Jacob's Dream, by Richard Beer-Hofmann
Recent years have seen a revival of interest in the poetic drama. Although it cannot be said that the poetic form has achieved significant victories in the theater, it may be claimed that the modem poet can only express certain ideas in dramatic form and that some of the most important poetry written in this century has, in fact, been dramatic. That important poems should be written which depend for their realization on a theater which cannot interpret them adequately, is an unsatisfactory situation. Nevertheless this should not lead us to ignore the fact that some of the most effective poetic statements of our time have been made in the poetic plays of Claudel, The Dynasts of Thomas Hardy, Murder in the Cathedral of T. S. Eliot, Der Turm of Hofmannsthal, and in Jacob’s Dream of Beer-Hofmann.
It is significant also that four plays by poets expressing ideas so different as Hardy in The Dynasts, Claudel in L’Annonce Faite à Marie, Eliot in Murder in the Cathedral, and Beer-Hofmann in Jacob’s Dream, should yet have most important characteristics in common. All these plays are concerned with man in relation to the historic human destiny within the universe, and all emphasize the inevitability of suffering of the most extreme kind if redemption is to be possible. They are all, in their different ways, religious statements, and they are “tragic statements” rather than tragedies because they emphasize tragedy as the human condition, beside which the actual conflicts which result in suffering have only secondary importance.
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