This monograph details Gutzkow’s recurring use of performance-within-the-play as a means of encouraging an active, political response by the audience. He incorporates an internal audience viewing a performance on stage in order to model an ideal of dramatic reception for the audiences of his own play. Gutzkow structures the narrative contextualization of these performances as reflections of specific issues in the German states of the
Vormärz. Beginning with an overview of theoretical and literary texts from the 1830s, this study traces Gutzkow’s transferral of self-reflexive structures from his novels of this decade into his first staged play,
Richard Savage (1839), and on through
Das Urbild des Tartüffe (1844) and
Uriel Acosta (1845). It concludes by portraying
Der Königsleutnant (1849) as a transitional work that shows Gutzkow’s decision to return to the novel as a consequence of the failure of his plays to attain the reception he intended. By using the coherency of the communicated message instead of fealty to aesthetic norms as the evaluative criteria for discussing Gutzkow’s plays, the book exposes an innovative mode of specifically literary social criticism in these works that complements their traditional assessment as documentation of the cultural history of Liberalism in this period.