______________________________

Frank Wedekind
 
CASTLE WETTERSTEIN
 
A Play in Three Acts
______________________________
 
Translated by Ian Johnston
Vancouver Island University, British Columbia
2017
 
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE

 

This translation is based upon the German text of Scholß Wetterstein, published in Munich in 1920 by Georg Müller Verlag. In the following English text all stage directions and character descriptions are taken from the German text. Unless otherwise stated, all endnotes are provided by the translator. For any comments or questions about this English text, please contact Ian Johnston.
 
Teachers, students, and performing arts companies are free to use this translation without advance permission and without charge and to edit or adapt it freely to suit their purposes. Commercial publication of this translation in any form, however, is not permitted without the written consent of the translator. 

The translator gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance of a previous translation of Castle Wetterstein by Stephen Spender (London: Calder and Boyars, 1972).
 
To access the German text use the following link: Schloß Wetterstein. This translation is available in a Word (Rich Text Format) at the following address: Wetterstein [RTF]

 

 

CASTLE WETTERSTEIN
 
Dedicated to
Kurt Martens
author of “Caritas Mimi”(1)
 
AUTHOR’S PREFACE

 

The play Castle Wetterstein contains my views about the inner needs that are the foundation of marriage and family. Thus, the dramatic material, the events, and the progress of the plot are of purely secondary importance. Their improbability was necessary because I needed wide spaces and freedom of movement to make room for my ideas. More importantly, I required dramatic intensity and effective staging. I would request, with all due respect, that critics refrain from forming a judgment about this play’s qualities or deficiencies until they can base their views on an actual production. If this work is censored, that would not surprise me, since it would be nothing more than a logically necessary outcome of the notorious indifference and stupidity characteristic of all our public life.

 

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

 

Rüdiger, Baron Wetterstein
Leonore von Gystrow
Effie, her daughter
Meinrad Luckner
Karl Salzmann
Professor Dr. Scharlach
Waldemar Uhlhorst
Matthais Taubert
Schigabet
Heiri Wipf
Chagnaral Tschamper of Atakama
Van Zeeter, manager of a hotel
Duvoisin, a police inspector
Housemaid
Waiter
Two policemen.

 

ACT ONE
 
SCENE ONE(2)

 

[Leonore, thirty-two years old, lies asleep on the sofa. She wakes up, yawns, rubs her eyes, and sits up.]
 
LEONORE

What novel have I been reading? . . . “European Slave Life” . . . [sitting up straight on the sofa] . . . and I dreamed of him again. . . . Once I’ve drunk my tea, I won’t need to think about him anymore. [She stands up and rings a bell.] Then I’ll once again be sure how I’m supposed to deal with my dream life.(3)

 

[A housemaid enters.]

 

HOUSEMAID

Madam Major rang?

 

LEONORE

The tea.

 

[The housemaid exits.]

 

LEONORE

God knows, it seems to me he can’t get along without me either, even now.

 

[Effie, fifteen-years old, enters.]

 

EFFIE

You’ve called for tea, Mother. Did you sleep well?

 

LEONORE

Who’s been telling you I was asleep?

 

EFFIE

I didn’t mean to upset you. Most people sleep in the afternoon. Tell me, Mother dear, would you allow me to go to the theatre next Sunday with Gertrude Rickenbach?

 

LEONORE

You’re talking to me, my child, as if I you and I were complete strangers.

 

EFFIE

Yes, probably. The most important thing for me in the next few years is not to be a stranger to myself.

 

LEONORE

I don’t understand what you mean by that.

 

EFFIE

Anyway, right now there is nothing more important for me than to make a good marriage.

 

LEONORE

That’s obviously true, my child. And for you, I hope, that can be done without too much trouble.

 

EFFIE

Don’t concern yourself at all about it, Mother. I think of nothing else day and night. Here’s the tea.

 

[The housemaid brings in the tea and exits.]

 

LEONORE [pouring the tea]

For a woman everything always depends upon not demeaning herself by her marriage. A woman who feels unhappy in her marriage always has only herself to blame.

 

EFFIE

So why won’t you allow me to go to the theatre on Sunday?

 

LEONORE

Effie, I’m dumbfounded. Have you completely forgotten your father already?

 

EFFIE

If I don’t go to the theatre on Sunday, that won’t bring father back to us.

 

LEONORE

This incredible silliness of yours involves you a lot more than it does your father. The respect people pay you will never be greater than the honour you show your father. You will be called your father’s child. What could be better than that?

 

EFFIE

Half of me is. The other half of me is the child of my mother.

 

LEONORE

That’s not going to interest anyone.

 

EFFIE

To tell the truth, I don’t think I suffer from pride or conceit, but if I’m anything at all, then I am at least one thing thanks to you, Mother dear, and that’s a good match.

 

LEONORE

For us women that is something to consider only as advertising, nothing more. A prudent woman would rather watch all her possessions being squandered in cold blood than ever claim them as her personal assets.

 

EFFIE [blithely]

Then, dear Mother, it’s all the more necessary for us to perfect our feminine virtues and capabilities as early as possible.

 

LEONORE

I completely agree with you. We women cannot value our feminine assets highly enough.

 

EFFIE

Then why shouldn’t I go to the theatre next Sunday?

 

LEONORE

How can you ask me something like that? We’re in mourning!

 

EFFIE

It will soon be a year and half!

 

LEONORE

Quite apart from the fact that you could be seen by someone in the theatre. So long as you’re my daughter, I will simply not tolerate how you so lightheartedly overlook your father’s death.

 

EFFIE [after a pause]

You do realize, mother, that Gertrude von Rickenbach is appearing on stage in person.

 

LEONORE

I heard about it. As far as she’s concerned, it’s the best thing she can do. Her father squanders everything, and her mother’s conduct cuts her out completely from marrying someone in her own class.

 

EFFIE

But suppose I get it into my head to shake off all concerns for our class with one energetic shrug of my shoulders, completely forget about getting married to someone in our circle, and simply go on the stage myself?

 

LEONORE [simply and easily]

I’d be sorry, Effie, but then you would no longer be my daughter.

 

EFFIE

Of course, you are totally convinced that I lack the slightest talent as an actress?

 

LEONORE

Why on earth should I think that? That’s completely foolish. First, we women are by nature born actresses, because a woman who does not pretend cannot make any man happy. Second, you come from a noble family. You already have in your flesh and blood the vast majority of those talents people admire as theatrical art in the poor creatures who earn a living in the theatre. But let me mention one point, Effie: Anyone who allows herself to be shown off in public for money does not belong in society. I will certainly not deny that there may well be women in theatre who do nothing wrong. But gentlemen I know tell me these women are exceptions. In theatre, for reasons having to do with business, everything is always purposefully designed as if all the audience members are just as disgraceful and warped as the people putting on the production.

 

EFFIE

I have always been totally convinced that a theatre show must be much more enjoyable for those putting it on than for those watching it.

 

LEONORE

That’s exactly what’s so undignified about it. Acting is a profession in which people get paid to enjoy themselves. No decent person does that.

 

EFFIE

But doesn’t a woman also do that when she gets married?

 

LEONORE

I don’t understand what you mean.

 

EFFIE

What I mean is that by marrying she lets herself get paid for her own pleasure.

 

LEONORE

She lets herself get paid? By whom?

 

EFFIE

By her husband, naturally. Who else?

 

LEONORE

God forbid! What are you thinking! In a marriage, the woman does not let herself get paid for her pleasures any more than her husband does. They both do what they do for each other for nothing.

 

EFFIE

That’s strange. I’d always imagined it as entirely different.

 

LEONORE

You are obviously confusing two activities which have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. In my parents’ house in Hamburg we had visits from actors. It’s true. But they were merely tolerated. They were there on sufferance. Naturally, in exchange for that they had to take care of the required entertainment. But people did not let them get closer than was socially unavoidable and necessary. What play is being produced on Sunday?

 

EFFIE

“The Wild Duck.”

 

LEONORE

I don’t know it. I’ve never heard of it.

 

ESSIE

It’s by Ibsen.

 

LEONORE

Good heavens! Isn’t he the northern barbarian who’s been dragging marriage and the family through the mud and saying that all decent people are insane?(4)

 

EFFIE

My dear Mother, you don’t have the slightest idea how ill-informed you are! Ibsen is in fashion!

 

LEONORE

Really?

 

EFFIE

The court goes to the theatre when Ibsen is playing. The only reason you don’t like Ibsen is that father always criticized him in such a snide way. But I’m firmly convinced that nowadays father would speak about him quite differently.

 

LEONORE

Really? Are you sure of that?

 

EFFIE

Today father would say: Ibsen! My word, what a splendid fellow!

 

LEONORE

All right, Effie, tell me this: What does he really write about? Can you explain it to me in a few words?

 

EFFIE

He always writes more or less about what we ourselves have lived through.

 

LEONORE

You mean what he has lived through?

 

EFFIE

No, what we’ve lived through! We! You and I sitting here!

 

LEONORE

How does he know about that?

 

EFFIE

God knows. I didn’t tell him anything!

 

LEONORE

But then he can’t be dragging family life through the mud, can he?

 

EFFIE [cautiously]

Well, father was unfaithful to you . . .

 

LEONORE [straightening up indignantly]

How dare you, child! What a thing to say!

 

EFFIE [smiling]

How dare I, dear Mother? I dare answer your question as politely as a young girl possibly can.

 

LEONORE

Be quiet, I tell you! No young girl speaks the way you did just now!

 

EFFIE [with a gentle smile]

I can’t let anyone doubt that I’m still a young girl, Mother dear, if I’m to marry a man from our social circles. Least of all you, because, of course, everyone says that you are best placed to know all there is to know about me. In fact, I am still a young girl. Or has anyone told you something different about me?

 

LEONORE

No. So far as I know, no one is spreading any gossip about you.

 

EFFIE

Well, God knows, I don’t take any pride in that. But for me the most important task by far in my life now is to be a young girl. That’s why I surely have a certain right to speak up for myself.

 

LEONORE

That may be so, but you have all the more reason to honour the memory of your father and not to keep insulting him in his grave.

 

EFFIE [smiling]

Mother, do you really think what I said is such a terrible insult to him?

 

LEONORE

You are inhuman! I beg you, Effie, never speak to me anymore in my lifetime about this disgrace! Since the days of our marriage your father’s life was honourable. That was my pride—it meant everything to me! Or . . . or . . .

 

ESSIE

Or?

 

LEONORE

That’s something the human mind simply cannot grasp! Or he must have been cheating on me from the first day we met! No! No! No! I have forgiven him, because I understood him inside and out. And because I understood myself. This trust I had in him and in myself—I will not let any power in heaven and earth rob me of that now that he is dead.

 

ESSIE [stands up, embraces Leonore, and kisses her]

You are so amazingly beautiful, Mother, when you get upset about father. All the love I feel for you will not get me to ask you to forgive me.

 

LEONORE [dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief]

I can’t describe how much you’ve hurt me with you heartless cruelty!

 

EFFIE

Don’t be angry with me anymore, Mother. In that finishing school in Lausanne with Madam Duplan, no one uttered a single word about when women are to be blocks of wood and when they are to be sensitive plants. But trust me, Mother, I’ll learn soon enough.

 

LEONORE

Leave me alone, my child. I feel like a fish on dry sand. My feelings are overwhelming me from every side.

 

EFFIE

May I kiss your hand, Mother?

 

LEONORE

Kiss me on the mouth!

 

[Effie gives her mother a quick kiss on the mouth.]

 

LEONORE [drawing back]

Child!

 

EFFIE

What is it, mother?

 

LEONORE

You must get married as soon as possible.

 

EFFIE [cheerfully]

I’ll be able to manage that perfectly. Cheer up, mother. I may really surprise you even yet.

 

[Effie exits.]
 
LEONORE [with a sigh]

Thank God! I know I’ve been irritable with you. [She takes the open book from the sofa] “European Slave Life.” So who wrote this? [She turns to the title page] Hackländer! Perhaps I’d prefer to read Ibsen next. With any luck he understands how to interpret dreams. [She lies on the sofa and reads. There is a knock on the door.] Come in!

 

SCENE TWO

 

[The Housemaid enters silently with a silver tray and brings a calling card to Leonore]

 

LEONORE [reading the card]

Doctor Thilo von Chrysander — Court Chaplain retired — Consistorial Councillor — [to the Housemaid] A moment! [She sits down in front of a mirror, carefully arranges her hair, and then gets up] I’ll see him now.(5)

 

[The Housemaid leaves. Rüdiger enters quickly. He is twenty-seven years old and dressed in elegant formal clothes. Leonore threatens to lose her composure.]

 

RÜDIGER

Stay calm. You can trust your eyes. I am not a double of myself. I am me. No fainting, all right? Prove to me now that my unshakeable trust in your indomitable strength is not misplaced!

 

 LEONORE [struggling with all her strength to regain her composure]

God . . . my God . . . how am I to survive this?

 

RÜDIGER

So you are not going to throw me out? [Leonore stares at him without moving.] Think about it! You are not throwing me out?

 

LEONORE

I . . . words fail me . . .

 

RÜDIGER

It would take only one word from you! [Leonore does not answer.] My thanks for that are infinite—like your generosity. [Speaking very cautiously] Now I’m asking you to listen to me for a moment.

 

LEONORE [collecting herself]

You find yourself . . . naturally . . . in some sort of . . . difficulty. You need my . . . help . . .

 

RÜDIGER

Yes, very much so.

 

LEONORE

Talk.

 

RUDIGER

Wouldn’t you like to sit?

 

LEONORE

That will not be necessary.

 

RÜDIGER

All right. We’ll be sitting down soon enough.

 

LEONORE

Please get to the point.

 

RÜDIGER

I have come just as I am now straight from the fortress. You know that I was punished with a six-month sentence. If the military court had not been an empty formality, they would have had to sentence me to life in prison.

 

LEONORE

Why are you saying this to me? To me? You, the murderer of my husband, you presume too much . . . . Perhaps you are afraid that my despair might not have been sufficiently heartbreaking?

 

RÜDIGER

I am afraid of something more serious. I fear you are committing an injustice against the deceased.

 

LEONORE

You, the man who murdered him, are afraid that I, his poor wife, am being unjust to him? Do not imagine I’ll put up with your inhuman mockery a moment longer!

 

RÜDIGER

If the memory of your husband is dear to you, and your instinctive anger convinces me it is, then you will thank me from the very bottom of your heart for being so extraordinarily bold.

 

LEONORE

Thank you? Me?! Does the most brutal feeling not tell you what . . . what a monster you are in my eyes? I loved my husband! You probably have no idea what that means. It is impossible for me to forget how much cheerfulness, strength, and patience I have sacrificed. Not that I am complaining. Heaven forbid! What was I until he finally made a woman out of me, one worthy of his love. Then I found my happiness in his happiness. What pleased him kindled my enthusiasm. What pained him I would have obliterated from the face of the earth without thinking about it. And I loved with such fire and hated so implacably that I thought of myself as the most heroic woman who had ever lived. And now the man who murdered him is saying I’m being unjust to the deceased.

 

RUDIGER

Of course you are unjust to the Major if you honour in him nothing more noble than those merits which every wife has to see in her husband, if she is not going to start looking around for another man.

 

LEONORE

How dare you make that claim about me?! — Do you imagine I could have made do with an ordinary man?! God knows, there were enough men who wanted me! But when I think back on them, merciful God, what shoddy goods they were in comparison with him. The infinite depth of his heart was something I had never anticipated, something an ordinary man simply cannot imagine. And his nobility! His inexhaustible generosity to me! And all his life he was the most competent in every field. The best horseman! The most charming companion! If people talked of military service or campaigns, I never saw anyone whose argument prevailed against his.

 

RÜDIGER

When his wife is present, that is surely obvious!

 

LEONORE

You attribute these virtues to me?! If so, you are simply demonstrating you had no idea of the stature of the man you murdered.

 

RÜDIGER

Now you are offering proof that you are wronging him.

 

LEONORE [after recovering from her amazement]

You are displaying an unmatched insolence.

 

RÜDIGER

Should I consider Major Gystrow especially honorable because his own wife considers him the most marvellous man who ever lived?

 

LEONORE

What you say seems to me like the words of a mental patient.

 

RÜDIGER

I can see no higher value in that than I could if he had wanted to think it particularly virtuous of you that no other woman had loved him more devotedly than you did.

 

LEONORE [rigid with astonishment]

What finer thing can you say about a married woman than that she loves her husband above everything else?

 

RÜDIGER

That’s nothing but natural history. I could, for example, say about her that she is the epitome of youthful freshness. That she has an intelligent mind which, if she can freely develop it, would think nothing sacred other than crystal clear, inexorable reason. I could say of her that her powers of perception work with an agility which is rarely encountered, even among men. But, above all, I can say of her that such a tempestuous passion lies chained up inside her that from childhood on she has only dreamt with divine trembling of the moment when she can see her ridiculously small ego and its domestic misery sink once and for all deep into the abyss beneath her.

 

LEONORE

And would you let yourself be seduced by such sinister devilish tricks and force you into the clutches of such a weird person? You, a man who claims to be someone? All those things you find so admirable in this paragon—those are the very things you could not fight ruthlessly enough, if your life were not to become a living hell! Other than our birth and our death, marriage is the most inexorable thing we creaturers are subjected to. If you consider yourself an exception, then you’ll have to pay for that in your marriage with extreme disagreements and humiliations.

 

RÜDIGER [smiling]

You have no idea how comical your fears sound to me. If I feel myself demeaned then I need only turn my back. Then I’ll find the highest esteem I could wish for. By the way, I completely forgot to tell you one of the most beautiful qualities of my chosen one.

 

LEONORE

Then say it! What are you waiting for?

 

RÜDIGER

The woman I adore would go to her death for the man she loves.

 

LEONORE

If you love your own life, then guard yourself against such a woman. A woman who would go to her death for her husband would also go after him with a bullet through the chest, the moment she felt he had insulted her.

 

RÜDIGER

Then why didn’t you shoot the Major?

 

LEONORE

Why did I not murder my husband? You can ask that?

 

RÜDIGER

But he insulted you!

 

LEONORE

Because I loved him! Who does the slightest harm to a person he loves? But even if I had wanted to kill him ten times over, he was cold and stiff by the time I received the report of his misconduct. You were too quick for me, forcing him in that treacherous way to face your dreadful murder weapon.

 

RÜDIGER

Out of respect for the Major, I must stipulate that the bullet from a soldier is at least as deadly as one from a reservist.

 

LEONORE [getting angry]

Do not make jokes about his fate in this house! I am the guardian of his memory, and I will not permit it! A man like you should never challenge anyone to a duel with pistols. You, a man who is known as someone who once earned his living with public displays of his skill shooting a revolver!

 

RÜDIGER

For me this moment is too sacred to spend defending myself against groundless suspicions printed in the newspapers. If the rumour you mention had been confirmed, I would not have been condemned to the fortress but to prison, perhaps even to the penitentiary. Of course, you know as well as I do that I was not free to make any sort of choice. If I had not challenged the Major, then today I would be a man without honour.

 

LEONORE

What do I care about your honour!

 

RÜDIGER

But I care about it! For example, I could not possibly have faced you like this at all.

 

LEONORE

Could not possibly . . . face me . . . What gives you the slightest justification to do this? In spite of everything I still find that incomprehensible.

 

RÜDIGER

We are partners in suffering! Thanks to your husband I have lost my woman.

 

LEONORE

You mean your wife? I congratulate you on your loss! Your wife threw herself at my husband’s feet like a wild creature that could no longer find mercy in any human soul! On the evening of that winter day my husband was buried, I found letters from your wife in which she signed herself “Your slave.” What do you have to mourn in a wife who exposes a man like you to ridicule, in order to destroy the happiness of another woman who during her life has never harmed her in the slightest?

 

RÜDIGER

I was legally divorced from her four weeks ago. Both my children were, of course, put into my custody. I have just handed them over to my wife’s mother for her to raise.

 

LEONORE

And what will become of her now?

 

RÜDIGER

Of whom?

 

LEONORE

Of the most unfortunate creature on God’s earth! How miserable things must now look inside this wretched soul! Everything, even the last most pitiful happiness, gambled away! But such changelings deserve nothing better than to be destroyed. Life would be blissful happiness without limit, if these dismal mischief makers did not spread their poison from below!

 

RÜDIGER

My divorced wife was not that degenerate. She did not give herself away out of mindless frivolity. She let herself be seduced by her ill-advised malice. She believed I had cheated on her, because someone had falsely told her I was behaving suspiciously.

 

LEONORE

She was told you were acting suspiciously? What does that mean?

 

RÜDIGER

Someone wrote her anonymous letters in which he told her that in the evenings I spent with my friends I was visiting a dancer from the Olympia Theatre.

 

LEONORE

And on the basis of this hocus pocus, my husband is supposed to have let himself be ensnared by this person as a substitute?! As a substitute! You dare say that to my face?!

 

RÜDIGER

I am very sorry about it, madam, but you are still being unjust to the Major.

 

LEONORE

Are you going to make some sort of claim that he would have had to wait until your wife was desperate if he ever had a mind to spend time with other women?!

 

RÜDIGER

All his life the Major could have had any woman he wanted. That’s obvious. But since he was your husband, he would have only experienced the most pathetic disappointment every time. What he found interesting about my former wife was the similarity between his heartfelt sadness and hers. He was looking for consolation.

 

LEONORE

Why consolation, if he felt so happy with me?!

 

RÜDIGER

Someone made him suspect you.

 

LEONORE

Suspect me?!

 

RÜDIGER

Someone wrote letters to him containing undeniable proof that you were being unfaithful to him.

 

LEONORE

Me?! That I was being . . . ?! Almighty God! And he believed that?!

 

RÜDIGER

He was an honest man. He did not overestimate his own qualities.

 

LEONORE [crying out]

No, no! That’s impossible! He cannot have doubted me for a moment!

 

RÜDIGER

He had doubts, and they made him desperate.

 

LEONORE

He cannot have had doubts! That’s unreasonable! No, no! Now he can no longer speak for himself, I will not permit any living person to try to convince me of it.

 

RÜDIGER

In an emergency, reason is always the first comrade to cut and run. If he had thought about these suspicions dispassionately, he would just as dispassionately have set about investigating them. Then it would have been extremely easy for him to realize they were false. But his love for you made it completely impossible for him to put any faith in the insinuations even for an instant. All that was left for him was the immense pain of seeing his life’s happiness destroyed.

 

LEONORE

But am I a block of wood?! In those last weeks before that New Year’s morning I lived by his side in unsuspecting happiness. How could I not have felt the slightest sign of his distrust and his confusion, of all his harrowing ordeal?

 

RÜDIGER

He was a soldier. He controlled himself. The least sign of his torment would have led to a quarrel with you, and he lacked the courage necessary for that. In the meantime, the agonizing pretense in his own house drove him to the house of my former wife, where he found a woman with the most candid and honest understanding of his situation.

 

LEONORE

So that was it! It’s true! Something as horrible as this has never happened before! He could not believe for a minute that I . . . that I would hurt him in the slightest! And with this image in his mind he entered the fight and stood face to face with death! It’s simply unimaginable how appalling his despair must have been. With a curse against me he took up his weapon. With a curse against me he sank to his knees. Then he was not even murdered—he was seeking death! And I’m his murderer! What in the world did people tell him about me?

 

RÜDIGER

How should I know that?

 

LEONORE [crying out]

You know! I see it in your face! Tell me!

 

RÜDIGER

You cannot listen to that now.

 

LEONORE

Haven’t I already heard the worst? Do you mean to keep me like this, still stretched out on the rack? What did people tell him about me?

 

RÜDIGER

It is too absurd for you to listen to at such a serious moment.

 

LEONORE

So you do know?

 

RÜDIGER

Yes.

 

LEONORE

Almighty God, how do you know all these terrible details?

 

RÜDIGER

From the sessions of the military court, which took place behind closed doors. They naturally took extreme care to hide these unpleasant facts from you.

 

LEONORE

Then the tribunal was a dishonest pretense! Why was I not summoned to appear?

 

RÜDIGER

Your innocence was completely beyond doubt.

 

LEONORE
    But did the proceedings not establish who wrote the letters that destroyed two unsuspecting families?

 

RÜDIGER

No, they did not discover that. But I came here to reveal that to you.

 

LEONORE [apprehensively]

Stop talking! I implore you by Almighty God: do not say another word! I am not strong enough to listen to such appalling details.

 

RÜDIGER

I was the one who wrote the letters.

 

LEONORE [crying out]

No, no — that’s not true!

 

RÜDIGER

Do I appear to you incapable of such a thing?

 

LEONORE [wide-eyed, staring at him]

No! You were capable of it!

 

RÜDIGER

And now I’m asking you to become my wife.

 

LEONORE

I . . . saw that . . . coming.

 

RÜDIGER

For five full years, day after day, night after night, in my heart I have dreamed of no other goal. When I met you five years ago, at first sight I had the unshakeable conviction I could not find a person with a soul as passionate and great as yours a second time in this life. One victory today has already validated my conviction. You are indeed the wife I have been fighting for in the past five years. Now I am no longer afraid to take responsibility for my actions. The victims have not fallen in vain.

 

LEONORE

Leave my house.

 

RÜDIGER

What is the point of that now? You underestimate the significance of this moment. You underestimate the power you have in your hands. One word from you will be enough to send me to the penitentiary.

 

LEONORE

Is that true? Do you swear that’s true? Or are you trying to with my confidence with this pretense?

 

RÜDIGER

Whether that is true or not, either way your duty is now clear beyond a doubt. As the wife of the dead man, you have an obligatory and sacred duty to declare in public everything you have found out.

 

LEONORE

And then?

 

RÜDIGER

Then I will surrender to my fate. Why not?

 

LEONORE [with an enormous effort to control herself]

Go! Leave here! I do not know you! I have not understood a single word you’ve been saying. Do you want me to call for help?

 

RÜDIGER

Your tone is not genuine. Why not simply ring the bell?

 

LEONORE

In any case, I don’t understand why the noise we’ve been making hasn’t disturbed anyone.

 

RÜDIGER

Now you simply need to make a choice between fulfilling your most sacred duty—denouncing me—and the decision to become my wife. Please make up your mind.

 

LEONORE

Your words are nothing more than the most horrible braggadocio. I am not going to be browbeaten by monstrous apparitions. I don’t see the slightest compelling reason why I should choose between two fires of hell.

 

RÜDIGER

I assure you there is no third option available to you. As strong as you may be, you will not be able to keep my secret. You will hint at something, and your sister-in-law or someone else will burn with curiosity. You will be given no peace. You will feel relieved of a hellish burden, and I—I will be regretting my stupidity.

 

LEONORE

You are right! You are perfectly right! No one can keep silent about something so monstrous!

 

RÜDIGER

No one except my wife! For five years you’ve been my accomplice.

 

LEONORE

I keep hoping that this business of accusing yourself comes down to some sort of blackmail.

 

RÜDIGER

To the greatest thing you have to give!

 

LEONORE

Then finally, for God’s sake, state a specific amount!

 

RÜDIGER

You know I want you to be my wife.

 

LEONORE

Yes, yes. Of course, you want that, don’t you? That way the amount of money will end up being as large as possible! I will purchase my freedom from you. I offer you . . . fifty thousand marks!

 

RÜDIGER

That’s too little.

 

LEONORE

Fifty-five thousand . . .

 

RÜDIGER

Those are just empty words.

 

LEONORE

I have more than that.

 

RÜDIGER

You cannot possibly give away ten percent of your entire wealth.

 

LEONORE

What will it take for you to settle?

 

RÜDIGER

What I want is for you to become my wife.

 

LEONORE

I should marry the murderer of my husband?

 

RÜDIGER

The man who up to this point has made the greatest sacrifice for you.

 

LEONORE

That would be a torture chamber of a marriage!

 

RÜDIGER

There’s no such thing as a torture chamber of a marriage. People either love each other, or they separate! Most healthy people become happy couples. Why shouldn’t we become a happy couple? Marriage is not being bound up in chains, except for those mental cripples who think that’s what it means. If I cannot adore my wife, then someone should steal her from me.

 

LEONORE

Almighty Heaven! The chivalry of a horse trader! And I am to belong to you on the basis of this confession?

 

RÜDIGER

You are not to belong to me! You belong to yourself! Marriage is there for people, not people for marriage! Your happiness, your free development—those are the most sacred goals of our life together.

 

LEONORE

That is admittedly a new goal for me! A surprising goal! But you! To whom do you belong then! Don’t you belong to me?

 

RÜDIGER

To far greater degree, at least, than you belong to me. Have you forgotten that already?

 

LEONORE

If only that is true! — I ask myself that over and over again. Or are you boasting of vile acts other people have committed?

 

RÜDIGER

Now you need only ask me whether I could want you for my wife because of your possessions!

 

LEONORE [quickly]

God forbid! No, no, I have no desire to offend you. That is completely beyond me. — But what if after our wedding it turns out that you were nothing but a husband who had been betrayed . . . ?

 

RÜDIGER

Permit me, madam, to be on my way.

 

LEONORE

You’ve forgotten where you're going?

 

RÜDIGER

What concern is that of yours?

 

LEONORE

Stay here!

 

RÜDIGER

Only if you give me a down payment!

 

LEONORE

What does that mean?

 

RÜDIGER

A guaranteed pledge.

 

LEONORE

What are you demanding?

 

RÜDIGER

If I have to ask for it first, then there’s not much here for me to win.

 

LEONORE

Then help yourself.

 

RÜDIGER [turning around at the door]

I will not force myself on anyone!

 

LEONORE [runs to him and throws her arms around his neck]

Here I am! Here I am!

 

RÜDIGER [kissing her]

I’m holding in my arms the prize for victory in the five-year struggle!

 

LEONORE

Aren’t you afraid of a woman who lets herself be kissed by the murderer of her husband?

 

RÜDIGER [smiling]

Perhaps I should be feared less than you? — We are a match for one another. Neither one of us has an advantage over the other.

 

LEONORE

What if you now come across a woman in whom you find all the charm and attractive qualities you have always valued in women. Will you then betray me with her?

 

RÜDIGER

No, no, my child. You need not expect such boorishness from me.

 

LEONORE

Why is that boorish? When I asked my first husband about that, he shrugged his shoulders and let me know that the truth of the matter was he would be prepared to do that at any moment. I always used to quietly give thanks to Heaven that in reality things had not yet come to that. And, God knows, even now I’d still stake my life on it — the lapse which cost him his life was his first and only lapse during our marriage.

 

RÜDIGER

Of that I’m absolutely certain.

 

LEONORE

So after our first kiss, you look me right in the eye and tell me with an impartiality people only use when they are speaking of historical facts that you will never betray me?!

 

RÜDIGER

If I betray my wife, then I have a wife who lets herself be betrayed. Joking about the experience does not help one get over it. If my wife allows me—whom she counts upon for her happiness—to betray her, then she will inevitably be betrayed in the same way by all the rest of the world. That market woman who sells her a partridge will betray her. Who has the partridge served to him? Who has to struggle to force the partridge down? Who has to pay for the partridge?

 

LEONORE

Excellent! Now can you also tell me what emerges from this chain of reasoning if you turn it around? If I betray you . . . ?

 

RÜDIGER

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for gander! If you betray me, then you have definitely married a man who allows himself to be betrayed. And by a woman, too. My business friends will not need to be told twice. They will look on you as an illuminating example. In a very short time I’ll have been cheated of the last shirt on my back, and if you do not wish to become a beggar, you’ll have every reason to look around you as quickly as you can for another partner in life.

 

LEONORE [clapping her hands]

Bravo! You are the first person on God’s earth from whom I have heard a truly human word about these highly dangerous matters. [She kisses him]. You’re a jack of all trades! In our circles when these questions arise all we hear are either dirty stories or biblical quotations.

 

 RÜDIGER

Human feelings speak an infernally thievish jargon. Whoever trusts their gibberish is sold off and betrayed.

 

LEONORE

So do you really think the wife has just as much right to be unfaithful as the husband?

 

RÜDIGER

That’s not my view of it at all. I simply believe that the wife has as much right to be unfaithful as her husband’s lover does. It’s self-evident that the husband has an unimaginably greater right to be unfaithful than the wife! That’s an irrefutable fact! But there are no circumstances in which he has a greater right to be unfaithful than his wife’s lover has.

 

LEONORE

That is an amazing revelation! Never in my life would I have imagined that the world was arranged in a way so easy to understand! Where do you get all these pearls of wisdom?

 

RÜDIGER

From my experience. I have always found that mutual infidelity, when both parties are completely honest, leads to the most pleasant and comfortable parting of the ways. But in the process both of them, of course, lose all the fruits of their earlier efforts. They tear open one hole in order to fill in another.

 

LEONORE

What do you mean?

 

RÜDIGER

Each of them shrugs off one burden in order to take on another.

 

LEONORE

Ah, I see!

 

RÜDIGER

What do you think I meant?

 

LEONORE

I thought you were speaking personally.

 

RÜDIGER

You can construe my words however you like. The main thing is that they’re still true!

 

LEONORE [she embraces and kisses him]
    Marvellous! Marvellous! Marvellous! — Whoever can speak like that is allowed everything, is forgiven everything!

 

RÜDIGER

Be mine!

 

LEONORE

Take me! [A prolonged ringing sounds from the hall] What’s that? Who’s ringing the bell so rudely?

 

RÜDIGER

Are we the only ones at home?

 

LEONORE [smiling]

The Major!

 

RÜDIGER

I tell you, you are doing him an injustice.

 

LEONORE

Me? How?

 

RÜDIGER

We should leave him to rest in peace!

 

LEONORE [listening]

I think the girl has gone to open the door.

 

RÜDIGER

After all, he has not harmed us.

 

LEONORE

All of a sudden, I feel so strange here, as if the entire house was falling apart.

 

 

SCENE THREE

 

[Effie, wearing a hat and coat, enters quickly, runs to her mother, and flings her arms around her mother’s neck]
 
EFFIE

Mother, Mother, I’ve become engaged!

 

LEONORE

You, as well! But you’re still much too young for that!

 

EFFIE

But you told me I had to get married as quickly as I could . . . [noticing Rüdiger] . . . O my God! A ghost! On the day of my engagement!

 

LEONORE [introducing Rüdiger]

Rüdiger von Wetterstein, my husband-to-be.

 

RÜDIGER

There is not the slightest reason, my dear young lady, for you to draw back from me. Until you are married, the engagement between your mother and me will obviously remain a secret.

 

EFFIE

Mother, mother? — I don’t know — Am I still alive? — Or am I dreaming?

 

LEONORE

That how all fifteen-year-old girls feel.

 

EFFIE

Is that true, Mother?

 

RÜDIGER

Since you are engaged to be married yourself, you would have soon been separated from your mother anyway.

 

LEONORE

Who are you engaged to?

 

EFFIE

I can’t bring myself to say it . . .

 

RÜDIGER

You can be certain, my dear young lady, that I regret the death of your father as profoundly as if in his death I had killed my own father. But now, my dear young lady, after you have lost your father, do you wish to lose your mother, as well? If your mother does not like the man you have just this minute chosen, would that make you send him on his way? Can you expect your mother to banish the man she has chosen for herself for your sake?

 

EFFIE [kissing her mother’s hand]

I wish you happiness, my dear Mother. I understand you. You cannot do otherwise. You must like him.

 

LEONORE

What about you, my child?

 

EFFIE [joyfully]

The handsomest man in the world!

 

RÜDIGER

Naturally, that is to be expected. And, more than that, he is also one of the richest.

 

LEONORE [to Effie]

Really? Count D’Armont?

 

EFFIE

I met him in the Platanenallee.(6) I asked him if he really thought the Pope would be coming to Berlin for the Crown Prince’s accession. Then he said, “It is no longer possible for me to imagine I can endure this life without you.” I was totally frank with him and said that to a certain extent, when all is said and done, it was a matter of complete indifference to me who I was married to. Only I could not guarantee that I was particularly well suited to marriage at all. Then he asked me whether he could pay us a visit. “That’s up to you,” I said. If he does not come here by tomorrow noon, the fault will lie with the old Countess. She claims I’m a flirt.

 

RÜDIGER

I know their family doctor. He will have to send her away for a few weeks.

 

EFFIE

How will he manage that?

 

RÜDIGER

He’ll convince her she has heart trouble. Then she’ll move into a sanatorium.

 

EFFIE

You’re a jack of all trades!

 

LEONORE

Effie!

 

EFFIE

What, Mother? I’ve often heard you use that expression.

 

LEONORE

Don’t be angry with me over this, my child. But I must ask you to be a little more respectful.

 

EFFIE [kissing her mother]

You are right, Mother. Of course, it’s not all that easy, but I will try to say “Father.” We women have to stick together.

 

RÜDIGER

Our emotional life consists of overestimating the value of human relationships. Everyone is replaceable.

 

 

ACT TWO
 
SCENE ONE

 

[A richly and elegantly furnished room in the Hotel Beaurivage in Ouchy on the shores of Lake Geneva. In the background there is an open balcony door with a view over the water. It is evening, and the lights are on.]
 
LUCKNER [walking around the room]

That clean-living husband of yours, Rüdiger, Baron von Wetterstein, has, in the course of the past year, embezzled from me diamonds valued at two million. What a god-damned song and dance! [He breaks out in booming laughter]. Sacred cannon fodder! If the baboon had at least buried the diamonds somewhere in the earth! He’s been cramming the stones down the throat of every shady dealer in both hemispheres, like rotten bananas.

 

LEONORE

I find you truly irritating, but in precisely the opposite way you imagine. Do not assume you can look upon Rüdiger and me as your sacrificial victims.

 

LUCKNER

Almighty Panama Canal! [He laughs.] Take a leaf out of my book. The pleasure is costing me a cool two million. Great Brahmaputra! [He laughs again.] Has Wetterstein never chanted our priceless Latin school song for you?
 
Alas, the Maid got such a scare
She could no longer perch up there.
She clutched the stool with all her might,
So she would not fall off in fright.

 

LEONORE

Thank God in Heaven! The monster is completely drunk, at least.

 

LUCKNER

Me . . . drunk? [He laughs.] You really don’t know me at all, do you? No, no, my heavenly sacrificial creature! Even if my father did found the most magnificent brewery company in the Rhineland a thousand times over. But since my earliest youth I’ve been competing with our strongest brewery workers in lifting barrels full of beer. Doing that turns every muscle in one’s entire body into bullet-proof armour plate.

 

LEONORE

Rüdiger has no idea of what was going on around him. Even now, Rüdiger doesn’t have the slightest suspicion of what a monster he is dealing with in you.

 

LUCKNER

Ah well! The very first time we were together in the mines, you, him, and me, back then in Africa,  I could have bullied the fellow out of all your shares in the wink of an eye. But you were standing at his side, gaping up at him like a tortoise at a telegraph pole. So I said to myself: one can only catch such splendid examples of womanhood through the men they love. And he stared at me like a bloated capitalist dismissing a newspaper boy. Heavens above! Great heavens above! Then I said to myself: No, Rüdiger von Wetterstein, we are not going to part from other without a word or two. A woman like this, I told myself, is born only once in a hundred years. The man who does not take her where he finds her, even for two million . . .

 

LEONORE

Are you going to let me speak sensibly to you for a moment?

 

LUCKNER [smiling]

You see, I am a man . . . I am in fact a unique individual! An extraordinary person! For instance, I’d like you to feel, among other things, my head just this once. Posemuckel and Sumatra! Have you ever in your life seen such a gnarled lump on any human body?

 

LEONORE

If Rüdiger remains co-owner of our mines in Jagersfontein, as he has a perfect right to do, then in the course of the next five years he can replenish your diamonds for you right down to the tiniest stone.(7)

 

LUCKER [breaks out in booming laughter]

You see, just like me with my head! Because that’s my weakest spot. A world-famous historical fact, respected by boxers and wrestlers all over the globe. Sailors and butcher’s assistants who don’t give a shit about the police and providence, any more than people like us do about an art gallery, when we fight each other never lay their tiniest finger on my head. Up here, you see, where my hair is most thickly curled, there you can knock me out with a wooden spoon, but other than that . . . holy hailstones! . . . And as for you! Brummfiedel, Pestilence and Armageddon! Your unfathomable emerald-green tiger’s eyes! You're not letting them shine now because you’re feeling spiteful. And then your hair! Holy hound of Hades! Enough to break a man’s heart on the spot! O you bells of Hell! In my dreams I saw you rise up like a glowing cannon ball, hissing and spitting, and I was blown apart, scattered to the four winds. And your hand! Your hand! Sulphur pools of Hell! Your hands! — And then your walk! Blood rain and thunder! You see, madam, from my youth on I’ve been a reliable judge of horseflesh. I’d look over a horse with the same eyes I’d use to choose my mistress. The most hidden flaw stares back at me magnified a million times. Ah yes, millions. If Wetterstein and I had not gone into the diamond-washing business, I'd have earned just as many millions as an American dealer in high-end horses.

 

LEONORE [still in the chair, wringing her hands]

Sacred God in Heaven, show me how I can make this misbegotten monstrosity aware of how he repels and disgusts me!

 

LUCKNER [with a wicked laugh]

O you sad, broken lily! You conceited little fool! Do you think I expect you to love me?! Holy howitzers on the hilltops! Please just save your love for that sugary young man of yours. Almighty paradise of fools! There’s nothing I find more excruciating than being personally attractive to a woman. My private concerns are none of her business!

 

LEONORE

In any case, I’d put a bullet through my head first.

 

LUCKNER

Then please hurry up and do it! Your husband, that thirty-carat rhinoceros, urgently needs someone finally to take him firmly in hand. After a five-year absence from the world he will be reborn. Once he’s done his time, his new glory days will begin. In six months he’ll be the first secretary and right hand of the director . . . [listening] God-fearing world parliament, those are his footsteps!

 

 

SCENE TWO

 

[Rüdiger von Wetterstein enters in a hurry]

 

RÜDIGER [as soon as he sees Luckner]

What are you doing here?

 

LUCKNER

We are lighting a cigarette, if you’ve no objection. [He lights a cigarette.]

 

RÜDIGER

Would you get out of here!

 

[Rüdiger goes for Luckner’s throat, intending to throw him through the door. The two men struggle. Luckner throws Rüdiger into an armchair and lights another cigarette.]

 

LUCKNER

You diamond washerwoman! If only you had legs as strong as our arms! Heaven, death, and divorce courts! [He laughs] You had the heathenish madness to found the Wetterstein dynasty. Hammurabi, Caesar, Bonaparte, Wetterstein! You incomparable ass, you would-be Napoleon, you idiot of the first water, you wanted to be the fifth great man on this earthly sphere—Rockefeller, Morgan, Krupp, Carnegie, and Wetterstein! [He laughs.]

 

RÜDIGER [in the armchair]

I find it impossible to sort out any ideas right now. Give me until tomorrow.

 

LUCKNER

Not even for Chicago! Or if it rains cowshit! We’ve been waiting for two years. In half an hour we’ll call it quits. It’s all been so divinely arranged—words cannot describe it. When the woman fights back, then the man’s power grows superhuman. The more desperate her resistance, the more skilfully the man sweeps it out of the way. But if the man resists . . . well, enjoy your dinner!

 

LEONORE [moving up close to Luckner with great determination]

Aren’t you afraid I could strangle you with these two hands?

 

LUCKNER

Not in the slightest! We’ll be waiting in our sitting room. We’ll stay at the hotel till ten o’clock.

 

[Luckner exits.]

 

SCENE THREE

 

RÜDIGER [getting up]

I’m leaving you alone, Leonore. Luckner has informed the police. I do not wish to confront my fate here, in your presence.

 

LEONORE

Then I’ll go with you.

 

RÜDIGER

In that case it makes no sense for me to leave. We might both just as well remain here.

 

LEONORE

Do you want to end your life?

 

RÜDIGER

No. I really wanted to, but I’m sure I lack the strength.

 

LEONORE

Surely there’s only one appropriate course of action for both of us—to remove ourselves from the world?

 

RÜDIGER

Why? If I am no longer there, no one can harm you.

 

LEONORE

When you are no longer there? How does no one being able to harm me do me any good then?

 

RÜDIGER

You were happy before you met me. You’ll find happiness again.

 

LEONORE

Those are just words. You don’t even believe them yourself. I first learned what happiness is when I met you.

 

RÜDIGER

So much the worse for you. In my life I am always dissatisfied with myself. At my parents’ house I was an unhappy child; in my first marriage I was an unhappy husband. I made you unspeakably miserable when I destroyed your happiness. And since we’ve lived together, I don’t feel any happier than I did before.

 

LEONORE [crying out in anguish]

O! O! To have to hear that now!

 

RÜDIGER

Forgive me, forgive me. It’s just that since I was born I’ve never been a consistent person. Since my childhood, two hostile races have been fighting a murderously destructive war inside me.

 

LEONORE

Right now your entire life seems dark and gloomy, just as in happy times you always see everything bathed in the most brilliant sunshine.

 

RÜDIGER

If only we two were not chained together!

 

LEONORE

How are we chained together? Come on, how?

 

RÜDIGER

How are we chained? How? Yes, yes, yes! I ask myself that all the time.

 

LEONORE [after a pause, with a groan]

I think I know, Rüdiger, what it is that keeps the two of us welded to each other.

 

RÜDIGER

The criminal acts we carried out together. I chased your husband to get together with my wife and, once that happened, used it as an excuse for telling her to leave. Then I freed us from your husband by tricking him into a duel. Later we got married and wanted to create for ourselves  life whose splendour would justify the immense sacrifices it cost.

 

LEONORE

That is just morbid and effeminate wallowing in emotion, nothing but superstition—gloomy images you never even thought about when we were happy with our lives.

 

RÜDIGER [groaning]

Then tell me the name of the awful chain that will not let us separate from each other.

 

LEONORE

That’s extremely easy. Whenever you wanted us to separate, I did everything I possibly could to prevent it. And when I wanted us to separate, you did everything you could to keep us together.

 

RÜDIGER

But why? Tell me, why did we do that? Why were we always so unreasonable?

 

LEONORE

I know as little about that as you do. But I do know one thing: exploring this riddle now is no help at all.

 

RÜDIGER

That’s too bad! Unfortunately that’s what we’ve told ourselves every time unhappiness has left our reason paralyzed.

 

LEONORE

You say it’s unfortunate? I say, thank God! You have no answer? You are finding this a struggle? Rüdiger, we do not have much time left. Don’t we want to end this quickly?

 

RÜDIGER

That’s easy to say.

 

LEONORE [quickly]

It’s over soon.

 

RÜDIGER

Here you go. [He puts a revolver on the table] Now do it!

 

LEONORE

You don’t know what to do next? [Reaching for the weapon] I do!

 

RÜDIGER [grabbing her arm and holding her hand back]

Leonore! For God’s sake!

 

LEONORE

Both of us have been demanding too much from the world if we lack the necessary courage now!

 

RÜDIGER [frantic]

I love you!

 

LEONORE

That’s the first time I’ve heard you use that suspicious word.

 

RÜDIGER

Well, what do you think about both of us bringing things to an end?

 

LEONORE

I can’t think about it. It’s all over. From the first day of our marriage we were no longer a part of good society.

 

RÜDIGER

That was an unexpected setback for us. Good society is the society in which one does good business.

 

LEONORE

You stake your entire character on belonging in the big, wide world.

 

RÜDIGER

This rebuke comes late!

 

LEONORE

It’s not a rebuke! No, Rüdiger! How could I do that!

 

RÜDIGER

The big, wide world is the world where one does great business.

 

LEONORE

Up to this point no one has threatened our very existence.

 

RÜDIGER

Except for us.

 

LEONORE

But why?

 

RÜDIGER

Why? Isn’t that obvious to you? Because our human dignity is threatened!

 

LEONORE

Human dignity! That’s nonsense! Is it dignified for a man to spend five years of his life as a hangman’s slave?

 

RÜDIGER

A hangman’s slave? So you are shifting the responsibility all onto me?

 

LEONORE

How did you arrive at that awful suspicion? Have you ever kept a secret from me?

 

RÜDIGER

You always knew as well as I did what I was doing. In his own era, Jesus Christ came up with a view of the word suitable for the army of outcasts that nowadays are sitting in the penitentiary or the lunatic asylum.

 

LEONORE

And what did he say about us women?

 

RÜDIGER [crying out]

Leonore! How can you ask that question? [Calmer] Do as you wish! Then I’ll do what I wish! Human dignity is not a monkey jacket.(8) No, human dignity is breath, nourishment, light. Human dignity grows out of the marriage of the parents and is the foundation for the marriages of the children.

 

LEONORE [reaching for the revolver]

Here is our human dignity!

 

RÜDIGER

Do you wish to kill me? [He stands up and looks her in the eye.] Try it, if you can!

 

LEONORE

If you don’t want me to . . .

 

RÜDIGER

Please do it! But quickly!

 

LEONORE [pulls her hand back]

Where am I supposed to get the strength for that!

 

RÜDIGER

Naturally I am once again the one at fault!

 

LEONORE [rushing to hold him around the chest]

No, no! I’m to blame! It’s my fault!

 

RÜDIGER

That’s why Christianity conquered the world. People never really know whether they are back again in the penitentiary or the asylum.

 

LEONORE

And whoever feels he bears no blame, let him cast the first stone at them.

 

RÜDIGER [crying out in pain]

Be quiet, I say! Shut up! Have you gone mad!

 

LEONORE

A horrible pain! Yes! A horrible fate! God knows! But why should I bear this agony all by myself!

 

RÜDIGER [extreme horror]

Leonore? The union of our flesh . . . could you . . .

 

LEONORE

I am prepared to go to any lengths! I’ll kill myself right now, if that will in any way help you!

 

RUDIGER

Kill yourself! Yes? Yes! But . . . No! The very idea that you are thinking of it . . .

 

LEONORE

Do you really mean killing yourself is easier?

 

RÜDIGER

Easier or not, it does not help!

 

LEONORE

I’ll do whatever you tell me I should do.

 

RÜDIGER

If I have to tell you what you owe me, then the time is long since past when I have any reason to say it.

 

LEONORE [staring at him]

I have no answer for that! It’s appalling how little we human beings know about our lives, about how we are constantly in a state of joy or terror!

 

RÜDIGER

With a woman who walks her own path I have nothing to authorize, no commands to give, and nothing to forbid. Even the most virtuously chaste woman would not feel undervalued if she were purchased with two million. God be praised! Then I will be free!

 

LEONORE [calmly]

The moment they arrest you, I will shoot myself.

 

RÜDIGER

I will, too, if it gets that far. I am absolutely sure of that.

 

 

SCENE FOUR

 

[Effie enters in a hurry. She is very cheerful.]

 

EFFIE

But Mother, Mother, what are you getting so worked up about? I can hear your conversation all the way up in my room. Is that indefatigable foreigner still not satisfied? But you guessed more or less from the beginning that you could someday fall into his devil’s claws.

 

RÜDIGER

The moment a man believes he is bound by something more powerful than his own free will the entire blasphemous horror of marriage is exposed.

 

LEONORE [to Effie]

Then we can expect no help from your husband?

 

EFFIE

You mean money? No, dear Mother. My husband has nothing left but debts. Most of the two hundred thousand francs I spent gambling last Wednesday in Monte Carlo didn’t come from him. When I left he was busy with a plan to found an Australian railway company. At any rate, he thought there were still no railways in Australia.

 

LEONORE

What are you intending to live on then?

 

EFFIE

That will sort itself out. In the first six months we would have drowned ourselves from boredom if I hadn’t always made an effort to provide interesting entertainment with my adventures.

 

RÜDIGER

What is it really that prevents us from living in peace and forgetting all maliciousness?

 

LEONORE

Human dignity prevents us from doing that! Simple dignity, which the poorest child gets as an inheritance from the way his parents remain true to each other! The dignity on which the poorest human being builds his happiness in life!

 

RÜDIGER

Five minutes ago you were just as decisively asserting the opposite point of view.

 

LEONORE

And you? Five minutes ago, weren’t you just as insistently defending the opposite point of view, as well?

 

RÜDIGER

I have overcome my lack of conviction and regained my confidence.

 

LEONORE

Then why were we not in agreement five minutes ago? Why aren’t we agreeing now? Should I say it? I understand my child, and I understand you . . .

 

RÜDIGER

Leonore, you are so upset, you no longer know what you are saying!

 

EFFIE

If I were married to a man who was really jealous, I would be willing to help my husband out of such a situation, without damaging my loyalty to him in the slightest.

 

LEONORE

What do you mean?

 

EFFIE

I would act as if I were resigning myself to my fate. I would go like a lamb to the slaughter. All of a sudden I would catch fire and become rapturously excited, in love—but all that in such an exaggerated, artificial, and unnatural way that the brute loses all desire, his hair stands on end, and his skin crawls. He has no idea where to turn his head. That way the issue is resolved. Potiphar’s wife and Joseph. When he sobers up, the boor’s keenest desire is that no living soul ever learns about our meeting.(9)

 

LEONORE

Child, my child, what is this precipice we have come to!

 

RÜDIGER

If we consider things calmly, is our situation really so terrible? [To Leonore] In the space of three years I have quadrupled the four hundred thousand marks you received as a dowry from your father. That money is secure. If we can get through today, no one on God’s earth will have any more claims against us. Then we will be free and can set off on with our minds at ease on whatever paths we both have determined for ourselves. Then I will show people that I had a right to ignore and overstep their boundaries, and in a hundred years the earth will still bear traces of what I have done.

 

LEONORE

Whatever a poor creature like me can do to further your victorious career, I will do. If I don’t, have I any right to go on living? I do enough to bring you down and hold you back.

 

RÜDIGER

Are you perhaps under the impression that in this world great wealth has ever been made in harmless ways? The first return that every asset immediately brings is the proud advantage that you no longer have to worry where it came from.

 

EFFIE

I cannot go on living like this any longer. I make a special trip from Monte Carlo to Ouchy to see my parents again, and I find them in a mood that makes me want to put a sack over my head. From morning to night, nothing but difficulties. But I can’t sit here all day long by myself up in my room reading Dante. Mother, you are mortally afraid your marriage could be breaking up. But that is just a childish delusion! I know of nothing in the world more indestructible than marriage. And I am not thinking at all about my own. That is so strong and so elastic, it could encompass the world. But I know people who have bickered every day for twenty-five years without ever being unfaithful to each other a single time! And I know people who for twenty-five years have been unfaithful to each other every day without ever quarrelling about it even once! No one has any idea of all the things a proper marriage can put up with. It’s certainly not at all essential that both people like each other. If only one of the two is fond of the other, that’s enough for half a lifetime.

 

LEONORE

Perhaps I’m not a match for the pressure of events, but I have a sense that I’m being crushed by the situation we face. I feel has if someone has put a foot on my head in order to grind my mouth into the dirt.

 

EFFIE

That’s called hypochondria, dear Mother.

 

LEONORE

Rüdiger! Do you remember when, in the first three months of our marriage, I came back from Hamburg? You were waiting for me at the railway station in Hannover. As soon as we were alone, you told me you had come to the train an hour early. You had walked up and down the platform asking yourself which of two options would be preferable—whether I had let myself be touched by a man’s foot under the table in Hamburg or whether on the return journey I had been killed in a railway accident. Back then you stated very firmly that my death would have been preferable.

 

RÜDIGER

If you asked me that today, my answer would be exactly the same.

 

LEONORE

For a moment I was confused. But then I thanked my creator that both of us were sufficiently noble to confront the realities of life so fearlessly.

 

RÜDIGER

Well? And?

 

LEONORE

And now . . . ? Now . . . ?

 

RÜDIGER

There are thoughts buried deep in one’s core that should never be openly talked about, even with married couples. If they start to question whether they belong together, they immediately face each other as deadly enemies.

 

EFFIE

For me the only people in the world worth paying attention to are the few exceptional ones who make the impossible possible.

 

LEONORE

The impossible, Effie? It’s impossible to give yourself to the murderer of a person you love. I gave myself to him. It’s impossible to keep on possessing a man by killing yourself. I am prepared to do that. But to destroy yourself for a man who perhaps does not belong to you anymore . . . well, that makes me feel like I’m being set upon by packs of dogs!

 

[A waiter enters in a hurry]

 

WAITER

Please excuse me. There is an individual downstairs who claims that Monsieur is going to be threatened by the police.(10)

 

LEONORE

Now let the entire universe collapse around me!

 

[Leonore rushes out. The Waiter looks around wondering what’s going on. When he gets no answer, he leaves the room, closing the door behind him.]

 

 

SCENE FIVE

 

EFFIE [after a pause]

Are you really from an old noble family?

 

RÜDIGER [sitting at a table with his head in his hands, groaning]

I’m completely shattered—only a dreadful caricature of what I used to be.

 

EFFIE

In a hundred years, no one will understand any more how we can make such a scandal out such harmless fun and games.

 

RÜDIGER [stands up and pulls himself together]

My mother was born a Goldstaub. She came from Budapest.

 

EFFIE

I know an ancient prayer. It comes from the time when people were still punished with a lifetime of slavery if two of them got caught embracing in secret. The prayer ends with the words:
 
    You should not love from weakness
    But from strength,

    From self-assurance!

    You should not love in darkness
    But in the light.
    Woe for the love
    That vanishes from sight
    When the crowd looks on!
    For as your love is,
    So your children!
    Whoever loves in darkness
    also lives in darkness!

 

RÜDIGER

Where did you read that?

 

EFFIE

The prayer begins with the words:
 
    I, the I who is myself . . .
 
I always like that line the most!

 

RÜDIGER

How does it continue?

 

EFFIE

I, the hidden one
Who called you into life
For my own pleasure!

 

. . . but there are already omens and miracles happening. I know an American who champions the people. He has made it his life’s work to free relationships between men and women from all medieval instruments of torture.

 

RÜDIGER

I know who you mean. I am familiar with the enchanting eloquence of his writing.

 

EFFIE

A dry old stick as a lover! But my powers of endurance—which I have not yet found in any of my sisters! I think of myself as an inexplicable natural wonder. One moonlit night in the Coliseum in Rome the age I should really have lived in became clear to me—either the time of Pericles in Athens or, even better, in Corinth, or else in Rome under Commodus or Caracalla.(11)

 

RUDIGER

You are so superhumanly proud of your profession. I don’t know any diplomat who would take more pride in his lack of responsibility.

 

EFFIE

Surrendering ourselves is our particular view of the world. I thought about this for two years, until the scales fell from my eyes one morning. It was on a lonely mountain top in Upper Austria. I was all alone waiting for the sun to rise. As the first sparks of light punctured the steel-blue screen I asked myself, What is the greatest triumph sought by a woman who has no children? Sensual experience!

 

RÜDIGER

You could have miscalculated. Remember Goethe’s lines:
 
    Man remains desirable until from life he parts,
    but woman shrivels up before her reasoning starts.

 

EFFIE [sings]

A child I know is a delight,
a very rare and lovely sight.
Her eyes are black and black her hair,
her build and bearing truly fair.
She’s not too thin and not too small
and not too fat and not too tall.
Her songs and dances make her glad,
And even now she drives men mad.

 

And then there’s that other poem by Goethe:

 

[Effie begins singing and dancing.]

 

Are your muscles tense and braced,
your shoes and stockings all in place,
then in the centre of the throng
begin the dance.
Front and back a royal queen!
Dance like no woman ever danced.
With every movement that you can
Left leg,
Nimble leg,
The right must even nimbler be!

 

Perhaps you know which classical composer wrote this song:

 

“The young girl is so fair
with legs beyond compare,
a model for the rest,
in all the world the best.
 
And best of all to tell,
she leapt around so well,
while her legs danced their art
she sprang into my heart.”

 

RÜDIGER

Your singing is delightful. I’m waiting for your reply.

 

EFFIE

Just be patient. Our adventures demand intelligence and skill, in equal amounts. Two weeks ago in one and the same evening I dined in Monte Carlo with three different gentlemen at the same time in the same hotel, without any of them knowing anything about the presence of the other two. That was emotional gymnastics! I had to keep track of every second. I invented excuses for my departures and for keeping each one waiting. So much so, my head was whirling like a mechanized spinning factory. Each one of the gentlemen picked me up where we were staying, and each of them ordered a different five-course dinner. I did not let a single one get taken away without tasting it. Each one brought me back in a car to our residence. It was a confused jumble of delicious mouthfuls, popping corks, car rides, and squandering money on tips . . . The waiters oversaw the entire business as delighted spectators. I have never yet been served more respectfully and with more ceremonious expressions in any hotel. What an effort that cost me, when the next day I had to sort out once again all the different events, arguments, and surprises in their appropriate compartments! I still felt a champagne fog in my head—otherwise I’d have drawn up a statistical chart.

 

RÜDIGER [he has recovered his composure]

After this masterstroke in Monte Carlo was your life still safe?

 

EFFIE

Why would that concern me? But picture to yourself what happened afterwards! The next day, as evening approaches, the three gentlemen go, as usual, to the Casino. Each of them explains to a large circle of friends he has carefully gathered around him that yesterday at eleven o’clock he had an intimate dinner in the Hotel Méditérrané with the celebrated Countess d’Armont, or Little Monkey, as they call me. The gentlemen furthest away from those telling the story hear all three reports at once. They keep quiet for quite a while, enjoying themselves on their own. Suddenly the entire Casino room bursts into resounding laughter. My three lovers have naturally hated each other for a long time, just like fathers of the church. At first, they look as if they’ve been struck by lightning. All at once from three different sides the shouting starts: You liar! You liar! You liar! Each one challenges the other two to a duel with pistols. Finally, a fearful brawl breaks out. I had been expecting that. As the bloody heads were cooling off with ice water, I let myself be escorted through the room by Herzog von Eurasburg. No one dared make the slightest remark about me. I said to myself, how pathetically small the whole world looks when it lies at my feet.

 

RÜDIGER [at Effie’s side]

There is a moist look shimmering in your dark eyes. It’s fascinating. I’ve never seen it any other woman.

 

EFFIE

I will give you a present of one night . . .

 

RÜDIGER

I am not in the market.

 

EFFIE

One single night . . .

 

RÜDIGER

But I don’t want to fight it out with waiters!

 

EFFIE

But not tonight . . .

 

RÜDIGER

Too bad!

 

EFFIE

I don’t yet know which one . . .

 

RÜDIGER

My time is my own to do as I please.

 

EFFIE

But when this night comes, I will kiss you so you will never forget me anymore during your lifetime.

 

[A shot cracks out from the floor below]

 

RÜDIGER [trembling with shock]

What was that?

 

EFFIE

A revolver! What else could it be?

 

RÜDIGER

Then something bad has happened!

 

EFFIE

Why would you say that?

 

RÜDIGER

You can still ask that question?

 

[Rüdiger exits.]

 

EFFIE [alone]

Something bad does not happen as easily as that! And what if it does! There are always beneficial consequences, too. How worried people are about disaster! For me each day can bring catastrophe. When would I be safe from simple murder? One more thrill! Fate, how I thank you for preparing me so extravagantly for this career! No getting tired! No breaking down! No inhibitions! No obsessions! No hangovers!

 

 

SCENE SIX

 

[Rüdiger leads Leonore into the room. She is having trouble holding herself upright.]

 

EFFIE [with a shrill cry]

Mother! [She runs to Leonore] Merciful Heaven, you look dreadful!

 

LEONORE

Effie? . . . Are you still alive?

 

RÜDIGER [trembling with worry, setting Leonore into an armchair]

Pull yourself together, for God’s sake! Lie down and rest.

 

LEONORE

The staircase up to here! The staircase! It never ended! One wall after another!

 

EFFIE

What was it? What happened?

 

RÜDIGER

He shot himself!

 

EFFIE [kneeling next to her mother]

Shot? He shot himself? With you there?

 

LEONORE

You planted the idea in me, Effie!

 

RÜDIGER

Forget that! You shouldn’t be listening to people talking for a week!

 

EFFIE

I was showing off, Mother, exaggerating with childish fantasies!

 

LEONORE

I stagger down there . . . each step, each landing an impassable wall. [Crying out] And now he is lying there!

 

RÜDIGER

Come to your senses. If you think back on it, you’ll kill yourself.

 

EFFIE

Should I call the doctor, Mother? Should I bring you something stronger?

 

RÜDIGER [stroking her anxiously]

What done is done! Think! You must get through this for our sakes! You look as if you didn’t have a drop of blood left in your body!

 

LEONORE

Your freedom has been bought with blood! Be proud, Rüdiger! Set yourself beside those whose heads wear royal crowns! Your freedom has been bought with two human lives!

 

RÜDIGER

God in Heaven, with two!

 

LEONORE

Perhaps in your reckoning mine counts for nothing? How quickly that made you flinch! Do you count my life as nothing? What am I now? No, you have not suffered!

 

EFFIE

What man ever came into a woman’s room in such despair! And all because we women do not know the power we possess!

 

LEONORE

Child! Child! God protect us from that power! He was looking out the window whistling some tune. And the hellish fear that the brute would throw himself on top of me. I go at him. You are lost! I am lost! He is planted by the mirror, deliberately tying himself up in his cravat. Now one last effort. I force myself to laugh . . . laugh . . . laugh. [She breaks out in wild laughter.] I want you! I order . . . demand! I swear to enjoy you! Now you can . . . to your heart’s content . . . make love to me!

 

RÜDIGER [striking his temples with his fists]

Will this agonizing torture never end?

 

LEONORE

Well, that wiped the insolence from his face right away! And his crudeness disappeared! His intoxication with victory dissolved! And his laughter stuck in his throat before it could break out! And then . . .

 

RÜDIGER

Hurry up, Leonore! Is this story of how I was saved going to destroy my reason?

 

LEONORE

He is choking on his own curses. White as plaster, he bares his teeth. And me? I should be beaten into pieces, trampled on, crushed! [With her hands covering her face she sinks into another chair.]

 

EFFIE [in a muffled but firm tone, to Rüdiger]

You will be committing an inhuman crime if you still keep tormenting this woman now!

 

RÜDIGER

Would it perhaps be more loving if I listened with indifference?

 

LEONORE [with tears streaming down her face]

What did I do then that was so terrible? I kissed him, so he might kick me around. But then . . . [suddenly composed, without tears, staring first at Rüdiger and then at Effie] . . . then he pulls . . . pulls both hands back over his own head—I can still feel his fists burning on my cheeks—then he jerks a bit . . . he had shot himself from above back through his head. [Pointing to the top of her head] He had shot himself here! [Staggering back] He falls against my knees so I fall back onto the fireplace . . . just lies there without moving. [Pause]

 

 

SCENE SEVEN

 

[Van Zeeter, the manager of the hotel, enters the room quickly.]

 

VAN ZEETER

This is obviously extremely distressing for me, but I must ask you ladies and gentlemen as firmly as possible to avoid making any unnecessary noise. I have placed our private automobile at your immediate disposal. I cannot do more than that. The car is waiting in the second courtyard by the backstairs. [He opens the door and calls out.] Quickly Monsieur Duvoisin. Hurry up. Let’s finish this. We won’t make too much noise! [He allows Monsieur Duvoisin and two policemen to come into the room, and points to Leonore.] There is the lady in question!(12)

 

DUVOISON [to Leonore]

Madame, I am the prefect of police for the town of Ouchy. Are you Madame Wetterstein? Is that not true, Madame? Madame, you are under arrest. Follow me!

 

EFFIE

What’s going on?

 

VAN ZEETER [to Effie]

The death penalty is no longer enforced in this canton. So the lady does not need to worry too much. But leave here as quickly as you can. Today we are having a large concert here in the evening featuring Catalani from Paris.

 

EFFIE

You do realize that this is a case of suicide.

 

VAN ZEETER

Forgive me, I don’t know anything at all. [To Duvoisin] All right, Monsieur Duvoisin, let’s close this case!

 

DUVOISON

Madame, you are obliged to follow me to the prefecture of police. Hurry up, Madame!

 

RÜDIGER [to Leonore]

You will be released immediately—there’s no doubt about that at all.

 

LEONORE

I am going to prison, Effie? Effie,
is this your work? Help me, Almighty One,
help me get over this appalling force,
the power of women! No, Rüdiger,
I am still too good, however poor I am,
to force myself on you. Love one another!
Today the poorest mortal human being
no longer pities me! Why should the child
feel any trace of pity for its mother
or the husband any pity for his wife!
Love each other! Love each other! Perhaps,
in ages yet to come, men will view my crime
with milder eyes. I cannot force myself
on you when I am stained with blood.
Don’t lay a hand on me. I’m off to prison!

 

[Leonore leaves the room, moving quickly]

 

 

ACT THREE

 

[A low but spacious snow-white panelled room with a white wooden ceiling. The main doorway is downstage right (from the audience’s viewpoint). In the middle of the back wall there is a doorway covered with white curtains decorated with a pattern of roses in full bloom, and downstage left there is a small door with a pointed arch, hardly noticeable in the white wainscot panelling. On both sidewalls between the side doors and the back wall is a row of low, wide windows close to each other. Through the windows of the right sidewall, one can see the inside of a large, sunlit medieval castle courtyard and through the windows on the left side wall a few slender tree tops, the top of a small watchtower, and above that the deep blue sky. The windows on the courtyard side are closed, while those on the facing wall are wide open. The furniture in the room consists of three small tables with flimsy chairs around them, all blindingly white. There is no rocking chair, sofa, or settee. The tables are set for tea. There is a samovar on the middle table. When the curtains on the middle door are open, one can see into a room lit with a dull red glow, without being able to recognize any particular details.]

 

 

SCENE ONE

 

[Heiri Wipf, in shirtsleeves, wearing a green apron and a gigantic hat made out of rushes with a red band around it, is taking fresh fruit out of a crude wicker basket and filling fruit bowls set on the tables.]

 

HEIRI WIPF [singing]

O the plums were so blue!
O the plums were so blue!

 

PROFESSOR SCHARLACH [opening the door downstage right and calling into the room]

Hey, you good-for-nothing, no more songs!
The tunes are catchy, but they’re too damn loud!

 

HEIRI WIPF [laughing]

That would be something totally new for me! [He goes towards Scharlach with his fist raised.] You perjured heretic! Why should I not keep on singing here?

 

SCHARLACH

Be quiet! The mistress of the castle is not well.

 

HEIRI WIPF

What? The mistress of the castle? Our dear young mistress? Does she have a pain somewhere?

 

SCHARLACH

Of course, she’s in pain! If not, she wouldn’t cry.

 

HEIRI WIPF

She’s crying? O my God! The mistress of the castle weeps! Damn it, why didn’t you tell me right away? O you worn out fool! If the young mistress of the castle weeps, it must be something bad!

 

SCHARLACH

It is! And now get out of here!

 

HEIRI WIPF

That’s no reason for you to talk so rudely to me! You burned up, worn-out heretic! Be sure you tell the mistress of the castle Heiri Wipf sends the young lady his best wishes for a quick recovery!

 

[Heiri Wipf leaves downstage right. Professor Scharlach follows him out.]

 

 

SCENE TWO

 

[Professor Scharlach leads Effie into the room. She is wearing an evening dress and a tiara. Her face is streaming tears, and she is sobbing almost uncontrollably. He takes her to one of the open windows. Still weeping, she sinks down on a chair in front of it.]

 

SCHARLACH [sighing]

O dear, O dear, O dear, O dear, O dear!
Such a disastrous dolt! Who would have thought
it would turn out like this. Swept away
by my discoveries in medicine
and without thinking what I’m doing,
I forcefully inject my murderous idea
into my guinea pig, right in her heart!

 

EFFIE [howling]

I built myself a way to see the world.
O God, O God, how much of that remains,
my silly childish vision of the world!

 

[She cries as if her heart were breaking]

 

SCHARLACH

It is not good for you, my child, to let
your agitation run with no restraint.

 

EFFIE [howling]

My pride, my arrogance, my sense of fun,
the freedom of my life as an adventurer,
for that I thanked the way I see the world.
For every glance I used to snare a man,
for every night I spent in sensual riot,
I’ve kept a faithful personal account,
as if I had become a manager
entrusted with a piece of property.
And now I hear it’s all just a disease,
my desire is disease, my eyes disease,
and my vitality only a disease!

 

SCHARLACH [sighing]

My room up here, the one I’m living in,
gets the most sun and is the coziest
in all the castle. You’re the one, Effie,
I have to thank for that. Every morning
the young girl brings me breakfast to my bed,
and I ask myself if I’m still dreaming
a dream of childhood. Below my window
there is a noise from where the rabbits live,
while across the way, caressed by sunlight
and by ivy stands, the red-brown quadrant
of the castle keep. Effie, you must not
be ungrateful for such a magic realm.
You are enthroned here like a sovereign mistress
in your baronial seat, a way of life
unknown to anyone for centuries.

 

EFFIE [drying her tears]

And this is something you have now prepared
for me to swallow, today of all days,
when, more so now than ever, I still need
my sense of humour, idiocy, and folly,
my vision of the world. And yet today
it’s all collapsing, crushing me to death!

 

SCHARLACH

Who knows, my child, if there is not a sign
of Heaven in this. Out of respect for you
for one week now I have been holding back
from openly discussing it with you.
The rest of us, who are all satellites
encircling you, providing you protection,
all of us for once are in agreement . . .

 

EFFIE [calmly and firmly]

Enough, enough. It’s quite impossible
for me to talk about this. Anyway,
it’s not a thing the public can decide.
So now please tell me—make it short and sweet—
what I heard and only partly understood
because I was in shock. My strong desires,
if I understand correctly, arise
from illnesses in my digestive tract?

 

SCHARLACH [shrugging his shoulders]

From childhood on, it seems, you wore corsets
and laced them up too tight.

 

EFFIE

                                 So this gleam in my eyes,
which makes a man a promise of some kind,
I owe that to a problem with my liver?

 

SCHARLACH

You know, Effie, how ruthless I must be
to whip my work in medical research
through every net, if I’m ever going to land
the smallest catch that offers evidence.
Twelve years now I’ve been working on my book
called “Criminality: Its Preconditions.”
Not that I became your personal physician
merely because I wished to spy on you.
The fee that Salzmann is now paying me
would have attracted someone else first rate.
But is it then all that astonishing
if, in the middle of the noisy chatter
of the conversation at our midday meal,
for one single moment I could forget
the purpose of the universe is you,
not science?

 

EFFIE

          And my face changes colour
so easily and fast, my skin is dull.
Do all these symptoms come from gall stones,
or is the cause some sickness in the lungs?

 

SCHARLACH [with the most affectionate concern]

In future, Effie, no man you look at
will be able to resist—he will be
completely at your mercy. That’s the truth.
Just as it’s true there is no living man
who knows how to flatter that pride of yours
more shamelessly than me. You must stay calm!
I hear the noble champions of your realm
already climbing up the stairs. Be happy!
No one must know that you’re not feeling well.

 

EFFIE [getting up]

Life’s glorious flame has been extinguished,
and nothing now remains but joyless ash.
To expiate one’s sins by selling sex,
the rationalization of a whore,
how shockingly insipid and idiotic
that now sounds. But I will not turn back.
Decline and dissolution are approaching,
but they will find me standing strong and proud,
the way I looked when I was fortunate.

 

 

SCENE THREE

 

[Rüdiger von Wetterstein opens the door downstage right and sticks his head into the room.]
 
RÜDIGER

May we come in, my child?

 

EFFIE

Yes, yes, please do.

 

RÜDIGER [in the open doorway, calling back outside]

Come in, dear heart. We’re not disturbing her.

 

LEONORE VON WETTERSTEIN [entering]

My dear child! Good heavens, have you been crying?

 

EFFIE [excessively cheerful]

I’ve been laughing till my eyes filled up with tears.
No, dear mother, if you’d heard the story
Hannibal just told and understood it,
you’d be on your back, howling with laughter.

 

LEONORE [embracing Effie]

O Effie, to find you in this cheerful mood
is such a comfort to me. Do you know
the princely gift you offered us today?
[To Rüdiger] May I mention it?

 

RÜDIGER

                                    It’s not up to me
to tell my fate’s companion what to say.
I don’t give her orders or forbid things,
not after I have scattered all she owns
to the four winds and seen how that hard work
has made my head turn bald.

 

LEONORE

                                        And like a young girl
you still fish for compliments! My hair is white,
but not because I worked so frantically.
The first early post today delivered
a contract fully signed, assuring us
an annual income, guaranteed for life.
Rüdiger and I, from this day forward,
each year receive . . .
[To Rüdiger] May I state the sum?

 

RÜDIGER

. . . eight thousand marks! Professor Scharlach
has already gained our daughter’s confidence.

 

LEONORE [to Effie]

My child, my child, what must that have cost you!

 

EFFIE

A mere conjuring trick!

 

LEONORE

                                     But Karl Salzmann
seems to be helped by supernatural spirits.

 

RÜDIGER

Ah yes, a good man, Salzmann! In a dream
I’d never have imagined I would be
a guest again in my ancestral home.

 

LEONORE

Here in Castle Wetterstein! It sounds grand—
Rüdiger von Wetterstein in Wetterstein!(13)

 

RÜDIGER

In Salzmann Guesthouse, Castle Wetterstein,
by contrast, has a much more modern ring.

 

SCHARLACH

And if sometimes perhaps Director Salzmann
seems radical in treatments he applies,
one must acknowledge with the highest praise
the gift he has for organizing things!

 

RÜDIGER

A perfect businessman! I can’t believe
what he thinks up, the range of his ideas!

 

LEONORE [to Effie]

And what a sensitive and lovely home
he’s made for us, me and your father,
in Bergfield—two secret hidden steps lead up
into our bower, like some higher world.
Far to the north, the dark high regions
of the Schwarzwald, and outside our windows
right above the entranceway, the courtyard
originally built in sixteen thirty two.
It’s unbelievable! But here he comes!

 

 

SCENE FOUR

 

[Karl Salzmann, Waldemar Uhlhorst, Matthias Taubert, and Schigabet enter. Schigabet has a mad hairstyle (à la Wahnsinn), and is wearing a stiff shirt collar, bow tie, lace shirt cuffs, a blue frock coat, gold vest, purple knee breeches, silver-grey silk stockings, and leather shoes with buckles and red heels. He is carrying a troubadour’s lute under his arm.]
 
SALZMANN

Come on then, let’s have a cup of coffee!
Here everyone feels less inhibited
than when they are at home.

 

[He turns to Effie as the others come in]

 

                                          In Yokohama
the World’s Fair will be opening in May.
But still, I wonder if we might prefer
to visit the South Pole. I have a hunch,
Effie, that absolutely everyone
who’s anyone in the world will gather
this coming summer at the southern pole.

 

EFFIE

I think we should see the World’s Fair first
and then, after that, go to the South Pole.

 

SALZMANN

Thank you, my little treasure.

 

EFFIE

                          This Mister Tschamper—
where in the castle is he going to stay?

 

SALZMANN

In the old armoury, south-west from here.
The morning sun comes in there from the yard
And, at sunset, sinks behind the furthest peak.

 

EFFIE

And if he walks across the yard at noon
up to the parapet, the ageless ice
of Jungfrau’s glacial face will gleam at him.

 

SALZMANN

Fanfares of trumpets will announce to us
Mister Tschamper’s entry through the gate
of the lower courtyard. In the gallery
we have placed musicians with hunting horns.
Then in the castle courtyard Schigabet
will make a formal welcoming address.

 

SCHIGABET

Yes, of course, provided Mister Tschamper
has sorted out my guest performances
in Argentina. Comedians like me,
so people say, in times like these can do
brilliant business in South America.

 

EFFIE [clapping her hands]
    Now Schigabet will sing a brand new song!

 

SCHIGABET

You  want a song? While all those here must wait
to see this thousand-year-old pile of stone
fly up into the air, and us as well?

 

EFFIE

The time till Mister Tschamper reaches us
will fly past much more quickly.

 

RÜDIGER

                                         Time up here
sprints past at such a terrifying speed,
even in the absence of explosions,
day and night I have irrational fears
the earth could leap out from its orbit.

 

LEONORE

For God’s sake, Rüdiger, don’t joke so lightly
about this ancient globe of ours.

 

RÜDIGER

                                                But then,
my dearest heart, we’d get the benefit
of leaving this lovely world together.

 

LEONORE

The one remaining happiness I pray for!

 

TAUBERT

A pile of stones? Explosions? Is the castle
in danger of being blown to smithereens?

 

UHLHORST

In the anarchists’ laboratory
on the ground floor, which I myself installed,
this morning early I rigged up a bomb
as an experiment to see if it would work.
If it suddenly explodes, all on its own,
and blows us up, the bomb is useless.
But if its violence can be locked in
and released at our command, then people
no longer need to be afraid of armies,
they’ll have floods and earthquakes made to order,
and no thief thundering with his artillery
will get away without being punished.

 

SCHIGABET [sings and plays his lute]

In secret catacombs
we fabricate our bombs
as the old curse taught us.
Heavenly elements and bombs!

 

EFFIE

I’ve not yet ever possessed a lover
whose acrobatic vocal chords could sing
a coloratura as well as Schigabet.

 

UHLHORST [in an armchair, with one leg over the other]

We three—you, Effie, Taubert, and I—
all contradict our valued social order.
You, Effie, dancing girl and prostitute;
Matthais Taubert, a metaphysician
propped up by man’s mental laziness;
and I, who for high stakes would happily
hazard my life, if it were somehow possible
simply to be rid of it without dishonour.

 

EFFIE [clapping her hands]

Now Schigabet will sing a brand new song!

 

LEONORE [kissing Effie on the forehead]

Don’t let us disturb you, my dear child.
Your father and I are going to seek
some peace and quiet for an hour or so.

 

RÜDIGER

In the mulberry tree outside our window
blackbirds chirp a lullaby.

 

UHLHORST

                                               As a child,
you have already listened to those songs.
Isn’t Castle Wetterstein your home?

 

RÜDIGER

No, not at all. I was born in Berlin,
Steglitzerstrasse—number forty-six.
I went from there to school for young cadets.
Not since the thirteenth century has my family
owned this castle. And now, gentlemen,
you must excuse me. In this whole place
I am the only worn out married man.

 

LEONORE

But look at how our marriage has withstood
so many trials and storms and how happy
and indestructible it still remains!

 

RÜDIGER

Only because at last you understand,
Leonore, what in life has lasting value.

 

LEONORE

Like sipping coffee in the afternoon,
eyes half closed, no need to think at all.

 

SALZMANN [to Rüdiger]

Herr Baron, would you allow me to serve
you and the baroness an evening meal
in your hidden honeysuckle bower?

 

LEONORE [squeezing Salzmann’s hand]

What a splendid man you are, Salzmann!

 

SALZMANN

I wish the two of you a pleasant rest.

 

[Rudiger and Leonore leave downstage right]

 

EFFIE [clapping her hands]

Now Schigabet will sing brand new song!

 

SCHIGABET [singing and playing his lute]

On the steamship
It smells of camphor.
Who brings that smell on board?
No one except some wealthy lord!(14)

 

SALZMANN

You should try that song in Argentina!
It will bring magnificent success.
Once Mister Tschamper listens to you sing,
he’ll have to take you. You may have deep roots
in Europe, but he’ll tear you away.

 

TAUBERT [sitting in an armchair]

Up here I had an unexpected pleasure.
It was quite bizarre. The torture chamber
in which I’m writing my “City of the Sun”
is so cut off from the castle courtyard
on such an isolated craggy rock,
only the view towards the south provides
me any company.(15) But in that place
a blissful feeling overpowers me
when I think of the enormous pain
people once suffered in this narrow space . . .
Often the joy I feel is so intense
I find it hard to keep my self-control.

 

EFFIE

I once knew a man who in the evening
scattered bits of glass across his bed.
He was afraid that one night without warning
he might die of boredom while asleep.

 

UHLHORST

                                      In the year
eleven fifty Friedrich Barbarossa
rode up here seeking to catch his rival,
Count Ulerich, and break him on the wheel.(16)
In those years, historically speaking,
anarchism had come into full bloom.
I say this remembering that at the time
the moral order of the world resembled
almost perfectly what we have today
with our “Propaganda of the Deed,”
so much so that we might praise ourselves
and boast that we are truly heroes.(17)

 

EFFIE

But in this ancient princely residence
I am the only person who can boast
of any contact with true nobility.
Matthias, after your excommunication
by the Holy See, you finally became
a famous man, but did you stay in touch,
even by letter? As for you, Waldemar,
floods and earthquakes, so people say, obey
what you command. But even that power
brings you no closer to the rulers of the earth.
At best, you’ll earn yourself a hero’s death
battling before a judge or the police.
When I think of the riotous excitement,
screams of joy from a thousand, thousand hearts,
every time the one I love goes riding
from the palace and smiles, I count myself
much happier than all those other women
whimpering in their family prison cells.(18)

 

TAUBERT

Come on then! Uhlhorst, Scharlach, Schigabet,
and Salzmann! Let’s slit our bellies open!
What low and lazy wretches we have been
to find that we are placed here on God’s earth
without a single drop of royal blood!

 

EFFIE

God in Heaven, such a beautiful man!
And yet no fool. The free and royal way
he uses to express himself. All you here
have pet names for me. Schigabet calls me
“My little monkey,” and you, Karl Salzmann,
as we all know, call me “My little treasure,”
while Uhlhorst says “My pony.” Mathieu Taubert
uses the nickname “Epiphania,”
and Scharlach christens me “My guinea pig.”
When my prince observed me at the races
driving my white-eyed black-horse team and glimpsed
the fleshy colour of their sexual parts,
he gave a loud shout to his adjutant,
“By the sacramental cross, look at that—
see how those horse cocks match that pair of eyes!”

 

SCHIGABET

My little monkey, why is it your prince
does not hire me as his comedian?

 

SCHARLACH

And me as his physician?

 

TAUBERT

                                  Or me
as his confessor?

 

SALZMANN

                            Me as finance minister?

 

UHLHORST

And me as chancellor?

 

EFFIE

                                           Because my lover
must love me purely and simply for myself—
entirely for me! Where he’s concerned,
I do not wish to owe you anything
for your intellectual talents! Not you
or any earthly power! I thank myself,
the way I was created, for his love.
To prevent a world war breaking out
the prince got married.(19) But to me he brings
his unspent passion. He is a man for whom,
when he is on horseback, women in droves,
even the most beautiful, hurl themselves
beneath his horses’ hooves. And for this man
I am the loftiest summit of the world.
After our first conversation he sent me
the golden cup from which we both had drunk,
the most precious thing I own. Until today,
I have never found sufficient time
to decipher the engraving on it.

 

[Effie takes the cup out of a small box, which she has fetched from a cupboard and gives it to Uhlhorst.]

 

UHLHORST [slowly deciphering the inscription on the cup]

Come . . . what . . . come . . . may
All . . . things . . . will . . . pass . . . away.

 

 [to Effie]

 

But what does his royal eminence think
about the way you view the world? Your prince
must find it awkward, when in the middle
of the most delightful sensual passion,
he has to rush around, trying to find
a bunch of brand spanking new ideas.

 

EFFIE

But just think, Waldemar, a man like him!
A ruler without flaw, from head to toe
perfect in every way, a true Achilles!
So I can chatter on however I wish—
the silliest jokes will not topple him
from his high place. When I romanticize,
without a single word of blasphemy,
the holy ritual of our embrace,
as if he were a royal libertine,
he hears me out and never bats an eye.
He is so pleased when I play hide-and-seek,
a female game to keep our men in chains.

 

TAUBERT

It seems unlikely that you’d tell your prince
about the stages on our ladder of love.(20)

 

EFFIE

Sometimes, while deep in a dream, he mutters
something about the ladder of love. And once,
when he was visiting Torpedo Harbour
and christening a ship, he could not read
the speech a person had just handed him,
and so, without pausing to think, he said

 

First in darkness, second lit by lamps
such cruel suffering for slavish tramps.(21)

 

UHLHORST

Third in the daylight, fourth in open air,
Joys that even in death do not bring despair!

 

SALZMANN

Fifth completely naked, sixth in mirror frames—
how those tempests quicken senses once again!

 

TAUBERT

Seventh clothed in pearls, eighth for something grand,
the sins of servitude have long been banned!

 

EFFIE

Ninth in competition, tenth sacrificial rite,
so that we never lose our sacred light,

 

SCHIGABET [tuning his lute]

I have written a side-splitting parody
of our ladder of love. You’ll double up
with laughter when you hear my verse!

 

[A solemn fanfare of hunting horns, interspersed with the loud sounds of automobile horns becomes audible from outside.]

 

SALZMANN

Those are the horns of Mister Chagnaral!
All of us should go out in the courtyard
to welcome Mister Chagnaral Tschamper
from Atakama to Castle Wetterstein!(22)

 

SCHIGABET

After your speech of welcome, will you please
recommend me to him for Argentina.

 

SALZMANN

That will be done! For Mister Tschamper’s entry
into the upper hall, we should prepare
a greeting no benefactor of the world
has ever seen up here, not since the time
that Barbarossa visited this place!

 

[They all leave the room, except for Effie and Taubert]

 

 

SCENE FIVE

 

EFFIE

Why are you not attending the reception
for Mister Tschamper?

 

TAUBERT

                             I have no wish to see him.
I leave today. How long will he be here?

 

EFFIE

He’s reserved a room with us for thirty days.

 

TAUBERT

Epiphania! You need to take great care
with this old goat! He has already killed
three or four prostitutes.

 

EFFIE [laughing]

                                       Newspaper stories!
If even one were true, he would not be free
to move around.

 

TAUBERT

                       According to reports,
the girls all killed themselves.

 

EFFIE

                                      Then they were stupid.
And you yourself concede he did not kill them.

 

TAUBERT

How much money does he pay to have his fun?

 

EFFIE

One hundred thousand dollars.

 

TAUBERT

                                               Good for him!

 

EFFIE

That is the highest price anyone has paid
for me so far.

 

TAUBERT

                          Still, you shouldn’t take it.
Epiphania, it’s wiser to refuse.

 

EFFIE

How can I? If the Prince, once again,
cannot repay his debts, then the Kaiser
will declare he is unfit to manage
his affairs, the regional assembly
will then appropriate his principality,
bypassing the authority of regent,
and make it part of all imperial lands.
They will appoint someone as governor.
A dynasty that’s reigned a thousand years
will cease to rule!

 

TAUBERT

                                  Only to be ruled by you!
And then, at last, you’ll have him to yourself.

 

EFFIE

No, just the opposite! If he renounces
his succession to the throne, I’m done for.
Then he’ll live only for his wife and children.

 

TAUBERT

Is he that business-like about such things?

 

EFFIE

He is not as free as you are. The Princess
wrote to me herself. And in addition,
he only gets two hundred thousand marks.
Karl Salzmann gets one hundred thousand
for himself—payment for drawing up the contract
with Mister Tschamper so unambiguously,
he cannot under any circumstances
demand to have my fee returned to him.
In our line of business, that is always
the most challenging problem of them all.

 

TAUBERT

You get to keep one hundred thousand marks?

 

EFFIE

Provided I fulfill what we’ve agreed—
the stipulated duties. Otherwise
I get nothing. I needed more than that
to secure my parents an annuity.
Karl Salzmann undertook the personal task
of buying that annuity and showed
so much expert knowledge that my father
goes into raptures when he talks of it.

 

TAUBERT

His history tells us that two young girls
ended their lives while he was watching.

 

EFFIE

The Argentinian has a single wish—
to die while resting in a woman’s arms.
And that, in the end, is not astonishing.
A hundred men would not have found the strength
to kill themselves, if, before that moment,
in their relationships with women
they had never felt the disgust with life
which always plays a role in suicides.

 

TAUBERT

Well, it still appears to me suspicious
that up to now he’s not had much success.

 

EFFIE

In our profession, there are abject creatures,
thousands of them, who cannot bring themselves
to witness a man’s death. They have no idea
of the power we have to control men’s fate.

 

TAUBERT

How many deaths have you seen up to now?

 

EFFIE

My husband shot himself here on my heart.

 

TAUBERT

Epiphania Aphrodisiaca!
Whenever you make a night-time visit
to a graveyard, the coffin lids rise up.
But you must be careful.(23)

 

EFFIE [laughing]

                                            What is it
I need to be afraid of? Last summer
I spent my time cooped up in Mondsee
with an Afghani prince, who was quite mad,
a summer stay like all the others.
We played like children.(24)

 

TAUBERT

                                             Epiphania
Aphrodisiaca! You know all the tricks.
But nevertheless . . .

 

EFFIE

                             I once knew a man
who had lots of ammunition and shot
in all directions if someone even tugged
the white hairs on his chest. But listen
to that song! Heiri Wipf is singing!

 

HEIRI WIPF [up in a plum tree, singing in front of the window]

O the plums were so blue!
O the plums were so blue!

 

TAUBERT

Ah, that voice! It goes right through me!

 

EFFIE [opening the window and calling outside]

Dearest Heiri, stop picking all those plums!

 

TAUBERT

How can one possibly describe that lovely view!
When you think of it, how soon this splendour
will remain beautiful only to other souls.

 

EFFIE

Here plum-gathering Heiri comes in person!

 

HEIRI WIPF [kneeling on the window ledge, a sack on his shoulders]

That song about plums is a lovely damn song! You work like a quarryman from morning till night, but you can’t for the life of you get that song out of your head!

 

EFFIE

Then sing it for us. Come, Heiri. Climb in
with your sack full of plums, and sing!

 

HEIRI WIPF

A lovely anonymous song! It’s from High Germany! The court jester has to sing it to the castle maiden every morning! I sing high German badly.(25)

 

[He sings]

 

O the plums are so blue, so blue!
O the plums are so blue!
Then the famers come and crush
all the plums in a dreadful mush.
They crush the plums so blue, so blue!
They crush the plums so blue!

 

TAUBERT

This stupid fool! O Effie, don’t make me
have to suffer through it!

 

HEIRI WIPF

A stupid fool! [Raising his fist and going after Taubert] For me that would be a welcome novelty. [Taubert moves quickly out of his way] I am dirt. You are dirt. And the castle maiden is — she is made of the finest stuff there is. We’d all be better off if we were stupid fools.

 

EFFIE

Bravo, Heiri! You’re a prophet!
Now go outside into the garden
and pick a basket full of large fresh pears
for us to eat tonight.

 

HEIRI WIPF

For the night! Yes indeed! Large fresh pears for the mistress of the castle! The night is just such a damn hot time of day!

 

[Henri Wipf exits downstage right]

 

EFFIE

Now there’s the very image of a man!

 

TAUBERT

Epiphania Aphrodisiaca!

 

EFFIE

What is it, my sweet treasure?

 

TAUBERT

                                          At other times,
whenever you’ve been in a tangled mess,
you’ve always acted on what I’ve advised.
So are we not accomplices? We two
trade in goods we simply cannot sell
to all those who consume them every day,
like their daily bread. You deal with flesh,
and I with spirit, and human beings
accept the two of us with equal rage,
because they cannot do without us both.
Epiphania, you are at a crossroads,
like Hercules was once. A woman buys
her lasting happiness in life for love,
but if that does not work, then love is poison.
At that point you must let your lover go
and keep your distance from the raging beast. 

 

EFFIE

You are a coward, just like everyone
who in disgust has thrown off priestly clothes.
My life is simply unendurable
if some adventure does not lie in wait
whose ending no one can anticipate.

 

TAUBERT

Only today in your two bedroom eyes
I saw no sign of any confidence.
You almost look as if you’d bumped into
some painter of a local country scene.

 

EFFIE [breaking out in tears]

Don’t torture me! No more torturing me!
I can’t go on without love in my life.

 

TAUBERT

Then I would even try it with a child
before I risked my love on Mister Tschamper.

 

 

SCENE SIX

 

[Karl Salzmann enters in a hurry downstage right, followed by Schigabet.]
 
SALZMANN [reacting to the sight of Effie]

What’s this? Tears? Now? Who brought this on?
 
[To Taubert]

 

You stupid clumsy ox! Get out of here!

 

SCHIGABET [agitated and walking around, to Salzmann]

You kept ignoring me completely,
as if I was your valet. A gentleman
at festive celebrations does not strive
so earnestly to keep a waiting servant
at a distance. For you my rank is this—
Singer of Opera for the Ducal Court
in Bernburg. Take good note of that!
You have no contractual right at all
to treat me as if I were beneath you.

 

SALZMANN [to Effie]

Tonight we hold a large gala banquet
in the Hall of Knights. The passage way
across the courtyard from the gallery
into the hall will be lit by torches,
candelabras blazing fire. In lime trees
on the old citadel we’ll have lights,
three hundred burning paper lanterns!
And you dare show us tear-stained eyes!

 

EFFIE [cheerful]

                                                  But only
by way of contrast, that’s all. Raindrops
smile more joyfully basking in the sun.

 

SALZMANN

I said I would look after your affairs
provided you remained a prostitute.
If you’re a girl who likes to whine or moan,
then find yourself another manager!

 

TAUBERT

Epiphania, those fears I spoke of—
they now seem to me almost ridiculous.

 

SALZMANN

Fears? When you know every trick in the book
there’s nothing you need be afraid of!

 

[To Taubert and Schigabet]

 

                                       You two,
get yourselves out of here! Now!

 

SCHIGABET

You boor—don’t count on me to recommend you
if the press out there asks me what you’re up to.

 

SALZMANN [pushes Schigabet and Taubert to the door downstage right]

Whatever happens, don’t recommend me
to anyone at all. I urge you not to.
Our hands are full—we have enough to do.
The more our bookings grow, the less precise
our work becomes.

 

[Calling to them through the door]

 

Good merchandise, good prices.
That’s my motto!

 

[He goes straight across the room, opens the door in back wall and calls]

 

                               Would you please come in, sir?

 

[Salzmann lets Mister Tschamper enter and then disappears into the room at the back.]

 

 

SCENE SEVEN

 

[Tschamper is a gigantic figure. He has no beard and close-cropped grey hair. He takes off his top hat as he enters.]
 
TSCHAMPER

You understand, my child, I intend to die.

 

EFFIE

Will you die today?

 

TSCHAMPER

                              As quickly as I can.

 

EFFIE

Good. Then I’ll go now and take my clothes off.

 

TSCHAMPER

That is not necessary.

 

EFFIE

                                                 Forgive me,
but, according to the contract, you desired
to die gazing at a naked woman.

 

TSCHAMPER

How could you manage to misinterpret that?
It was the soul that was to be exposed.
How long is it that you have been for sale?

 

EFFIE

Five year. My profession suits me well.
How long have you been a customer of ours?

 

TSCHAMPER

As long as the world has been in place,
I’ve been your most devoted client.

 

EFFIE

So old and yet so enterprising still.                      
Still like a student, eager for applause.
I’m pleased we’ve had a chance to meet.

 

TSCHAMPER

As the Lord says, the pleasure is all mine.
If that were not the case, I would not pay
such sums of money to amuse myself.

 

EFFIE

That was premature. You had no idea
what gives me pleasure. If I love you,
is that your loss?

 

TSCHAMPER

                                     We are doing business.
I have no wish to change what we’ve agreed.

 

EFFIE

A woman’s business is always with the man—
in the finest marriages it’s like that, too.

 

TSCHAMPER

And yet in marriages one rarely sees
a contract like the one Karl Salzmann made.

 

EFFIE

But nonetheless it’s not so easy
to cast off its fetters.

 

TSCHAMPER

                                  Such superstitions
help the foolish lull themselves to sleep,
those idiots who all their lives drag lust
bound up in chains of marriage.

 

EFFIE

                                    Do you believe
there are such fools?

 

TSCHAMPER

                          Most people are like that.
They have no idea that in their marriage
they each retain their freedom and every day
can do and leave alone what pleases them.

 

EFFIE

A lovely and intoxicating thought,
but in reality each person wonders
if marriage comes from Heaven or from Hell.

 

TSCHAMPER

Because we need that violent conflict
between heaven and hell for our digestion.

 

EFFIE

That contract Salzmann made between us—
can it not also serve for just that purpose?

 

TSCHAMPER

No, that can’t be done. The comparison
of Salzmann with a devil will not hold.

 

EFFIE

So am I then more closely bound to you
than people are in marriage?

 

TSCHAMPER

                                              I hope so.
For the money I paid to purchase you
two-thirds of all the marriages in the world
would let themselves be torn asunder.

 

EFFIE

Then use your time with me as your heart wishes.

 

TSCHAMPER

That’s unavoidable. I’m seeking death.

 

EFFIE

I’m pleased to offer all my expertise
to lighten your farewell.

 

TSCHAMPER

                   As you well know,
that’s what you’re paid to do.

 

EFFIE

                                       No customer
has ever known me break a contract.
For that I am too proud of this profession,
a career I chose myself.

 

TSCHAMPER [sitting down at a table]

                                     Of course,
I’m counting on the best scenario,
when, without assistance, my suicide
will suddenly take place. That’s the reason
I always carry with me a small glass
of prussic acid. With your permission,
I’ll pour some tiny droplets in this cup.(26)

 

[He pours a few drops out of a small bottle into the golden goblet, which is on the table.]

 

EFFIE

And you still prefer I keep my clothes on?
That is not chivalrous. A prostitute,
once her vanity is hurt, is helpless,
as stupid, dumb, and clumsy as a child.

 

TSCHAMPER

That’s how helpless I require you to be.

 

EFFIE

Allow me to dilute that drink a little.

 

[She fills the cup with water and throws the contents out of the window.]

 

TSCHAMPER

You have been married, too?

 

EFFIE

                                 For two years
I put up with it. But our emotions
had no desire to live in harmony.

 

TSCHAMPER [taking the goblet from her]

Where did you get this cup?

 

EFFIE

                                From my lover.
He gave it to me.

 

TSCHAMPER [pours a drop of prussic acid into the goblet and then adds water.]

I’ll pour in the water we need myself.

 

[He holds the goblet in his hand]
 

EFFIE [suddenly decisive]

Then I’ll take off my clothes.

 

TSCHAMPER

                                                 I forbid you to.
When my mind’s in torment, nervous tension
makes me strong. Don’t keep showing yourself off!

 

EFFIE

You long to be disgusted with the world—
but you’ll not get there with such self-denial.

 

TSCHAMPER

The flesh has its own spirit. Once the nerves
in this living creature become so tense
I feel I am a man, in that moment
I will drain this cup. And then the world
will be well rid of me.

 

EFFIE [going cautiously up to him and stroking him in a friendly way]

                                                But nonetheless,
I’ll bet you scarcely know our ten-stage scale.

 

TSCHAMPER

Is that patented?

 

EFFIE

                             I’ll name the stages for you.

 

TSCHAMPER

What is the lowest stage?

 

EFFIE

First in darkness, second lit by lamps
The cruellest suffering for slavish tramps.

 

TSCHAMPER

I don’t belong there. The highest stage!

 

EFFIE

Ninth in competition, tenth sacrificial rite,
so that we never lose our sacred light.

 

TSCHAMPER

In competition! Lovely! That’s my case exactly!
But now, instead of poetry, let’s talk
about reality. Explain to me
the saddest thing in your entire life!

 

EFFIE

I can’t do that! It’s quite impossible!
All my limbs are quivering already.

 

TSCHAMPER [getting up, still holding the goblet, and pushing the electric button close to the middle door]

To cheat me of a hundred thousand dollars
is no game for children.

 

EFFIE

                         I did not choose this job
to talk about distressing things. My task
is to serve you happiness!

 

TSCHAMPER

One can deceive oneself.

 

[Salzmann enters from the back room. Tschamper turns to address him.]

 

You need to start a bankruptcy proceeding.
This creature will not tell the saddest thing
she’s ever lived through in her entire life.

 

[Salzmann moves very close to Effie with an expression of urgency.]

 

SALZMANN

Tomorrow should I show the man you love
the door--make  him give up the monarchy.
Think of the scandal and the shame.

 

[As Salzmann leaves he turns to Tschamper]

 

SALZMANN

                                     She’ll speak—
and say whatever there is to say.

 

[Salzmann exits into the back room.]

 

EFFIE [to Tschamper; she is trembling]

What story then?

 

TSCHAMPER [sitting down again at the table]

                 The most depressing thing
you’ve ever lived through.

 

EFFIE

                                    The first time I broke
my marriage vow—that was the very worst.

 

TSCHAMPER

Amazing! How did that happen? Explain!

 

EFFIE [getting closer to Tschamper, confidingly]

Isn’t it the case that you’d be better off
if you seized a useful opportunity
to change from being a poor monstrosity
to become instead the happiest guest
in all the world at a feast of celebration?

 

TSCHAMPER

Where is this favourable opportunity?(27)

 

EFFIE

Don’t look too far afield!
Unnaturalness is a labyrinth,
which thousands have by now escaped.
One has to laugh and dance on air.
For failure always needs a pair.
The weirdest misfit of them all,
whom our officials label mad,
did you ever hear a person claim
I could not make him sane again?
His only suffering before
was cheerless agonies of love,
and afterwards he sometimes laughs
at how unnatural he used to be.
For now, pursuing harmless thrills,
he battles bravely through life’s ills.

 

TSCHAMPER

Describe for me your first adultery.

 

EFFIE [beginning to tremble]

We suffered from the curse of boredom.
No young girl has ever known
more happiness—my husband was
the handsomest young officer
in the equestrian school,
and since the time of our first kiss
we shared a common thought—
each one had to love the other
with all the strength we had.
But though our love was strong,
our boredom swelled up like a sore.
So then he offered me advice—
to save ourselves from danger
I should seduce a stranger,
and I, like someone quite obsessed
at finding things to talk about,
flung all his money here and there,
but he didn’t even seem to care.
Unable to forget his dream
he could not stop advising me
to go behind his back, betray him
with some conceited well-dressed fop
as a way to make the boredom stop.

 

TSCHAMPER

Did that not give you pleasure?

 

EFFIE

What in me was strong
for one year long
during a single night,
disappeared from sight.
Lonely desert, empty heart!
From power of will
no sense of thrill,
and everywhere both far and near,
all things seemed so crudely clear.
Depressed, I thought of earlier days—
“You threw your happiness away
to bring dead nerves back into play.”

 

TSCHAMPER

You’ve told that to a hundred men already.

 

EFFIE

As if I couldn’t tell them funnier tales!

 

TSCHAMPER

Your husband was then keen for you to leave.

 

EFFIE

No, no. Precisely the reverse.
His mind was quite resolved
to offer me to other men
to heighten his own pleasure,
and every time I was untrue
he found me twice as beautiful.
He never showed a trace of grief.
So in the end I took on any man
whom I could get into my hand.
I kept my satellites in play
to guard my body from decay,
while, wracked with hunger, my soul died.
The final remnants of our love
made their escape and flew away.
With him I acted as I would
with any wretched relative
one can’t allow to die.
I hurled his money to the winds
and always hoped that in the end
he’d come to find you hateful
and fly away from you like sin.
But he’s a barnacle and sticks,
until we’re facing destitution,
then kills himself, drops down dead,
afraid of poverty, in my own bed.

 

TSCHAMPER

After three days you did not find his death
distressing, so how does such a story
give me sufficient strength for suicide?
I want cries from the heart! What about parents?
Are yours still alive?

 

EFFIE

                             Only my mother.

 

TSCHAMPER

How did your father die?

 

EFFIE [reacting with shock]

                             I won’t talk of that!

 

TSCHAMPER

How did your father die? Tell me how he died!

 

EFFIE

I can’t.

 

TSCHAMPER

                      Tell me!

 

EFFIE [throwing her arms around his neck]

                                                        Come away with me!
Let’s not stay here. And afterwards there’ll be no need
to ask me anything about my father’s death
or how my husband killed himself.

 

TSCHAMPER

                                       Who paying for this?
You or me?

 

EFFIE

                     You! You’re the one who’s paying!

 

TSCHAMPER

Me? Then tell me about your father’s death.

 

EFFIE [with mounting distress]

It was in the morning, New Year’s Eve.
Snow had fallen. They came to us,
Medical Staff Officer Korff,
and Major von Falkenstein.
They entered from the garden, and I,
still in a short frock, went out to meet them.
O look, these gentlemen, cheerful as ever,
have by some mistake forgotten father.
Without a word, they signalled
I should move away, as mother
came in from the breakfast room.
Major von Falkenstein, curt and dull,
“Madam, you must be calm.
Whoever trusts in God . . .”
Tears were rolling down his face.
Mother screams,
“But he’s alive! He’s still alive!”
The Major trembles.
No words at all.

 

TSCHAMPER

Did your father fall victim to a stroke
while visiting someone of your profession?

 

EFFIE [crying out]

No! He was killed fighting a duel!

 

TSCHAMPER

How genuine and full the feelings are,
how they still thrive, in this old world.
America and all the British Empire
could not summon up so much emotion.
Once more I have to paint myself a picture.
What is your earliest memory of your parents?
Quickly!

 

EFFIE

Beside the green banked oleander tree,
mother and father sit, side by side.
I’m with them, standing on their knees.
All of a sudden I see them kissing.
I throw my arms around them both—
to me their kissing brought pure joy
and cried we must stay this way forever,
so they could just continue kissing.

 

TSCHAMPER

But do you still remember your parents
fighting, cursing, striking one another?

 

EFFIE

That is not true! I never witnessed that!
I can’t . . . I can’t control myself . . . childhood,
my parents’ house! If you had never lived
then life would be confusion, madness—
stupefying horror!

 

[She is shaking, gripped by attacks of weeping]

 

TSCHAMPER

                             Put the handkerchief away!
Stand up! Is this all tension in your nerves?

 

[He throws over a chair standing nearby and kicks it against the wall]

 

TSCHAMPER

Listen to your father! Talk to him!
Answer your father! Tell your father
what you’ve been doing since he lay dead,
in his coffin there, in the morning,
on New Year’s Eve.

 

EFFIE

                             Leave my father out of it.
My father’s dead.

 

[She throws herself on Tschamper and kisses him with wild passion]

 

                                         Were you ever kissed like this?
Or this? Or this? Or this?

 

TSCHAMPER

                                             Yes, for a dollar!
Now earn the hundred thousand I am paying!
You must earn it! Must I show you the way?

 

[He seizes the cup and seems to take a drink.]

 

EFFIE [with an involuntary cry]

No! You have to live!

 

TSCHAMPER

                                    You feeble creature!
Cannot watch a person die. Not even you!

 

EFFIE [passionately]

Because I love you! Have a man and woman
ever found themselves so suitable
for one another as you and me?
For the very first time, my existence
does not grin at me from empty sockets.

 

TSCHAMPER [apparently exhausted]
    A memory is creeping over me,
as if I had already died in here,
within these walls.

 

[He looks out the window.]

 

                          This panoramic view
of villages clothed in such greenery,
the serrated wall leading from the bastion
to the watchtower, trees full of plums . . .
My death is child’s play, when what it contains
outweighs the contents of my life.

 

EFFIE [pressing up against him tenderly]

My love, accept your life—you haven’t lived
until today.

 

TSCHAMPER

                   Neither have you.

 

EFFIE

I would never have become a whore
if I’d had someone there to tame me
the way you do.

 

TSCHAMPER

                                 Did you search for me?
A courageous person looks for someone
to subdue her.

 

EFFIE [twisting out his embrace, speaking very passionately]

                           You need a woman
who will sacrifice everything for you,
and I require a man for whose sake
I would sacrifice myself.

 

TSCHAMPER

                                     And you, my child,
do you believe you are woman like that?

 

EFFIE

If you have any doubts my pride demands
I drink what’s in this cup.

 

TSCHAMPER

                                  I have my doubts.

 

[Effie quickly grabs the goblet, drinks it down in a gulp, and lets it fall. Then without a sound she raises her arms, bends convulsively back, and sinks to the floor. Lying on her back, with her arms and legs bent backwards as far as possible, she throws herself silently from side to side, until her body, resting on her bent back, hands, and feet, arches upward. Then convulsions begin. These gradually become less frequent, until she remains lying there motionless.]

 

TSCHAMPER

Ah, that’s beautiful! Yes, quite wonderful!
Thank you, my child. Thank you. No woman
has ever been so sweet!

 

[He gets up and looks out the window.]

 

                          This glorious piece of earth!
Did the knights ever dream of tournaments
taking place today in their old castle?
How odd it is—no whore can ever feel
the way most normal children tend to do
and think she’s better than her parents’ home.
Many of them have endured your fate.

 

[He opens the door to the back room]

 

                                                              My car!

 

 

SCENE EIGHT

 

SALZMANN [entering the room]

To me it looks as if you’ve failed again.

 

TSCHAMPER

I hoped I had reached my goal, but then,
right under my nose, she drank the poison.

 

SALZMANN

Too bad! The cars are ready at the central gate.

 

TASCHAMPER

We were chatting—a harmless conversation
about her parents’ home. Why is it no whore
can bear that? The world and I are incompatible.
The world must change.

 

SALZMANN

                       Of course, it has to change—
and it does change as quickly as it can.
But how can I make up my losses here?

 

TSCHAMPER

You simply have to come to Atakama
to manage my affairs.

 

SALZMANN

                             I’m a family man,
and not well suited for adventures.

 

TSCHAMPER

                                           I’ll pay you—
a fixed salary of fifty thousand dollars
and a hundred thousand yearly profit
guaranteed.

 

SALZMANN

                       That’s something to consider.

 

[Opening the small arched door downstage left]

 

Let’s walk down the tower. A rocky cleft
provides a hidden path to the central gate.

 

TSCHAMPER [picking the goblet up from the floor]

I’ll take this with me as a souvenir.

 

[He exits downstage left. Salzmann follows him.]

 

HEIRI WIPF [singing offstage, outside the window]
    O the plums were so blue!

 

 

 

ENDNOTES

 

(1) Kurt Martens (1870-1945), a German writer. Wedekind wrote Castle Wetterstein in 1909-10. The play was not staged during his lifetime. [Back to Text]
 
(2) Wedekind’s text does not specify the location or the date of the action. However, one or two lines in the play suggest that the plot begins in the 1880’s (see footnotes for details). And this scene seems to take place in Germany, probably Berlin. [Back to Text]
 
(3) European Slave Life, first published in Germany in 1854, was a three-volume novel written in a comic style often compared at the time to that of Charles Dickens. Its author, Friedrich Hackländer (1816-1877), was a prolific and popular German writer. [Back to Text]
 
(4) Leonore uses the word Kamtschadale to describe Ibsen (translated above as northern barbarian). The word Kamtschadale translates into English as Kamchatkan, an original native inhabitant of the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia. [Back to Text]
 
(5) A consistorial councillor is a clerical member of the consistory (i.e., a member of the administrative authority of the Protestant church). [Back to Text]
 
(6) The German here reads Platanenallee, which means avenue of sycamores or avenue of plane trees, but Platanenallee is also the name of a street in Berlin, Tübigen, Bad Essen, and elsewhere. It is not clear here whether the word refers to the name of a specific street or is simply a descriptive term. Nor is it entirely clear whether or not Leonore and Effie live in Berlin. [Back to Text]
 
(7) The Jagersfontein Mine was an open-pit diamond mine in South Africa (now abandoned). Diamonds were discovered on the property in 1870, and the operation was officially closed in 1969. [Back to Text]
 
(8) A monkey jacket is a short, close-fitting coat worn by sailors or waiters or military officers in their mess. [Back to Text]
 
(9) This is a reference to the Biblical story (in Genesis). Potiphar was the captain of the palace guard in Egypt, and Joseph, after being sold into slavery by his brothers, rises to become head of Potiphar’s household. Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph and, when he resists her advances, accuses him of raping her. Joseph is thrown into prison until he is rescued by Pharaoh, who later makes him overlord of Egypt. [Back to Text]
 
(10) In Wedekind’s German text, the Waiter’s speech is in French. [Back to Text]
 
(11) These ages are famous for (among other things) the beauty, power, and influence of certain prostitutes. [Back to Text]
 
(12) In Wedekind’s text the hotel manager speaks in French to the hotel employees and to the police, and Duvoison speaks French to Leonore. [Back to Text]
 
(13) The Wetterstein is a group of mountains in the eastern Alps. The main peak, the Zugspitze, is the highest mountain in Germany. [Back to Text]
 
(14) Camphor, a natural substance derived from a tree, has long been used as a medicine for a wide variety of medical conditions, especially sexual ailments. It has a very distinctive smell. [Back to Text]
 
(15) “The City of the Sun” was a philosophical utopian work by Tommaso Campanella published in Latin in 1623 in Frankfurt. [Back to Text]
 
(16) Friedrich Barbarossa (1122-1190) became King of Germany in 1152, King of Italy in 1155, and Holy Roman Emperor in 1155. [Back to Text]
 
(17) The phrase “Propaganda of the Deed” derives from the French propaganda par le fait and refers to overtly political acts designed to inspire others. The phrase gained currency in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly among anarchist groups, to express the notion that significant political ideas arise from actions (including especially acts of violence) rather than the other way around. [Back to Text]
 
(18) The “lover” Effie refers to here and throughout the scene seems clearly modelled on Crown Prince Frederick William Victor of Prussia (1859-1941), heir to throne of Prussia (and after 1871 to the new German Empire). He was married in 1881 and had several children. He succeeded his father (who reigned for only ninety-nine days) in 1888. If we are to take Effie’s details about her lover as indicating someone presently alive, then the action in this scene apparently takes place in the mid 1880’s (i.e., before Wilhelm became the new Kaiser, but after his marriage and the birth of his first children). [Back to Text]
 
(19) Wilhelm II (then Crown Prince) married Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein in 1881, a match resisted in some quarters but very much favoured by the German Chancellor Otto von Bismark, on the ground that it would relieve tension between Prussia and the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein (the bride’s father). The Duke’s territory had been annexed by Prussia and Austria in 1864 and later by Prussia alone in 1866. For a number of years, this political situation was complex and potentially a great threat to European peace. [Back to Text]
 
(20) The ladder of love (Liebesstufenleiter) is a traditional Christian concept of a series of steps (often ten) leading the soul from earthly concerns up to a love of God. The notion of this sort of steady step-by-step progress striving upward to the true and the beautiful goes back at least as far as Plato’s Symposium. Wedekind’s images of that ladder here are characteristically secular. This passage inspired a series of erotic etchings (by E. L., probably Rudolf Lamm) published in 1920, entitled Liebesstufenleiter von Frank Wedekind. [Back to Text]
 
(21) Torpedo Harbour (Torpedohafen) refers to Wilhelmshafen, the most important naval base in Imperial Germany. [Back to Text]
 
(22) The Atacama Desert in Chile is a long stretch of land on the Pacific coast of South America. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world. [Back to Text]
 
(23) Aphrodisiaca, a Latin word, is the name for an unknown precious stone. The word is also sometimes used in the botanical name for plants with allegedly aphrodisiac qualities (e.g., Tumera diffusa var aphrodisiaca). [Back to Text]
 
(24) Mondsee is a town (and region) by the shores of a lake in a famous and very popular tourist area of Austria (the Salzkammergut). [Back to Text]
 
(25) The phrase High Germany refers to the mountainous regions of south Germany. Since the founding of modern Austria (in 1918) the phrase is no longer common as a geographical term. The term high German (hochdeutsch) refers to the dialect of the region. The word nowadays refers to standard German—i.e., the officially accepted version of German which transcends all local dialects. [Back to Text]
 
(26) Prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) is a naturally occurring substance, which is also synthetically produced (since the 1890’s). It has many industrial uses and is also a lethal agent often used in human suicides. [Back to Text]
 
(27) The changes here in the margin and the length of lines follow Wedekind’s German text. [Back to Text]

 


 
 [Back to johnstoniatexts Home Page]