Kaspar

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For the name, see Casper.
Kaspar & Other Plays
Author Peter Handke
Country Austria
Genre Drama
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date
Published in English in 1967
ISBN 0809015463

Kaspar is a play written by Austrian playwright Peter Handke. It was published in 1967. It was Handke's first full-length drama and was hailed in Europe as the "play of the Decade".[1] It depicts "the foundling Kaspar Hauser as a near-speechless innocent destroyed by society’s attempts to impose on him its language and its own rational values."[2]

Plot Summary[edit]

Kaspar is loosely based on the story of Kaspar Hauser. "Raised in a dark hole, at 17 he wandered into a 1824 German town knowing only a single sentence and became a scientific curiosity: a nearly-adult human without language and external influences, a tabula rasa upon which society and its scientific teachers could write with impunity."[3]

Major Themes[edit]

Kaspar is about language and its ability to torture. In this play Handke "allows us to listen differently and to reflect on how language is forced upon us by a society where conformism is the norm and received speech an almost tyrannical exploitation of the individual."[4]

It is also a play that suggests individuals are bound to negate themselves under the pressure of the societies that they live in. "What Kaspar experiences on stage can happen daily: The need or desire to conform, to observe and imitate someone else’s words and actions, to assert oneself and at the same time, negate oneself."[5]

Individuals can also invent themselves using the language. In Kaspar, Handke writes: "Already you have a sentence with which you can make yourself noticeable . . . You can explain to yourself how it goes with you . . . You have a sentence with which you can bring order into every disorder . . ."[6]

Handke himself wrote in the prologue to the play: "The play Kaspar does not show how IT REALLY IS or REALLY WAS with Kaspar Hauser. It shows what is POSSIBLE with someone. It shows how someone can be made to speak through speaking. The play could also be called speech torture."[7]

One critique summarised the theme of Kaspar thus: "the inherent authoritative power of language itself to shape, twist, expand, delimit, and mediate human experience, the ultimate tragicomic story of socialization and civilization.[8]

Further reading[edit]

  • James R. Hamilton, "Handke's Kaspar, Wittgenstein's Tractates, and the successful representation of alienation," Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Spring 1995.
  • M. Read, "Peter Handke's Kaspar and the power of negative thinking," Oxford Journal, 1993.
  • Linda Eisenstein, "You Are The Lucky Owner of a Sentence," Theatre Perspectives International, May 1994.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kaspar and Other Plays, published by Hill & Wang, translated by Michael Roloff, New York, 1989
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica, Biography of Peter Handke (Austrian Writer)
  3. ^ "You Are The Lucky Owner of a Sentence," A Review by Linda Eisenstein, Theatre Perspectives International, May 1994.
  4. ^ See production note by Austrian Cultural Forum which produced the play from 3 January to 12 February 2013 at Aya Theatre in London
  5. ^ http://kaspar2010.blogspot.com/
  6. ^ Peter Handke, Kaspar and Other Plays, trans. M. Roloff (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969), page-67 and 69.
  7. ^ Peter Handke, Kaspar and Other Plays, trans. M. Roloff (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969), page-59.
  8. ^ Linda Eisenstein, "You Are The Lucky Owner of a Sentence," Theatre Perspectives International, May 1994.