Monday, February 18, 2008


While Reigen's cast includes characters from virtually every walk of Viennese society, the play, under its wide umbrella of different people and classes, expresses a universal hypocrisy or irony of the times.  Everyone it seems, regardless of their class, job, or supposed moral responsibilities is capable and willing to indulge in the the lewd, the deceptive, and the bawdy.  As a result Viennese sexuality appears as the great equalizer, a force capable bringing linking individuals from opposite ends of the societal spectrum under the most private of circumstances (such as a count and a prostitute).  The great irony of the story, however, is that while sex exerts a universal impact on the Viennese it retains its taboo status, a subject only to be played at or insinuated towards, without ever being directly addressed (as evidenced by the conversation between husband and wife).  The public fixation on superficial decency and class has forced sexuality underground and causes nearly everyone in the play to deceive their lovers and themselves.  Most poetically it is the prostitute or tart, the character farthest removed from societal concerns, who has the most sincere or direct relationship towards her lovers and their sexual escapades.


Mina said...

I think that the conflicting image that Schnizler brings up of "moral, noble" Viennese society versus the Viennese society where everyone surrenders themselves to the "tabooed" desire is incredible. I agree that there is definitely a sense of irony there, and utter deception as everyone tries to cover up for themselves. To me, the Tart seemed the most "noble" of the characters because she was the only one not worried about the consequence of relationships, and also sincere, as you pointed out.

Sterling Mackinnon said...
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Sterling Mackinnon said...

The friction between sincerity and sex in Vienna is an issue, that to me, seems central to both Reigen and Dream Story. the more I though about it, the more I began to wonder whether or not these deceptive soap operas would continue if their society had a more healthy manner of expressing itself sexually. Dream story reveals how dangerous sincerity can be when expressed within such suffocating and formal societal constructs. Fridolin's longing and recklessness is brought on by what modern standards would consider a healthy confession of sexual fantasy. Both Reigen and the novel, while I am not quite finished, truly reveal how damaging the repressive nature of Viennese society was.