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box 36/4
. Panphlets offprints
449
ARTHUR SCHNITZLER.
relation to his one-act plays, ascertain to what extent Schnitzler
has solved successfully the great“ problem of the problem.
Liebelei, which was produced first in 1895, is an excellent
example both of Schnitzler’s powers and of Schnitzler’s limita¬
tions. The motif of the play is the problem of the refined middle¬
class girl, who stands, if we may borrow the terminology of popular
melodrama, at the cross-roads. Which turning is it better for her
to take—the right turning or the wrong turning?
Fritz, a sentimental young Viennese student, is discussing in
his rooms the affairs of his heart with the saner and more practical
Theodor. Fritz is melancholy. He has been sustaining a grand
passion for a married woman, but the looming shadow of the
husband obsesses him. Are his nerves playing him tricks, or has
the husband ascertained?
Theodor advises him to sail in shallower and less troubled
waters." You must go for your happiness where I did—and found
it, too—where there are no great scenes, no dangers, and no tragie
developments, where the first steps are not particularly hard, and
the last, again, are not painful, where one receives the first kiss
with a smile and parts finally with the softest feeling.?
Scruples are out of place on the principle:" Better myself than
someone else, and the someone else is as inevitable as Fate.
Theodor, moreover, has not only prescribed the cure but has
ordered the medicine. Enter Mizzi, the actual“ happiness?’ of
Theodor, and Christine, the prospective happiness of Fritz.
Mizzi the practical prepares supper while the sweet naiveté of
the genuinely unsophisticated Christine captivates the jaded soul
of our fin de siècle romantic. There ensues a scene of the most
delicate gaiety and camaraderie; all is health and’goodwill. Even
Mizzi the prosaic shows her passion forthe picturesque cn learning
that Fritz is in the Dragoons:
Mrzzr. Are you in the yellow or the black?
Farrz. I'm in the vellow.
Mizzt (dreamily). In the yellow!
Could there be a more subtle probing into the soul of the
novelette-reading shopgirl?
Then, at the zenith of the feast, when glasses are clinking and
souls are flowing, enter the skeleton. The company is packed
into the next room, and Fritz is left to arrange a duel with the
man whom he has wronged. Exit the skeleton, re-enter the
revellers; yet the shadow of the looming death casts a gloom even
over the unconscions minds of the others. The girls bid a gay
farewell to the young men, but the aftermath of the old love is
already poisoning the sweets of the new.