Page 116 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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the man? I believe they did. And did not the ideas for his plays
over which he brooded day and night help to crystallize the
Welt-
anschauung
and interweave themselves into his conception of
Zionism and of building a State for his people? I am sure they
did. He himself felt during the birth-pangs of his Zionist ideal that
he was still a kind of dramatic dreamer, even though already im-
mersed in reality. He noted in his collection of fragmentary
thoughts for the
Judenstaa t
:
In fact, in all this I am still the dramatist. I take poor,
ragged fellows from the street, dress them in beautiful gar-
ments and let them perform before the world a wonderful
play which I have devised. I do not operate any more with
individual people but with masses: clergy, army, administra-
tion, academy, etc. all for me—mass-units.11
In view of the foregoing, the influence linked with Herzl’s
spiritual growth should be thoroughly studied. These pages do
not purport to be such a study. They are intended only to sketch,
within the limited space of an article, a general outline of this
special aspect of his life. It is hoped that someone who is more
competent than a historian, some serious student of literature,
may be encouraged to pursue this topic in full detail.
I l l
The central theme of Herzl’s plays was the society which sur-
rounded him. His critics reproached him for having done this,
and for concerning himself with the middle-class, the
p e t i t
bourgeoisie
and their problems; in disregarding the new social
ideas which were then emerging, he kept aloof from the realism
which was about to conquer the stage. Such criticism overlooks
the fact that unmasking the rottenness in society and the wor-
ship of money in certain classes, can in itself point towards an-
other order, though admittedly only in a negative way. The ex-
position of truth was a first step in this direction, as Hermann Bahr
so aptly remarked in referring to this facet of Herzl’s approach:
“He does not ‘chatter’ any more, he is not ‘ingenious’ any more,
but now he endeavors to be true. He tore the veil of words from
life and looks at it astonished, angry and sad.”12 But Herzl did
not remain fettered to his time. In several plays he showed him-
self far more forward looking than his critics conceded. Witness
his hero Alois Waldhofer proclaiming from the stage in 1890:
“And thus society proliferates, that is, the classes of society; be-
cause the criterion ‘What Will They Say?’ continues to alienate
classes from each other, does not permit their intercourse and
11
Diaries
I, p. 75.
12 Hermann Bahr,
Das Wiener Thea ter 1892-1899
, Berlin, 1899, p. 496.