WORKSHEET: Der Hauptmann von Köpenick
Play: Der Hauptmann von Köpenick. Ein deutsches Märchen in 3 Akten.
- Author - Carl Zuckmayer
- Premiere - Berlin, 1931
Film: Der Hauptmann von Köpenick.
- Star - Heinz Rühmann (the most famous German comedic actor of the postwar era)
- Produced - Hamburg, 1956
Zuckmayer based his play on an actual incident that took place on October 6, 1906. An ex-convict named Wilhelm Vogt obtained a captain's uniform and took control of the city hall of Köpenick, a town outside Berlin.
While you are watching the film, try to pick out some of the different speech patterns:
- lower class dialect from Berlin (between Willem and his friends in the underworld);
- a Jewish speech pattern (at the tailor shop);
- educated, standard German (between the members of the middle classes);
- a Bavarian (applying for a job at the factory);
- and a Bohemian (Bohemia is a part of the present-day Czech Republic, but at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and had a large German-speaking population; the old clothes dealer is from Bohemia).
To think about while watching the film; we will discuss these points in class.
- Describe Willem's problem(s)!
- What is the author's attitude toward Willem, the ex-con, and his predicament?
- What is Willem's attitude toward his predicament, i.e. how does he react and what does he try to do? Does anything he does help?
- What is the function of the scene in the cafe?
- Describe the prison and what happens there.
- Why is the scene on Sedan Day in the prison funny?
- How do the prisoners react to what they are being taught?
- Willem's sister and brother-in-law.
- What class are they?
- What are Friedrich's relationship with the state and his attitude toward Prussia?
- What happens to Willem next?
- What disappointment does Friedrich have?
- Why has it happened?
- What is his reaction?
- The scene between Willem and Friedrich after he has gotten the notice that he must leave is very important for Zuckmayer's message.
- What ideas does Willem express?
- What ideas does Friedrich express? Why do you believe he thinks this way?
- As Willem leaves, Friedrich says to his wife: "Der Mensch ist gefährlich." (The translation on the subtitle is not correct.) Why does he think this?
- What is Zuckmayer's message behind this scene? (Think about the time in which he wrote it!)
- Describe the effect of the uniform, both on Willem and on the people around him!
- Why has Willem stolen the uniform?
- What is his plan?
- Why do people obey him?
- Who are the only people who question him? How do others treat the doubters?
- Does Willem's plan work? Why not?
- How do people react when they find out about the Captain of Köpenick?
- How does the Kaiser react? What does he say?
Zuckmayer wrote his play in 1931. He is considered a representative of Neue Sachlichkeit and a supporter of democracy and the Weimar Republic. You have recently learned what was happening in Germany around 1931. Based on your knowledge of history and Neue Sachlichkeit, consider the following:
- What was Zuckmayer's overall message in his play?
- How did he try to get his message across?
- Do you think this method of communicating his message to his audience was effective in those days?
- Is this method effective today? Does the play still have meaning today?