Spring Awakening

Moritz and Melchior in the graveyard

What is the meaning of Moritz trying to take Melchior's hand in the graveyard? Is this because Moritz is afraid to be alone in death?

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yes and no. i always interpreted it as melchior's chance to end his own life, but ultimately showing that he is stronger than all the other characters and that he will break free of the cycle of death that surrounds them by becoming his own man. this of course requires that he get away from the awful adults in the play and leave the town.

My read is: that those who commit suicide, both figuratively and possibly literally, tempt others to the same act - they make the possibility of giving up realistic, and when it becomes appealing, they remind us of our worst option; and perhaps, in Wedekind's mind, or even in "life", their spirits would wish proof that they are not alone in their failing, and that the living have not matured beyond their foolishness - that they are in some way less to blame for their acts, because suicide is common and appealing to the living (if no longer to them).

Moritz reminds me of Dante's unrepentant sinners, who in death were stripped of their illusion that they lived righteously, and spent their time trying to re-convince themselves that they didn't and don't deserve their punishments; or even Ledger's Joker, who feels like he has to convince everyone that he's the sane one, because if no one else understands life the way he does, it's incredibly hard for him to continue thinking what and how he does.

Melchior being the romantic, he allows himself to contemplate suicide as a fitting punishment for his wrongdoing, though it seems to me he really considers that suicide might be easier than living, and for that reason is tempted to it - he cannot truly and fully contemplate the horror of hell, just as the rest of us cannot; it is beyond us.

The "just touch my hand" bit seems firstly to show how close Melchior is to suicide, secondly how easy it is, thirdly that it is the dead that bring us to death, and fourthly that the legend of the Grimm Reaper's ability to kill by touch is not lost on Wedekind.

Anyway, Melchior realizes what horror life can hold; he realizes what shame he has been responsible for, and how much suffering he has brought on the innocent (Wendla) and the misguided (Moritz), and rather than travel the difficult and likely increasingly evil path he was on, he would prefer death - likely also because he still has the capacity to be revolted at himself, his actions, and what he might become, and hates the person he was beginning to become through his actions throughout the play.

In this light, Moritz is a source of irony - Melchior gave him the essay that allowed him to understand his feelings on earth, and to learn how merciless and corrupt the adults truly were, especially his parents; the swiftness and harshness of this realization, combined with Moritz's weaknesses and convictions, resulted in Moritz's decision to kill himself, and now Moritz is tempting Melchior to HIS death, with knowledge - albeit false knowledge. This falseness is a perfect completion of Moritz's character - his morality in life (which is life's highest prize) was false, as it led to suicide, which is, by the code he professed to follow, and my own, one of the most abhorrent acts a human can commit, and in death his enlightenment (which is death's highest prize) is false - he cannot even make it seem like enlightenment, showing Melchior inadvertently how despicable and snide and shameful a person he was and Moritz is.

Finally, the Masked Man appears. As his identity is still debated, I will make a brief case, in a bit, for who he is. However: first, what he stands for. Melchior's error, which he is not at all to blame for, and yet which would prove fatal if it stands, is his belief that he cannot expect to live a good life after his actions and his experiences thus far - that to do so he would have to completely reject his ideas, beliefs, etc. He does not need to reject - his quest for knowledge is, in its natural state, man's best aspiration, as it will lead to solid morality and beliefs and an unshakable maturity, when these things are thought through. However, he does need to reform, (which is ironic - he must escape reform school in order to reform!) questioning the CONCLUSIONS, not the MEANS, by which he came to his devastation. He will never understand that he has MANY roads to follow, not just a single evil one, until he is given a hand out of his depression and illusive disillusionment. The Masked Man appears to him, as Moritz has, allowing the reader/viewer to question rather they physically appear or psychologically appear. (This notion may be played with by controlling whether Moritz says his final lines before or after they exit.) The Masked Man offers to attend to Melchior's physical needs, (which Melchior has understandably forgotten, but nevertheless is all the more crippled by,) and only later does The Masked Man begin to reveal that he can help Melchior achieve knowledge of all the world's workings. This is the second offer of the type Melchior hears within two pages, and the contrast is clear. If Moritz is Melchior's tempter, offering him the satisfaction of knowledge without work, then The Masked Man is Melchior's shepherd, telling him that with work, life's mysteries may be understood - although he does not say that this understanding will reveal them to be pleasant. The Masked Man then takes Melchior under his wing, as opposed to allowing him to commit suicide or follow a destructive path for the rest of his life. Moritz melodramatically ends this moment, resigning himself to his place in his grave.

Now, as Moritz cannot lie in the presence of The Masked Man, and as he wishes his presence more than anything; and as The Masked Man shows contempt for Moritz, for Melchior's past, and for Wendla's fate, and knows her intimately though also lovingly and respectfully; and as The Masked Man was always played by Wedekind (the likely reason being that he did not want him to be misinterpreted) and dedicated his play to him, (which, if The Masked Man were the devil, a man with Wedekind's moral understanding of life and his obvious intellect would never do, even in irony,); and given Wedekind's knowledge of Faust (he wrote another play, Erdgeist, which is titled and themed after a creature introduced in Faust), and the play's demonstrations of an understanding both of adults and of all possible forms of corruption, I take Wedekind to be a knowledgeable and wise man, who would no less discredit wisdom than a carpenter would delight in arson, I take The Masked Man to be God. The best evidence I can see against this is that The Masked Man offers Melchior food and wisdom, which Satan offers Eve to tempt her out of Eden; however, as the scene is certainly no Eden, rather likely its antithesis, with the graves rather than the trees of life being plentiful, with a boy and a clearly malevolent spirit present, rather than a man and a woman; with the obviously more moral, rather than the stereotypically less intelligent, of the two speaking to the outsider, and with the outsider being a man to all appearances, whose face they cannot see (and by the way, to see the face of God is to die for those not worthy, in Jewish and therefore Christian tradition, which Wedekind is observing) and who seems not devious, sly, and small but paternal, wise, and (comparatively) large. Therefore, I would expect not the devil, but God, to be the outsider, and to enter to save, rather than damn, Melchior - after all, the other classic signs of the devil are also reversed. So, that's my read; take it for what it's worth.

(The musical completely ruins this, making a martyr out of Moritz and not even introducing the masked man, and allowing Melchior's devotion to his friends, rather than his moral reform, the reason for his abandoning his suicide attempt. If Slater allows me to re-write the musical, I will.)