Das Verhaeltnis der Utopie zur Realitaet: three plays by Peter Hacks
Lewis, William S.
Master of Arts
In this thesis I attempt, by means of a close analysis of three plays which Hacks wrote over a ten year period, to define his quasi-programmatio statement, "Gegenstand der juengsten Kunst . . . ist das Verhaeltnis der Utopie zur Realitaet," in terms of his dramatic praxis. Hacks's plays are constructed around the contrast between an ahistorical protagonist who embodies the utopian ideal of the Restored Man, a concept derived from the philosophical communism of the early writings of Marx, and Historical Man who, limited and self-estranged as an inescapable consequence of his historicity, must always fall short of the ideal. Yet Hacks is neither a dreamy utopian nor an advocate of conservative political realism. What he advocates, rather, is "zukunftsgerichtetes Tun," historical action which is given impulse and direction by the conflict between historical reality and the utopian design. Thus, the central idea in Hacks's later plays is the principle of perpetual revolution, of the continual transformation of historical reality according to a utopian design. The second contrast, then, which underlies his plays and which assumes primary importance in Amphitryon and Omphale is the dialectic of stasis and change, the contradiction between the revolutionary spirit,which seeks to negate and transcend existing reality, and complacency and false consciousness, which idealize and preserve an inauthentic status quo. Having established that there is a continuity of motifs and characters which unites the three plays (in spite of a change of subject-matter from Tassow. in which Hacks deals explicitly and critically with the socialist present, to his later mythological plays, the subject-matter of which has no immediate connection with the social reality of East Germany), I explore the social critical implications of Hacks's treatment of the "Verhaeltnis der Utopie zur Realitaet." The "dialectical method of negation and going beyond," the principle of perpetual revolution which his protagonists embody, is inherently critical of the conservatism of political power. Thus Hacks attacks, explicitly in Tassow and by implication and allusion in Amphitryon and Omphale. the conplacency and false consciousness of the Party which impede the development of socialism and the evolution towards communism. One can view his mythological plays as examples of Hacks's use of "Sklavensprache" to make a critical statement in an indirect way in order to protect himself against the disfavor of the Party and possible repressive administrative measures.