Judgement and Morality: Georg Kaiser's Zweimal Amphitryon and its Sources
The purpose of this study is to analyse Georg Kaiser's Zweimal Amphitryon in the light of the various influences at work in his treatment of his subject, in order to seek an answer to the numerous questions raised by the play, and in the process to acquire a better understanding of both the author and the ideas he wished to present to the public. The play is analysed against the background of earlier works on the myth of Zeus's descent to earth and his seduction of Amphitryon's wife Alkmene; and other possible sources are considered in the light of Kaiser's numerous departures from those works. An investigation into one of the most radical changes he made, in the transformation of the character of Amphitryon, brings to light a little known poem written in the early 1800's and obviously having Napoleon as its subject, which leads to a detailed consideration of Amphitryon's resemblance to Adolf Hitler. The clear parallels between Kaiser's play and the New Testament story of the conception of Jesus are also analysed and show this to be the third major strand in the composition of the play An important element in the play, Amphitryon's trial before the citizens of Thebes and its sequel in Zeus's replacement of the sentence imposed by one for an offence not recognized by the Thebans, is discussed, its genesis in the earlier plays and its relationship to Kaiser's own trial for embezzlement considered, and its effect in pointing up the inherent unsoundness of our perception of reality noted. Kaiser's attitude to the actions leading to his trial is also relevant to a consideration of Zeus's role in the play. The study shows that Kaiser has combined three main themes, the condemnation of war, his Expressionist vision of the regeneration of man and his view of the unique position of the artist in society. In addition he raises a number of important issues that throw light on his own personality, for instance, issues of morality and the nature of justice, of the concept of guilt and responsibility and of human worth and of love.