by Georg Büchner
«Danton’s Death», written by the 22-year-old Georg Büchner in a mere five weeks in 1835 following extensive research, is based on historical sources and documents from the French Revolution, whose maxims of «liberty, equality and fraternity» shaped our understanding of modern European democracies. However, Büchner does not tell of the triumphant beginnings, the storming of the Bastille as part of a popular uprising that continues to be celebrated today, focusing instead on a few days towards the end of the Jacobins’ so-called reign of terror in the spring of 1794. The former allies Danton, an Epicurean and melancholic, and Robespierre, a moral crusader and dogmatist, are contrasted with each other as ideological opponents. Now the Revolution means only the terror of the guillotine, to which the revolutionaries themselves fall victim. In one of his letters, Büchner notes: «I am studying the history of the Revolution. I feel as if I am being annihilated beneath the ugly fatalism of history.»
«We are puppets, moved on strings by unknown forces; we ourselves are nothing, nothing!»
«Danton’s Death», the only work of the writer, physician and revolutionary to be published in his own lifetime, revolves around eternal questions: about the necessity and legitimacy of violence in pursuit of political objectives, about the scope for individual control within the machinery of our existence, about the (non-)existence of God, about the (im-)possibility of love, about people’s loneliness (in the face of death) – and is nothing less than a poetic examination of the human condition.
It is directed by Sebastian Baumgarten, one of the most prominent (music) theatre directors of his generation.