The citizen general

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Title: The citizen general
Genus: Comedy
Original language: German
Author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Publishing year: 1793
Premiere: May 2, 1793
Place of premiere: Weimar Court Theater
  • Röse
  • Görge
  • Märten
  • The nobleman
  • Liquor
  • The judge
  • farmers

The Bürgergeneral is a comedy in one act by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe . Written between April 23 and 26, 1793, it premiered on May 2, 1793 in the Ducal Court Theater in Weimar and was in print that same year.


The piece has fourteen appearances:

  1. in front of Martens home : After twelve weeks of marriage, Röse and Görge are still exemplary peasant lovers.
  2. The country nobleman who walks past also thinks that: ... my children should grow up with yours, as I should with you. Röse replies nicely: That will be a pleasure .
  3. The farewell to the nobleman, who continues walking, suggests that the peasants and the nobility live side by side in harmony.
  4. Märtens Stube : Röses father Märten grumbles that it has been boring behind the stove since he married his daughter.
  5. For a change, Märten is visited by Bader Schnaps .
  6. My mind is well known in Paris , and schnapps makes the listening fairy tale. The Jacobins over the Rhine had promoted him to citizen general. All people are the same , he sounds schnapps and takes the utensils out of the barber's sack to prove his speech . Schnaps is costumed with national uniform , cockade , saber and red liberty cap. Impressed, Märten speaks to Bader as Mr. General and the answer is: They say: My General! Citizen General! There is no man a lord. Görge comes home from field work. The citizen general has to hide on the ground.
  7. Because Schnaps previously slandered Röse and Görge would like to beat up the general for it.
  8. Märten is disappointed with the Jacobins: The one up there [on the ground] is now absolutely no good, and comes to such honor!
  9. Schnapps actually came because he's hungry. Unfortunately, the farmer Märten keeps the food locked up. Schnaps has to improvise. He plays with the simple-minded Märten nobleman and citizens' committee . The Citizen General, of course, represents the latter and consequently vomits with his saber Roese's well-locked milk cabinet. The burglar uses the contents to prepare an appetizing breakfast of sour milk, grated bread and sugar under Märten's incredulous looks . Nothing comes of the feast, because Görge has recently been disturbing.
  10. Görge beats up the citizen general. He screams for help at the window and also calls fire!
  11. Neighbors then alert the judicial authorities. Schnaps is hiding in the room in uniform. Görge locks up the adversary.
  12. The judge steps in and finds the cap with the cockade. The civil servant suspects high treason.
  13. Before he can make an example, the nobleman, lured by the noise, appears. With an affable child, what's up? he snows in and gives a lecture on the evil French revolutionary in the provinces where his kind have lived; where good-natured fools fell to them at the beginning, where they began with flattery and promises, ended with violence, robbery, the banishment of honest people and all kinds of bad encounters. Thank God that you get away with it so cheaply! Röse hopes: So you're protecting us, sir?
  14. So it happens. But the nobleman can also be strict. He briefly interrogates the still uniformed schnapps that has been dragged from the room. The citizen general admits that he took the uniform of a deceased French prisoner of war. Märten describes schnapps as simple-minded. The derogatory speech angered the farmer Märten. The nobleman verbally praises the calm, intact German conditions. Röse comments rebelliously: It sounds so good to you! The connoisseur of schnapps would like to consume his now thickened milk dish. Draconically, Röse denies the citizen general the final dining pleasure.


Archduchess Marie Antoinette

In January 1791, Goethe became director of the Ducal Court Theater in Weimar. With regard to the audience's need for entertainment, pieces like Der Groß-Cophta or Der Bürgergeneral were created .

The comedy The Two Billets comes from the French Florian . Queen Marie Antoinette had discriminated against it as a milk soup . The actor Johann Christoph Beck (born 1754) had success as Bader Schnaps in Weimar in the billets and the family tree . These are two comedies by Christian Leberecht Heyne alias Anton Wall (1751–1821). For the schnapps actor Beck (called Hans) a new piece was needed. Goethe made a quick decision to write another sequel. He modeled the crook Schnaps into a would-be Jacobin.

For the first time in Goethe's work, marriage and marital happiness are gently addressed in the Citizens General as a bulwark against adverse times.


  • Gerhard Schulz (p. 133, 4th Zvu) evaluates the piece as a statement by Goethe on the French Revolution.
  • Nicholas Boyle (p. 192, 20. Zvo) emphasizes the solid, theater-friendly construction of the comedy.


“The applause that you give my Citizen General is very valuable to me. As an old practitioner as I am, I don't always know what I'm doing, and this time in particular it was a dangerous undertaking. At the performance, the piece looks very good. "

- Goethe's letter of June 7, 1793 to Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi

“ I wish and hope for your applause to the Citizen General, and I would like all the more that you saw it play well first. The small productions have the advantage that they are written almost as quickly as they are invented. From the moment I had the first idea, less than three days had passed, so it was done. I hope I should not regret, aesthetically or politically, that I gave in to my mood. "

- Goethe's letter from 1793 to Caroline and Johann Gottfried Herder

“'It [Der Bürgergeneral] was a very good piece in its day,' said Goethe, 'and it made some of us happy evenings. To be sure, it was excellently filled and so excellently rehearsed that the dialogue went quickly, in the most complete life. Malcolmi played the fairy tale; you couldn't see anything more perfect. '"

- Johann Peter Eckermann on a conversation with Goethe on December 16, 1828


  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Poetic Works, Volume 3 . Pp. 729-758. Phaidon Verlag Essen 1999, ISBN 3-89350-448-6
Secondary literature

Web links