- The Federfuchser / Penpusher from Lessing to Grillparzer: A Study Focused on Grillparzer's Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg by William C. Reeve (review)
- Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature
- Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association
- Volume 50, Number 1, 1996
- pp. 91-93
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Book Reviews91 undermines its mythical past, Diane Quantic's new book is the place to begin. LIAHNA BABENER Montana State University WTLXiIAM C. REEVE. The FederfuchserIPenpusher from Lessing to Grillparzer: A Study Focused on Grillparzer's Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg. Buffalo: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995. 167 p. In this book, William C. Reeve proposes that Kiesel, the Catholic cleric in Grillparzer's drama of the shift in Habsburg leadership that was followed shortly by the Thirty Years War, is the culmination of a line of"pen-pushing secretaries who plot and conspire as agent of a less gifted patron" (15). Reeve organizes his 167-page contribution in eight chapters, three of which—"Introduction," "Summation," and "Conclusion"—are very brief. His most interesting thrust is a careful analysis of Klesel's manipulative magic and malice and a conclusion revealing Rudolf as a disaster at politics, Mathias a malleable weakling, and Kiesel with Machiavellian standards of the "cunning of the fox and strength of the lion" (82). Reeve begins with a review of the literature, which has concentrated on Rudolf and his supposed antagonist, Don Cesar, neglecting Kiesel. He justifies his interest by declaring Kiesel to be an expression of nineteenth-century anticlericalism, revealing trends from the Enlightenment, and even hinting of Grillparzer's hostility towards the Catholic Church. He compares the historical Kiesel with the poetic Kiesel, who he contends represents an ideological shift of the master/slave dialectic which has moved from the social contract of Hobbes and Locke and even Rousseau to a Hegelian realism where the servant ultimately becomes the master. Chapter 2, which Reeve captions "In His Servant's Footsteps," reveals Kiesel as the Realpolitiker, the unscrupulous politician who exploits Mathias and the propensity for vacillation in the Habsburg ruling fabric. The whole plan is about power, and Kiesel is in control. Chapter 3, "The Pen Triumphs," reveals Kiesel as a consummate maneuverer, presiding where he should be clerking. He first gathers the archdukes, then through circuitous psychological tactics concludes peace with the Turks against the wishes of the Emperor, and even achieves the empowerment of Mathias to act in the Emperor's name. Reeve builds on the role of the "pen-pusher" and the significance of the written word as the new power base in the age of politics , deceit, and distrust. Reeve follows Kiesel through the third and fourth acts of the drama and gives Kiesel credit for most major decisions made by both Rudolf and the archdukes. Kiesel is now at the height ofhis power, a reversal of the earlier "Diener/Herr" roles. Reeve helps us see the real person behind the mask, and to see Klesel's position of strength in relation to that of the weaker 92Rocky Mountain Review Mathias, Reeve will convince most readers that Kiesel is really his own messenger, and very much in control. "He Who Lives by the Pen..." is the caption to chapter 5 where Reeve attempts to correct the oversight he sees among previous critics who have largely ignored Klesel's role in the outcome ofthe drama. Kiesel is still issuing crucial orders. Reeve develops the ultimate irony in the power struggle between Klesel/Mathias and Ferdinand, wherein Kiesel, as a Catholic cleric, argues for the separation of knowledge and faith, whereby he only deepens the schism. Ferdinand sees himself as God's agent and thus empowered through the will ofanother. Reeve compares Kiesel, ruling through Mathias, with Ferdinand, who will rule through God, and he suggests that the religious fanatic poses the greater threat. Reeve suggests that Grillparzer is getting back at the Church as Kiesel turns to sarcasm and describes religion as the sublimation of Ferdinand's will to power. It is Kiesel who argues for the separation of Church and State, a radically modern, anachronistic view. Reeve portrays Kiesel as having the will to act but being unable to thwart Ferdinand and Catholicism. Thus according to Reeve, Kiesel fails in his attack on a system that is based on birth and favoritism rather than merit by making two fatal errors: he reveals his true feelings about exploiting the Church for power, and he underestimates the enemy. Reeve's judgement of Kiesel...