|Wozzeck and Woyzeck|
| Johann Christian Woyzeck was the basis for Georg Büchner's play Woyzeck. This man was beheaded in Leipzig in 1824 for the slaying of his mistress. Prior to his execution, Woyzeck was assessed by Hofrat Dr. Clarus to determine whether he could be considered responsible for his actions. Clarus determined that Woyzeck was "of sound mind and that any abberations were due to his phsical constitution and moral degeneration" (Büchner 156).
Büchner wrote Woyzeck during 1836-37. His work on the play was incomplete at his death; the manuscripts, which still exist today, consist of several incomplete drafts. None of these drafts is a complete version of the drama, and each represents a different stage in the development of the play. After Büchner's death from typhus, the manuscripts went to his brother Ludwig, who kept them but made no attempt to investigate them.
The Woyzeck manuscripts went unpublished and unread until the 1870s, when Karl Emil Franzos recovered them from Ludwig and published his version of the play. Franzos faced a very difficult task in the interpretation of the manuscripts. Since the words had faded badly, he found it necessary to chemically treat the paper. This "solution" made work more difficult for future investigators but allowed Franzos to see the ink on the pages. Another barrier was Büchner's handwriting, which was scrawled and extremely small. These features will be noticed on the internet version of the manuscripts. Buchner's hasty writing actually caused Franzos to read the name of the main character as Wozzeck.
The most problematic aspect of the manuscripts was their incompleteness. Using scenes from the different manuscripts many different scene orderings could be chosen, with more than one of these being reasonable and logical. Franzos himself chose an untenable ordering. He also made several alterations to the text; some of these were silly but others were brilliant. He assumed that Büchner intended Wozzeck to drown after wading into the pool to find the knife though the author did not make this explicit. Scholars later assumed the opposite. But "after forty years of critical research we are brought back to Franzos' conception of the denouement of the drama" (Perle 80:34). Wozzeck's interjection "Ach, Marie" while he is being hounded by the Doctor was added by Franzos; Albert Camus described the interjection as "a stroke of genius" (Ibid., 35).
In 1909 Paul Landau edited a new version of the play in Georg Büchner's Collected Works. Landau used Franzos' reading of the words of the play, the only one available to him, but revised the ordering of the scenes. It was this version that Berg would use for his opera. (It seems that Berg believed he was using Franzos' version, and he convinced his official biographer Willi Reich of this.) The first new reading of the manuscripts appeared in 1920 with Witkowski's edition. Berg became aware of this publication and noted the spelling of Woyzeck's name. He decided to leave the spelling as Wozzeck for his opera, as the difference in sound with Büchner's spelling would be too harmful.
read next.................Synopsis of the drama