The Importance of Perception and Portrayal


Georg Büchner’s unfinished play, Woyzeck, has been subject to many attempts, on the behalf of experts, to recreate a final version that would be similar to the one Büchner would have created. These recreations depend fully on how these experts comprehend the play and how they wish to recreate it. It is interesting then, that Büchner’s work itself seems to play with similar themes of perception and portrayal. We can see that perception and portrayal have an impact on the communication of ideas, which is consistent theme seen in various forms of media.


Woyzeck as a character seems to have an alternate perception of reality that affects his experience of the real world. Throughout the play he has hallucinations and talks about seeing things and hearing things that others do not hear. The other characters do not understand Woyzeck’s hallucinations. Marie even responds to Woyzeck saying, “ your out of your mind,” and “ you’re delirious,” (142). The only one that seems to try to help Woyzeck is Andres who recommends that Woyzeck go to the infirmary. The other characters did not understand Woyzeck and how he perceived the world, which caused many to treat him harshly. This illustrates the notion that the way that someone sees the world dramatically affects the way in which he/she is perceived by others. This is comparable to media because media is a powerful source of portrayal. The way in which one given form of media demonstrates its understanding of the world may be completely different than another, which contributes to the importance of the ideas of perception and portrayal that Büchner plays with.


Themes of perception and portrayal are also seen in the conversation between Woyzeck and the Captain about virtue. The Captain explains that he thinks Woyzeck has no virtue, and is not a virtuous man. To this, Woyzeck replies, “ Yes, Cap’n, virtue! I haven’t figured it out yet. You see, us common people, we don’t have virtue, we act like nature tells us – but if I was a gentleman, and had a hat and a watch an overcoat and could talk refined, then I’d be virtuous, too,” (142). Here, Büchner is further showing the power of portrayal. If Woyzeck was able to dress nicely and look like a gentleman, than the Captain would not criticize him for having no virtue, regardless of whether he had it or not. This continues to tie back to media. As a form of portraying messages, different types of media can result in different perceptions of the information.


Various experts continue to piece their interpretations of what a finished form of this play should be. It is interesting to think of these subsequent versions of Woyzeck as various portrayals of Büchner’s original version, which was never finished. Büchner seems to highlight in his work, that perception and portrayal play a key role in an individual’s world experience. The various attempts to finish Büchner’s work will rely on the ways in which these expert’s perceived Büchners writing and how they chose to portray these ideas in subsequent versions of Woyzeck.


1. How might different forms of media affect the ways in which information is perceived?

2. Is Büchner trying to portray Woyzeck as a cold blooded murderer? or does his portrayal of Woyzeck as a character almost make the reader feel sympathy for him?