Page 118 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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e w i s h
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where we must sustain a double pressure—from within and from
While his dramas touched upon all aspects of middle-class prob-
lems in one setting or another, the fundamental ills permeating
all of them were those of family life and the role of money in
The families Herzl depicted in his plays were for the most
part torn apart by disagreements or by divorce, either already
experienced or in the process of being carried out. Against this
background he found opportunities to deal with a variety of
tensions and conflicts which affect married life, such as jealousy,
desertion, infidelity, or irresponsible and thoughtless desire for a
change. In his plays these constituted a biting satire on the better
middle-class—the so-called ‘good society’—and on the marital con-
ditions of women. But this satirical approach was not an aim in
itself; it was chosen as a means to expose the evils that had in-
fected burgeois families.
He was not, however, satisfied with the negative process of
unmasking and baring wounds. He therefore always injected, by
way of contrast, some ideal couple in his plays, like the masons in
Unser Kaethchen
or the Webers in
Prinzen aus Genieland;
or he
created a sympathetic character to serve as his spokesman. Thus,
he puts these words in the mouth of Dr. Moehring: “I confess to
you that I think it right to preserve a marriage even if not every-
thing goes well. I regard marriage as a high institution."18 This
was a reiteration of the old Roman idea of marriage (“an asso-
ciation for life") quoted by Phillipus in another play by Herzl,
D ie Glosse
.19 But it was Sievert in
Unser Kaethchen
who, as
Herzl’s mouthpiece, went to the root of the issue in his statement
to Sofie Hedinger, “Marriage is sacred only if it is based on the
old virtues. The poor, simple people still possess these virtues—
but we no more."20
Herzl applies this attribute of virtue to the marital life of
Jews. “The good tradition of the Jewish family," he wrote
in 1901, “is a matter of sanctification."21 In this respect he had
praise even for the Ghetto, because “the virtues of the family
had flourished in it; the father was patriarch, mother lived only
for her children, and they bestowed reverential love upon their
parents. Don’t curse the old Jewish quarter, my dear friend;
17 Quoted throughout this paper from the German text in
Theodo r Herz l :
Zionistische Schr iften,
ed. by Leon Kellner, Berlin, 1920, p. 37.
Unser Kae thchen ,
Act I, p. 16.
19 P. 4.
20 Act IV, p. 78.
21 “Die Frauen und der Zionismus” in
Zionistische Schr if ten, op. cit . .
p. 301.