Leonce and Lena

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Title: Leonce and Lena
Genus: Comedy
Original language: German
Author: Georg Buechner
Publishing year: 1836
Premiere: May 31, 1895
Place of premiere: Munich
  • King Peter of the Popo Empire
  • Prince Leonce, his son, engaged to
  • Princess Lena vom Reiche Pipi
  • Valerio
  • The governess
  • The court master
  • The master of ceremonies
  • The President of the Council of State
  • The court chaplain
  • The district administrator
  • The schoolmaster
  • Rosetta
  • Servants, councilors of state, farmers, etc.

Leonce and Lena is the only comedy by Georg Buchner . It combines elements of romantic comedy with those of political satire . Büchner wrote the work in the spring of 1836 for a competition held by the Cotta'sche Verlagbuchhandlung , but missed the deadline and received it back unread. It premiered almost 60 years later, on May 31, 1895, in an open-air performance by the Munich theater association Intimes Theater , directed by Ernst von Wolhaben and with the participation of Max Halbe and Oskar Panizza . This throws light on the modernity of Büchner, whose literary international standing was only recognized in the 20th century.

Erich Kästner counted Leonce and Lena among the six most important classical comedies in the German language.


The melancholy, dream-lost Prince Leonce of the Kingdom of Popo (in his territorial tinyness and intellectual narrow-mindedness a parody of the small German states) is bored: “My life yawns at me like a large white sheet of paper that I am supposed to write on, but I do not bring any letters out. ”His relationship with his mistress, the beautiful dancer Rosetta, tires him more than it stimulates him. Only in the dying of this love does he still see a certain charm. Senseless and ruthless, he drops Rosetta. This loses its function and has to leave the lock. Despite his youth, the high point of his life seems to be over for the prince: “My head is an empty dance hall, some withered roses and crumpled ribbons on the floor, broken violins in the corner, the last dancers have taken off their masks and are looking at each other with dead tired eyes on."

His father, King Peter, confronts him with a fait accompli: Leonce is supposed to marry Princess Lena from the Kingdom of Pipi, whom he does not know. Not willing to enter into the bond of marriage, he fled to Italy to indulge in sweet idleness (“o dolce far niente”) for the rest of his life. He is accompanied by his loyal but work-shy servant Valerio, who, like Sancho Panza , is always slightly drunk and always hungry for pleasure-seekers who repeatedly bring his idealistic, dreamy master back down to earth. King Peter, an apparently enlightened, but in reality completely spiritless absolutist monarch, meanwhile convenes a council of state to announce his decision to marry his son.

On the way to Italy, Leonce and Valerio "accidentally" meet two women: Princess Lena, who is also on the run because she is afraid of marrying an unloved man, and her governess , who plays a similar burlesque role for Lena like Valerio for Leonce. Not knowing that they have the promised partner in front of them, the two fall in love spontaneously. Fascinated by Lena's beautiful sadness and overwhelmed by his romantic feelings, Leonce immediately wants to rush into the next river, but is stopped by Valerio, who ridicules the tragedy of suicide and mockingly asks Leonce to spare him his "lieutenant romance" . Instead of suicide, he pleads for a solid marriage and for the two melancholics to grow old together. He promises to take the necessary arrangements for a smooth threading of the arrangement at the groom's court into his own hands.

In the Kingdom of Popo, the master of ceremonies rehearses the ceremonial reception of the expected wedding couple with the peasant people, a scene that is as sarcastic as it is cynical about rural misery and aristocratic arrogance. In the castle, from where one can see the entire kingdom, the king and his entourage are getting more and more unrest because the prince has disappeared and the wedding is about to break up. But then you see four figures appear on the border of the empire. The lovers Leonce and Lena have disguised themselves beyond recognition and are touted by Valerio as the "two world-famous machines" that could perfectly fulfill all functions of human life. King Peter then decides to celebrate the wedding in effigy , using the machines as the bride and groom. At the end of the ceremony, the couple takes off their masks and it only now turns out for the two that they have not - as intended - played a brilliant trick on their fathers, but could not avoid the predetermined fate of their relationship. Leonce is enthusiastic about this “providence” and with a desperate comic irony accepts his lot as king over a realm of dull obedient subjects. And Lena too accepts her new role with pleasure. Valerio, appointed Minister of State for his services in staging Leonce's wedding, parodies the situation additionally by ordering the existing order to sink into chaos and only focus on individual enjoyment.


Büchner's comedy about the life-weary Prince Charming, who is unwilling to indulge his romantic ideals more than a half-hearted attempt to break out of the operetta-like royal court, is by no means harmless: the puny irony and virtuously articulated absurdity not only expose the contemporary need for genius and heroism as irrational , but also meet the hollowness of a nobility that lets the people work for them and knows only one thing: decadent boredom. The biting criticism of the small provincial states at the time of the German Confederation cannot be overlooked behind the mask of comedy.

Also the typical comedy ending, in which the wedding celebration is aborted by the groom and its repetition, like that of the play itself, is self-ironically postponed to the next day - "tomorrow we will start all over again in peace and comfort" -, marks not only the continuation of the frozen ritual life from which the protagonists have suffered so far, but also leads into a land of plenty utopia that does not contradict that of the other revolutionary texts of Büchner. Valerio issued a decree “that anyone who prides himself on eating his bread in the sweat of his brow will be declared crazy and dangerous to human society, and then we will lie in the shade and ask God for macaroni, melons and figs, for musical throats , classic bodies and a dresser religion! "And against the previous courtly emptiness and boredom of life, Leonce promises his new bride:" We will smash all clocks, ban all calendars and count hours and moons only according to the flower clock , only according to blossom and fruit . "

Important productions


Radio plays



  • Helmut Prang: Leonce and Lena, in Kurt Bräutigam (Hrsg.): European comedies, depicted in single interpretations. Diesterweg, Frankfurt 1964, pp. 64-78.
  • Jürgen Schröder: Georg Büchner's “Leonce and Lena”. A wrong comedy. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1966.
  • Beate Herfurth-Uber: Georg Büchner, Leonce and Lena. Listening & learning, knowledge compact in 80 minutes. With key scenes from a production at the Hessian State Theater Marburg. Interviews with Burghard Dedner, Ariane Martin and the director Karl Georg Kayser. MultiSkript Verlag, 2011, ISBN 978-3-9812218-9-3 . Audio CD.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Tilman Fischer: 3.6. Introduction to: Leonce and Lena. A comedy . On the Georg Büchner portal.
  2. Source for Oskar Panizza: Archived copy ( Memento of the original of March 24, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.wolfgang-rieger.de
  3. ^ Protests at the first performance of Georg Büchner's "Leonce and Lena" in Darmstadt, January 21, 1923. Contemporary history in Hesse. In: Landesgeschichtliches Informationssystem Hessen (LAGIS).
  4. ^ Georg Büchner's "Leonce and Lena" at the Nationaltheater Mannheim. Retrieved July 8, 2018 .
  5. ^ Hans Fraeulin: Neonce and Nena. Bonn 2013, ISBN 978-3-929386-43-1 .