Category Archives: Urban Education

Information on Humanity in the 21st Century

Love and Information is a uniquely crafted play, but its structure and content shed tremendous light on humanity in the 21st century. Churchill combines mystery and precision in a play that features no particular characters or plotline and centers around constant dialogue. The subjects of debate in these dialogues are random, from the importance of a rash, the movie Godzilla, schizophrenia, to mathematics, but together they point to greater effects that the availability and flooding of information have on the human mind in the present day.


Many of the short instances in Love and Information suggest that humans in the technological age have very short attention spans. In ‘Sleep’, one of the characters says he cannot fall asleep and does not own a book that he likes, so he surfs on Facebook instead. In ‘Remote’, an individual states that he does not have enough time to read a newspaper but that he is willing to travel miles to reach a cliff and stand on a rock just to be in contact with a phone signal, ironically. It seems like Churchill is pointing to the human dependency of technology and we are unable to appreciate other aspects of life like nature and reading. This wave of technological change also brings with it social changes.


In ‘Censor’, one of the characters orders “On the 21st of May…” and 30 other phrases to be banned for undisclosed reasons. This part points to the power held by those who control information. The advent of technology has paved the way for new forms of power to emerge, as Kovarik emphasizes “Every media revolution, then, is a circumvention of an old balance of power and a potential lever for social change”(331). Some fields have remained untouched, however. In ‘Maths’, two individuals argue about the truth and consistency in mathematics and the evolution of the human brain over time. Math has barely evolved over time, even with advances in technology. It relies on logic and calculated thought. Like math, some subjects are binary in their answers are either right or wrong, whereas the excess of information in areas like politics has clouded the truth.


In the final scene ‘Facts’, two people ask each other factual questions repeatedly, similar to browsing on a search engine. In the end, one of the characters responds ‘I do yes I do’ when asked ‘Do you love me?’, an answer much more valuable and direct than the previous ones. Love can either be immediate or take time. It does not involve memory and the regurgitation of facts, but is emotional. Even though we’ve become digitalized, love is a constant over humanity and is one of the truest displays of passion and emotion, which cannot be replaced by technology.


-Why does Churchill state, at the beginning of play, that the acts must be performed in order but the scenes can be randomized?

-Is loneliness a theme in Love and Information?

-Does Churchill agree with the Ancient Greeks in that the audience must infuse theatre with emotion for better understanding?

Epic, Postmodern, and Absurdist Theatre

     Love and Information by Caryl Churchill is a thought-provoking play that evolves around real life situations and themes that individuals would face throughout their lifetime. Rather than having a linear storyline, the play spontaneously bounces from one scene to the next with different characters. Each scene has it’s own premise that emphasizes and raises questions about morality, justification, and purpose. Churchill’s unique layout of this play is analogous to postmodern, epic, and absurdist theatre, which gives the audience a lot to think about.

Postmodern plays primarily focus on questioning the norms of modern society; rather than centering on a topic to raise a point, the plays focus on fostering questions about them. These plays are often performed as real life events to make them as true-to-life as possible, but can sometimes involve some surrealism. An instance of this play relating to postmodernism is in the “Message” scene:

“If enough people did it because they don’t really feel terror do they, they don’t live in terror, if they lived in terror they’d be getting the message.
Would you do it yourself?
I don’t think I would, no.
Because you’re scared?
I don’t think that message is what I want to say.” (20).

In this scene, Caryl is touching on the sensitive topic of terrorism. Instead of bashing terrorism or supporting it, he creates a scenario where two individuals debate over the topic themselves. He raises the question of whether terrorism is the best way to send a message to society. The question is for the audience to answer.

Epic theatre is similar to postmodern theatre in which both require the audience to analytically view the events on stage. The primary focus of Epic theatre is to ensure that the audience rationally self-reflects on the topics discussed in the play. An example of this could be seen in the “God’s Voice” Scene:

“They came into me.
The words.
What God said.
So you didn’t exactly hear…?
In my heart.
So how does that work then?
I was praying about it.” (29).

This scene is speaking particularly to theists—someone who believes in a God. Many theists, rather they be Christian, Catholic, or Muslim, often pray to a God and believe that God speaks to them in an unexplainable way. This scene touched on that phenomenon, and in response, theist audience members were expected to reflect on the times they’ve connected with God or reflect on conversations they’ve had with others who’ve done so. Some Postmodern theatre is also relevant. This scene could provoke theist audience members to question or redefine their communication experiences with God and possibly give them a better way to describe the experience to those who’ve never had it.
Lastly, Absurdist theatre is pertinent all throughout this play. Albert Camus’—a French philosopher who contributed to the absurdist movement—description for Absurdist theatre was when a play depicted a “man’s quest for meaning and truth as a futile endeavor.” In other words, Absurdist plays disprove someone’s ambition to find meaning in the universe because such meaning doesn’t exist. The play doesn’t have many particular instances that gratify absurdism because the entire play portrays human’s actions that don’t have a basis; humans simply do these things because they’re human, they don’t know why. The best example that I could get of Caryl signifying absurdism is in the “Irrational “scene:

“Is an irrational number real?
It’s real to me.
But can you have an irrational number of oranges?
Not as things stand, no.
I’m not comfortable with the whole idea.
There was someone called Hippasus in Greek times who found out about the diagonal of a square and they drowned him because no one wanted to know things like that.
Like what?

Numbers that make you uncomfortable and don’t relate to oranges.” (16).
Irrational numbers aren’t real numbers, but one character claims that it’s “real” to him. This is relatable to absurdist humour, which usually involves nonsense by a character. The core of absurdism could be seen here because one character is frustratingly trying to understand the purpose of their being irrational number’s, but quickly becomes “uncomfortable” with the idea because humans don’t know the reason why anything is irrational, we simply know that it’s just out of the norm. Caryl then uses an innuendo by telling that character that people, who were “uncomfortable” with the universe being irrational, killed someone who brought that topic up. He’s suggestively saying that people should just learn to live with things being irrational because it’s beyond human comprehension.


Does Churchill accurately depict conversations that individuals would have?

Does having different characters in every scene affect the audience’s connection with the characters?

Do you think Beltrot Brecht had an influence on this play?

Globalization, Information and Relationships

Globalization, Information and Relationships

Technological advances have linked people all over the world in numerous ways. Kovarik describes the revolution in media technology as “destroying barriers of time and space, creating major shifts in media structures and sparking dramatic social change”. Caryl Churchill examines the effects of this media revolution on a personal level.  Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information is a series of vignettes that are unified by an overarching theme. All of the scenes deal with the subject of information and knowledge and their influence on relationships. The scenes are notable because there is no continuity of characters. There is no character development and no repeated characters between scenes. This focuses attention in each scene on the present interaction, and how it is shaped by information and technology.

A technology that has dramatically altered social interactions is social media. People from all over the world can connect through the internet. Social media profiles allow users to learn facts about others without any personal connection. In Fan, two individuals are debating who loves a boy more. They begin by saying what they would do to show their affection but then transition into stating facts about the boy. Instead of pointing to a deeper personal connection, the facts stated are those that could plausibly be found on an online profile such as “His favorite color’s blue” and “favorite holiday was in Bermuda”. The two in the scene are judging their compatibility by what information they know rather than any sort of emotion connection. When they come across a fact that neither of them knows, his favorite smell, the first instinct is to look it up. When they can’t find they are at a complete loss stating “what are we going to do?”. Their connection to the boy is completely based on media. Once they have exhausted all possible online searches, they do not think to reach out and ask the boy in person. The media has completely replaced any direct personal connection.

Another revolutionary technology that Kovaric points to is Wikipedia. The platform has allowed an immense amount of knowledge to be compiled in a searchable online archive. The final scene in Love and Information is a series of facts exchanged between two people. Technology allows questions such as “How many diamonds were mined in 1957?” to be readily answered. However, when “Do you love me?” is asked the response is “Don’t do that”. No matter how much information is uploaded on to Wikipedia it can still not answer one of the most basic questions in life, “Do you love me?”. That’s a question no technology can help with.



Caryl Churchill makes a note that the individual scenes with in each section may be reordered but the sections are written in order. Why?

Is Caryl Churchill’s view of technology’s impact ultimately positive or negative?

Character Assignment, “Love”, and the Technological Age.

The first thing that struck me about Love and Information was that it had no characters. At first, I found this frustrating because I had to keep track of whom each character was speaking to. As I read on however, I found myself assigning genders and sometimes even faces to characters solely based on their lines and the glimpse of plot given in each section. It was an interesting choice to not assign character names or viewpoints because it then is left to the audience member, or in this case reader, to create each character based on the information given in each story. This also gives the director the freedom to choose which stories go together by having the same actors act out the stories they mean to be connected. The director could also have different actors for each story to imply that they are all separate experiences.

Love and Information has, as one might expect from its title, a heavy emphasis on love and its relationship to information. In the “Fan” story, the characters are arguing over who loves a man more. They compete to see who knows more about the man (what his favorite color is, favorite food, etc.…) (pg. 6).   In this story, the characters are quantifying love by the number of facts they know (information) about the object of their affection.  Throughout the play, characters routinely try and put things into sensory friendly information, such as words (“God’s Voice) or visuals (“Wedding Video”) to try and remember, understand, and experience emotions (i.e. love). The story “Sex” talks about sex, which can be the physical expression of love “if you’re lucky”, as an exchange of gene information between two people. The story “Children” implies that that successful exchange of information in order to form an offspring is necessary for love, in the form of marriage, to last.

The story “Virtual”, describes the relationship between love and information in the technological age. One of the characters is in love with what seems to be a robot. One character is defending their love of the robot while the other is saying that it does not make sense because the robot is not “flesh and blood”. The in love character then responds, “she’s just information”. This implies that the only thing necessary for love to exist is information. This might sound crazy, but it is becoming more of a reality in our culture today. A seal robot stuffed animal name PARO was created to provide love and companionship to people who otherwise feel alone (i.e. dementia patients). More human-like robots that are meant to be the “imprint” of actual living people are also being created. That technology takes information from a living person and uses it to inform its conversation with others. The purpose of this technology is so that even after people die, the robot version of them (their clone) can provide undying love and information to their family and friends.


Why do you think the playwright did not assign character names?

Do you think the order of the stories matters?


Love and Information

Every Generation is Lost: Woyzeck as a figure of social exclusion and disillusion

Buchner’s Woyzeck tells the story of “one of the numberless forgotten pawns of the world” turned mad and murderous. Buchner’s plays, including Woyzeck, are an integral aspect of theater across history, which begs the question, why? Woyzeck, one of Buchner’s most produced works, explores the psyche of the “doomed hero,” a relatable figure to every generation. As Ginters explains, Woyzeck “centers on the disenfranchised, powerless and socially excluded, Woyzeck has an enduring strong appeal both in interpretation and indeed by those who produce it.” As the world around Woyzeck slowly deteriorates with Marie’s disloyalty, so his psyche breaks down, finally culminating in her murder and an unfinished ending. Across history, there are always “doomed heroes” – completely powerless and disillusioned. In many ways, Woyzeck represents this universal figure whether it be the war veterans littered with bullet holes and suffering from PTSD or today’s youth lost in technology, suffering from drug and alcohol addictions and a lack of ambition. He is young, impulsive, a pawn of the institution, deeply introspective, and mentally ill. The play represents the tragic view of man’s existence – resonating with reality for many.

Kovarik describes the evolution of the computer from a big brother, unrelatable figure to the creation of a “man-computer symbiosis.” The development of the computer represents an ability of a “system that could handle polynomial equations needed for astronomical tables and artillery ballistics calculations” – it is not only extremely complex but “mechanizes intellectual work.” The development of the computer allows for even more creative approaches to works ahead of their time, like Woyzeck. Woyzeck’s segmented, non-linear nature and themes of disillusionment and mental illness beg for the inclusion of mechanized projections. We have also discussed in class that Buchner’s works rely heavily on his scientific knowledge of cranial nerves and in many ways, the computer represents the human brain– it works to quantify human knowledge with mechanical projections and codes similar to that of a neuron. Similar to the computer, Woyzeck’s motions are mechanical, controlled by the institution, and segmented. However, in moments of impulse, the murder of Marie, he succumbs to his naturalistic, animal impulses and rejects the mechanized order of society.

“Woyzeck, it frightens me to think that the earth rotates in one day – what a waste of time, what will come of that?” – Captain.

This line inspires the set up of the stage: two circles – one outer and one inner separated by the audience. The outer circle is where all of the scenes without the Captain, the Doctor, and Woyzeck occur. The stage rotates between scenes with wires connecting the different locations – the field, the town, the carnival and so on. The connecting wires light up as the scenes change both representing the connections of a computer and the wiring of the brain – constant motion, constant firing of information. The center circle does not move. In the center circle is a desktop computer circa 1995, a desk, and a chair. Here, all of the scenes between Woyzeck, the Captain, and the Doctor take place. The Doctor and Captain are figures from a chat room. As Woyzeck communicates with them, the content of the conversation is projected onto a screen surrounding the outer circle. The Captain and the Doctor both represent semi figments of Woyzeck’s imagination and a source of introspection. Only when he is sitting at the computer discussing life with one of the two does he have power over his existence. When Woyzeck is not communicating with the Doctor or Captain, a gray, brick wall is projected on the screen surrounding the outer circle. As the play continues, the wall slowly falls down representing the deterioration of Woyzeck’s mind. In the last scene as Woyzeck disposes of the knife, there is no wall but only sunny, blue sky projected on the screen. In this moment he has broken from the mechanized institutions of society and succumbed to his natural instincts, he is free.

The play takes place in a nondescript time – making it relatable to every generation. The only hint of the year is the computer. It begins with the grandmother’s speech setting up themes of desolation (“everything was dead and no one was left in the whole world”) and disappointment (“the sun was a wilted sunflower and when it got to the stars, they were little golden flies stuck up there like the shirke sticks ‘em on the black thorn.”).


What role does setting play in understanding or interpreting Woyzeck?

What role does music play in Woyzeck? Why do you think Buchner chooses to include song throughout the play?

Ginters suggests that Buchner’s plays are powerful in that they resonate across history. How does Woyzeck resonate with our generation? Who or what group represents the Woyzeck’s of today?

Historical relevance, Mental Illness, and Double Nature


Buchner’s Woyzeck is a particularly interesting work in regards to its historical relevance in the context of mental illness. Johann Christian Woyzeck, the man that Woyzeck the play is based on, was convicted of murdering his mistress in 1824. At the time that he was convicted, the issue of his sanity was raised. It took three years of deliberation to ultimately convict Woyzeck for the murder of Frau Woost. There was no doubt as to his having committed the crime, but his mental health was in serious question. Although it was believed that Woyzeck was indeed hallucinating and having psychotic episodes, the doctors examining him said that he was still capable of knowing right for wrong, and he was convicted. Buchner wrote about Woyzeck between 1835 and 1837. This would not have been an unusual case to write a play about because at the time Woyzeck’s case was widely talked about in the media and remained a mainstream interest for many years. Buchner’s Woyzeck was incredibly relevant to the time it was written in and even predates the court’s creation of the McNaughton Rule of 1843, which allowed for a possible verdict of not guilty by reason of mental defect.

Buchner’s work is particularly interesting because it tries to explain part of the “double nature” (pg 144) Woyzeck might have been experiencing during his psychotic episodes. Concepts of visible nature are mentioned throughout the play (animals, the water, the wind etc.…), but there is also another nature that Woyzeck seems to be aware of. His term “double nature” could be a reference to his different realities when he is sane and insane. One appears as real as the other, and both appear to have aspects that are out of Woyzeck’s control. When Woyzeck tells the doctor that he had to pee because nature was “calling” it could be argued that he felt the same sort of “call” from nature to stab Marie. One of the natures could be considered a religious nature. Throughout the play religion has an ever-increasing hold over Woyzeck. Woyzeck increasingly feels called by both the visible nature around him and his spiritual nature to kill Marie. It is implied that Marie is killed on Candlemas day (pg 150), which is also known as the purification of the Virgin Mary. This combined with messages like the voice in the open field (pg 148) can be thought of as his two natures aligning with the same calling that ultimately leads him to murder. This could be why the clerk at the end says it was a good, and beautiful murder. It was good and beautiful because it was driven by nature (visible and spiritual), therefore it was a murder from a higher power and not ultimately driven by a man. It implies that the murder was not committed by man’s free will, but by an unavoidable call from nature.


Staging Woyzeck

After reading about Johann Christian Woyzeck, I started to think of possible explanations for his moments of insanity.   The most likely “diagnosis” I could come up with was that he suffered from alcohol-induced psychosis. Woyzeck was known to drink heavily, and the stress and mental trauma of being a soldier probably also contributed to his condition. Alcohol-induced psychosis is characterized by hallucinations and delusions occurring after chronic consumption of alcohol or withdrawal from alcohol. This would explain why Woyzeck has clear moments of insanity and glimpses of normalcy.

With this interpretation of Woyzeck’s condition, I would set the entire play in a present day mental care facility. In the first scene, Woyzeck would be brought into his room struggling against orderlies. In his struggle he smashes a mirror in his room. In his moments of clarity, Woyzeck would speak to the captain and doctor who would each be on stage for their respective scenes. But for his moments of insanity, Woyzeck would be on stage alone, and the voice of Marie and the drum major would come from voices off stage to imply that they are Woyzeck’s hallucinations. Woyzeck’s conversation with the Jew in order to purchase the knife would also be staged as a hallucination, and what Woyzeck thinks is the knife he bought is really a shard of a broken mirror he kept from the mirror he broke when he was first brought into the mental hospital. I would end the play with Marie’s death on page 152. The stage would be   completely dark and you would only be able to hear a woman screaming, until the lights came on to show that Woyzeck did not kill Marie, but instead stabbed a nurse at the mental hospital with the shard of mirror he hide away in the first scene.


What do you think Woyzeck meant by double nature?

Do you think Buchner wrote the play with the belief that Woyzeck was not guilty due to his mental instability?

Do you think the general public at the time Woyzeck was written would have thought that Woyzeck was not guilty due to his mental instability?





Woyzeck Part II: Modern Implications

Georg Büchner’s illustrious play, Woyzeck, articulates Büchner’s views on human existence/psychology, the notion of religious faith, as well as the future of mankind following the revolutions of the late nineteenth century. Although Büchner died at the young age of 23, he lived during a tumultuous time period in a European continent that was experiencing radical changes in human philosophy and class structure. Büchner studied the central nervous system of barbel fish, and came to the conclusion that not everything could be determined through observation, and that pure progression does not necessarily define human nature. He wrote Woyzeck at a provocative time: governing systems throughout the Western world feared the sweeping fervor of the Age of Revolution, and humans were experiencing intense suffering in the context of war. Indeed, Woyzeck represents a confirmation of Georg Hegel’s notion that the world operates in a series of cyclical theses, and the prospect of a proletarian revolution constituted a major turnover. Woyzeck, in addition, contains elements of Karl Marx’s theory of human motivation: Franz Woyzeck was easily manipulated by financial incentives, despite the fact that the Doctor’s experiments resulted in Woyzeck’s prolonged mental suffering and hallucinations.


Woyzeck poses a naturalistic interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution (though Büchner in fact wrote before Darwin). Büchner compares the classes of human society to naturalistic animals. In particular, Franz Woyzeck’s position as a soldier is likened to a monkey: “The monkey is already a soldier – that’s not much, it’s the lowest level of the human race!” (Büchner’s Major Works 139). In so doing, Büchner articulates an ironic take on progress: the carnival barker claims that everything progresses, yet the monkey is already Franz’s equivalent. The lower class is also compared to rabbits and other frequently hunted animals. Büchner seems to be commenting on the debilitating position of the lower class in contemporary society. Whereas the lower class is equated to impulsive primates and game animals, the upper class is depicted as a magnificent horse. Despite the anatomical difference, the horse still succumbs to its natural instincts. This exchange poses the question of controlling our natural instincts (Freud’s id).


Woyzeck also grapples with the role of religion in contemporary human culture. Marie and Woyzeck make frequent references to biblical passages, with Marie often asking for God’s forgiveness and Woyzeck citing passages that reference the apocalypse. My interpretation of the play presents Franz Woyzeck as a Christ figure: he is inherently good, but endures incessant, undeserved suffering. Unfortunately, his suffering leads to mental anguish and the eventual murder of Marie, indicating a possible renunciation of faith. This concept may speak to Büchner’s general pessimism towards humanity given the historical context in which he wrote. This reminds me of Beckett’s portrayal of faith/humanity in Waiting for Godot.


Bill Kovarik describes how the mechanization of human intellect in the form of computers presented various problems and fears to the human populace. Just as the industrial revolution featured the mechanization of labor in manufacturing units, the advent of the computer mechanized intellect. Early advocates of computing, including Franklin Roosevelt’s science advisor Vannevar Bush, linked computing to democracy: he sought to utilize computers in such a way as to extend human wisdom and raise the standards of living for the lower class. According to Bush, “in a free country, in a democracy, this [path taken] is the path that public opinion wishes to have pursued, whether it leads to new cures for man’s ills, or new sources of a raised standard of living” (Kovarik 276). Some dissidents to this mindset asserted that reliance on computers would result in a totalitarian future of mankind, and computers may even come to replace human intellect. Novels and popular media such as George Orwell’s 1984 depicted computers as destructive and as a potential source of human nature’s decline. Perhaps one can draw a connection between the rapid growth of computing technology and Woyzeck. The proliferation of industrial and computing technologies led to the emergence of an oppressive bourgeoisie and a working-class proletariat. Proletarian workers such as Franz Woyzeck suffered intensely under an unjust social structure, and may have been driven to desperation via financial incentives.


In Laura Ginters’s essay, she seeks to outline modern renditions of Woyzeck, as well as their implications for society today. Ginters states that Woyzeck is frequently performed around the world today, due to the fact that the protagonist of the play is an oppressed, disenfranchised member of the lowest sector of society (Ginters 241). The play’s themes can certainly be applied to the plight of modern oppressed groups, such as African-Americans or immigrants. Whereas some renditions feature visually stimulating art design, others are more austere in their use of spectacle. It seems as though the play can be flexibly adapted to modern stages. Ginters describes recreations of Woyzeck that center on Marie, present Woyzeck as a tragic hero, and depict Marie and Woyzeck as African-American. The mere fact that modern directors are adapting the play speaks to Woyzeck’s social media capabilities.


In terms of drawing parallels in Woyzeck to situations today, I can envision presenting the protagonists as members of an oppressed group. African-Americans, for example, suffer from institutionalized racism, as well as a social structure that may, in some circumstances, view them as inferior. I would specifically highlight the exchange between Woyzeck and the captain in Büchner’s original play in a modern rendition:


Woyzeck: “Just try to raise your own kind on morality in this world. After all, we’re flesh and blood. The likes of us are wretched in this world and in the next…”

Captain: “Woyzeck, you have no virtue, you’re not a virtuous person. Flesh and blood?”

(Büchner’s Major Works 142).


Woyzeck is stating that the present class hierarchy has no sense of morality: the poorer members of society are just as ‘human’ as the wealthy class, yet they are persecuted. The captain counters by telling Woyzeck that he is not virtuous because he is not wealthy. I relate this notion to the struggle of movements aimed at obtaining rights for African-Americans, such as the “Black Lives Matter’ movement.





  • How would you choose to recreate Woyzeck if you were to stage it today? Would you have Woyzeck succumb to his pressures, or overcome them?
  • How do you view Woyzeck’s commentary on human nature compared to Ibsen’s portrayal of Darwinist notions in A Doll’s House?
  • Would Büchner be more optimistic or pessimistic regarding the level of technology we rely on today?

Woyzeck Part ll: Modernization

Considering the relatively abstract nature of the “Woyzeck Part 2′ course topic, I spent more time than usual pondering which direction I wanted to take this in. I suppose it’s like they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Anyway, with my newfound power and freedom with the outside-the-box nature of this week’s post, I decided to discuss a shift into the modern era in multiple senses.

This shift relates to both the play itself and technology, given the Kovarik topic concerning the advent of the computer. While Woyzeck is many things, it is certainly not modern, as it was published almost 150 years ago and written decades before that. Because of this fact, there is plenty of room for interpretation as to how to stage a modern version of the play. We looked at ways this has been attempted, including the entire play being in a cage or on a net, or even in some sort of sewer-type setting with a downward slope into lower ground, where the majority of the play took place. If I was tasked with staging the play, I would try to set it outdoors, which would make staging the scene at the fair as well as the murder scene easier. The doctor might use more modern techniques in his study of Woyzeck, such as shock therapy, or any number of experimental (and possibly painful) things that one might see an antagonist do in a modern movie. To make a connection with the advent of computers, the communication in the play could certainly be updated. For example, Woyzeck could see an email between Marie and the drum major that gives him information about their affair.

The Kovarik reading discusses how the computer changed communications. Computers and subsequently the internet essentially made the world smaller. Without computers, there is no social media on which to reach the entire world. Plays like Woyzeck would be significantly less likely to influence and spread across the oceans without the outreach of computers and the internet. When people think modernization, they often think of the technological revolution, which is clearly headlined by computers. I think an interesting way to modernize Woyzeck would be to use the modern technology and capabilities of computers to make a film adaptation, compete with CGI and all the effects of Hollywood. The fair could be elaborate as ever, the Grandmother’s story could be complete with strange or spooky music and lighting, followed by the murder scene. The murder scene could go in any  number of directions with the capabilities of modern technology. The advent of the computer not only increased the efficiency of things that humans could already do, but gave birth to a world of new possibilities for adaptations and updates on media like Woyzeck that are limitless.

A final thought relates to the aforementioned saying because computer technology is powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility. This made me think that for every interesting adaptation of plays that works, there could be horrible, over-CGI’ed adaptations that do not work. It’s tough to update/modernize something that was never quite finished by the creator in the first place. After all, some things are better in their original form without updated adaptations (just ask anyone who has seen the Hangover films, or Caddyshack 2). Perhaps Woyzeck falls into this category and is best left in its original form.



Woyzeck and the Subconscious Mind

Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck is a multidimensional piece of work that is based off of Johann Christian Woyzeck, an insane man who murders the mother of his child. Although very confusing at times, the play carries tropes that touch upon meaning of morality throughout its entirety. After carefully reading Büchner’s play, although crafted prior to Sigmund Freud’s introduction to the subconscious mind, Büchner’s Woyzeck projects Freud’s ideas of the ego, id, and superego through different characters, actions, and motifs. More specifically, the play, on a larger scale, is a metaphor for Woyzeck’s subconscious mind and the inner conflict between the id and the superego known as the ego (Class Notes 2/9).

Woyzeck himself is representative of the id within the subconscious mind. The id, which is described as the internal desire that is often repressed by societal pressures and norms, is portrayed through Woyzeck in several ways. First, Woyzeck’s child with Marie serves a symbol of this—because Woyzeck and Marie are not married, yet have a child together, the presences of the child itself serves as symbol to conformity of desire and lust through their premarital rendezvous. In addition to Woyzeck’s child with Marie, another action of Woyzeck’s that conveys the subconscious component id, perhaps more obviously, is when he stabs and murders Marie. His hatred and anger after he learns of Marie’s infidelity drives him to kill her. This is representative of the subconscious id and Woyzeck acting in result of his desire.

In contrast, other external forces serve as the juxtaposing subconscious component, the superego, for Woyzeck. An obvious of example of this is the Doctor. The Doctor serves as societal pressure that the superego generates to filter the id and its consequential decisions. An example of this is when Woyzeck pees on the wall. In response the Doctor vocalizes the absurdity of the situation and reprimands Woyzeck for his decision: “you pissed on the street, you pissed on the wall like a dog” (Büchner 4.8). It is important here to note that the Doctor equates Woyzeck’s actions to that of an animal. His questioning of Woyzeck’s humanity serves as an attempt to oppress the desires Woyzeck might have later to repeat the action.

The conjunction of Woyzeck’s decision to act implicitly and explicitly on his desires, the expression of the id, and the consequences his faces from Doctor and others, the superego, represent the internal struggle of the subconscious mind known as the ego. The entire play serves as a metaphor this.


-What can we learn from a play like Woyzeck? What was Büchner’s message? Does he have one?

-How does Woyzeck serve as commentary on society? How does this relate to social media now?

-It is interesting to me that after Woyzeck’s immoral behavior he is still labeled as a protagonist. Why do you think this is?



Class Notes February 9th, 2016

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?