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Masses and Men


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AT: Masses and Man, Man and the Masses A: Ernst Toller Pf: 1920, Nuremberg Pb: 1921 Tr: 1923 G: Drama in 7 scenes; unrhymed German verse S: Indeterminate town, 1918–19 C: 5m, 1f, many extrasIn the back room of a pub, a workers' council agree to strike. The Woman (Sonja Irene L.) offers to lead them, despite the protests of her husband, a government official. In a dream sequence at the stock exchange top-hatted bankers speculate on the progress of the war, then perform a fantastic dance. At a mass meeting the workers threaten the destruction of machines, and Sonja urges them to protest peacefully. However, the violent and ruthless Nameless One carries the masses behind him. In a dream Sonja tries to protect her husband from death by order of the Masses. While Sonja continues to urge the workers to love even those who are oppressing them, the army defeats the workers, breaks up the meeting, and arrests Sonja. In a dream dead workers blame Sonja's pacifism for their deaths. In prison Sonja is visited by her husband, a priest, and the Nameless One. The last has come to free her, but when she learns that this means that a guard must be killed, she refuses and is taken to her execution.

AT: Masses and Man, Man and the Masses A: Ernst Toller Pf: 1920, Nuremberg Pb: 1921 Tr: 1923 G: Drama in 7 scenes; unrhymed German verse S: Indeterminate town, 1918–19 C: 5m, 1f, many extras

Together with Georg Kaiser, Toller was the leading dramatist of German Expressionism, although his idealistic socialism contrasted strongly with Kaiser's right-wing views. In this play, allegedly written in two days while in prison for political agitation, Toller champions belief in the brotherhood of all men over political expediency. Such idealism prompted Brecht to dismiss Toller's writing as ‘Poetic newspaper. Flat visions. Abstracted man.’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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