in the Valley:
A National-Political Interpretation of
King Ottocar's Rise and Fall
has been said that Franz Grillparzer understood very little
about politics (Beste 3). In spite of what he might have said to the public,
his King Ottocar's Rise and Fall (Ottocar) was more than just a play depicting
past events in the nation of Austria. It was a thinly disguised
depiction of Napoleon (Ottocar) and a depiction of the nation to come that Grillparzer had envisioned (one led by someone with the attributes of Rudolf). Franz Grillparzer was very proud of being Austrian and is quoted as saying to A. Foglar, a personal friend, "Ich bin kein Deutscher sondern ein Österreicher, ja ein Nieder-österreicher, und vor allem ein Wiener" (Beste 5) ("I am not a German, but an Austrian, yes a lower-Austrian and above all Viennese"). Not a bold statement, but certainly one giving us a clear idea of how vested he was in being an Austrian. He may not have understood much about politics, but he certainly had his opinion of how the nation should be run and what would make for a better Austria.
As proof of the 'dangerous' politics in the play I will first detail how Ottocar was first received by the government. I will then discuss the diferent ways in which the three main characters King Ottocar, Queen Margarethe, and Emperor Rudolf von Hapsburg approach their separate offices and their feelings about the responsibilities of the person in that office. I will conclude by discussing what I feel are Grillparzer's desires for the future of Austria as they are indicated in the text.
It seems, at least in the case of Ottocar, that Grillparzer was speaking the truth when he claimed to not understand politics. Had he understood politics he may have made some revisions to the play that would have aided in its being performed earlier. He finished the play in late 1823, but it didn't see the light of day until 1825 when it was rescued by an order of the Empress, as he describes it:
Mein Trauerspiel ,Ottokar' war zwei Jahre lang mit Verbot belegt, bis ein Zufall die Aufführung veranlaßte. Während einer Unpäßlichkeit verlangte die Kaiserin, der damals noch lebende Collin solle ihr etwas Dramatisches vorlesen. Ernannte mehrere Stücke, welche ihr aber schon bekannt waren. Endlich brachte er aus dem Burgtheater-Archiv unter Anderem den ,Ottokar' und las ihn vor. Die Kaiserin erstaunte, wieso man hier verbietend einschreiten konnte, wo der Ruhm des regierenden Hauses vertreten war, und setzte bei ihrem Gemahl die Darstellung der Tragödie durch, ohne daß auch nur ein Wort Wäre gestrichen worden. (Foglar 11)
A similar series of events is also related by Julius Marx in Die Österreichische Zensur im Vormärz (Austrian Censorship in Pre-March Austria), although in this account the order is given by Franz I (28). Basing my decision on monarchical tradition and the similarity of these two stories I would conjecture that the events described by Grillparzer are accurate, but that the Empress brought the play to the attention of Franz I and he, as Emperor in a patriarchal society, would have given the order for its publication.
My tragedy, 'Ottocar' was forbidden for two years, until a coincidence arranged for its performance. During an indisposition the Empress requested Collin, who at that time was still alive, read her something dramatic. He mentioned many pieces that she already knew. Finally he brought, out of the Civic Theater Archive, among others, 'Ottocar' and read it to her. The Empress was shocked that anyone could forbid a work that represented the glory of the ruling house, and through her order she pushed through the presentation of the tragedy, with the instruction that not a word of it was to be changed.
During the time Grillparzer was writing the Censor Commission was under the control of the Emperor. The transfer of control over the Censor Commission to the Emperor was a relatively new development in Austria. Previous to 1780 the commissions were spread throughout the nation and were at various times in the control of either the church or the universities (Sashegyi 16-18).
The "Censor Regulations of 14 September 1810" were in effect at the time of Grillparzer's attempt to publish the play. Paragraph Six of this document states: "Hier muß nicht nur alles entfernt werden, was der Religion, der Sittlichkeit, der Achtung und Anhängigkeit an das Regierende Haus, die Bestehende Regierungsform u.s.w. geradezu, oder mehr gedeckt entgegen ist...." (Marx 74) ("Herewith, should not only works against religion, morality, respect and judgment of the ruling house, the existing form of government, etc. directly or indirectly be forbidden..."). The document continues to give grounds for the initial censoring of the play in Paragraph Ten: "Schriften, welche das höchste Staatsoberhaupt und deßen Dynastie, oder auch fremde Staatsverwaltungen angreifen, deren Tendenz dahin geht, Mißvergnügen und Unruhe zu verbreiten, das Band zwischen Unterthanen und Fürst locker zu machen.... sind nach der Strenge der bisher bestehenden Vorschriften zu behandeln" (75) ("Works, that attack the head of state and its dynasty, or also foreign administrations, whose intentions are to spread disgruntlement and unrest, to loosen the bond between subjects and ruler... are to be dealt with to the full extent of the preceding regulations"). As I will describe, Ottocar depicts a vision for a new government, one in which the loosening of the "bond between subjects and ruler" is a main theme. With the understanding that the play is about Napoleon it is clearly a play that ,,auch fremde Staatsverwaltungen angreif[t]" ("also attacks foreign administrations"). As you can see, Grillparzer has struck more than one chord with the censors, and without an order from the Emperor, the play surely would have remained unpublished.
It is undisputed that Grillparzer intended the play as a critique of Napoleon. He began researching the play in 1818, but knew that he could not depict Napoleon because of his relations to the house of Hapsburg, his second wife being Marie-Louise Hapsburg (Geißler 88). This connection between Napoleon and the ruling family of Austria is certainly one of the reasons for keeping the play from being performed. As a member of the family, any person or piece of literature criticizing Napoleon would have been suspect, regardless of the actions of Napoleon. Knowing he was going to have troubles getting the play through the censors his only hope was to attempt to hide his critique inside a symbol for Napoleon. He eventually found him in 13th century Bohemia, King Ottocar. He explained his choice by saying,
Beide, wenn auch in ungeheurem Abstande, thatkräftige Männer, Eroberer, ohne eigentliche Bösartigkeit, durch die Umstände zur Härte, wohl gar Tyrannei fortgetrieben, nach vieljährigem Glück dasselbe traurige Ende, zuletzt der Umstand, dass den Wendepunkt von beider Schicksal die Trennung ihrer ersten Ehe und eine zweite Heirat gebildet hatte. (Klaar 4)
It is interesting to note that it seems to have been favorable portrayal of a true Hapsburg (as opposed to the married-into-the-family parallel with Napoleon) that made the eventual release of the play possible at all. It was his negative political views that got the play censored, but his positive depiction of the Hapsburg family that encouraged them to change their minds.
Both, even though greatly distanced from each other, were driven men, conquerors. Without any actual maliciousness, they were driven through their circumstances to violence, no doubt even tyranny, then after many years of happiness met the same tragic end. in the end the event that formed the turning point of both destinies was the separation of their first marriage and a second marriage.
Through the three main characters King Ottocar, Queen Margarethe and Rudolf von Hapsburg Grillparzer depicts three versions of monarchy as they work with and against each other until Rudolf's final victory at the end of the play. Ottocar represents the tyrannical monarch, Margarethe the compassionate but distant monarch and Rudolf the compassionate monarch that brings the rule of the nation to the people.
Ottocar is a man whose only concern is the expansion of his empire which is evident in the fact that both his marriages, first to Margarethe and then to Kunigunde, were negotiated not out of love, attraction or anything "noble," but out of a motivation to expand his kingdom. his expansionist feelings are brought to their highest point when he foresees his ascension to the throne of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire., The depth of this megalomania is seen when, in the first act, his visitors unite in a chorus of ,,Heil Ottokar dem deutschen Kaiser!" ("Hail Ottokar the German Emperor!") he responds by saying, ,,Nun Erde, steh mir fest! Du hast noch keinen Größeren getragen!" (Grillparzer 27) ("Now earth, stand fast! You never yet have borne a greater man!") (Stevens 28). Having just divorced his wife, Margarethe, he has kept the lands she brought to the marriage, and he has gained favor with the king of Hungary by selecting his daughter Kunigunde as his second wife. Because of his "greatness" the next logical step for him is to become the Kaiser his people are calling for.
Unfortunately his new greatness found by adding the lands of Margarethe and the negotiations with Hungary are precisely the reason he will eventually not gain this throne. He divorces Queen Margarethe, claiming that she is unable and unwilling to bear an heir, a fact he was informed of at the time of their initial engagement. He also claims they aren't allowed to be married, because they are cousins in the fourth degree, which is not allowed by the church. He was also aware of this when he married her, which makes his grounds for divorce completely transparent. She says of this decision:
Was gibt man an als unsrer Trennung Grund? / Den ersten weiß ich: ich bin kinderlos / Und ohne Hoffnung, je ein Kind zu säugen: Weil ich nicht will, weit mehr noch als nicht kann! / Das wußte Ottokar, als er mich freite, / Ich sagt' ihm's, und er nahm es für genehm; / Denn auf mein reiches Erb' von Österreich / War da sein Sinn gestellt... (Grillparzer 13)
This statement makes clear the fact that he never would have taken a wife if it hadn't promoted his kingdom in some way. He knew she wouldn't produce an heir. As an intelligent woman, she was most likely aware that this divorce was something he might one day undertake for she knew her husband to be a power monger. Ottocar displays his callousness toward her, and his true desire for her, when he says to Margarethe, ,,... es ist mein Land, / Das in mir Ehen schließt; und Ehen scheidet" (Grillparzer 24) ("...it is my country, which in me weds, unweds, and weds again") (Stevens 24). Thus he clarifies that she is nothing more than a pawn to him. The decision to marry or divorce, as the king, lies completely in his hands and not in hers. Because she is his pawn, he has used her for what she could give him and then sent her on her way.
What does he give as the reasons for our divorce? / The first one I know: I am without child / and without hope of ever having a child: because I don't want to, even more than I can't! / Ottocar knew that when he married me. / I told him that and he found it acceptable; / for his mind was set on my rich inheritance of Austria. (Stevens 13)
This selfish rule without regard for human life or feeling is the same rule that all of Europe was still reeling from in the aftermath of Napoleon's storming across their land. The royal audience scene in the first act is a very clear nod toward Napoleon and his life-consuming desire for an ever larger France. In the scene, Ottocar is receiving visiting dignitaries who come bearing crowns from each of the territories that he is adding to his kingdom as a result of his recent war with Hungary; two of these men in attendance had been sent by the ruler of Mongolia, Kublai Khan. Although known to be much more tolerant than his grandfather, Genghis Khan, a Khan, ranking as one of the most powerful rulers at that time, is someone you would want to keep on your side. The arrogant side of Ottocar is clearly demonstrated when he tells them, ,,Wär ich ihr König, / In einer Nacht ließt ich sie alle scheren! / Sie sollen gehn und morgen wiederkommen!" (Grillparzer 17) ("Were I their king, / I'd have them all shorn, in a single night. / Tell them to go and come again tomorrow") (Stevens 18). This is a man so self-absorbed he doesn't understand the need to treat some people nicely in order to keep a kingdom together. This particular incident is simply one of many in Ottocar's mistreatment of the visiting dignitaries.
Shortly after this reception there is a meeting expected in Frankfurt during which the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire is to be selected. From his response to the cries of ,,Heil Ottokar dem deutschen Kaiser!" ("Hail Ottocar the German Emperor!") it is clear that Ottocar already sees himself on that throne. Naming him Emperor would create the largest empire in Europe and make his holdings second only to the Mongols. He is sure of himself and his eventual appointment. However, in the audience the day of his indiscretions with the Mongols and others, there is an envoy from the Holy Roman Empire sent to inquire if he would accept the throne should he be chosen as Kaiser. Witnessing his behavior that day the messenger returns to Germany with the news of his behavior, a factor that ends up costing him the throne.
The reason for the decision against Ottocar is later explained by Friedrich von Zollern, Burggraf von Nürnberg, as he explains,
Wir suchten einen Herrn, gerecht und gnädig, / Als einem solchen bot man Euch den Thron. / Da kam der Ruf, da kamen selber Zeugen, / die laut es riefen in der Fürsten Ohr, / Wie Ihr getan an Königin Margarethen, / Die Eure Gattin war, die Ihr verstießt; / Wie Ihr die Rechte schmälert jener Lande, / Die rechtlos vorenthalten Ihr dem Reich; / Wie Eure Ungnad' schon ein Halsverbrechen, / Und Strafe trifft, wo noch kein Urtail traf. (Grillparzer 50)
This statement demonstrates clearly that Ottocar's negative aspects, as opposed to the positive aspects of Rudolf, lost him the throne. This is not to say that the positive aspects of Rudolf were not worthy of the throne, but that Ottocar, had he treated his subjects better, would have been the first choice for the throne.
We sought a ruler who'd be just and gracious, / And offered you the throne as such a man. / Then came the word yes, then came witnesses / Who loudly cried in the Elector's ears / How you had hurt and wronged Queen Margaret / Who was your lady, but you cast her off; / How you curtail the rights of all those lands / That you withhold unrightfully from the realm; / How to displease you is to merit death, / And men are punished who have not been judged. (Stevens 49)
This newly formed opposition between the Holy Roman Empire and King Ottocar is first evidenced during this audience when Ottocar first forbids anyone to assist the weakened Margarethe out of the room, and the second German envoy remarks, ,,So will denn ich hier diese Fürstin schirmen! / ...Im Namen denn des Heil'gen Röm'schen Reichs, / Gebt Raum der Herzogin von Österreich!" (Grillparzer 30-31) ("Then I will give this Princess my protection! / ... In the name, then, of the Holy Roman Empire, / Make way for Margaret, Duchess of Austria!") (Stevens 30-31).
This scene and the "alter Spruch" ("old saying") were also of importance to the politics of the day, as Franz I, the ruler of Austria, had been the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire before its dissolution. As a Hapsburg, the relationship between the eagle and the lion would have been known to anyone in the audience of the day. There is some discussion in scholarly literature surrounding Ottocar that Ottocar is actually a depiction of Franz I and not Napoleon, and is to be seen as a warning to the Emperor of what he would face if he didn't follow a more moderate rule. This is not a standpoint that Grillparzer ever substantiated, nor does it seem to be an idea that occurred to Franz I or the Empress. Had it occurred to them, the Emperor most likely would not have called for the play's production.
At the end of the second act a delegate is sent to Ottocar informing him that the election has gone to Rudolf. The thought that he has not been selected as Emperor is so devastating to him that he briefly loses his grip on reality. After having spoken to the delegate, the delegate addresses him again and Ottocar responds, ,,Was ist / (zusammenfahrend.) Ihr? Wart ihr hier? Vor Kurzem hier? / ... Und habt gesprochen? / ... Verdammt!" (Grillparzer 49) ("(startled): Who's that? You? Were you here / A moment since? / ... And did you speak? / ...Hell's fire consume you!") (Stevens 48). With this ,,Verdammt!" he regains his senses having been unable to convince himself that what he has just experienced was a dream. The reality of the situation becomes clear to him.
Rudolf requests his attendance in Nürnberg, where he is told he will hand over most of his holdings to teh Holy Roman Empire because they have been illegitimately gained. Having been a close confidante of Margarethe Rudolf is very aware of the conniving of Ottocar and the devious means by which he gained his lands. With his typical arrogance he says to the delegate, ,,Geht nur zurück und sagt dem deutschen Reich / Denn einen deutschen Kaiser kenn ich nicht / Manch Geier soll noch Aases werden satt, / Bis sie gewinnen, was des Böhmen ist! / Er ladet mich zu sich? nun wohl, ich komme!" (Grillparzer 52) ("So get you back and tell the German Empire, / For there's no German Emperor I acknowledge, / That many a crow shall fill his crop with flesh / Before they get their hands on what is mine. / He bids me come to him? Well then, I'll come;...") (Stevens 50) Thus begins the war that will eventually be the undoing of King Ottocar, for he is not headed to Nürnberg on a mission of peace, but on a mission to save his holdings.
Although the military methods of the time do not spare the king from going into battle, Ottocar is kept out of harm's way. Therefore, as he fights to save his lands, he is basically unaffected while his subjects are being destroyed by the ravages of war. The feelings of the people are most clearly expressed by Merenberg at the beginning of the third act. ,,O gib, daß wir, der Deutschen Äußerste, / Teilnehmen an dem Heil, das dort entstand; / Daß alle, die wir Österreicher sind, / Entnommen aus des Fremden harter Zucht, / Wie Brüder kehren in der Eltern Haus, / Von eines Vaters Auge fromm bewacht." (Grillparzer 54) ("Oh, grant that we on Germany's outmost border / May likewise share the blessing it has brought; / That all who bear the name of Austrian / Freed from an alien tyrant's harsh constraint, / Return like brothers to their parents' house, / Watched over by one father's kindly care.") (Stevens 52) With this statement Grillparzer shows us his feeling that the people would rather live under the rule of another country or Emperor than to live in a world of constant war, giving us our first insight into his feelings on the subject of peace for the people.
The Holy Roman Empire was a formidable opponent: as the largest empire in Europe, they had many more resources than Ottocar. It was a losing battle that he was fighting, but his ego would not allow him to admit defeat. Ottocar is eventually persuaded, by Merenberg, to surrender to Kaiser Rudolf in a move to finally bring peace to his lands. This surrender is the end of Ottocar. It is a moment that is so embarrassing to him that he never does recover.
Grillparzer demonstrates at this point the shoving out of the old regime: the idea that it is time for the old, strictly dynastic form of government to step out of the way. When Ottocar returns to his castle after the embarrassing surrender he cannot bring himself to step inside. He is nothing without his huge kingdom. It is not enough for him to be the King of Bohemia; he wants more, and would rather die trying to get his kingdom back than to face the humiliation of surrender and live in peace. He can't bear to be seen in his capital now that he has lost some of his power. "Für Helden ward gewölbt dein hoher Bau, / Und kein Entehrter hat ihn noch betreten! / Hier will ich sitzen, als mein eigner Pförtner, / Und Schande wehren ab von meinem Haus." (Grillparzer 78) ("Your noble walls were built to shelter heroes; / As yet none in disgrace has entered them. / Here will I sit and act as my own gateman / Lest shame should come and dwell within my house.") (Stevens 76) Ottocar's surrender to Kaiser Rudolf and refusal to re-enter his home is parallel to Napoleon's exile from France. His shame is so great, he doesn't know if he should even continue in the rule of the kingdom he has retained. He says, quite prophetically, to his Chancellor, "War's besser nicht, zu fallen in der Schlacht, / Der letzte meiner Krieger neben mir?" (Grillparzer 85) ("Better if I had sought my death in battle with my last swordsman fighting at my side.") (Stevens 82).
And his death in battle is not far off. Just as Napoleon did in returning from exile in Elba only to fail at the battle of Waterloo, we see Ottocar take up the sword again, still looking to regain the glory of his original kingdom and augment it in any way he can. As we saw in that last citation it was more agreeable to King Ottocar to die in battle than to allow his kingdom to shrink in size, and this is precisely what happens: he is killed by one of his enemies in spite of Kaiser Rudolf's instructions that he not be harmed. With the death of Ottocar comes the symbolic death of tyranny and the dawning of a new age for Austria.
I have spent some time detailing the behavior of King Ottocar and his parallels with the rule of Napoleon so that I may now begin to show the counterpoint that is the platform for a nationalist ideal represented int he play by the characters of Queen Margarethe and Rudolf von Hapsburg. All the while Ottocar is on his rampage seeking more power, Margarethe and Rudolf are acting benevolently and showing us how it is that a country truly should be ruled.
Margarethe represents, in this scenario, the old guard. She is a Queen that is willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of her nation. She is a woman that is more interested in leaving her inherited lands to her divorcing husband in order to maintain peace in the land. She knows that if she asks for them back, which is her right, she will only spend years defending them from the onslaught of Ottocar. She knows this because it is a replay of the situation that she avoided by taking Ottocar as her husband so many years before. As she said to Rudolf shortly before the official announcement of the divorce, ,,Ich habe diese Krone nicht gesucht! / Auf Haimburg saß ich, meines Grams gedenkend, / Beinah dem allgemeinen Elend taub: / Denn Brand und Raub verwüstete mein Land; Der Ungar hier, der Baier dort, der Böhme, / Sie hausten mit dem Schwert in Österreich, / Verderbend meiner Väter schönes Erbe." (Grillparzer 14) ("I never sought to wear this crown. I dwelt / At Haimburg in seclusion with my sorrow / and scarcely heard how all my people suffered / While fire and pillage laid my country waste. / Hungarians here, Bavarians there, the Czechs, / They ravaged Austria with fire and sword, / Bringing the fair land of my sires to ruin.") (Stevens 15) In contrast to Ottocar, she was willing to sacrifice everything she had wished for herself in order to bring peace to her land. More importantly, in the consideration of her character, she is even willing to make the sacrifice of sleeping with the enemy in order to bring about peace in her land. After all Böhmen is one of the lands she lists as those trying to whittle away at her inherited kingdom. She had sworn on the grave of her first husband that she would not love another man again, and she did not. This was not a marriage of love, but a marriage in the interest of keeping peace (Grillparzer 15).
She is depicted as a wise, noble woman. She knows her husband well and also knows well the situation he will be faced with when she is gone. As I noted before, there are basically two methods to maintaining order in a kingdom: either through peaceful or through violent means. One was used by Margarethe, that of benevolence and sacrifice in the name of peace, and the other used by Ottocar, which can only be described as tyranny. She is well aware that when she separates from him, and her benevolent influence leaves the castle in Prague, his kingdom will begin to crumble. She says to him, in their discussion about the division of land in their separation, ,,Die Länder all, das Erbe meines Hauses, / Sie wurden Euch durch Margarethens Hand. / Weiß Gott, ich scheide gern! Doch wie ich scheide, / Schwingt wieder Aufruhr zischend seine Fackel, / Und gegen Euch." (Grillparzer 25) ("For all these lands, my family's heritage, / They came to you when you and I were wed. / Now that I go, and I go very gladly, / Rebellion once more swings his hissing torch; / And you have foes ") (Stevens 25). His actions leading up to his divorce from Margarethe are, as I described before, about to come full circle and cause him to lose everything he has, and as a wise woman she can foresee this chain of events.
Margarethe is not seen again after the first act until King Ottocar encounters her corpse in a home near a battle. When she divorced from Ottocar she had the opportunity to leave all of his nonsense behind, in fact this is what she claims to desire. She could have lived quietly in her family estate for many years to come. Instead she returns only to become a martyr for peace. She has died and is laying in wake where Ottocar has the following conversation with the woman of the house, Elisabeth:
O: Wie kommt sie hieher?
Her heart is broken because of unrest in her kingdom. Having outlived her first husband by many years and never becoming emotionally involved in Ottocar, she surely would not have died of a broken heart so many years later. The peace that she so longed for has still not remained and therefore she is willing to risk her life in an attempt to meet with Rudolf and bring peace back to the land. We must take into consideration that this statement is conjecture on the part of Elisabeth. She doesn't actually know that peace was on Margarethe's agenda, however we can assume from their previous relationship that she surely was not headed to this location in an attempt to meet with Ottocar, nor would she have put herself in danger for no reason. Although she doesn't know the intentions of Margarethe, Elisabeth's conjecture is received by all others as the truth.
E: Aus dem Sitz von Krems / vertrieben von den streifern Eures Heers, / Hat nach Marchegg zum Kaiser sie gewollt, / Da übereilte sie der Tod.
O: Warum zum Kaiser?
E: Herr, sie sagt' es nicht; / Doch, denk ich, war es, Frieden zu vermitteln.
O: Sie war Vermittlerin! Und woran starb sie?
E: Man pflegt's zu nennen: am gebrochnen Herzen; / Denn weinend Tag und Nacht (Grillparzer 98)
O: How came she here?
E: Driven from home at Krems / By roving bands of soldiers from your army, / She tried to reach the Emperor at Marchegg; / But Death caught up with her.
O: Why the Emperor?
E: She did not tell me, sir. / I think she wanted to make peace between you.
O: She was a peace-maker. What caused her death?
E: They call it commonly, a broken heart. / She'd weep by day and night (Stevens 96)
Seeing her in her final repose, Ottocar realizes all the wrongs he has committed against her and her spirit. He begs for her forgiveness, ,,So bist du tot und hast mir nicht verziehn? / Bist hingegangen, treue, fromme Seele, / Mit dem Gefühl des Unrechts in der Brust, / Und stehst wohl jetzt vor Gottes Richterstuhl / Und klagst mich an, rufst Rache wider mich! / O tu's nicht, Margarethe, tu es nicht!" (Grillparzer 99) ("You lie there dead and I'm still unforgiven. / You went away, kind, loyal, virtuous soul, / Within your heart the sense of all my wrongs. / And now you stand before God's justice-seat / Accusing me, and call for vengeance on me. / Oh, do not do it, Margaret; do not that!") (Stevens 96-97) Realizing at this late time all of the wrongs he has done, is not in time to save his life. In another twist of Ottocar's perspective on the world, it is not God that he begs for forgiveness, but Margarethe. This elevates her status beyond that of fallen Queen but as a savior of sorts, one who answers prayers and provides inner peace.
Rudolf also occupies the role of opponent of Ottocar and savior of the people. His position relative to Ottocar is made clear in the first moment he appears on stage when he is seen stepping out of the Queen's room in conversation. Not just anyone is allowed into the private rooms of the Royal family; therefore, we are given immediate indication of his close relationship to Margarethe and opposite Ottocar. They speak at this time of the lands she has decided to allow Ottocar to have. He feels she should keep the lands, and take them with her as she leaves the marriage. "Doch war es Schenkung um der Ehe wegen, / Der Ehe Trennung hebt die Schenkung auf." (Grillparzer 16) ("But the bestowal followed from your marriage. / The marriage is dissolved; the deed is void.") (Stevens 17). With this statement he also foreshadows his decision, once he becomes Emperor, to win back the lands Ottocar has so unethically gained, and restore the kingdom as it was before the marriage.
Rudolf's concern throughout the play is for the people. He is a humble man and fights only for the good of the people. While assisting Margarethe out of the throne room, with the help of the envoy he even accepts a direct order from him, "Herr Graf von Habsburg, gebt ihr Euren Arm," (Grillparzer 31) ("Lord Count of Hapsburg, give your arm to her.") (Stevens 31), which demonstrates his willingness to serve the people. He is further depicted by Girllparzer as a man who is not consumed by the power his office would allow. As Holy Roman Emperor it would no longer be necessary for him to do such simple tasks as dressing, cooking, or manual labor of any sort. Yet we encounter him in the third act we catch him in the act of pounding out the dents from a helmet. Any other Emperor, and certainly Ottocar, would never have bowed to such a level. A servant would have been ordered to do the job. Through subtle hints, Grillparzer is slowly showing how dedicated Rudolf is to his role as Emperor.
The fact that Rudolf is eventually selected as Emperor is foreshadowed in this same scene. The first envoy says to the audience, in an attempt to flatter Ottocar, ,,Verweiger' es nicht! es geht ein alter Spruch: / Des Reiches Adler werde Ruh' erst finden / im Nest des Löwen; wohl, großmüt'ger Löwe, / Nimm auf den Adler, der verloren fleugt, / Und schirm ihn stark gen alle seine Feinde!" (Grillparzer 28) ("Do not refuse! You know the ancient saying: / The Imperial Eagle will make his home at last / in the Lion's nest. So now, magnanimous Lion, / Receive the Eagle as he flies forlorn; / Give him strong shelter from his many foes!") (Stevens 29) Thinking the shield he is holding is that of Ottocar the messenger makes this declaration. However, not being very well versed in the heraldry of Eastern Europe he has mistakenly picked up the shield of Rudolf, and Rudolf is eventually selected as Emperor. This irony is further emphasized as he helps the envoy in assisting Margarethe and the envoy declares to the crowd, "Im Namen denn des Heil'gen Röm'schen Reichs, / Gebt Raum der Herzogin von O [quote]. Rudolf appears next in the third act on the island of Kaumberg in the Danube, at that time on the outskirts of Vienna, this time as the Holy Roman Emperor. Even when declaring his victories in battle he is humble and doesn't take the credit for it. As a man of God in act one he had just returned from the crusades he is humble enough in his approach and gives all credit to God. ,,Im weiten Reich / Hat Gottes Hilfe hergestellt die Ruh'. / So wird's auch hier in Eurem Osterland." (Grillparzer 64) ("In the Western Realm / God's help has reestablished peace and quiet; / And it will be no different here with you.") (Stevens 62). As with Jesus, God follows and guides Rudolf through everything he does. Now that he is in the east God has come with him and will aid in the bringing of peace to the land.
The next lines demonstrate not only the depths of Rudolf's dedication to his job as leader of the people and servant of God, but also depict Grillparzer's true feelings for the duty of the Emperor. First of all, he is walking among his people. Ottocar never would have done this. Secondly, he is going to his subjects, walking up to them and asking for their requests. Thirdly, he knows even his soldiers by name. ,,Ei, Walter Stüssi aus Luzern? Was willst du?" (Grillparzer 64) ("Why, Walter Stuessi from Lucerne! What do you want?") (Stevens 63). Rudolf is even compassionate towards Ottocar. Ottocar's refusal to return the lands is the reason he hs been fighting and is now in Vienna, further defending the Empire, yet he shows compassion and respect for Ottocar. Ottocar has finally decided to surrender and give the lands to Rudolf, and as part of the ceremony of surrender he is required to kneel in front of the conquering Rudolf. He plans for the ceremony to take place inside a tent to Ottocar will not be further embarrassed by having to kneel in front of a mass of people. He declares his true dedication to the job, and his duty to the position of Emperor, with the words: ,,Ich bin nicht der, den Ihr voreinst gekannt! / Nicht Habsburg bin ich, selber Rudolf nicht; / In diesen Adern rollet Deutschlands Blut. / Und Deutschlands Pulsschlag klopft in diesem Herzen." (Grillparzer 69) ("I am not he whom you knew on a time; / I am not Hapsburg, am not even Rudolph; / The blood of Germany flows in these veins, / The pulse of Germany beats in this heart.") (Stevens 67) He is more than simply the ruler of the land, he is the vessel through which the power of the land flows. As Rolf Geißler so well described the office of Kaiser, ,,Ein Amt ist nicht nur eine rechtlichpolitische Einrichtung, sondern es hat auch ein Eigenleben, hat eigene Qualität, kennt Wachstum und Verfall" (92) ("An office isn't just a legal-political institution, it also has its own life, its own quality, and it knows growth and decay"). This is how Rudolf views his term on the throne. He will put aside his own wishes and live the life of the office. He no longer has a will, but operates only as the functionary of the Empire.
With his change from being Rudolf to being the Holy Roman Emperor he has lost any personal animosity toward Ottocar he may have harbored. He goes as far as to forbid anyone from harming him if they come across him on the battlefield. ,,Ich hab erfahren, / Daß ...ein Bund besteht, ihn [den Böhmenkönig] in der Schlacht zu suchen, / Und daß ihn jener töte, der ihn fand: / Den Bund vernicht ich hier, als euer Kaiser" (Grillparzer 104) ("I've learend / That some... have sworn together to seek him [Ottocar] out in battle, / Agreeing the finder should slay him on the spot. / As Emperor, I declare your oaths are void...") (Stevens 101). After Ottocar brought such pain to his friend Margarethe and then forced him into these wars to win back lands that were not rightfully his, Rudolf of all people has reason to harbor ill wil towards Ottocar, yet he puts that aside in the name of honor, by promising Kunigunde that he will protect him.
Although he was unsuccessful in protecting Ottocar, he remains respectful towards his enemy. He looks on him with empathy even as he realizes that he has won the battle and will now rule Austria as well. ,,So liegst du nackt und schmucklos, großer König, / Das Haupt gelegt in deines Dieners Schoß / ...Den Kaisermantel, dem du nachgestrebt, / Ich nehm ihn ab und breit ihn über dich...." (Grillparzer 111) ("You lie here stripped of royal show, great King, / Your head supported on your servant's lap. / ...The Imperial mantle you aspired to wear / See, I'll take it off and spread it over you...") (Stevens 108) As a symbol of the office, the cape of the emperor functions much like a crown; therefore, Rudolf is showing Ottocar great respect by placing it over him in order to cover his dead body. It is not a gesture done lightly, and shows clearly the benevolence of Rudolf.
In conclusion, Grillparzer has depicted in Ottocar many of his political views. The disparaging depiction of Ottocar, although based on actual events, provides a clear commentary on the rule of Napoleon. As a depiction of Napoleon, or even Ottocar, the play also functions as a sort of warning for the Emperor Franz I himself. The fact that the play was mired in censorship points to the fact that something in the play was objectionable. As I pointed out, the possible reasons for this were that it "attacked a foreign government."
Margarethe is constantly giving over her own will in order to maintain peace in the land. She marries Ottocar to bring about this peace and gives him all of her holdings in attempt to maintain that peace. She eventually dies in an attempt to barter another peace. As a woman of peace she bears some of the traits of Grillparzer's ideal ruler; however, she has not encouraged or worked toward a nation governed by the people as Rudolf brings about.
In his depiction of Rudolf he has given us the answer to the problem (Ottocar/Napoleon). As Geißler states, ,,[d]ie Bedeutung des Amtes wächst mit der Qualität seines Gebrauchs, und sie verschwindet, wenn es für Eigeninteressen verbraucht wird." (92) ("The meaning of the office grows with the quality of its use, and it disappears when it is used for personal gain.") Ottocar used the office for his own desires and goals. Rudolf, on the other hand, was a humble man who simply used his body as the mouthpiece for the benevolence of the office. He was assisted in his work by God, not by ego. The play is entitled King Ottocar's Rise and Fall; however, more important than his rise and fall is the presentation by Grillparzer of the ideal Emperor, the man who will lead the nation into a glorious time, with the help of the people and God.
Grillparzer seems to have gotten his ideas for the future of Austria from the various democratic revolutions that had begun changing the face of world politics over the previous 60 years, among them the French Revolution as well as the many revolutions taking place in the Americas. He is quoted as saying:
Wäre der österreichische Staat ein kompakter, von ein und demselben Volksstamm bewohnter, oder wären diese Volksstämme von dem Wunsche des Zusammengehörens und Zusammenbleibens beherrscht; wäre die Richtung der Zeit eine solche gewesen, daß ein vernünftiges Einhalten nach Erreichung vernünftiger Zwecke vorauszusetzen gewesen, ich hätte die Hand freudig zu jedem Reformversuch geboten, oder [...] wenigstens jeden solchen, wenn auch gewaltsamen Versuch mit [...] meinem moralischen Einfluß auf meine Landsleute unterstützt. (Pichel 77-78)
(If only the Austrian nation were more compact, composed of citizens from one and the same tribe; if only these tribes were governed by the wish to belong together and remain together; if only the direction of the time were such that a rational drive for achieving rational purposes could be taken for granted, I would have joyfully offered my hand to the reform attempt, or anything of the like, even if through violence, I would lend my moral influence to the support of my fellow citizens.)
Grillparzer sees the "end" of monarchical rule coming. The control of the monarchy has already been loosened throughout the globe as empires have begun shrinking, through revolution, from their far-flung reaches back to the original ruling country, i.e. Spain, England and France. At the time of his writing Ottocar, the United States had ruled themselves for over 35 years and had quickly become a "world power." This independence, as one of the first democracies on the world stage, was a powerful example for the citizens of Europe.
Grillparzer is quoted as having said, ,,Für die Freiheit bin ich auch mit Leib und Seele; aber der Schwindel ist mir verhasst und die leidigen Nationalitäten-Konflikte sollten nicht Sache der gebildeten Nationen sein" (Beste 4) ("I am for freedom with my life and soul; but I hate the fraud and the tiresome nationality conflicts should not be a matter for developed nations"). The thought is simple: he feels that maintaining peace should be the highest aim of the developed nation. He also feels that freedom is an important part of this equation. Living under a monarch is not living in freedom. Grillparzer is fully aware of the restrictions that come with living under the rule of an Emperor, and he is ready for freedom. He was speaking for the people as he wrote Ottocar. The fall of Ottocar was to be seen as the fall of Napoleon. In more broad terms, the fall of Napoleon is the fall of the dictator. By losing Austria to Rudolf, an Emperor of, with and for the people, Ottocar has turned over Austria to a new age.
||I will refer to King Ottocar's Rise and Fall as Ottocar (in italics) while Ottocar, the character, will never be referred to in italics.
Unless otherwise noted, translations have been prepared by myself.
Beste, Konrad. Grillparzers Verhältnis zur politischen Tendenzliteratur seiner Zeit. Diss. K. Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität, Mänchen, 1915. Wolfenbüttel, Germany: Robert Angermann, 1915.
Foglar, Adolf. Grillparzers Ansichten über Literatur, Bühne und Leben. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1891.
Geißler, Rolf. Ein Dichter der letzten Dinge: Grillparzer Heute Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1987.
Grillparzer, Franz. König Ottokars Glück und Ende. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam, 1997.
Klaar, Alfred. König Ottokars Glück und Ende: Eine Untersuchung über die Quellen der Grillparzer'schen Tragödie. Leipzig, 1885.
Marx, Julius. Die Österreichische Zensur Im Vormärz. Wien: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1959.
Pichel, Robert. "Das antinationalistische Programm in Grillparzers Dramenwerk." "Stichwort Grillparzer". Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 1994.
Sashegyi, Oskar. "Zensur und Geistesfreiheit unter Joseph II." Studia Historica: Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 16 (1958).
Stevens, Henry H., trans. "King Ottocar's Rise and Fall," by Franz Grillparzer. Nineteenth Century German Plays. Ed. Egon Schwarz. New York: Continuum, 1990.
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