Modernist Medievalism and the Expressionist Morality Play: Georg Kaiser’s From Morning to Midnight

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Abstract

This article examines the modernist medievalism of Georg Kaiser’s From Morning to Midnight (Von morgens bis mitternachts), discussing the influence of the morality play genre on its form. The characterization and action in Kaiser’s play mirrors and evokes that of morality plays influenced by and including the late-medieval Dutch play Elckerlijc and its English translation as Everyman, in particular Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann, first produced in Berlin in 1911. The medievalism of Kaiser’s play is particularly evident when it is compared to Karl Heinz Martin’s film version of the text, produced in 1920. The play’s allegory and message, though contemporary, are less specifically historically contextual than the film’s, while its central protagonist is more representative of generic capitalist subjectivity. The detective film shapes Martin’s adaptation, obscuring the morality play conventions and therefore medievalism of Kaiser’s earlier text.

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