Kaspar and Other Plays has ratings and 7 reviews. Kaspar, Peter Handke’s first full-length drama – hailed in Europe as the play of the decade and c. ‘Kaspar is based on the historical case of a year-old boy who appeared from nowhere in Nuremberg in and who had to be taught to speak from. Kaspar by the Austrian playwright and one of the “makers of modern drama” ( Robert Gilman), Peter Handke, is a poetic meditation on language, identity.

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How is the self to be defined? How does it interact with the world? These questions certainly “bear no gifts to Athens. It is a “form of writing,” as critic Elinor Fuchs compellingly argues in one of her recent essays, “that paradoxically seems to assert the claim of speech to be a direct conduit of Hhandke Recently, however, in the theatre and in theories of the modern, there has been profound unrest over the image of the unified self that freely chooses his channels of communication with the world.

Many contemporary artists have increasingly questioned the humanist, self-centered kawpar and promoted instead a new notion of the self where the pure entity, the uncontaminated sign, and the undivided origin come forth as fiction.

People, according to these artists, work in a linguistic and cultural system which they can never dominate or avoid. By virtue of their “already-thereness” language and culture constitute people’s limits and possibilities. Thus far the best work of this kind has come from artists who grew up in popular culture and who have long been sensitive to its complications. While I am attracted to the vigor of the new theory and practice, Kaspxr remain unconvinced that this new literary discourse is a panacea.

Nonetheless, I still believe that some of its concepts can offer theatre scholars and students new models to illuminate critical concerns such as the notion of authenticity, origin, character, and interaction with the world.

What all critics of Handke have in common is that they notice that this is a different kind of theatre.

This is a theatre, they claim, that obeys no rules of decorum, no regulations governing dialogue, character, structure. Constructed from numerous conflicting cultural codes, Handke’s discourse prevents the viewer from approaching the performance text from a specific theatrical point of view. Handke is very eloquent when he speaks in his own voice.

Expanding on his ideas about the politics of reception he notes: Every utterance is made; no action results naturally from the preceding one; no utterance means anything kaspr than itself–it signifies itself.

As he says early in the play, “you will hear nothing you have not heard before You will hear what you usually don’t see” All signs and oppositional structures, Handke argues, are arbitrary.

History and along with it theatrical history is just the story of violently or cleverly imposed mis kaslar. To unsettle the myth of semiology’s “versus” and at the same time affirm the “here and now” of the event, Handke allows the aesthetics of the stage to pour onto a topos beyond the well-guarded frames of the theatrical event.

This deliberate undoing of the limits of representation has as its aim to force the spectators to see the event no longer from without but from within.

We are in the same location” The time here is your time” Handke’s Speakers “hammer hanrke at the very impulse to signify, the desire to see something as anything other than itself,” Roger Copeland argues That is, they put “under erasure” ” sous rature ,” according to Derrida everything the theatre stands for, namely its “unmediated otherness. The emptiness of this stage signifies nothing. This stage is empty because objects would be in our way.

It is empty because we don’t need objects. This stage represents nothing.

It represents no other emptiness You don’t see any objects that pretend to be other objects. You don’t see a darkness that pretends to be another darkness You don’t see a room that pretends to be another room” In Kaspar Handke once again develops innovative, self-reflexive theatrical strategies to illuminate the conflicts and paradoxes inherent in the individual’s discovery of the nature and limits of identity and expression.


To put matters differently, Handke foregrounds a series handk fundamental questions related to the rules of formation and transformation of discourse. What is it possible to speak of? What is repressed and what is validated? Which individuals have access to discourse? How are human relations institutionalized? How are bodies locked in space, distributed in relation handje one another for hierarchical organization, and for the kaspr disposition of centers and channels of power?

The play itself is modeled on the real story of an illiterate youth, Kaspar Hauser, who appeared in the streets of Nuremberg in May ofhelpless and terrified and capable of uttering only one sentence: He was imprisoned for vagrancy and later on turned over to a guardian.

In he was mysteriously murdered. There are many versions of the Hauser story, all of which seem to agree that the youth was kept for about sixteen years in a dark room, without any contact with the world outside and without a proper education.

There have been numerous literary treatments of the story, dealing with a variety of hzndke. Handke finds the material for his play in the theme of linguistic education, implicit in the story from its earliest phase.

This familiarity, Handke believes, would enable his spectators to become conscious observers of the theatrical event as well as conscious collaborators with the creator, kasparr to contribute to an event that cannot fully exist without their participation. Thus, by relying on his audience’s foreknowledge of the story and ability to “fill-in,” Handke is able to reduce the play’s action to a bare outline. It shows how someone can be made to speak through speaking.

Handke, explaining at some length the nature of his project, observed: To me, this Kaspar Hauser seemed a mythical figure, interesting not only as such, but as a model of men at odds with themselves and their environment, men who feel isolated For me, this was a model of conduct, building a person into a society’s course of conduct by language, by giving him words to repeat Instead of origins or explicit intertextuality, Handke finds in Kaspar’s story force hadke what Foucault finds in social institutions.

Foucault advices in his Discipline and Punish: And this is more or less the task Handke sets for himself: The process of Kaspar’s indoctrination is essentially a theatrical one, arranged in sixty-five short hnadke which illustrate and develop sixteen “propositions.

Kxspar are the ones who determine who is an outsider and who is ,aspar insider, who is part hndke the bandke and who is not. In Handke’s play, all the activities and exchanges originate from the Einsager and are subordinated to them. They are the voice, impersonal and detached, that takes on intonations of domination and omniscience.

They kaspaar to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Like Beckett in Waiting for GodotHandke in Kaspar foregrounds akspar Einsager as the privileged founding and controlling principle that ensure balance and coherence. They are the play’s center, the authority that undertakes to form through methods of ” dressage ” Foucault’s word for “training” Kaspar into a socially acceptable role, and thus limit the disintegrating play of opposing elements.

Like Godot, they remain invisible, yet strongly felt within the performance space where they act like directors of a play-within-a-play, providing Kaspar with a script and a predefined part. When the curtain rises the stage is stripped of any unnecessary fictions. As it was the case in Offending the Audiencethe “here and now” comes to replace the more traditional handle and then” of the signs and the story.

The props, with no historical significance, with “no appeal to some grand narrative,” to use Lyotard’s phrasing Handke writes in his stage directions: The stage represents the stage They have no haandke It is obvious that Handke does not want his stage to be characterized by the presence of a strong metaphorical or representational image—the “pretty picture,” with its singular quality and unity—what Adolphe Appia termed years ago an “organic unity” that would reflect “a unique vision of the world Handke, like his contemporary Robert Wilson, is here inviting us with his stage directions to quote theatre out of context, kaspr shatter conventional narrative.


It is a kaspat innovation, no doubt. Yet, before we turn our attention to the purpose of this innovation—and its sociopolitical intent if there is any —let us first see how Handke presents his protagonist. Kaspar’s appearance—a mask with heavy theatrical make-up, a Punch-like, Kasperl figure, with a Commedia-dell-arte-like costume, wide-brimmed hat, a light-colored shirt with a closed collar, colorful jacket, clumsy shoes—is neutral.

Kaspar and Other Plays

Handke does not frame his subject within rigid boundaries that privilege and exclude around the categories of race, gender, and ethnicity. He deliberately uses Kaspar to indicate that he is an artifact, a histrionic invention. Nothing on him matches neither the color or style of his jacket and trousers nor his words and movements. The actor’s appearance and the arrangement of the stage throw askew their semiotic understanding.

What reigns supreme in the early scenes of the play is the enjoyment of difference, the erotics of arbitrariness. Kaspar enters society and its culture with one and only sentence: This handje and de-centering utterance reveals Kaspar’s relation to the objects on and off stage and to kaspsr internal sensations.

Everything is encompassed by his sentence. Without discriminating, Kaspar applies it to a chair, a table, a wardrobe, a broom and so on. It is a gender-free, a class-free, even an kasapr statement.

It does not reproduce relations of dominance and subordination, it rather proclaims their arbitrariness. Kaspar utters his statement with an expression of perseverance, utters it as a question, exclaims it, scans it as though it were verse.

He utters it as a greeting, as an invocation in a litany, as an answer to a question, as an order.

The Idea of Mediation in Handke’s Kaspar ~ Savas Patsalidis

He even sings the sentence or simply screams it. Like Pirandello’s six characters who once placed on the stage try to get rid of the author’s dictates, Kaspar momentarily defies filiation, mediation, and framing. Drawn to the side of the signifier rather than the signified, he breaks down the legitimate distinction between words and their meaning. He unconsciously undermines the traditional hierarchy between speech and gesture.

Without realizing it he causes an infinite deferment of the signified to the point where his mise-en-scene becomes the mise-en-valeur of his own auto-erotic performance. As Richard Kearney has noted, performances like this challenge constricted and egocentric levels of selfhood and allow us to move toward a greater understanding of the other. Such ‘possibilities’ may well be deemed impossible at the level of the established reality” And indeed, this “ex-centric” game generates a reaction on the part of the Einsager who undertake to eradicate Kaspar’s “otherness” and disruptive confusion of the mind and body, to silence his de-centering performance of difference and to reduce his text and his “self” to a single homogeneous and universal reading—in accord with the humanist notion of the subject as a free, stable and coherent self.

Kaspar must be brought to speech by speech, and thus to a particular kind of knowledge that, to use Lyotard’s statement, “serves some program inherent in society” xxiii. Kaspar must be dispossessed of his capacity to situate himself as an “I,” a linguistic subject in a dialogical relation to a “You.

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