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Weiss's MaratlSade and its Three Main Performance Versions DARKO SUVIN 1 This paper discusses aspects of three important productions of Peter Weiss's MaratlSade: West Berlin in April 1964 (Schiller-Theater, directed by Konrad Swinarski), the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and New York, respectively August 1964 and December 1965 (Aldwych and Martin Beck Theatres, directed by Peter Brook), and the East German premiere at Rostock in March 1965 (VoIkstheater, directed by Hanns Anselm Perten). A comparative approach to these three productions gains a certain significance from the playwright'S collaboration with all of them, although to a different degree in each case,l My approach uses an historically oriented discussion to formulate a theoretical problem within what I would call "interpretive pragmatics" in drama and theatre studies, and in all disciplines that have to do with "texts" in the widest sense, and therefore with intertextuality, from literature to music. The basic premise ofpragmatics is that any object or process becomes a sign only in a signifying situation relating signs to their users. Without pragmatic decisions to constrict which presuppositions and readings may be pertinent in a given, concrete context, the connotations ofeven amoderately complex text would be practically infinite. But obversely, a sign sequence is always spatio-temporally localized, and is in a tacit dialogue with potential classes of users. The concrete localization of signs and the presuppositions about their possible uses necessarily inscribe socio-historical reality - as understood by the dialogists between the lines of any text" My working premise is that the signifying situation in both printed and performed dramas are stories or narratives that induce a Possible World in the reader or spectator.3 Ifthis is so, then it seems to me logically unavoidable that this world will have both some limits and some central features - otherwise it would not be a cosmos but a chaos. Diverse interpretations or "readings" of an DARKO SUVIN even minimally complex Possible World - e.g. of a short lyrical poem - are legitimately possible, since a reading is a transaction between the interpreter and the interpreted. However, in order not to result 10 a vision of a centrally different Possible World,4 they will all have to have what Wittgenstein called a family likeness, that is some parameters in common: negatively, limits; positively, features. Those parameters I propose to call invariants. The first part of my paper will attempt to construct such central parameters for Weiss's play. The second part will attempt to use abbreviated reconstructions of the three performances for a first conclusion, in the third part, about performance variants and invariants. The different admixture of variants and invariants in each case is, of course, a matter of wider cultural pragmatics, of social history and ideology. In 1965 Peter Weiss (working on a refashioning of Dante's Inferno which was eventually to become Die Ermittlung) published a Gespriich aber Dante. In this dialogue, a clearly autobiogIaphical voice said: "I am planning a Welttheater. ... In the Renaissance theatre there were these great totalizing (zusammenfassenden) allegories, these choruses, these festive and macabre processions.'" This serves as a first introduction to his immediately preceding Marat/Sade, which can be seen as a quite specific - though in this case, as I shall argue, specifically ambiguous - left-wing intellectual's Theatrum Mundi. What kind of world on the stage serves as parabolic model ( "allegory") for human reality off-stage? A major difference between modem dramaturgic "totalizing" allegories and, say, the Athenian, Medieval, or Baroque Welttheater6 is that twentieth-century variants explicitly relate to historical humanity and nature, to immanence and not transcendence; their locus is to be found in socio-politics and not theology; and they reflect on the nature ofpeople in class society with a view to exploring possible change rather than reflecting an unchanging Man who must find his bearings as best he can in an unchanging universe. It will be apparent that the reflection of such "political drama" in the widest sense may start from - and privilege - either individuals within society or society as a whole, or may attempt to transcend this bourgeois split; this is a major dilemma of Weiss's play too. Marat/Sade is usually analyzed as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
pp. 395-419
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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