by Friedrich Hebbel
Master Anton is a prime example of the petty bourgeois and his wife is an equally virtuous woman. His docile daughter Klara is about to marry the professionally ambitious Leonhard. The fact that she does not love him seems of no relevance. His son Karl, however, causes him some grief. A loafer, he is in deeper debt than the family imagines. What the family does not know is that Klara has got herself into a difficult situation as well – to prove her loyalty, she slept with her fiancé and is now pregnant by him.
When Karl is accused of having stolen some jewels, the mood in the conservative household darkens. The mother suffers a shock and dies. Master Anton threatens suicide should Klara, too, bring shame on the family. And when scheming Leonhard learns that Master Anton has given away the entire dowry that was promised to Klara, he renounces her. Although Klara deeply despises Leonhard and loves someone else, she wants to get him back for the sake of her family’s honour. Should he decide against the marriage, she sees no other way out but to commit suicide.
Friedrich Hebbel’s tragedy »Maria Magdalena« shows a family shattered by rigid moral codes and a dogmatic world view. But by depicting these constrictions and limitations, the play also shows the importance of freedom. Master Anton’s "constrained" world contrasts with our "free" world, while at the same time casting light on some similarly rigid "parallel worlds" within our own society.
Photos © Sinje Hasheider