Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Speech and Drama
GA 282

IV. How to Attain Style in Speech and Drama

8 September 1924, Dornach

My dear Friends,

It is our concern in these lectures to find the way to the artistic forming of speech and also of dramatic action—taking our start always from the speech organism itself. To this end, it is of vital importance that we should not be content with theoretical expositions, but accompany these throughout with practical demonstration. Thus, you had opportunity yesterday to see how the iambic and the trochaic metre has each its particular part to play in the development of the art of speech. And now today we will begin by showing how it is possible, in domains of speech where the path of development is sought, not in an entirely inward but in a rather more external way—how it is possible even there to go over from prose into poetic form, into the artistic, into style.

We have seen that the significance of the iambic metre lies in the fact that it helps to promote in the whole organism of speech this transition to poetic form and style, even sometimes to the genuinely lyrical. The trochaic and dactylic metres, on the other hand, whilst they too have the tendency to work in this direction, taking us away from prose, can also help the student who practises them to speak prose itself artistically. I am here merely recalling what we considered together yesterday.

Today we propose to demonstrate for you the rendering in speech of a kind of verse where there is the wish to maintain poetic form throughout, but where the poet comes up against a certain difficulty. He wants, for example, to sustain a particular description or narration for a longer period, perhaps throughout many lines of verse; but owing to the nature of the language, he is unable to keep it going entirely in the iambic metre, or entirely in the trochaic. Hence we find a tendency to compromise between prose and poetic form. And it is this compromise that we have in the Alexandrine, which has properly six iambics, but which, since it is not very easy to maintain such a metre for any considerable time, constantly interposes passages where the iambic is not strictly adhered to. Thus, a kind of compromise is effected. But wherever the language becomes rhetorical (rhetorical language has, you know, a slight flavour of decadence about it), a tendency immediately becomes evident to form the verse iambically throughout, keeping it strictly within the limits of the original rhythm.

All this we may find in the Alexandrine. Consequently, when used as an exercise for speech, the Alexandrine can work in the opposite way to the hexameter. Speaking in hexameters leads, as we have seen, to good prose speaking; the Alexandrine, on the other hand, is an excellent preparation for speaking poetry.

This we will now illustrate for you in the rendering Frau Dr. Steiner will give of some French Alexandrines. Alexandrines are at their best in French. When they are used in the German language, they always seem rather like an imitation; they seem out of place there. Alexandrines are not, in fact, a natural product of the German language. It will accordingly be best to take a French example for demonstration.

There are a number of passages in Faust where Goethe deviated from other metres into the Alexandrine; and in each single instance the occasion for it can be clearly discerned. Goethe has recourse, namely, to the Alexandrine when he begins to find difficulty in being poetical in any other way. Where he has a scene in which it is difficult to be inwardly poetical, he resorts to being poetical outwardly. And so we find in Faust, wherever this dilemma occurs, the transition to the Alexandrine.1

(Frau Dr. Steiner): The example I am giving is taken from a dramatic poem by Lecomte de Lisle: Hypatie.

The cultured young adherent of the ancient wisdom, who will shortly be torn in pieces by the infuriated mob in the streets of Alexandria, is admonished by Bishop Cyril to be converted and so escape violent death. She on her part points to the everlasting disputes that go on within the Church, a Church that has become not only terribly dogmatic, but brutally savage, and affirms her unswerving adherence to the ancient esoteric wisdom.


Ne le crois pas, Cyrille! Ils vivent dans mon coeur,
Non tels que tu les vois, vêtus de formes vaines,
Subissant dans le Ciel les passions humaines,
Adorés du vulgaire et dignes de mépris;
Mais tels que les ont vus de sublimes esprits:
Dans l'espace étoilé n'ayant point de demeures,
Forces de l'univers, Vertus intérieures,
De la terre et du ciel concours harmonieux
Qui charme la pensee et l'oreille et les yeux,
Et qui donne, idéal aux sages accessible,
A la beauté de l'âme une splendeur visible.
Tels sont mes Dieux! Qu'un sièle ingrat s'écarte d'eux,
Je ne les puis trahir puisqu'ils sont malheureux.
Je le sens, je le sais: voici les heures sombres,
Les jours marqués dans l'ordre impérieux des Nombres.
Aveugle à notre gloire et prodigue d'affronts,
Le temps injurieux découronne nos fronts;
Et, dans l'orgueil récent de sa haute fortune,
L'Avenir n'entend plus la voix qui l'importune,
O Rois harmonieux, chefs de l'Esprit humain,
Vous qui portiez la lyre et la balance en main,
Il est venu, Celui qu'annongaient vos présages,
Celui que contenaient les visions des sages,
L'Expiateur promis dont Eschyle a parlé!
Au sortir du sepulcre et de sang maculé,
L'arbre de son supplice à lépaule, il se l'ève;
Il offre à l'univers ou sa croix ou le glaive,
Il venge le Barbare écarté des autels,
Et jonche vos parvis de membres immortels!
Mais je garantirai des atteintes grossières
Jusqu'au dernier soupir vos pieuses poussières,
Heureuse si, planant sur les jours à venir,
Votre immortalité sauve mon souvenir.
Salut, O Rois d'Hellas!—Adieu, noble Cyrille!


Abjure tes erreurs, o malheureuse fille,
Le Dieu jaloux t'écoute! O triste aveuglement!
Je m'indigne et gemis en un même moment.
Mais puisque to ne veux ni croire ni comprendre
Et refuses la main que je venais te tendre,
Que ton coeur s'endurcit dans un esprit mauvais,
C'en est assez! j'ai fait plus que je ne devais.
Un dernier mot encore:—n'enfreins pas ma défense!
Une ombre de salut te reste:—le silence.
Dieu seul te jugera, s'il ne l'a déjà fait;
Sa colère est sur toi; n'en hâte point l'effet.


Je ne puis oublier, en un silence lâche,
Le coin de mon honneur et ma suprême tâche,
Celle de confesser librement sous les cieux
Le beau, le vrai, le bien, qu'ont révélés les
Dieux. Depuis deux jours déjà, comme une écume vile,
Les moines du désert abondent dans la vile,
Pieds nus, la barbe inculte et les cheveux souillés,
Tout maigris par le jeüne, et du soleil brûles.
On prétend qu'un projet sinistre et fanatique
Amene parmi nous cette horde extatique.
C'est bien. Je sais mourir, et suis fière du choix
Dont m'honorent les Dieux une dernière fois.
Cependant je rends gràce à to solicitude
Et n'attends plus de toi qu'un peu de solitude.
(CYRILLE et l'acolyte sortent.)


Mon enfant, tu le vois, toi-même en fais l'aveu:
Tu vas mourir!


Je vais être immortelle. Adieu.

From HYPATIA 1p. 84. In the English rendering of this Reading the Alexandrine has not been retained. The metre is, as a matter of fact, very rarely to be found continuously in English poetry. A familiar and peculiarly happy instance of its use is in the ninth—and last—line of the Spenserian stanza. We take an example from Canto III of the First Book of the Faerie Queene, where the poet is beginning to teil the adventure of Una and the Lion.
One day, nigh wearie of the yrkesome way, From her unhastie beast she did alight; And on the grasse her däinty limbs did lay In secrete shadow, far from all mens sight: From her fayre head her fillet she undight, And layd her stole aside. Her angels face, As the great eye of heaven, shyned bright, And made a sunshine in the shadie place; Did never mortali eye behold such heavenly grace.

by Lecomte de Lisle


Believe it not O Cyril, for They live
Within my heart, not such as you perceive
Clothed in vain forms and in the heav'ns
Subject to passions that men have on earth,
Deserving scorn, worshipped by vulgar hordes;
But such as lofty spirits contemplate:

Having no dwelling there amid the stars;
Virtues inherent and the strength of worlds,
Binding in harmony the earth and skies,
Charming the thoughts of men, their eyes, their ears,
And for the wise, as tangible ideal,
Giving a shining splendour to the soul.
Such are my Gods! And let ingratitude
Of a base century approach them not;
Betray them can I ne'er, for they are doomed.
I feel, I recognise, these darkened hours,
Days marked by Numbers ruling deeds of men.
Blind to our fame and with harsh insult free
These cruel times take from our brows their crown;
And in the pride of recent victories
The future shuts its ear to those who call.
O Kings of concord—of man's spirit Lords,
Bearing your symbols of the lyre and scales!
He has appeared whom you have heralded,
The Saviour Aeschylus has promised men!
Stained with his blood he issues from the tomb;
Bearing his tree of torture see him rise,
Off'ring the world his cross or else a sword;
Avenging heathen from his altars chased
He strews your groves with your immortal limbs.
To my last living breath I will preserve
Your pious ashes from all rude attack,
Happy if hov'ring o'er the days to come
Your immortality my memory holds.
Hail, Kings of Greece! Great Cyril, fare you well!


Unhappy child, I beg you to recant.
He hears—the jealous God! O tragic, blind,
You anger me and yet you make me grieve.
But since you will not understand nor trust,
And scorn the hand I offer for your aid,
And since unrighteousness makes hard your heart,
It is enough! More than I should I've done.
But one word still—transgress not my command!
There is one final hope of safety—silence.
Your only judge is God, and even now
His sentence may be passed. Haste not to bring
Fulfilment of His anger on your head.


In coward silence can I not forget
What to myself is due, my task supreme—
Beneath the heavens what the Gods reveal
Of beauty, truth and goodness to confess.
For two long days, like to a scum impure
The desert monks have swarmed into the town;
Bare-footed, beards unkempt and hair unclean,
Burnt by the sun, wasted by constant fast.
Men say a plan fanatical and dread
Brings this ecstatic horde into mir midst.
'Tis well—for instant death I am prepared,
Proud that for this last time the puissant Gods
Have deemed me worthy to endure that fate.
Yet your concern fills me with gratitude;
Now, solitude is all I beg of you.
(Exeunt CYRIL and the acolyte.)


My child, you see, you recognise yourself
That you will have to die!


But dying go
To immortality. O fare you well!
(Translation by V. E. W.)

(In the second edition of the original, the following example of Alexandrines from Faust, Part II, was added.)

Vor dem Palaste des Menelas zu Sparta.


Bewundert viel und viel gescholten, Helena,
Vom Strande komm' ich, wo wir erst gelandet sind,
Noch immer trunken von des Gewoges regsamem
Geschaukel, das vom Phryg'schen Blachgefild uns her
Auf sträubig-hohem Rücken, durch Poseidons Gunst
Und Euros' Kraft, in vaterländ'sche Buchten trug.
Dort unten freuet nun der König Menelas
Der Rückkehr samt den tapfersten seiner Krieger sich.
Du aber heisse mich willkommen, hohes Haus,
Das Tyndareus, mein Vater, nah dem Hange sich,
Von Pallas' Hügel wiederkehrend, aufgebaut,
Und als ich hier mit Klytämnestren schwesterlich,
Mit Kastor auch und Pollux fröhlich spielend wuchs,
Vor allen Häusern Spartas herrlich ausgeschmückt.
Gegrüsset seid mir, der ehrnen Pforte Flügel ihr!
Durch euer gastlich ladendes Weiteröffnen einst
Geschah's, dass mir, erwählt aus vielen, Menelas
In Bräutigamsgestalt entgegenleuchtete.
Eröffnet mir sie wieder, dass ich ein Eilgebot
Des Königs treu erfülle, wie der Gattin ziemt.
Lasst mich hinein, und alles bleibe hinter mir,
Was mich -umstürmte bis hierher verhängnisvoll!
Denn seit ich diese Stelle sorgenlos verliess,
Cytherens Tempel besuchend, heil'ger Pflicht gemäss,
Mich aber dort ein Räuber griff, der phrygische,
Ist viel geschehen, was die Menschen weit und breit
So gern erzählen, aber der nicht gerne hört,
Von dem die Sage wachsend sich zum Märchen spann.

Act III, Scene 1

Before the Palace of Menelaus in Sparta.
HELENA, with a chorus of captive Trojan women.)


The much admired and much upbraided Helena,
From yonder strand I come, where erst we disembark'd,
Still giddy from the roll of ocean's billowy surge,
Which, through Poseidon's favour and through Euros' might,
On lofty crested backs hither hath wafted us,
From Phrygia's open field, to our ancestral bays.
Yonder King Menelaus, glad of his return,
With his brave men of war, rejoices on the beach.
But oh, thou lofty mansion, bid me welcome home,
Thou, near the steep decline, which Tyndareus, my sire,
From Pallas' hill returning, here hath builded up;
Which also was adorned beyond all Sparta's homes,
What time with Clytemnestra, sister-like, I grew,
With Castor, Pollux, too, playing in joyous sport.
Wings of yon brazen portals, you I also hail!
Through you, ye guest-inviting, hospitable gates,
Hath Menelaus once, from many princes chosen,
Shone radiant on my sight, in nuptial sort arrayed.
Expand to me once more, that I the king's behest
May faithfully discharge, as doth the spouse beseem.
Let me within, and all henceforth behind remain,
That, charged with doom, till now darkly hath round me stormed!
For since, by care untroubled, I these sites forsook,
Seeking Cythera's fane, as sacred wont enjoined,
And by the spoiler there was seized, the Phrygian,
Happened have many things, whereof men far and wide
Are fain to tell, but which not fain to hear is he
Of whom the tale, expanding, hath to fable grown.
(From the translation by Anna Swanwick.)

(Dr. Steiner): And now we must go on to consider how we may find, in speech, ways that lead over from one realm of poetic creation to another. For they are there to be found in the very use and forming of speech.

Narrative comes to expression just as well in the trochaic metre as in the dactylic. Let us take an example of narrative in trochees and see what it can reveal. To present narrative in trochaic metre accords quite simply with man's original instinctive feeling; and you will discover moreover that the tone of voice required for narrative can most easily be found when speaking in trochees. On this account the trochaic metre is a good preparation also for the art of speaking prose, an art which has to penetrate more instinctively into the instruments of speech and into the heart.

Now in narrative, in epic poetry, as I said in the first lecture, the reciter has the object standing there before him in thought. His thought of it may, however, become so vivid that he surrenders himself to be an instrument for what the object speaks and does. When this happens, narrative goes over into drama. We have thus found here a way to pass from narrative that contains a dramatic element to the art of drama itself. Not every narrative, not every epic does this, but all are capable of it. And that, my dear friends, is your right and true way of approach to drama.

If we begin straight away with the practice of dramatic art, we externalise it instead of giving it the requisite quality of intimacy and inwardness. If, however, we take our start from some narrative that makes considerable demand upon the imagination, until we really cannot help transposing ourselves into the person of whom the narrative tells (for he is of course not there at all, we are obliged to ‘act’ him), then we shall be taking the right and natural road to drama. For to produce a well-presented drama, it will hardly do for the actors to be content to study simply the speaking of their own parts! The distribution of parts in such a way that each actor receives the text only of what he himself has to speak is quite wrong; nor can this fault be compensated for by a reading’ rehearsal. The one and only right way is for each actor to approach his own part in the play in the firm conviction that he must enter also into a full experience of everything his fellow actor or actors have to say. And whereas in ordinary life it is our duty to listen as quietly as possible, the actor has to speak with the other actors as much as ever he can, though not of course outwardly; he must share their experience, he must speak—inwardly, as it were in echo—what his fellow actors are speaking around him.

I would like now to show you a path—for in all these matters I can do no more than indicate paths for you to follow—I would like to suggest a path that a young student of the drama could take in order to speak dialogue (or trialogue) in such a way as to give it the right intimacy and inwardness. I choose for the purpose an eminently trochaic poem that contains also a powerful dramatic element—calls it up, as the poem proceeds: Der Cid of Herder. The poem begins in true epic style; then it leads over, with no uncertainty, into the dramatic. And the poem is marvellously built up, right through, on the trochaic metre. I am here merely putting into words for you what a student would have to say to himself in preparation for working with this poem.

Let us be quite clear about the situation. The ancient House of Don Diego has suffered the disgrace of being brought to ruin by an enemy House. Don Diego's son Rodrigo, who was afterwards called the Cid, feels the disgrace deeply. The poem begins by picturing for us the mood of the old Don Diego, in face of the ignominy that has befallen his House.

Trauernd tief sass Don Diego,
Wohl war keiner je so traurig;
Gramvoll dacht er Tag und Nächte
Nur an seines Hauses Schmach,

An die Schmach des edlen alten,
Tapfren Hauses der von Lainez,
Das die Inigos an Ruhme,
Die Abarkos übertraf.

Tief gekränket, schwach vor Alter,
Fühlt er nahe sich dem Grabe,
Da indes sein Feind Don Gormaz
Ohne Gegner triumphiert.

Sonder Schlaf und sonder Speise,
Schläget er die Augen nieder,
Tritt nicht über seine Schwelle,
Spricht mit seinen Freunden nicht,

Höret nicht der Freunde Zuspruch,
Wenn sie kommen, ihn zu trösten;
Denn der Atem des Entehrten,
Glaubt er, schände seinen Freund.

Endlich schüttelt er die Bürde
Los, des grausam stummen Grames,
Lässet kommen seine Söhne,
Aber spricht zu ihnen nicht.

by Herder

Deep in grief sat Don Diego,
Was there ever man so wretched?
Day and night he brooded only
On the shame upon his house,

On the shame upon the noble,
Brave and ancient house of Lainez,
Which in honour far exceeded
Inigos and Abarcos.

Weak with age and deeply injured,
Feels he at the point of dying,
While his enemy, Don Gormaz,
Sits in triumph unopposed.

Without food and without sleeping,
From the ground his eyes not raising,
Goes he not beyond his threshold
And says nothing to his friends,

Does not listen to the greeting
Of the folk who come to comfort,
Thinking that his breath, dishonoured,
May contaminate his friends.

Till at last he casts his burden,
Shakes him free from grievous sorrow,
Suffers that his sons approach him
Though he speaks to them no word.

And now Don Diego has his sons bound with cords. And they suffer themselves to be bound, all but the youngest, Don Rodrigo, who came to be known later on as the Cid. He alone resists. The father, although it is he himself who has bound them, is sad and troubled that his sons submit; it rejoices his heart that the youngest will not endure it.

We will pass over the verses that tell how Rodrigo resolves upon the deed that he believes it his duty to perform, and go at once to the moment in the poem where we have the transition from epic to drama.

Auf dem Platze des Palastes
Traf Rodrigo auf Don Gormaz.
Einzeln, niemand war zugegen,
Redet er den Grafen an:

‘Kanntet Ihr, O edler Gormaz,
Mich, den Sohn des Don Diego,
Als Ihr Eure Hand ausstrecktet
Auf sein ehrenwert Gesicht?

Wusstet Ihr, dass Don Diego
Ab von Layn Calvo stamme?
Dass nichts reiner und nichts edler
Als sein Blut ist und sein Schild?

Wusstet Ihr, dass weil ich lebe,
Ich sein Sohn, kein Mensch auf Erden,
Kaum der mächtge Herr des Himmels
Dies ihm täte ungestraft?’—

`Weisst du’, sprach der stolze Gormaz,
‘Was wohl sei des Lebens Hälfte,
Jüngling?’—‘Ja’, sprach Don Rodrigo,
‘Und ich weiss es sehr genau.

Eine Hälfte ist, dem Edlen
Ehr' erzeigen; und die andre,
Den Hochmütigen zu strafen,
Mit dem letzten Tropfen Bluts.

Abzutun die angetane
Schande.' Als er dies gesagt,
Sah er an den stolzen Grafen,
Der ihm diese Worte sprach:

‘Nun, was willst du, rascher Jüngling?’?
‘Deinen Kopf will ich, Graf Gormaz
Sprach der Cid, ‘Ich hab's gelobet!’
‘Streiche willst du, gutes Kind’,

Sprach Don Gormaz, ‘eines Pagen
Streiche hättest du verdient.’
O ihr Heiligen des Himmels,
Wie ward Cid auf dieses Wort!

Tränen rannen, stille Tränen
Rannen auf des Greises Wangen,
Der, an seiner Tafel sitzend,
Alles um sich her vergass,

Denkend an die Schmach des Hauses,
Denkend an des Sohnes Jugend,
Denkend an des Sohns Gefahren
Und an seines Feindes Macht.

Den Entehrten flieht die Freude,
Flieht die Zuversicht und Hoffnung;
Alle kehren mit der Ehre
Froh und jugendlich zurück.

Noch versenkt in tiefer Sorge,
Sieht er nicht Rodrigo kommen,
Der, den Degen unterm Arme
Und die Händ' auf seiner Brust,

Lang' ansieht den guten Vater,
Mitleid tief im Herzen fühlend,
Bis er zutritt, ihm die Rechte
Schüttelnd: ‘Iss, o guter Greis!’

Spricht er, weisend auf die Tafel.
Reicher flossen nun Diego
Seine Tränen: ‘Du, Rodrigo,
Sprachst du, sprichst du mir dies Wort?’—

‘Ja, mein Vater! und erhebet
Euer edles, wertes Antlitz.’—
‘Ist gerettet unsre Ehre?’—
‘Edler Vater, er ist tot!’—

‘Setze dich, mein Sohn Rodrigo,
Gerne will ich mit dir speisen.
Wer den Mann erlegen konnte,
Ist der erste seines Stamms.'

Weinend knieete Rodrigo,
Küssend seines Vaters Hände;
Weinend küsste Don Diego
Seines Sohnes Angesicht.

'Cross the square before the palace
To Don Gormaz strides Rodrigo.
All alone, with no man present,
Speaks he then unto the Count:

‘Did you recognise, great Gormaz,
Me, the son of Don Diego,
When that hand of yours was lifted’
Gainst his honourable face?

‘Did you know that Don Diego
From Lain Calvo is descended?
And that nothing purer, nobler
Than his blood and shield exists?

‘Did you know while I am living—
I, his son—that no man breathing,
Scarce the mighty Lord of Heaven
Should unpunished dare this deed?’—

‘Know'st thou’ spake the haughty Gormaz
‘What the half of life comprises,
Stripling?’—‘Yes’ spake Don Rodrigo,
‘And indeed I know it well.

‘One half is the showing honour
To the noble; and the other
Punishing the overbearing
With the last drop of one's blood,

‘So to wipe out all dishonour
That's inflicted.' Having spoken,
Looks he to the proud Count Gormaz
Who gives answer in these words:

‘Now, what would'st thou, hasty stripling?’?
‘'Tis your head I'll have, Count Gormaz,’
Spake the Cid, ‘and I have vowed it!’?
‘Whipping, would'st thou, my good child,’

Spake the Count, ‘what thou dost merit
Is the rod we give to pages.’
At these words, Ye Saints in Heaven,
What did Don Rodrigo feel!

Tears were running, tears in silence,
Down the cheeks of Don Diego,
Who, before his table sitting,
Heeded nothing all around,

Thinking on his house dishonoured,
Thinking on his son so youthful,
Thinking of that son in peril,
And his enemy's great strength.

All joy flees from the dishonoured,
Confidence and hope will flee them;
But with the return of honour
Back comes joy, and youth's renewed.

Still engrossed by deepest sorrow,
Sees he not Rodrigo coming,
With beneath his arm a dagger
And his hands upon his breast.

Long he gazes on his Father
Feeling full of deep compassion,
Then approaching takes his right hand
Saying ‘O good Father, eat!’

Speaking points he to the table.
And the tears of Don Diego
Flow profusely: ‘What, Rodrigo,
Did'st thou speak those words to me?’?

‘Raise up now, my worthy Father,
This your countenance so noble,’?
‘Is it then retrieved—our honour?’
‘Noble Father, he is dead.’?

‘Sit thee down, my son Rodrigo,
I will eat with thee most gladly,
He who could lay low Don Gormaz
Is the foremost of his race.'

Down kneels Don Rodrigo, weeping,
As his Father's hands he kisses;
And with tears does Don Diego
Kiss his son Rodrigo's face.

(Translation by V. E. W.)

There you have drama coming to birth within the epic. I wanted to read you this passage from Herder's Cid, because it can afford a good example of how speech training has to proceed from the speech organism itself. Everything that I say has a directly practical application, and is intended to be so taken.

When, by continual repetition of an exercise of this kind, we gradually approach nearer and nearer to an articulation that comes naturally, without conscious effort, when we have in this way educated ourselves for drama (starting, that is to say, from epic), then it will be good to take some passage that is on the verge of the dramatic, or rather has already passed over into it, and yet has about it still a touch of the epic—although this epic touch has virtually disappeared in the dramatic in the same way as gesture has disappeared in the word.

We shall find particularly useful in this connection one of the scenes that Lessing wrote for his projected Faust. He composed, as you know, only a very few scenes, although he left also a plan for the whole work. In the scene I refer to, we are really very little removed from the epic. Seven spirits appear, and the human character in the scene has to call upon his imagination in order to apprehend these spirits, just as in epic the writer or speaker has to create in imagination the being whom he presents. For in a dialogue with spirits, the being of the spirit, which can only be there at all in the degree to which the human being is able to form a right conception of it, must be still more powerfully present to that human being than would be necessary if he were having a dialogue with another human being.

If we succeed in placing ourselves fully into the mood that can arise in the soul when we stand over against a spirit and are at the same time under necessity to express the experience in dramatic form—then that will mean we have found the transition from epic to drama.

I want here merely to point out the path that leads from epic to drama, not to give you a recitation (that I leave to Frau Dr. Steiner). So we will omit the dialogue with the first five spirits and for the moment only give our attention to the sixth and seventh.

FAUST. (zum SECHSTEN GEIST) Sage du, wie schnell bist du?

DER SECHSTE GEIST. So schnell als die Rache des Rächers. FAUST. Des Rächers? Welches Rächers?

DER SECHSTE GEIST. Des Gewaltigen, des Schrecklichen, der sich allein die Rache vorbehielt, weil ihn die Rache vergnügte.

FAUST. Teufel! du lästerst; denn ich sehe, du zitterst.—Schnell, sagst du, wie die Rache des—bald hätte ich ihn genannt! Nein, er werde nicht unter uns genannt!—Schnell wäre seine Rache? Schnell?—Und ich lebe noch? Und ich sündige noch?

DER SECHSTE GEIST. Dass er dich noch sündigen lässt, ist schon Rache!

FAUST. Und dass ein Teufel mich dieses lehren muss!—Aber doch erst heute! Nein, seine Rache ist nicht schnell, und wenn du nicht schneller bist als seine Rache, so geh nur!—

(Der siebente Geist kommt.)

(Zum siebenten Geiste) Wie schnell bist du?

DER SIEBENTE GEIST. Unzuvergnügender Sterblicher, wo auch ich dir nicht schnell genug bin

FAUST. So sage, wie schnell?

DER SIEBENTE GEIST. Nicht mehr und nicht weniger als der Uebergang vom Guten zum Bösen.

FAUST. Ha! Du bist mein Teufel! So schnell als der Uebergang vom Guten zum Bösen!—Ja, der ist schnell; schneller ist nichts als der!—Weg von hier, ihr Schnecken des Orkus! Weg! Als der Uebergang vom Guten zum Bösen! Ich habe es erfahren, wie schnell er ist! Ich habe es erfahren!

(A Fragment) by Lessing

Part of Scene 3 of Act II.
(FAUST and seven SPIRITS.)

FAUST. (to the SIXTH SPIRIT) Tell me, how swift art thou?

SIXTH SPIRIT. As swift as the vengeance of the Avenger.

FAUST. Of the avenger? Of what avenger?

SIXTH SPIRIT. Of the mighty and terrible One who keeps vengeance in His own hands, because He delights in it.

FAUST. Devil, thou blasphemest! I can see, thou art trembling. Swift, sayest thou, as the vengeance of—I nearly named Him! No, let Him not be named among us! Is His vengeance then so swift? And I left still alive? Still continuing in sin?

SIXTH SPIRIT. That He suffers thee to continue still in sin—that is His vengeance!

FAUST. And that I should have to learn this from a devil! Yet not until today! No, His vengeance is not swift; and if thou be not swifter than His vengeance, begone!


(to the SEVENTH SPIRIT) How swift art thou?

SEVENTH SPIRIT. O mortal, hard indeed to please if not even I be swift enough for thee

FAUST. Tell me then, how swift?

SEVENTH SPIRIT. As swift—neither more nor less—as the change-over from good to bad.

FAUST. Ha! Thou art the devil for me! As swift as the change-over from good to bad! Ay, that is swift indeed; nothing swifter! Avaunt, ye snails of hell, begone! As the change-over from good to bad! I have learned how swift that is! I know it well!

You see how marvellously Lessing has succeeded here in bringing into the language used by Faust an absolutely living perception of these spirits, a vivid imaginative picture of them. This will come home to you as you form his words. You will never learn to form your speaking by having it said to you: Form this sound in this way, that syllable in that way, this sentence again in such and such a way. The true forming of speech is acquired by practising the transition from epic, through the drama of the spirit, to the drama of the actual and material. As we continue to practise these transitions, the Genius of Speech himself will receive us as his pupils, inasmuch as we shall then be walking in his paths. And upon that everything depends.

It is, you know, rather remarkable that we should turn to Lessing to find our example; for the plays that Lessing brought to completion, and that have become so famous, are none of them on the same level. In the few scenes he wrote for a Faust, however, he transcends himself. With the possible exception of the scenes where Major Tellheim figures, 1In Minna von Barnhelm. there is nothing in all his dramas to equal it.

You can see here how Lessing is guided in the forming of his scene by the theme itself, by the material he has at hand. And that will help to convince you that it must be with poetry as it was, for example, with a sculptor like Michelangelo, who used to go himself into the quarries to look for the marble for his statues. He would walk round, looking at one piece after another, until he found the only right one for an intended sculpture. Thus he let Nature through her forms set him his task in the forms of art. We must, if we would be artists in any sphere, develop a feeling for our material; that Lessing understood this is evident in the scene we are considering.

This means also that the actor or reciter needs to acquire a keen perception for the extent to which the material of the particular play or poem has found its corresponding artistic expression. Lessing was remarkably successful with his material in this instance—it was a theme that lay very near his heart—and one can only regret deeply that he did not go on with his Faust. Since, however, in this Fragment he surpasses the Lessing we know elsewhere, it would have been too difficult for him to bring the work to completion. Only at certain moments was he able to develop the artistic power that he manifests here and that is brought home to us very forcibly in the little scene that Lessing composed out of his own experience.

It has been said of Lessing, and not without justification, that he was a man who never dreamed, that he was too dry and prosaic ever to have dreams. It is quite true, and his poetry bears it out. (I am not referring now to Lessing's prose works, but to his poems.) For all that, I am ready to assert—and please do not take what I say in the sense of a poetic picture, but as a statement of fact—I am ready to assert that this other little scene that Lessing composed for his Faust has its origin in an experience that was, in no small measure, a genuine ‘waking vision’. Waking vision definitely played a part in Lessing's own individual conditions of life,—and a great deal that we find in his work is to be traced to this source.

When Faust has let pass over him, as it were in reminiscence, all the events and experiences of the past that he has been compelled to recall in this way, then his strong urge to reach the spiritual world brings him at last to the point of approaching it. Having completed this deep and intense study of the spiritual history of mankind, he eventually experiences in very truth that ‘waking suggestion’ which Lessing himself knew and to which he here gives artistic form.

The situation is as follows. A spirit with a long beard rises up out of the ground, wrapped in a mantle.

GEIST. Wer beunruhiget mich? Wo bin ich? Ist das nicht Licht, was ich empfinde?

FAUST. (erschrickt, fasset sich aber und redet den Geist an)

Wer bist du? Woher kommst du? Auf wessen Befehl erscheinst du?

GEIST. Ich lag und schlummerte und `träumte, mir wär' nicht wohl, nicht übel; da rauschte, so träumte ich, von weitem eine Stimme daher; sie kam näher und näher; Bahall! Bahall! hörte ich, und mit dem dritten Bahall stehe ich hier!

FAUST. Aber wer bist du?

GEIST. Wer ich bin? Lass mich besinnen! Ich bin—ich bin nur erst kürzlich, was ich bin. Dieses Körpers, dieser Glieder war ich mir dunkel bewusst; itzt (etc.).

FAUST. Aber wer warst du?

GEIST. Warst du?

FAUST. Ja, wer warst du sonst, ehedem?

GEIST. Sonst? ehedem?

FAUST. Erinnerst du dich keiner Vorstellungen, die diesem gegenwärtigen und jenem deinem hinbrütenden Stande vorhergegangen?

GEIST. Was sagst du mir? Ja, nun schiesst es mir ein.—Ich habe schon einmal ähnliche Vorstellungen gehabt. Warte, warte, ob ich den Faden zurückfinden kann.

FAUST. Ich will dir zu helfen suchen. Wie hiessest du?

GEIST. Ich hiess—Aristoteles. Ja, so hiess ich. Wie ist mir?

From Scene 2 of Act I.

(FAUST. A SPIRITwith a long beard and wrapped in a mantle rises up out of the ground.)

SPIRIT. Who is it disturbs me? Where am I? Is that not light I feel around me?

FAUST. (is terrified, but masters his fear and addresses the SPIRIT) Who art thou? Whence comest thou? At whose command dost thou show thyself here ?

SPIRIT. I lay and slumbered and dreamed it was not well with me, neither was it ill. And lo, in my dream, a voice came rushing towards me from afar. It came nearer and nearer. Bahall!’ I heard, Bohan’, and with the third

‘Bahall’ I stand before thee.

FAUST. But who art thou?

SPIRIT. Who am I? Let me think! I am—I have only just now become what I am. This body, these limbs—I was ere now only dimly aware of them, and now...

FAUST. But who wert thou?

SPIRIT. ‘Wert thou’?

FAUST. Yes, who wert thou earlier, before?

SPIRIT. ‘Earlier’? ‘Before’?

FAUST. Canst thou recall no thoughts or ideas that preceded thy present state, preceded too the dim brooding condition from which thou hast been aroused?

SPIRIT. What sayest thou? ... Yes, now it's coming back to me. I did, once before, have thoughts and ideas. Wait a little, wait! If I could only find the thread again!

FAUST. Let me try to help thee. What is thy name?

SPIRIT. I am called—ARISTOTLE! Yes, that is my name. Oh, what is happening with me?

This is as far as Lessing carried the scene. But it will, I think, be obvious at once that Lessing did not make this scene, he saw it. What we have here is a representation in art of the living human spirit. And anyone who takes the trouble to work with this passage and render it in well-formed speech will find for himself the path that leads to dramatic dialogue. It is of course perfectly right that the student of speech should have a correct and thorough knowledge of the various speech organs of which he makes use; but when it comes to educating oneself for a true forming of speech, then these several organs should be left alone, and the speech organism as such, the objective extra-human speech organism, be given full play.

To this end it will certainly be essential that we regain some measure of perception for what is genuinely artistic in poetry. Such a perception will, however, in our day have to spring from the depths of the heart, since the powers of discrimination and judgement that man had in earlier times are no longer there in the same degree today, nor can we expect to find them so for some time to come.

You should really try to picture to yourselves what it meant in past epochs of culture when Mass was celebrated, not in the language of the country but in the Latin language; when, for example, one heard resound the words:

Pater noster, qui es in coelis: sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie.
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
Sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

To listen to the sounding forth of these words gave man a true feeling for the forming of speech. They could not be spoken save with rightly formed speech. In the ancient Mysteries there was understanding for these things. Those who took part in the ancient Mysteries were conscious that when they spoke they were holding intercourse with the Gods. Man must evoke once again from the depths of his heart the power to perceive such realities. He must be able once again, not merely to think within, but to speak within.

Take such a scene as that read to you by Frau Dr. Steiner in the course of the second lecture, the seventh scene of my first Mystery Play. This scene, I can truly say, was not formed out of thoughts. Never once was there any question as to the choice of a word. The scene was heard as it is, simply heard. There were no thoughts at all, there were only words. It was a case of writing down on paper the words that were heard in the spirit. The scene was experienced, from the first, as formed word—not as thought.

I can say the same of many of the scenes in this Mystery Play. And we must find the way to develop again a feeling for such things. We must learn to have a sensitive perception for what is spiritually alive in the word. Then, and only then, shall we be able again to discern for ourselves where poetry is genuinely artistic. And the reciter, as well as the actor, should be able to do this. He should be able to say to himself: This is poetry, that is not. We must, of course, realise that such things cannot all at once, so soon as we have knowledge of them, be put into practice in our work on the stage. For, besides actors, there are Managing Directors, and among them some whose connection with the stage has certainly not brought them any knowledge of this kind; no understanding to be found there of what is poetry and what is not!

The only way for things to improve in this respect is for popular taste to improve. When we begin to see signs that the general public are developing discrimination, then we can hope for better days. As things are now, people have no taste, no judgement as to what is or is not artistic. Owing to this lack of taste, discussions about how this or that character was to be played began, in the nineties, to take quite a comic turn. It was, for instance, at one time debated, and debated even as a question of first importance, whether one should play Ferdinand in Schiller's Kabale and Liebe with hands in one's pockets, or whether, on the other hand, one should play him as a ‘ladies' man'. Discussions of this nature actually did take place, and contributed very much to the deterioration of dramatic art. The ‘intellectuals’ then came forward and undertook to reform the art of the stage. It is, of course, a very good asset in life to be able to think; but if the utmost one can do is to think like Otto Brahm, 2Otto Brahm (1856–1912) was one of the founders in 1889 of the ‘Freie Bühne’ in Berlin. He helped to introduce naturalism on to the stage. See also the reference to him near the end of Lecture 14. who took, as you probably know, a notable part in the projected reforms, then it is emphatically not one's vocation to decide upon questions of dramatic art.

In face of such developments, we are driven to perceive with all the more certainty that for dramatic art, intellectualism is the very last thing needed, and sensitive artistic perception the first. Wolter was a really great actress. 3Charlotte Wolter (1834–1897). She performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Graf Sullivan was her husband. Those of you who are younger will not have seen her on the stage. Judged from University standards, Wolter was the most unintelligent person there could possibly be. It is but due to her to say this, for it redounds to her fame; it does not disparage her in the very least. She did actually at long last show some sparks of intellect, after Graf Sullivan had put himself to great trouble with her. But by nature she was absolutely without intellect. And yet there is no denying it: in her time and generation she was an outstandingly great actress in certain directions, especially when she was able to keep her coquetries off the stage.

I refer to things of this sort in order to make plain to you the mood and attitude of mind from which we must start if we would learn once more how to cultivate the arts of recitation and drama.