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Kaspar


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Peter Handke (b. 1942)

 

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A: Peter Handke Pf: 1968, Frankfurt-am-Main Pb: 1967 Tr: 1969 G: Drama in 1 act (65 scenes); German prose and free verse S: Bare stage, indeterminate period C: 6m, 3 voices (m or f)Kaspar, an innocent, clown-like figure, stumbles around on the stage, trying to come to terms with his environment. At first he is unable to speak, but then manages to repeat the one sentence he knows: ‘I want to become someone like somebody else was once.’ He is bombarded by the voices of three invisible speakers, who gradually destroy Kaspar's sentence, and he begins the slow process of learning language. With more linguistic control, he gains more confidence; for now that he can name things, he can establish order: ‘Every sentence helps you along.’ This confidence grows as he is joined by other Kaspars, until he pronounces all the rules of social propriety. But this is followed by disintegration, as he declares, ‘Every sentence | is for the birds,’ and asserts that language is inadequate as a means of expression. Finally, his words no longer make sense, and as the curtain jerks shut, he utters his last sentence: ‘I am only I by chance’ (inexplicably, the standard English translation closes with Othello's demented ‘Goats and monkeys’).

A: Peter Handke Pf: 1968, Frankfurt-am-Main Pb: 1967 Tr: 1969 G: Drama in 1 act (65 scenes); German prose and free verse S: Bare stage, indeterminate period C: 6m, 3 voices (m or f)

This ‘speech-torture’ play is based on the historical figure of Kaspar Hauser, who claimed, when found wandering the streets of Nuremberg in 1828, that he had spent the first 16 years of his life confined to a chicken coop. Initially he was able to speak only one sentence. After the controversial Offending the Audience, which consisted almost entirely of words, Handke here wrote a piece in which the protagonist must first learn to speak. In the process, his innocence is destroyed, his perception distorted, and language is seen as an instrument of oppression.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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