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THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF GERHART HAUPTMANN

The following essay was originally published in The Social Significance of the Modern Drama. Emma Goldman. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914. pp. 87-8.

GERHART HAUPTMANN is the dramatist of whom it may be justly said that he revolutionized the spirit of dramatic art in Germany: the last Mohican of a group of four -- Ibsen, Strindberg, Tolstoy, and Hauptmann -- who illumined the horizon of the nineteenth century. Of these, Hauptmann, undoubtedly the most human, is also the most universal.

It is unnecessary to make comparisons between great artists: life is sufficiently complex to give each his place in the great scheme of things. If, then, I consider Hauptmann more human, it is because of his deep kinship with every stratum of life. While Ibsen deals exclusively with one attitude, Hauptmann embraces all, understands all, and portrays all, because nothing human is alien to him.

Whether it be the struggle of the transition stage in Lonely Lives, or the conflict between the Ideal and the Real in The Sunken Bell, or the brutal background of poverty in The Weavers, Hauptmann is never aloof as the iconoclast Ibsen, never as bitter as the soul dissector Strindberg, nor yet as set as the crusader Tolstoy. And that because of his humanity, his boundless love, his oneness with the disinherited of the earth, and his sympathy with the struggles and the travail, the hope and the despair of every human soul. That accounts for the bitter opposition which met Gerhart Hauptmann when he made his first appearance as a dramatist; but it also accounts for the love and devotion of those to whom he was a battle cry, a clarion call against all iniquity, injustice and wrong.

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