Public demand for comedy has always been high in the German-speaking countries, but the number of comic dramas that have survived is relatively small. Those which are still read or regularly performed all have a serious purpose, and this collection of fourteen essays on the most distinguished of them shows how laughter can be exploited to treat personal, moral, and social problems in a way that would not be possible in tragedy. The texts range from the seventeenth to the late twentieth century, and no fewer than half of them are by Austrian writers. The contributors show how these plays are often subversive, regularly arousing an uncomfortable, self-challenging laughter, and how they treat such widely ranging subjects as language and communication, the complications of the sex drive, the inflexibility of the Prussian mind, and the behaviour of Austrian celebrities during the Third Reich.
The essays are all written by specialists in the field and were originally delivered as lectures in the University of Cambridge.
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2006. 245 pp.
Contents: Peter Hutchinson: Introduction – Charlotte Woodford: Gryphius, Peter Squentz – H. B. Nisbet: Lessing, Minna
von Barnhelm – Michael Minden: Kleist, Der zerbrochne Krug – Ian Roe: Grillparzer, Weh dem, der lügt! –
Andrew Webber: Büchner, Leonce und Lena – W. E. Yates: Nestroy, Einen Jux will er sich machen – Roger Paulin:
Hauptmann, Der Biberpelz – Martin Swales: Schnitzler, Reigen – Edward Timms: Kraus, Die letzten Tage der
Menschheit – Robert Vilain: Hofmannsthal, Der Schwierige – Mary Stewart: Zuckmayer, Der Hauptmann von Köpenick
– Peter Hutchinson: Dürrenmatt, Der Besuch der alten Dame – J. J. Long: Bernhard, Die Macht der Gewohnheit –
Allyson Fiddler: Jelinek, Burgtheater.