AT: The Citizens of Calais A: Georg Kaiser Pf: 1917, Frankfurt Pb: 1914 Tr: 1971 G: Trag. in 3 acts; German prose S: Calais, 1347 C: 14m, 5f, extrasThe French army has been defeated and their king killed. The English King will spare the port of Calais, only if six high-born citizens offer themselves in humility to be executed by the English monarch. In opposition to the French general Duguesclins who wants to fight the invaders, Eustache de Saint-Pierre persuades his fellow councillors to accept the ultimatum. Seven volunteer at once, so they draw lots to see which one will be spared. However, Eustache arranges for them all to draw a coloured ball – the accepted sign that they must offer themselves for death. It is then agreed that the last burgher to come to the marketplace the following morning will be free. The next day six citizens assemble, and Eustache is missing. Imagining he is a coward, the people go in search of him and find that he anticipated his self-sacrifice by committing suicide in the night. As his body is carried in, his ancient blind father proclaims the birth of the New Man. The English King has relented because his Queen gave birth to a son in the night. The King, sparing the city, enters the cathedral and pays homage to the nobility of Eustache.
AT: The Citizens of Calais A: Georg Kaiser Pf: 1917, Frankfurt Pb: 1914 Tr: 1971 G: Trag. in 3 acts; German prose S: Calais, 1347 C: 14m, 5f, extras
Though not well known internationally, this is often in Germany accounted the most accomplished of Kaiser's plays. It was inspired by Rodin's 1895 sculpture of the Burghers. Written in monumental prose, with rolling cascades of language, the play offers an idealized image of self-sacrifice, the New Man who will save civilization from constant hostility – an optimistic vision for 1914, as Europe stood on the brink of war. Shaw's one-acter The Six of Calais of 1934 offers a predictably cynical view of the same episode.