Author Archives: alogan

Topic 7- Philosophy, Insanity, and Religion

The play, Woyzeck, by Georg Buchner is a very interesting play about Franz Woyzeck, a troubled infantryman who ends up murdering his partner, Marie, because of her infidelity and his own insanity. Woyzeck appears to be an examination of humankind through the philosophical lenses of naturalism, determinism, and nihilism. The play darts from setting to setting with a plethora of different characters, citing lines from the Bible throughout. The manic movement from scene to scene and verbiage of the characters speaks to Woyzeck’s deteriorating mental state.

At the start of the play, Woyzeck describes his hallucinations about an apocalypse: “Look how bright it is! There’s fire raging around the sky, and a noise coming down like trumpets… Quiet, it’s all quiet, like the world was dead” (Buchner, 4.1). The imagery of animals when the Carnival Barker is advertising his performance speaks to Charles Darwin’s naturalism. The Carnival Barker says about the monkey, “Look at this creature as God made it: he’s nothing, nothing at all. Now see the effect of art: he walks upright, wears a coat and pants, carries a sword! Ho! Take a bow!” (4.3). The monkey is a metaphor for man; Society and culture have turned humans into spectacle. Buchner is making a statement similar to Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” and is using Charles Darwin’s idea of naturalism to do so. Man is helpless to the forces of nature and the environment, and it is only nature to seek progress and at least appear to evolve. The use of a nihilistic language in the play contributes to the deterministic feeling of helplessness that Woyzeck seems to suffer from. Woyzeck claims, “On and on, on and on. Spin around, roll around. Why doesn’t God blow out the sun so that everything can roll around in lust, man and woman, man and beast…” (4.11). Even Grandmother tells a dark story of a poor child with absolutely nothing who searches for meaning but eventually discovers the universe as an overturned pot, “[the child] wanted to go up to the heavens, and the moon was looking at it so friendly… the moon was a piece of rotten wood and then it went to the sun… the sun was a wilted sunflower… [the stars] were little golden flies…” (1.14).

References to the Bible serve as a contrast to the nihilistic attitudes. The Carnival Barker claims, “It is written: man, be natural; you were created from dust, sand, dirt.” (4.3). Marie leafs through the Bible later in the play before she is killed, searching for references to adultery. Woyzeck references passages of the Bible relating to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and pain as a symbol for the love of God. Woyzeck’s mental state seems to deteriorate further as the play continues on, culminating in his murder of Marie.

1. How does Woyzeck relate to other plays that we’ve read that also include themes of Naturalism and Nihilism?
2. Is the play also a critique of capitalism?
3. The use of imagery of the Carnival Barker and the animals were very fascinating to me. What further significance do they have?
4. Why is the play so frenetic in its switching from scene to scene?

Topic 6-Flexibility of Language and Communication

In chapter 9 of Bill Kovarik’s Revolutions in Communication, Kovarik addresses the development of the television and the impact the new technology has had on media since the invention’s infancy. Kavorik claims that, “television embodied the dream of universal international communication…” (Kavorik, 236). Before media such as print, photographs, radio, and television, the theater was the closest form of “universal international communication” (236). Similar to the FCC’s instances of broadcasting regulation in the years following WWII and the civil rights movement, the English crown regulated theater companies in London (Kavorik 239, 250; Zarilli, 206). The Puritans in 1660, just like Plato’s view of the theater, “feared that mimicry and spectacle would corrupt people’s reason” (Zarilli, 207).

William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; Or What You Will serves as an overarching metaphor for the versatility of language and the fragility of communication. The title itself includes the indecisive phrase, “Or What You Will”, which allows the reader the freedom to choose another title for the play, furthering the theme of the flexibility of language. Feste, the jester, says in act III, “A sentence is but a chev’ril glove to a good wit. How quickly the wrong side may be turned outward! (Shakespeare, 3.1.311-313). Feste claims that sentences are similar to thin material; He suggests that words can be easily warped or turned inside out. Feste, as a jester, is a master of wit and puns. The clown’s statements about language and his twisting of words reflect the essence of Twelfth Night festivities in Tudor England. “The Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve… A King or Lord of Misrule would be appointed to run the… festivities… The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed” ( Additionally, letters and poetry concerning love interests move throughout Twelfth Night as the play reflects on danger of written words and the folly of man.

Analogously to The Importance of Being Earnest, Twelfth Night; Or What You Will, addresses aestheticism and the artificiality of life. As Viola (a woman played by a young boy) assumes the identity of Cesario (the character of a young boy, played by a young woman who is played by a young boy) questions the accuracy of realness and reality. Viola claims at the play’s start, “Doth oft close in pollution… I’ll serve this duke. Thou shalt present me as a eunuch to him. It may be worth my pains… ” (Shakespeare, 1.2.46, 54-56). She states that “nature often conceals a person’s inward corruption with outward beauty”(Norton, 473). Then, Viola ironically announces that she will serve the Orsino in a disguise: her outward appearance hiding her inner one.


  1. How does the Kavorik chapter on television relate further to the play?
  1. The idea of flipping gender roles has been a topic in our class concerning other plays. What makes this one unique? Is it significance of where and when the play was written and performed originally? The Zarilli chapter speaks to this in the case study, but I’m curious to see what other opinions are about this.
  1. I would like to know more about Malvolio’s role in the play. What is his significance? He suffers from the flexibility of language unlike any of the other characters.