'Die Scheidestunde ist da': Max Halbe's Mutter Erde (1897) and the politics of marriage and divorce in German Naturalist drama

Karl Leydecker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article reads Max Halbe's late Naturalist play Mutter Erde (1897), a key work in his oeuvre, in relation to German Naturalist drama and the political context in which it was written and set, namely the passage of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch für das Deutsche Reich through the Reichstag in 1896. Recovering the specific literary, political and legal context allows the ideological fault lines of the play to be laid bare and provides a corrective to the recent tendency to view Halbe's works in general, and Mutter Erde in particular, as straightforwardly pre-fascist. Detailed examination of the unpublished manuscript material relating to the play, including a revised ending from 1941, shows how Halbe changed his original plans, and the difficulties that he had with the characterization of the three central characters and the ending of the play. Ultimately Mutter Erde rejects both poles which are such a feature of Naturalist drama, being equally pessimistic about tradition and modernity, 'Heimat' and the city.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)60-78
    Number of pages19
    JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


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