Height of fall (drama)

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The height of fall is a drama-poetic principle first described by the French critic Charles Batteux (1713-1780) in his treatise Principes de la littérature 1764. The German term Fallhöhe comes from Arthur Schopenhauer .

Class clause

The drop height is described in the 18th century ständeklausel closely linked and can already be found in the poetics of Aristotle created. This states that tragedy should imitate better people and comedy should imitate worse people "than they actually appear" (Chapter 2: The imitation of people ). The social interpretation of the ancient drama that emerged from the 16th century related the Aristotelian principle to the class society . In the rule drama of the French Classical era in the 17th century, the difference between tragedy and comedy was primarily a difference between noble and non-noble main characters, of which only the former could be taken seriously.

Batteux and the bourgeois tragedy

In the middle of the 18th century, Batteux explained that kings were best suited as main characters in tragedy, because their degree of elevation above other people (“degré d'élévation”) gave their fall greater effect in the course of the plot (“donne plus d'éclat à leur chute ”). Batteux compared the social height with the concrete height of hero statues. In contrast, “the touching events” in “mediocre circumstances” are too common for the audience to attract attention.

At the same time, there were efforts to upgrade the fate of “ordinary people” on stage. The civil tragedy from George Lillos The London Merchant (1731) to Lessing's Miss Sara Sampson (1755) and Emilia Galotti (1772) to Schiller's Cabal and Love (1784) presented tragic acts with main characters who were not aristocrats. This was not without controversy. Frederick the Great, for example, expressed disapproval of such attempts ( De la littérature allemande, 1780).


The class clause and height of fall remained in discussion as long as the nobles were still the highest social class in Europe, i.e. until the First World War . In 1819, Schopenhauer took up the idea of ​​the height of fall in his work Die Welt als Will und Bild and pronounced a height of fall not only for the "great" but also for the "rich":

“But the circumstances that put a middle-class family into distress and despair are, in the eyes of the great or the rich, usually very minor and can be remedied with human help, sometimes even with a little something: such spectators can therefore not be tragically shaken by them . On the other hand, the accidents of the great and mighty are absolutely terrible, and there is no remedy available from outside; since kings must help themselves or perish by their own power. In addition, the height of the fall is the deepest. The bourgeois people are therefore lacking in height. "

- Arthur Schopenhauer

The principle of the height of fall is alluded to in the drama of the 20th century rather ironically, in the wake of Alfred Jarry's grotesque hero King Ubu (1896). The height of the fall of the “ fallen girl ”, on the other hand, is an increasingly valued topic, for example in the tragedies of Ödön von Horváth . As a concept of drama theory , the height of fall is still occasionally applied to modern dramas.


  • Ursula Gauwerky: Bürgerliches Drama , in: Reallexikon der dt. Literaturgeschichte, de Gruyter, Berlin 2001, vol. 1, pp. 199–203.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Charles Batteux: Principes de la littérature, nouvelle édition, Leroy, Lyon 1800, vol. 3, p. 54.
  2. Arthur Schopenhauer: The world as will and conception, ed. by Arthur Hübscher, Diogenes, Zurich 1977, p. 714.
  3. z. B. Nikolaus Frei: Psychotic hero and metaphysics of the banal. Marius von Mayenburg and the rebirth of tragedy from the spirit of the time, in: Hans-Peter Bayerdörfer (Ed.): From Drama to Theatrical Text? On the situation of drama in Central European countries, de Gruyter, Berlin 2007, pp. 64–75. ISBN 978-3110969009