Woyzeck Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Consider Buchner's attitude towards animals and animal nature throughout Woyzeck. Do you think that he places animals above or below humans, and why? Give specific examples from the text.

  2. 2

    Imagine that you must teach someone else about Woyzeck by showing them a single scene. Choose the scene and make a case for why and how it encapsulates all of Buchner's major themes.

  3. 3

    There is no definitive ending to Woyzeck because it consisted of four different manuscripts at the time of Buchner's death. Choose one of the following endings and explain why it is the most fitting: Woyzeck returns to the town to embrace his child; Woyzeck is last seen wading into the pond; drowns in the pond; Woyzeck is tried and found innocent; Woyzeck is found guilty and executed.

  4. 4

    How does Buchner use temperature to represent sexuality and madness in the play? Does he employ heat and cold consistently, or is there a point at which their meanings change?

  5. 5

    Consider what role folk song and fairy tales play in Woyzeck. How would the play be changed were they omitted?

  6. 6

    Compare Buchner's character of Woyzeck to Shakespeare's Hamlet. How do their stories run parallel, and where do they differ?

  7. 7

    Explore the role of Biblical references in Woyzeck. How are Woyzeck and Marie compared to Christ and the Virgin Mary, respectively? Do these comparisons make the characters seem more or less moral and/or justified in their actions?

  8. 8

    Explain the significance of cycles and circularity in Woyzeck. Does the play itself have a cyclical structure, and if so, how?

  9. 9

    Explore Buchner's portrayal of the middle class as embodied in the characters of the Officer, Doctor, and Drum-Major. What characteristics does each exemplify, and what is Buchner's overall message?

  10. 10

    What is the purpose of the Grandmother's 'black fairy tale?' In your explanation, consider both its content and placement in the play's progression.

  11. 11

    Using examples from Woyzeck, make a case for where Buchner stands in the Nature/Nurture debate. According to the play, are man's actions driven more by his inherited traits or his environment?

  12. 12

    We have seen how Buchner espouses a pessimistic, tragic outlook throughout Woyzeck. Using specific examples from the text, argue instead for the play's having a positive, optimistic outlook.

  13. 13

    Is the violence in Woyzeck gratuitous, or is it integral to the play's message? Discuss.