Georg Büchner


The NHB Drama Classics series presents the world's greatest plays in affordable, highly readable editions for students, actors and theatregoers. The hallmarks of the series are accessible introductions (focussing on the play's theatrical and historical background, together with an author biography, key dates and suggestions for further reading) and the complete text, uncluttered with footnotes. The translations, by leading experts in the field, are accurate and above all actable. The editions of English-language plays include a glossary of unusual words and phrases to aid understanding.

Woyzeck is one of the most performed and influential plays in German theatre. A modern classic that remains frighteningly relevant today.

Franz Woyzeck, a lowly soldier stationed in a provincial German town, is bullied by his superiors and starved by the regiment's doctor in the name of scientific experiment. His only pleasures in life are his lover Marie and their innocent young son. But when Woyzeck learns that Marie has been unfaithful with the regiment's handsome Drum Major, he murders his lover in a fit of rage and hopelessness.

Based on a real-life murder trial that took place in Germany in the 1820s, the play was written in 1837 but not staged until 1913.

This edition, translated by Gregory Motton, includes an introduction by Kenneth McLeish, a chronology and suggestions for further reading.
51 printed pages
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  • Andrija Ilićshared an impression5 years ago

    Fragmentation dramaturgy


  • Asad Abdrshinhas quotedlast year


    DRUM MAJOR. I’m a man.

    He beats his breast.

    A man, I said. Who wants some, eh? Unless you’re the Lord God Almighty and pissed as well, keep away from me – I’ll stick your nose up your arse. I’ll – (To WOYZECK.) Oi, you, drink! I wish the whole world were schnapps! Schnapps – a man has to drink.

    WOYZECK whistles.

    You . . . ! Shall I pull your tongue out of your throat and tie it around your neck?

    They fight. WOYZECK loses.

    I won’t leave you enough breath for an old woman’s fart.

    WOYZECK sits, exhausted and trembling, on a bench.

    Now you can whistle till you’re blue in the face.

    Brandywine it is my love
    Brandywine gives you courage.

    FIRST DRINKER. He’s had enough.

    SECOND DRINKER. He’s bleeding.

    WOYZECK. One thing after another.
  • Asad Abdrshinhas quotedlast year

    At the DOCTOR’s.


    DOCTOR. What does this mean? A man of his word!

    WOYZECK. What is it, Doctor?

    DOCTOR. I saw you, Woyzeck, you pissed in the street, pissed against the wall like a dog. And three groschen a day plus food. Woyzeck, it’s bad, the world is going bad, very bad.

    WOYZECK. But Doctor, when nature calls . . .

    DOCTOR. Nature calls, nature calls! Nature! Haven’t I proved that the musculus constrictor vesicae is subject to the will? Nature! Woyzeck, man is free. In man, Nature manifests itself as freedom. Couldn’t hold his urine!

    He shakes his head, puts his hands behind his back and paces up and down.

    Have you eaten your peas, Woyzeck? Nothing but peas, cruciferae, remember that. There’s going to be a revolution in science, I’m going to blow it all to pieces. Uric acid nought point ten, ammonium hydrochlorate, hyperoxide. Woyzeck, don’t you need another piss? Go in and try.

    WOYZECK. I can’t, Doctor.

    DOCTOR (emotionally). But to piss against the wall! I have your written agreement in my hand. I saw it with my own eyes. I had just stuck my nose out of the window to let the rays of the sun fall on it in order to make some observations about sneezing.

    He goes up close.

    No, Woyzeck, I’m not getting angry. Angry is unhealthy. It’s unscientific. I’m calm, quite calm. My pulse is its usual 60 and I tell you with the utmost coolness . . . God forbid that we should get angry over a mere human being, a human being. Now, if it had been a proteus . . . But really, you shouldn’t have pissed against the wall.

    WOYZECK. You see, Doctor, sometimes one is of a certain character, a structure. But with nature . . . it’s a kind of a . . . what shall I say . . .?

    [He clicks his fingers.]

    DOCTOR. Woyzeck, you’re philosophising again.

    WOYZECK (confidentially). Doctor, have you ever seen double nature? When the sun is at its highest point in the sky and it is as if the whole world is on fire – that’s when a terrible voice spoke to me.

    DOCTOR. Woyzeck, you have an aberratio.

    WOYZECK (putting his finger by his nose). It’s in the mushrooms, Doctor, that’s where it is. Have you seen how they grow in patterns on the ground? If a man could only interpret them.

    DOCTOR. Woyzeck, you have the finest aberratio mentalis partialis of the second category, quite pronounced. Woyzeck, I’m going to give you a rise. Second category: fixed idea but otherwise rational. Apart from that, going on as usual? Shaving the Captain?

    WOYZECK. Yes, Doctor.

    DOCTOR. Eating your peas?

    WOYZECK. Every single one, Doctor! Give my wife the money for housekeeping . . .

    DOCTOR. Carrying out your duties?

    WOYZECK. Yes, sir.

    DOCTOR. You’re an interesting case, Woyzeck. You’ll get a rise. Just keep it up. Let me feel your pulse. Yes.
  • Asad Abdrshinhas quotedlast year

    At the CAPTAIN’s.

    The CAPTAIN in a chair, WOYZECK shaving him.

    CAPTAIN. Slowly, Woyzeck, slowly, one thing at a time. You’re making me dizzy. What am I going to do with the extra ten minutes you save? Imagine, Woyzeck, you’ve got a good thirty years yet to live, thirty years! That’s 360 months. And days, hours, minutes. What are you going to do with all that time? Pace yourself, Woyzeck.

    WOYZECK. Yes, Captain.

    CAPTAIN. I worry about the world when I think of eternity. Keep busy, Woyzeck, keep busy. That’s forever, forever! You can see that, can’t you? And then again it’s not eternity but just a passing moment, yes, a passing moment, Woyzeck. I shiver when I think that the world spins all the way round in one day! But what a waste of time! And where will it all end? I only have to look at a millwheel and I become melancholy.

    WOYZECK. Yes, Captain.

    CAPTAIN. Woyzeck, you look so hunted. A decent man doesn’t, a decent man with a good clear conscience . . . Say something then, Woyzeck! What kind of weather it is today?

    WOYZECK. Bad sir, windy.

    CAPTAIN. I can feel it. There’s such a rush out there! The wind has the same effect upon me as a mouse has. (Craftily.) I suppose it’s a South-Northerly?

    WOYZECK. Yes, Captain.

    CAPTAIN. Hahaha. South-Northerly! Oh, you’re so stupid, so horribly stupid. (Moved.) Woyzeck, you’re a decent man – but (Solemnly.) you’ve no morals. Morals, that’s when a person is moral, you understand me? It’s a good word. You have a child without the blessing of the church, as our Right Reverend Garrison Preacher said, without the church’s blessing. It wasn’t me who said it.

    WOYZECK. Captain Sir, our beloved Lord won’t think any better of the little worm just because Amen was said over him before he was made. The Lord said, ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’.

    CAPTAIN. What did you say? What kind of strange answer is that? He makes me quite confused with his answers. I don’t mean He, I mean you.

    WOYZECK. We poor folk – you see, Captain, it’s money, money, when you’ve got none. You can’t set a fellow like me in the world on just morals, a man is flesh and blood as well. The likes of us are unblessed in this world and in the next. I expect when we get to Heaven we’ll have to help out with the thunder.

    CAPTAIN. Woyzeck, you have no virtue. You are not a virtuous man. Flesh and blood? When I’m lying by the window and it’s been raining and I see the white stockings tripping down the alleyways – damn it, Woyzeck, I feel love! I too am flesh and blood. But Woyzeck, Virtue, Virtue! How am I supposed to spend my time? But I say to myself ‘You are a virtuous man,’ (Moved.) ‘a decent man, a decent man.’

    WOYZECK. Yes Captain, Virtue – I don’t have that problem. We ordinary people don’t have any virtue, we just follow our natures. But if I was a gentleman and had a hat and a watch and a long overcoat and could talk nicely then I’d like to be virtuous. It must be nice to have virtue, Captain, but I’m a poor man.

    CAPTAIN. Good Woyzeck, you’re a decent man, a decent man. But you think too much. It wears you down. You look so hunted. Our discussion has quite upset me. Go now and don’t run so. Slowly, nice and slowly down the road.

On the bookshelves

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