By Georg Buchner (adapted by Kerry Frampton and Ben Hales of Splendid Productions)
Woyzeck, by Georg Büchner, was probably written between 1835 and 1837 and was discovered and published posthumously in 1879. The play is open to multiple interpretations. Indeed the very order of scenes is debatable, since Büchner did not organize the work into acts and there is no definitive text of the play. The events, rather than appearing chronologically, appear as a series of related occurrences and changing their order radically alters an audience’s response to the play.
Woyzeck is an army barber, a religious man preoccupied with sin and guilt. Desperate to maintain his job, he endures psychological humiliation from the captain and painful physical experimentation by his doctor, who forces him to eat nothing but peas, which he endures in order to make extra money for Marie, his wife, and their child. But, feeling neglected, Marie embarks on an affair with a drum major. Filled with rage, Woyzeck explodes into violence.
Büchner based Woyzeck on an account of an actual murder case in which a soldier killed his mistress in a jealous frenzy and was subsequently the object of medical controversy regarding his sanity.
Born in Germany in 1813 Buchner’s life was tragically short and he died at 23 of Typhus. A qualified doctor, he was also passionately interested in human rights and utopian communist ideals. One revolutionary and highly critical pamphlet he published which criticised social injustice caused him to have to flee to Strasbourg.
In his short life, he translated two works by Victor Hugo, wrote one play, a short story and some articles. Woyzeck was unfinished at the time of his death but remains his enduring legacy.
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