Historicism in the Portrayal of Woyzeck and Other Figures

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Georg Büchner's Woyzeck

Georg Büchner's Woyzeck is a bleeding dramatic torso that revolves around violence prompted by sexual rage. The play is a narration of the story of a young army officer from a low cadre in the society. He is driven to madness by jealousy, with his vision of a wretched existence leading to the killing of his girlfriend and committing suicide to avoid public execution. The naturalistic tragedy features the themes of dark overtones of despair and pessimism. While the seminal drama is topically a classic depiction of the tragedy of human jealousy, the play is also a social commentary that describes the retarding moments in Germany during 1830s. Büchner provides a deep and broad profile of the social, economic, and political ecology of the 19th century class-based Germany. The historicism will be the primacy of the analysis, where a key focus will be the representation of the socioeconomic dimensions when the work was written.


Woyzeck is a piece of literature that commentates on the social aspects facing the working class in Germany. The plot development and character profile revolve around not only the fate of the hero and heroine but also the depiction of the class-structure of society. Büchner employs characterisation to represent the oppressiveness of the feudal system, where the nobles and the royal families enjoyed an elevated status in the society. They had better social conditions, an aspect that is contrasted by the socioeconomic struggles of Marie and Woyzeck and the good life of the Captain, the military doctor, and the Drum Major. The two protagonists are subject to brutal assertions of authority, where they are considered instruments to be exploited through the power of repressive morality represented by the Captain, and of science represented by the doctor. Woyzeck is inhumanely treated as a research subject, where his socioeconomic standing forces him to take part in an experiment where he feeds on peas only for three months to determine his minimum nutritional demands. He is also desperately poor, an aspect that precipitates to being humiliated when he confronts the Drum Major and losing his common-law wife, Marie.

Disparities in the Socioeconomic Profile

The characterisation and plot development in the play serves to highlight not only the disparities in the socioeconomic profile but also the cases of hopelessness and suffering during the class-based society of the 19th century. While the low-class hero expresses determination to flourish in life, he remains repressed by the three grotesque figures from higher cadres. Marie also highlights the devaluation of the working class to objects of physical and sexual activities. Despite being married to Woyzeck, she cannot resist the advances of Drum Major. She considers herself a misfit when she refers by saying, "you're only a whore's child, you poor thing" (Büchner, 2012, pp.295). When her husband discovers she is cheating, she calls herself an infidel. Büchner notes that she longs in vain to follow the footsteps of the repentant Mary Magdalene. The infamy was a typical construction during the 19th century Germany, where the society associated immoral behaviours with low-life. The berating of Woyzeck confirms the issue, where the Captain treats him with disdain. He challenges his morality because of having an illegitimate child that has not been blessed by the church because he was born out of the wedlock. The murder of Marie also typifies the notions of immorality, where the low cadre lover pursues justice in an approach that was considered a sin by the church and an illegal act by the state.


In conclusion, Büchner's fragmented scenes are a damning social critique that commentates on the determinism, classism, and debate on free will in the 19th century Germany. The playlist gives an honest view of the society that was characterised by class-based insubordination, exploitation, as well as hopelessness.


Büchner, G., 2012. Woyzeck. S. Fischer Verlag.

November 24, 2023




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Literature Review

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