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Marriage and Divorce in the Plays of Hermann Sudermann

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Karl Leydecker

This study investigates Sudermann's plays from a socio-historical and literary-historical perspective. His plays are a response to a crisis of marriage. That crisis had its roots in the Romantic period and came to a head when the conservative Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch was introduced in 1900. Of particular significance is Es lebe das Leben (1902). The manuscripts of this play reveal that here Sudermann moved from a Realist treatment of marital difficulties to an exploration of the crisis of the realist literary system and a search for a Modernist treatment of divorce. His plays on marriage, divorce, courtship and the problems of single men and women constitute a sustained attempt to modify or at times radically to challenge the presentation of marriage in the Realist literary system.
Contents: The ideology and law of marriage 1794-1900 - The crisis of marriage c. 1900 - The ambivalent presentation of marriage crises, divorce, courtship and elective affinity in Sudermann's plays - Sudermann's plays on marriage viewed as a modified Realist system.