Saturday, May 2, 2015


Posted on October 5, 2011 at 11:50 AM

There was a time before TV, if anyone can begin to comprehend such an era, where human interactions in thought were portrayed in the street before enchanted masses of people. Great writers and thinkers showed their ideas in a type of theatre known as puppetry. One of the greats was Heinrich Von Kleist author of Über das Marionetten Theater. I find that somehow surprising now that we see Google putting on a tongue and cheek puppet show on their search page. I find it reacts like the old enigma machine giving a detailed answer to those who know how to stimulate it precisely and gibberish to those who don't.

What was the old puppet show other that the means to feed fiction or political satire or even concealed instructions to whoever happened to watch. I've seemed to have great difficulty carrying the message in some circles. They claim to not understand the finer innuendos in communication or maybe they understand them too well. For you see some of these age old techniques were invented by the clan Von Kleist for use in other eras. Perhaps we have reached the nerve of the conspiracy. Google is still using the methods invented and forgotten of Heinrich Von Kleist German agent of the Napoleonic era. If there is a dread in being tricked, there is a terror in being tricked by such an old one.

Marionette Theatre

The term marionette originates from Italy where small wooden puppets known as ‘Marione’ were used to replicate large wooden statues. It is a term used to describe a special kind of puppet, as unlike most other glove puppets, marionettes reproduce the entire human form.

Although puppets of some form have existed in nearly all civilisations to date, it was in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that Marionette Theatre really flourished in Europe.

The jointed and flexible nature of the marionette allows individual sections to move independently and thus the marionette grew to become one of the most popular means by which to convey satirical works and operas. Music was often an integral part of any marionette performance.

Marionettes and Romanticism

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries oppressed and disappointed artists used the marionette theatre as a tool by which to air their disgruntled views of society. It reflected all aspects of romanticism especially disappointment in the Enlightenment, which was rife at this time. The so-called failure of the enlightened ideals did however lead to the birth of new dreams and beliefs. Artists and writers took to the streets and travelled seeking inspiration and thus folklore became fashionable once more. German writers especially, already disillusioned with the theatre world, turned to puppet theatres with enthusiasm and many began to write works intended for marionettes to play.

Both Heinrich von Kleist and E.T.A. Hoffmann had much to say about marionettes and the puppet world. Their conflicting opinions represent the essence of the debate which existed during the romantic period.

Kleist, despising the German theatres that had rejected so many of his works, turned instead to the world of puppet theatre. His essay Über das Marionetten Theater (On the Marionette Theatre) of 1810 was not written for marionettes to play, but as a description of their function and value. He compares the capacities of live performers and marionettes according to romantic aesthetics. Kleist’s enthusiasm for the marionette theatre was shared by many yet the weight of his words and the endless possibilities he saw in the puppet world were not be recognized until long after his death, adding justification to the notion that Kleist was a man born before his time.

E. T. A. Hoffmann held a very different opinion on the function of the marionette, recognising, unlike Kleist, the limitations of the puppet as negative. He believed that the popularity of marionette theatre stemmed from the comical result produced when marionettes were used to portray inner human qualities. He even went so far as to label them as grotesque and maintained that they could be used only to portray external human behavior. Despite his dislike of the puppet world, Hoffmann was among the many successful German writers who used the automaton motive in their work and was renowned for using mechanical figures to symbolize manipulated control, as in Der Sandmann (1816).

Other romantic writers influenced by marionettes:

Goethe– Faust (1790 & 1831) inspired by shows Goethe saw played in market stall booths containing the sorcerer Dr Faustus.
The Wedding of Hansawurst (1775).

Tieck– Prinz Zerbino or The Voyage in Search of Good Taste (1798).

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