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AT: A Pair of Drawers; The Bloomers A: Carl Sternheim Pf: 1911, Berlin Pb: 1911 Tr: 1927 G: Com. in 4 acts; German prose S: The Maskes' living room, Berlin, c.1910 C: 4m, 2fTheobald Maske, a petty civil servant, is outraged because his wife Luise accidentally dropped her bloomers while watching the Kaiser's procession. The mishap attracts lodgers to their house: Scarron the poet, who idealizes his lust for Luise, and Mandelstam the barber, who is more forthright in declaring his desire. At first Luise is won over by Scarron's wooing, but he disappoints her by rushing off to write a poem about it. By contrast, Mandelstam kisses her impulsively, but injures himself when he faints at the thought of offending her. In a discussion after dinner Maske reveals himself as an opinionated philistine in opposition to Scarron's Nietzschean beliefs. When a neighbour brings Luise a new pair of bloomers, Maske seduces her. After spending the night with a prostitute worshipping her naked form, Scarron leaves, and Theobald lets his room to an old academic. With the additional income from the lodgers the Maskes will now at last be able to afford a child.

AT: A Pair of Drawers; The Bloomers A: Carl Sternheim Pf: 1911, Berlin Pb: 1911 Tr: 1927 G: Com. in 4 acts; German prose S: The Maskes' living room, Berlin, c.1910 C: 4m, 2f

This formed the first play in Sternheim's cycle of six satirical plays entitled Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Classes. Because its title was too shocking, it was premiered as Der Riese (The Giant), a reference to the giant-like quality of Theobald, the German common man, pushy, amoral, self-satisfied, and philistine – but successful, as is seen in the family's rise to power in the sequels The Snob (1914) and 1913 (1915). Sternheim shares with Expressionism the depiction of larger-than-life characters and idiosyncratic language, but his coolly detached vision, untypical of Expressionism, establishes him as a forerunner of Brecht.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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