Play by Georg Büchner which he started to write in 1836 and was left as a fragment after his death in February 1837 - though Woyzeck became Büchner's most important work. The text is written in a local South-German dialect.


The soldier Woyzeck is part of the lowest social class, he is poor, uneducated and feeling helpless. His pay is so little that he has to earn money in any possible way, for example through shaving his captain every day, with whom he has humiliating conversations. Another auxiliary income comes from a doctor who is abusing him for medical tests: He is only allowed to eat peas for weeks to find out the effects on his nervous system. When Woyzeck tries to express his fears about the dizzinesses he is suffering from due to the diet the doctor responds: "He is an interesting case. Subject Woyzeck. He gets bonus, keep up."

In the meantime the young drum major starts to be keen on Marie, Woyzeck's beloved with whom he has an illegitimate baby. The simple girl is unable to resist the proposals made by the major and soon everybody is talking about the affair; the whole town making a mock of Woyzeck again. Firstly not believing the rumours he argues with Marie who admits everything to him, destroying the only part of his world he thought he could rely on. He challenges the drum major and is beaten up by him, making Marie, also worrying about the future of her child, rueful again. When she follows Woyzeck to his haunt at the shore of a lake he stabs her to death apathetically. Obsessively he rushes back to the tavern where he was beaten up and starts to dance excessively until someone spots blood stains on his sleeve - he flees and drowns in the lake where he killed Marie. (Depending on the production Woyzeck either drowns himself or drowns while searching for the knife which he dropped in the lake right after the murder.)


One important aspect in the play is Woyzeck's jealousy, but that is not the only reason for him to kill Marie. Woyzeck finds himself at the lowest position in the social hierarchy, also being humiliated by higher ranked persons (the captain, the doctor, the drum major) very often. These degradations reveal that the murder doesn't happen out of jealousy but out of desperation: His only reason to live on in this world was his relationship with Marie - after being betrayed he sees no purpose in life. He suffers from delusions and starts to hear voices who finally request him to kill her. This act shows the loss of all his hope, the real originators of his infelicity remaining spared, mainly because they are socially and physically stronger than he is - other than his weak wife.

The drama shows the suffering of the lower estates and points out the gap between the different social levels - Büchner tried to support these classes rather than to disgrace them.

Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck, based on the story of Woyzeck, was performed for the first time in 1925.

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