Pandora's Box (play)

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Pandora's Box (German : Die Büchse der Pandora) is a 1904 play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the second part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays, the first being Earth Spirit (1895), both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed". [1]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Play (theatre) form of literature intended for theatrical performance

A play is form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of dialogue or singing between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. Plays are performed at a variety of levels, from Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theater, to Community theatre, as well as university or school productions. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference as to whether their plays were performed or read. The term "play" can refer to both the written texts of playwrights and to their complete theatrical performance.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

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G. W. Pabst directed a silent film version Pandora's Box (1929), which was loosely based on the play. Both plays together also formed the basis for the opera Lulu by Alban Berg in 1935 (premiered posthumously in 1937).

Silent film Film with no synchronized recorded dialogue

A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound. In silent films for entertainment, the plot may be conveyed by the use of title cards, written indications of the plot and key dialogue lines. The idea of combining motion pictures with recorded sound is nearly as old as film itself, but because of the technical challenges involved, the introduction of synchronized dialogue became practical only in the late 1920s with the perfection of the Audion amplifier tube and the advent of the Vitaphone system. During the silent-film era that existed from the mid-1890s to the late 1920s, a pianist, theater organist—or even, in large cities, a small orchestra—would often play music to accompany the films. Pianists and organists would play either from sheet music, or improvisation.

<i>Pandoras Box</i> (1929 film) 1929 film by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Pandora's Box is a 1929 German silent melodrama film based on Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora (1904). Directed by Austrian filmmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner and Francis Lederer. Brooks' portrayal of a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring ruin to herself and those who love her, although initially unappreciated, eventually made the actress a star.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

In the original manuscript, dating from 1894, the 'Lulu' drama was in five acts and subtitled 'A Monster Tragedy'. Wedekind subsequently divided the work into two plays: Earth Spirit (German: Erdgeist, first printed in 1895) and Pandora's Box (German: Die Büchse der Pandora). It is now customary in theatre performances to run the two plays together, in abridged form, under the title Lulu. Wedekind is known to have taken his inspiration from at least two sources: the pantomime Lulu by Félicien Champsaur, which he saw in Paris in the early 1890s, and the sex murders of Jack the Ripper in London in 1888. [2]

Earth Spirit (1895) (Erdgeist) is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the first part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays; the second is Pandora's Box (1904), both depicting a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed". In German folklore an erdgeist is a gnome, first described in Goethe's Faust (1808). Together with Pandora's Box, Wedekind's play formed the basis for the silent film Pandora's Box (1929) starring Louise Brooks and the opera Lulu by Alban Berg.

Félicien Champsaur (1858–1934) was a French novelist and journalist.

A lust murder is a homicide in which the offender searches for erotic satisfaction by killing someone. Lust murder is synonymous with the paraphilic term erotophonophilia, which is sexual arousal or gratification contingent on the death of a human being. The phrase "lust killing" stems from the original work of Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his 1898 discussion of sadistic homicides. Commonly, this type of crime is manifested either by murder during sexual activity, by mutilating the sexual organs or areas of the victim's body, or by murder and mutilation. The mutilation of the victim may include evisceration, displacement of the sexual organs, or both. The mutilation usually takes place postmortem. Although the killing sequence may include an act of sexual intercourse, sexual intercourse does not always occur, and other types of sexual acts may be part of the homicide.

The premiere of Pandora's Box, a restricted performance due to difficulties with the censor, took place in Nuremberg on 1 February 1904. The 1905 Viennese premiere, again restricted, was instigated by the satirist Karl Kraus. In Vienna Lulu was played by Tilly Newes, later to become Wedekind's wife, with the part of Jack the Ripper played by Wedekind himself.

Nuremberg Place in Bavaria, Germany

Nuremberg is the second-largest city of the German federal state of Bavaria after its capital Munich, and its 511,628 (2016) inhabitants make it the 14th largest city in Germany. On the Pegnitz River and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it lies in the Bavarian administrative region of Middle Franconia, and is the largest city and the unofficial capital of Franconia. Nuremberg forms a continuous conurbation with the neighbouring cities of Fürth, Erlangen and Schwabach with a total population of 787,976 (2016), while the larger Nuremberg Metropolitan Region has approximately 3.5 million inhabitants. The city lies about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich. It is the largest city in the East Franconian dialect area.

Karl Kraus (writer) Czech playwright and publicist

Karl Kraus was an Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. He directed his satire at the press, German culture, and German and Austrian politics. The Austrian author Stefan Zweig once called Kraus "the master of venomous ridicule". He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Plot

Act One (Germany). At the end of Earth Spirit , Lulu was imprisoned for the murder of her third husband, Dr Schön. Pandora's Box opens with her confederates awaiting her arrival after she has been sprung from prison in an elaborate plot. The lesbian Countess Geschwitz, who remains in love with Lulu, has swapped identities with her and takes Lulu's place in prison, hoping that Lulu will love her in return. Rodrigo Quast, the acrobat, plans to take Lulu away with him as a circus performer but when she arrives, emaciated from the prison regime, he declares her unfit for his purposes. Alwa Schön, the writer, succumbs to her charms, despite her having murdered his father. They leave together.

Lesbian Homosexual woman

A lesbian is a homosexual woman. The word lesbian is also used for women in relation to their sexual identity or sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation, or as an adjective to characterize or associate nouns with female homosexuality or same-sex attraction.

Act Two (Paris). Lulu and Alwa, now married, are entertaining in their lavish home. All are profiting from investments in the Jungfrau cable-car company. Two characters attempt to blackmail her, since she is still wanted by the German police: Rodrigo the acrobat and Casti-Piani, a white slave-trader who offers to set her up in a brothel in Cairo. The sinister Schigolch, who was Lulu's first patron and may be her father, reappears, and by offering to lure Rodrigo and Geschwitz to his lodgings, promises to "take care of" the threatening Rodrigo. As the police arrive to arrest her, Lulu swaps clothes with a groom and escapes. The Jungfrau share price has meanwhile collapsed, leaving her penniless.

Jungfrau one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps in Switzerland (4,158m / 13,642 ft)

The Jungfrau at 4,158 metres (13,642 ft) is one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps, located between the northern canton of Bern and the southern canton of Valais, halfway between Interlaken and Fiesch. Together with the Eiger and Mönch, the Jungfrau forms a massive wall overlooking the Bernese Oberland and the Swiss Plateau, one of the most distinctive sights of the Swiss Alps.

Act Three (London). Lulu is now living in a garret with Alwa and Schigolch and working as a prostitute. Geschwitz arrives with the rolled-up portrait of Lulu as an innocent Pierrot which has accompanied Lulu throughout the action of this play and its predecessor. Lulu's first client is the pious mute Mr Hopkins. Alwa is killed by her next visitor, the African prince Kungu Poti. Another client, the bashful Dr Hilti, flees in horror and Geschwitz tries unsuccessfully to hang herself. 'Jack' (putatively Jack the Ripper), her final client, argues with her about her fee. Geschwitz vows to return to Germany to matriculate and fight for women's rights. Jack murders Lulu and Geschwitz; the latter dies declaring eternal love for Lulu.

Reception

The play has attracted a wide range of interpretations, from those who see it as misogynist to those who claim Wedekind as a harbinger of women's liberation. [3] Central to these divergent readings is the ambiguous figure of Lulu herself. Each man in her life, secure in the patriarchal society to which she is a potential affront, finds in her what he wants to see; her own needs, meanwhile, remain obscured. And each man "lets her down because he is flawed by a blind disregard for her true self, an indifference that stems from that blend of self-centredness and self-interest which Wedekind (…) saw as typically male". [4] Whether Lulu is victim or femme fatale , the centre of gravity in this second play shifts in the direction of Geschwitz, whom Wedekind in his Preface to the 1906 edition describes as the "tragic central figure of the play" and holds up as an example of both "superhuman self-sacrifice" and spiritual strength in the face of the "terrible destiny of abnormality with which she is burdened".

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References

Notes

  1. See the article "Frank Wedekind" in Banham 1998, pp. 1189-1190
  2. Finney 1989, p. 80
  3. Lewis 1997, p. 29
  4. Skrine 1989, p. 91

Bibliography