Woyzeck II: Naturalism in Woyzeck

For this week, when we try to stage a scene from Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck it is helpful to make a connection between the elements of the scene and Naturalism. I find the most useful material in section 4.8 on page 144. Here in the scene Doctor and Woyzeck are talking about the experiment that Woyzeck is a part of. Woyzeck is treated almost like a lab rat in this interaction. When we look at some of the characteristics of Naturalism, we can remember that the writers who wrote in this fashion had a Darwinist approach to their characters. Natural selection and survival of the fittest are themes that could be handled in Naturalism. Throughout the play, especially in this scene we can observe how Woyzeck is struggling, and the Doctor criticizing him for following “the call of the nature”. The conflict between the ‘nature of men’ and the ‘free will’ can be a reference to ideas of Naturalism, which point out the fact that humans are controlled by their instincts and hereditary characteristics.


Doctor compares Woyzeck to a dog for peeing on the wall. Similarly both the Doctor and Captain keep reminding Woyzeck of his lower standing in the society, especially by making comparisons to animals. In Captain’s case he repeats many times the phrase “You’re a good man”, however he also talks about Woyzeck’s actions by saying “A good man doesn’t act like that, a good man with a good conscience” (p.142). Woyzeck is surrounded by people who repeatedly belittle his place in the society and question his values, pushing him beyond his limits to commit a crime. In Naturalism it is also suggested that the characters don’t have free will, and in Woyzeck’s case I can make a clear connection with that statement. Woyzeck’s lack of control over his own life, and how characters like the Doctor and Captain shape Woyzeck’s days shows the clash of classes in Büchner’s time. Long before the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Buchner starts writing Woyzeck(1836) which also tackles the underlying class differences within the German society.

The reason why Woyzeck is one of the most popular plays in German theater could be that it reflects the struggles of its time very well. Incorporating the sense of boosting industry and science through the experiments, and recognizing mental disorder, and the corruption created by urbanization, the play paints a broad social picture.

Would Woyzeck still kill his mistress if the Doctor and Captain were not a part of Woyzeck’s life?

Is the character Doctor a critique of the science at the time? Considering that Büchner himself was a scientist how can we interpret the role of science/medicine in the play?

What would Büchner think of Communist Manifesto? Would he find it realistic?