The German small townspeople

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Title: The German small townspeople
Genus: Comedy
Original language: German
Author: August von Kotzebue
Premiere: 1802
Place of premiere: Vienna
  • Mr. Nicolaus Staar ; the mayor of the city, also senior elder zu Krähwinkel
  • Mrs. Staar , a tax collector ; his mother
  • Sabine ; his daughter
  • Vice-Church Director Staar ; his brother, a spice man
  • Mrs. Ober-Raft- und Fisch-Meisterin Brendel ; Auntie
  • Frau Stadt-Excise-Cash-Clerk Morgenroth ; Auntie
  • Mr. Bau-Berg and Weg-Inspektors-Substitute Sperling
  • Olmers
  • A night watchman
  • Klaus ; the council servant
  • A maid
  • A farmer
  • A couple of kids

Die deutscher Kleinstädter is a comedy in four acts by August von Kotzebue , which deals with the petty-bourgeois world and was premiered in Vienna in 1802 .


Construction, Mining and Path Inspector Substitute Sperling

The mayor of the small town of Krähwinkel wants to marry his daughter Sabine to the substitute for construction, mountain and road inspectors, Sperling. The daughter, who had previously spent a year in the royal seat, met a gentleman there (Mr. Karl Olmers), of whom she is very impressed. Under no circumstances does she want to be married to Sperling, because Olmers and Sabine want to get married.

Shortly before the engagement to Sperling, the aforementioned Mr. Olmers from the residence suddenly appears in Krähwinkel and tries to prevent the engagement to Sperling and to win over Sabine's relatives as a possible son-in-law.

The relatives (uncles, aunts and grandmother) are irritated and amazed by the gentleman from the residence and his “big city” customs. Since everything in the town of Krähwinkel has its narrow-minded rules that don't bother Mr. Olmers, he also encounters resistance.


1st act


  • 1–4 love letter for Sabine von Olmers
  • 5 Sabine is supposed to marry Sperling, which she doesn't want
  • 6 The mayor is introduced
  • 7 Everyone wants Sabine Sperling to get married
  • 8/9 Olmers, Sabine's lover, comes to Krähwinkel
  • 10 Sabine is certain: she does not want to marry Sperling
  • 11/12 The minister's friend is expected as a guest in Krähwinkel
  • 13 Rumors About Olmers
  • 14/15/16 The final preparations are made

2nd act


  • 1/2 Olmers the city of Krähwinkel is presented
  • 3 Olmers is "different"
  • 4/5 Is Olmers the King?
  • 6/7 Olmers makes it clear that he is not the king, nobody pays him any attention
  • 8 Sabine lied: Olmers is not the king
  • 9/10 Olmers and Sabine
  • 11 Olmers is invited to dinner

3rd act

  • 1–4 The small townspeople agree: Olmers has no manners
  • 5 Sabine tries to make everything right again
  • 6 The mayor raves about his city, Olmers only has eyes for Sabine
  • 7 Olmers wants to marry Sabine
  • 8–10 The family council is called together: Should Olmers have Sabine?
  • 11/12 Sabine wants to save what can be saved
  • 13 Sabine only wants one man: Olmers

4th act

  • 1/2 Sabine wants to talk to Olmers
  • 3 Sparrow is jealous
  • 4–6 Half the neighborhood wakes up to the noise of Sperling
  • 7–9 The night watchman is very excited: the delinquent has fled
  • 10 The mayor blames Mr Staar for this
  • 11 Sabine and Olmers are discovered / Olmers has a brilliant idea
  • 12 Ms. Staar is also enthusiastic: Olmers has a title

Areas of criticism

Kotzebue turns against the bourgeoisie of the village population. The town of Krähwinkel is portrayed as a village community that would like to be a real town and that desperately strives for town honors and procedures. Individual areas of criticism are:

  • The clumsy poet sparrow, quote: "The butterfly wed the rose / and delightedly drinks the dew from her lap."
  • The title addiction of the citizens who insist on being addressed with a full title, for example "Mrs. Unter-Steuereinnehmerin" or "Mrs. Ober-Rloss-und-Fisch-Meisterin".
  • The bureaucracy: The city levies a tax to repair the streets (there are only two), but leaves them in a miserable state, otherwise they could no longer levy the tax. The lanterns are also not lit when there is moonlight in the calendar, even if the moon does not rise until morning.
  • A cumbersome, pedantic legal system: after years of trial, the town of Krähwinkel has won the right against a neighboring community to punish a captured cow thief who, however, fled after nine years of orderly detention.

Confrontation with Goethe

Goethe felt some passages as possible allusions to other poets and deleted or changed them in his production. Shortly before the premiere, Goethe presented Kotzebue with a fait accompli - a compromise could no longer be found and the performance broke.

Kotzebue's allusions are of a more general nature: In Goethe, for example, “Herr Sperling probably even makes a sonnet for me” becomes “... a poem for me”. Goethe said it was "his principle not to let anything spoken on his stage that denotes any party or has anything to do with newer literature".

The German townspeople were still performed in Weimar in 1803 when the play was available in print and changes could be made without the author's consent.

Image of women

Kotzebue paints a largely modern, albeit very virtuous, image of women: Sabine, the protagonist, largely drives the plot forward and asserts herself against her father's attempts to marry her off to Sperling. She also defends herself against the hasty advances of her future husband. When he tries to seduce her into a night stroll, she replies: “A happy stroll through life on your hand, but not such a stroll before the wedding. So good night. Tomorrow you just come out with the title and follow my other regulations punctually. ”(She means her plan for how Olmers should make himself popular with the citizens and ask for her hand).




  • Jörg F. Meyer: Dear. Damn it. To forget. August von Kotzebue - Work and Effect . Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2005. (= historical-critical work on German literature; 38) ISBN 3-631-53521-X
  • August von Kotzebue: plays . Athenaeum, Frankfurt am Main, 1972. With an introduction by Benno von Wiese . Edited and commented by Jürg Mathes.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See another example of a modification of Goethe, which was not authorized by Kotzebue ... Just wait a Ehrenpforte I will write you a work of art ... . Goethe's change: ... " Just wait! You should have a straw wreath speech ... ". Quotation from: Weimarer Sonntagsblatt , magazine for entertainment from literature and art, Göthe and Kotzebues "German small towns" , p. 111 f.