Woyzeck Summary and Analysis
Scene 5 opens with Marie examining a pair of gold earrings in a fragment of mirror while holding her child on her lap. Marie tells her child to shut his eyes tight lest the "bogeyman" get him. She remarks to herself on how she must admire her expensive gift in such a tawdry mirror because she is poor, but knows that she is just as good as an aristocratic lady. Woyzeck enters and Marie covers her ears so he will not see the earrings, but it is too late. When questioned, she claims that she found them. Woyzeck is skeptical at first, but does not think to much of the earrings. He looks fondly upon his sleeping child and gives Marie money. After he leaves, Marie scolds herself for her infidelity, saying: "I am a tart, a no-good tart. If I had a knife, I'd do meself in." But then she justifies her actions, saying that the whole world is immoral anyway.
Scene 6: The Officer, Woyzeck.
Woyzeck performs his daily task of shaving his Officer, who chats with him idly and mocks him. Woyzeck is eager to please even when the Officer tricks him by saying that the wind is (impossibly) "northerly-southerly"; when Woyzeck agrees, the Officer laughs at his ignorance and calls him "abysmally stupid." Then he proceeds to tell Woyzeck that he has no morals because he has a bastard child. Woyzeck defends himself, countering: "Morality don't get much of a look in when our sort gets made ... Us lot don't have a chance in this world or the next; if we ever got to heaven I reckon we'd have to help with the thunder." The officer continues to ridicule Woyzeck, who continues to explain that he is not particularly "moral" or "virtuous" because he is poor. He maintains: "...Us common folk, we don't have no virtue, all we got is our nature; but if I was a gent with an 'at and a watch and a nice smart coat and could talk all posh, I'd be virtuous alright." Since Woyzeck is done shaving him, the Officer dismisses him and admonishes him not to run down the street.
Marie and the Drum-Major meet and flirt shamelessly. Her avoidance of his advances is only mocking, as she "goes right up to him" and lavishes him with compliments such as "I'm the proudest woman in the whole wide world." He returns: "And you're some woman. Christ almighty, we could breed little drum-majors like bloody rabbits-let's get started, eh?" As they embrace, about to consummate their attraction, the Drum-Major asks Marie: "Is that the devil in your eye?" and she responds: "Don't care if it is. What the hell."
We find Woyzeck at one of his regular appointments with the Doctor, who is scolding him for relieving himself on the street outside because he needs to collect Woyzeck's urine for his experiment. He has Woyzeck on a strict diet of peas only. The Doctor begins to get angry at Woyzeck, but dismisses the emotion, saying it is "unscientific" and not worth his time to get angry at "a mere human." Woyzeck tells the Doctor about his hallucinations; not only is he seeing conflagrations in the sky and hearing voices, but he is convinced that there is secret meaning encoded in the patterns mushrooms make on the ground. His reports delight the Doctor, who calls the hallucinations "category two, such a beautiful example," and classifies Woyzeck as "obsessional but otherwise generally rational." Instead of giving him treatment, however, he gives him a monetary bonus.
Marie's child offsets her corruption with his innocence. She is already under the Drum-Major's spell, admiring the earrings he gave her, whereas she commands her child: "Shut your eyes tight, go on, tighter, keep 'em like that and stay quiet or the bogeyman'll get yer." When Woyzeck arrives, he is very human and doting as opposed to the hurried Woyzeck from the first scenes who did not even stop to acknowledge his child. This is the first time we are made to truly sympathize with Woyzeck and see ourselves reflected in his simple love for Marie and his child.
On the surface, the short scene between Marie and the Drum-Major seems only to advance the action-that is, make the audience aware that they sleep together. However, in its brevity and directness, the scene emphasizes the two-dimensionality of the characters. Although Buchner develops the character of Marie in other scenes, in Scene 6 she is primitive and driven by her sex drive. In the same vein, the Drum-Major is concerned with his dual animalistic desires: to gratify his sexual urges and to produce offspring. We last encountered Marie and the Drum-Major together at the fair; now they are disgracing themselves as the horse disgraced itself, as though they are animals without self control. Only the mention of the devil and the characters' quick acknowledgement that they are doing something immoral remind us that they are humans operating in the realm of civilization.
In Scenes 7 and 8, Buchner juxtaposes simple, passionate, lower-class Woyzeck with pretentious, unfeeling examples of the middle class. The Officer and Doctor engage Woyzeck and pretend to be interested in his affairs, but couldn't care less about his well-being. Both of them see him as an animal; the Officer considers him to have no morals or virtue, and the Doctor, despite calling Woyzeck "human," uses him quite literally as a guinea pig. The Doctor is concerned with Woyzeck's symptoms only as they contribute to his own research and not to his patient's health. Instead of giving him treatment, he gives him money. This particular exchange crystallizes the relationship between economic status and mental state. Ironically, if Woyzeck did not need money so badly, he would not have to endure the Doctor's experiments and slowly go insane. Without his peas-only diet, he might react to Marie's infidelity just as angrily, but without the hallucinatory voice that commands him to kill her.
When the Doctor scolds Woyzeck, the latter defends his right to urinate on the street because he cannot hold it in 'when nature calls.' This connects him to Marie and the Drum-Major, who fail to control a different kind of animal urge at the same moment. Even though Woyzeck's failure to control his bladder connects him to the horse from the fair, it is in a humanizing manner. Unlike the Officer and Doctor, Woyzeck, despite his simplicity, is much more human than they. He acts on instinct because he has no choice or does not know better, whereas they are dehumanized by their abundance of choices and education. Their privileges make them both pretentious; beyond that, they make the Officer anxious and irresolute and the Doctor careless and inhumane. The Officer especially represents the lazy bourgeois, ignorant in his comfort as represented by his position, sitting in a chair while someone else shaves him. He mocks Woyzeck for having no morals or virtue, but has no sense of morality himself in ridiculing another man to his face. Furthermore he tells Woyzeck: "Our little talk has quite worn me out." Even mockery is too much exertion for the Officer, a two-dimensional representative of the lazy, overly-confident middle class.
Woyzeck Essays and Related Content
- Woyzeck: Major Themes
- Woyzeck: E-Text
- Woyzeck: Questions
- Woyzeck: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Georg Buchner: Biography
- Woyzeck Summary
- About Woyzeck
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Scenes 1-4
- Summary and Analysis of Scenes 5-8
- Summary and Analysis of Scenes 9-12
- Summary and Analysis of Scenes 13-16
- Summary and Analysis of Scenes 17-20
- Summary and Analysis of Scenes 21-24
- Summary and Analysis of Scenes 25-29
- German Naturalism
- Related Links on Woyzeck
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 5
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