Macht des Weibes
Zwei historische Tragödien von Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Edited by Susanne Kord

Critical Texts 4

Modern Humanities Research Association

5 December 2005  •  264pp

ISBN: 0-947623-69-8 (paperback)  •  RRP £10.99, $17.50, €13.99

ModernGermanDrama


Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach is now famous for her novels, aphorisms, novellas, and diary writing. Ebner-Eschenbach, however, saw herself as a playwright, wrote exclusively dramas during the first 30 years of her literary career, and was extremely ambitious; in her own words, she was aiming to become ‘the Shakespeare of the nineteenth century.’ She authored twenty-six plays, which were reviewed contemptuously by her contemporaries and ignored by posterity. None of the eight ‘complete’ editions of Ebner-Eschenbach’s works includes a single full-length play by the author. The reasons for this are rooted partly in the contemporary gendered vision of drama as a genre: in the wake of Goethe and Schiller, who also furnished Ebner’s dramatic inspiration, drama (particularly tragedy) had come to be considered the ‘highest’ literary genre and therefore one that was inaccessible to women.

The plays selected for this volume are Ebner’s two great historical dramas, Maria Stuart in Schottland (1860) and Marie Roland (1867). Both plays portray the lives of great women from history, one a queen, the other a revolutionary, focussing on the historical moment of the decision that led to their respective execution. Both plays are indebted to the dramatic work of Friedrich Schiller, whose play Maria Stuart (1800) Ebner read as positing femininity and the right to political action as opposites in terms. In struggling with Schiller’s dictum of the ‘Unweiblichkeit’ of politically active women (Ebner’s sarcastic diary entry: “Gehorsam ist des Weibes Pflicht auf Erden, sagte mein angebeteter Schiller”), Ebner created two plays in which the observance of “feminine duty” directly impacts the heroine’s ability to act publicly and politically. Schiller’s premise forms the central theme of both Maria Stuart in Schottland, an attempt to counter-act his verdict by relating the early history of the Queen of Scots and re-interpreting her character, her history, and her politics substantially, and the later Marie Roland. Thus Ebner's plays can be read as direct responses to Schiller’s drama, both to its ideological premises (which she opposes) and to its form and style (which she imitates).

Ebner’s tragedies distinguish themselves from the work of other early and mid-nineteenth-century Austrian ‘epigonal’ playwrights, such as Grillparzer and Hebbel: like them, Ebner attempts to revive the “Classical” form (blank verse, five acts, strict Aristotelian form, and a prevalence for historical themes); unlike them, she attempts to fill the Classical form with new ideological content, to re-write history as well as revise the tradition of historical drama.

Macht des Weibes: Zwei historische Tragödien von Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach is a companion volume to Letzte Chancen: Vier Einakter von Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach published as Vol. 3 in the MHRA Critical Texts series.

Susanne Kord is Professor of German at University College London.

Reviews:

  • ‘In her informative and very readable introductory essays, Kord traces Ebner-Eschenbach’s development and reception as a dramatist, and presents the individual plays in an engaging manner. The perspective is particularly illuminating and subtly differentiated in the case of the two historical tragedies, Maria Stuart in Schottland and Marie Roland.’ — Ulrike Tanzer, Austrian Studies 14, 2006, 354-56 (full text online)
  • ‘A welcome addition, making accessible some of the lesser-known dramas in a helpfully annotated format, and shed[ding] fresh light on E-E.’ — Barbara Burns, The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 66, 2007
  • ‘These important editions of little-known dramas by the Austrian author Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916) are vital for anyone who wants to research and teach beyond the canon. They are the result of arduous editorial work and are meticulously annotated by Susanne Kord ... These volumes are likely to provoke much future research on Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach; they provide stimulating analyses of the texts and detailed notes and bibliographies. In addition, they are such good value that they can be easily included on undergraduate reading-lists.’ — Charlotte Woodford, Modern Language Review 102, 2007, 1182-84 (full text online)

Bibliography entry:

Kord, Susanne (ed.), Macht des Weibes: Zwei historische Tragödien von Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Critical Texts, 4 (Cambridge: MHRA, 2005)

First footnote reference: 35 Macht des Weibes: Zwei historische Tragödien von Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, ed. by Susanne Kord, Critical Texts, 4 (Cambridge: MHRA, 2005), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Kord, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Kord, Susanne (ed.). 2005. Macht des Weibes: Zwei historische Tragödien von Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Critical Texts, 4 (Cambridge: MHRA)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Kord 2005: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Kord 2005: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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