu was played by Tilly Newes, later to become Wedekind's wife, with the part of Jack the Ripper played by Wedekind himself.


Act One (Germany). At the end of Earth Spirit, Lulu was imprisoned for the murder of her third husband, Dr Schön.

Pandora's Box opens with her confederates awaiting her arrival after she has been sprung from prison in an elaborate plot.

The lesbian Countess Geschwitz, who remains in love with Lulu, has swapped identities with her and takes Lulu's place in prison, hoping that Lulu will love her in return.

Rodrigo Quast, the acrobat, plans to take Lulu away with him as a circus performer but when she arrives, emaciated from the prison regime, he declares her unfit for his purposes.

Alwa Schön, the writer, succumbs to her charms, despite her having murdered his father.

They leave together.
Act Two (Paris). Lulu and Alwa, now married, are entertaining in their lavish home.

All are profiting from investments in the Jungfrau cable-car company.

Two characters attempt to blackmail her, since she is still wanted by the German police: Rodrigo the acrobat and Casti-Piani, a white slave-trader who offers to set her up in a brothel in Cairo.

The sinister Schigolch, who was Lulu's first patron and may be her father, reappears, and by offering to lure Rodrigo and Geschchwitz to his lodgings, promises to "take care of" the threatening Rodrigo.

As the police arrive to arrest her, Lulu swaps clothes with a groom and escapes.

The Jungfrau share price has meanwhile collapsed, leaving her penniless.
Act Three (London).

Lulu is now living in a garret with Alwa and Schigolch and working as a prostitute.

Geschwitz arrives with the rolled-up portrait of Lulu as an innocent Pierrot which has accompanied Lulu throughout the action of this play and its predecessor.

Lulu's first client is the pious mute Mr Hopkins.

Alwa is killed by her next visitor, the African prince Kungu Poti.

Another client, the bashful Dr Hilti, flees in horror and Geschwitz tries unsuccessfully to hang herself.

'Jack' (putatively Jack the Ripper), her final client, argues with her about her fee.

Geschwitz vows to return to Germany to matriculate and fight for women's rights.

Jack murders Lulu and Geschwitz; the latter dies declaring eternal love for Lulu.


The play has attracted a wide range of interpretations, from those who see it as misogynist to those who claim Wedekind as a harbinger of women's liberation.[3]

Central to these divergent readings is the ambiguous figure of Lulu herself.

Each man in her life, secure in the patriarchal society to which she is a potential affront, finds in her what he wants to see.

Her own needs, meanwhile, remain obscured.

And each man "lets her down because he is flawed by a blind disregard for her true self, an indifference that stems from that blend of self-centredness and self-interest which Wedekind (…) saw as typically male".[4]

Whether Lulu is victim or femme fatale, the centre of gravity in this second play shifts in the direction of Geschwitz, whom Wedekind in his Preface to the 1906 edition describes as the "tragic central figure of the play" and holds up as an example of both "superhuman self-sacrifice" and spiritual strength in the face of the "terrible destiny of abnormality with which she is burdened".

References[edit]

Notes
  1. Jump up^ See the article "Frank Wedekind" in Banham 1998, pp. 1189-1190
  2. Jump up^ Finney 1989, p. 80
  3. Jump up^ Lewis 1997, p. 29
  4. Jump up^ Skrine 1989, p. 91
Bibliography
  • Banham, Martin, ed. (1998). The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
  • Finney, Gail (1989). Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism and European Theater at the Turn of the Century. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-2284-1.
  • Lewis, Ward B (1997). The Ironic Dissident: Frank Wedekind in the View of his Critics. Columbia, SC: Camden House. ISBN 1-57113-023-3.
  • Skrine, Peter (1989). Hauptmann, Wedekind and Schnitzler (Macmillan Modern Dramatists). London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-43530-3.

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