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Neumarkt, P. (1973). Hauptmann's and Pippa Dances and Victor Tausk's Commentary. Am. Imago, 30(4):360-370.

(1973). American Imago, 30(4):360-370

Hauptmann's and Pippa Dances and Victor Tausk's Commentary

Paul Neumarkt, Ph.D.

Gerhart Hauptmann's drama Und Pippa Tanzt (And Pippa Dances) caused amixed reaction when it was first performed in 1906. The audience was at a loss to understand the work and what he wished to express with it. Hauptmann attended the first performance to which the intellectual elite had been invited and promptly found himself involved in a discussion concerning the symbolical significance of his work. When asked to explain what the drama was all about, he is supposed to have retorted: “If I knew that, I did not have to write it.” This cryptic reply makes a lot of sense when we consider the expectations of theater audiences around the beginning of the century. And Pippa Dances is the psychological portrayal of a declining civilization couched in literary garb. Its message is one of doom and despair. The poet must have realized the state of confusion his drama had created among an audience that kept deluding itself with ideas of German superiority and grandeur, eight years before the outbreak of the first World War. It is this psychological nexus which literary critics have been unable to unravel. The poet himself had at that point reached the half-way station of his life and must have come to a sad appraisal of what the future held in store for him.

In retrospect, the apprehensions of the poet seem well founded. The aftermath of the first global war and the short lived Weimar Republic are sad reminders of a political development which eventually exposed the world to the unprecedented trauma of the “Nazi-Götterdämmerung,” and the subsequent second World War.

If literary critics have found the drama in question opaque, it is because its psychological message has never been adequately explored.


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