Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening Summary and Analysis of II, iii - II, vi

Hanschen Rilow slips into the bathroom, carrying a small reproduction of Vecchio's Venus. He begins speaking to the figure in the painting, telling her how beautiful she looked when he first saw her in a shop window, and how happy Vecchio must have been when the real girl was lying on his sofa. Hanschen asks her to visit her in her dreams as he prepares to dispose of her, assuring her that it is an extremely painful act for him, and that he is by no means tired of her. He talks of the other pictures he has disposed of in a similar way, most of them different women from Greek myth such as Io, Galatea, and Leda. Hanschen tells Desdemona - the woman in the painting - that it is his fault she must die, for he is weak in the face of her femininity. He considers whether one ought not to feel sorry for Bluebeard, who murdered so many women, for surely it was harder on him then it was on them. However, he assures Desdemona that he will gain strength and rest more easily when she is gone. He will find some other picture to replace her, one that does not "eat at [his] brain" as she did. He asks her why she continues to press her legs together, to behave so chastely at this last moment. He kisses the picture one last time, and, reciting a few lines of poetry, he drops it into the toilet and shuts the lid.

In scene iv, Melchior is lying on his back in a hayloft when Wendla suddenly climbs up the ladder. Wendla asks him to come outside - they need his help with the wagon because a storm is approaching. Melchior angrily rebuffs her, but she refuses to leave. He threatens to throw her down the ladder, but this only makes her more determined to stay. She asks him once more to come to the meadow, for being soaked cannot be more unpleasant than remaining in such a damp and muggy place as the hayloft. Melchior responds that the hay smells wonderful, and then suddenly tells Wendla that he "can see the poppy gleaming at [her] breast" and "hear her heart beating." Wendla tells him not to kiss her, for only people who love each other kiss, but Melchior cuts her off. He says that there's no such thing as love, that they don't love each other at all, and even as Wendla continues to protest he grabs her and rapes her.

The next scene opens with Mrs. Gabor writing a letter to Moritz. As she recounts in her letter, she has decided how to reply to the missive that he sent her 24 hours earlier. She cannot provide him with the cost of passage to America, as he has requested. Not only does she not have the money, but she thinks that if she did it would be a mistake to give it to him. She says that she would be happy to write to his parents and explain that Moritz worked as hard this term as he was capable of working, and that they must forgive him for having failed. She also writes that she is not pleased with the allusion to suicide that he made in his letter. She considers it an attempt at blackmail, and unworthy of Moritz. She hopes that when this letter reaches Moritz he will already have rethought his hasty reaction. She reminds him that he should not equate his performance in school with his worth as a human being, and no matter what she hopes he will go on being friends with Melchior. She then writes that she hopes to hear from him soon, calling herself his "still devoted motherly friend."

Wendla, having slipped into her family's garden early in the morning, muses aloud. She is looking for violets, because she does not want her mother to question why she is smiling. She feels as if the ground is a "plush carpet," and thinks about how well she has slept. She murmurs that she is ready for her "penitential robes," referring to the long dress her mother had given her at the beginning of the play. She wishes someone would come along that she could tell the whole story to.


Hanschen's struggle with the painting in Act II scene iii is high drama - he wrestles with his sexual feelings towards the painting, speaking to it directly as he condemns his own desires. To Hanschen, the painting is no mere pornography: it is a work with which he has a deep and abiding relationship that means far more than sex. Indeed, Hanschen even declares "my heart is breaking" as he prepares to dispose of Vecchio's work. The painting is literally eating away at his psyche: his sexual feelings are so strong that they threaten to overwhelm every part of him and leave him mad, his "poor brain" dissolved from lust. Here, Wedekind perfectly lances the fervor of youthful sexuality while comically underscoring the helpless dramatics that characterize the internal battles of adolescents.

The rape scene is one of the most controversial in Wedekind's work. It is all the more devastating because of how palpable Wendla's innocence is: even as Melchior grabs her with the intent to rape her, she protests that only people who are in love kiss one another. Further, the fact that (in the written text, at least) the rape is only evident through the fact that the two characters repeatedly call out each others' names speaks to their personal relationship, and to the intimacy that perhaps could have grown between them and flourished into a real relationship had Melchior's needs not gotten in the way. In this scene, Melchior and Wendla's very real sexual chemistry comes to a frightening - even tragic - climax.

Mrs. Gabor is an interesting character in Spring Awakening, as she is perhaps the only adult who displays a true desire to communicate with the children, to understand where they are coming from. She is willing to talk to them like friends and to consider their needs and desires. Nevertheless, even Mrs. Gabor fails to perceive the reality behind Moritz's "veiled threat" of suicide. This blindness may speak to Wedekind's belief that regardless of how hard they may try, adults are fortunate enough to view the travails of youth with the safety of hindsight, and are simply incapable of recalling - or relating to - the depths of despair to which adolescents can sink.

Wendla's reaction to her rape is fascinating, and tells us a great deal about the extent of her naivete. It is almost as if she does not realize that she has been raped: she knows so little about sex that she cannot grasp the fact that Melchior has violated her. She wants someone whom she can "throw [her] arms around and talk to" - but presumably she wants to recount the excitement and passion of the previous night, not the terror. Conversely, this scene may indicate how much more developed Wendla is than her mother in terms of her attitude towards sex: she is capable of seeing it for what it is, and is no longer tied to the idea that sex and love must be linked.