Prologue Scene 10


The Südbahnhof railway terminus. The concourse in pale morning light, through a wide doorway we can see into the main waiting-room. This is draped all round with black cloth. In the middle of the room, still visible from outside, stand two coffins, one a step below the other; circling the caskets tall candelabra with burning candles. Wreaths. Seating. Black-liveried lackeys busy themselves lighting the last candles, making the necessary arrangements to receive the mourners. In the ante-chamber and on what is visible of the stairs the public presses round; police officers keep them in order. Dignitaries and officials in various uniforms appear, hovering in the ante-chamber, disappearing into the waiting-room, exchanging silent or whispered greetings. Incessant to-ing and fro-ing. A delegation of city councillors in tailcoats. Privy Counsellor Nepallek steps forward, with every sign of deep sadness and, despite everything, receives condolences from those present. The following proceedings are played out in twilight. People speak in the shadows.[1]

NEPALLEK:    It is the most dreadful thing, His Highness is utterly downcast, and it is only his indisposition that prevents him from attending the obsequies personally. Also Count Orsini-Rosenberg[2] is confined to bed. We have all been stricken by it. On the right there, the most beautiful arrangement, the one with chrysanthemums on the casket of her blesséd Highness, the most serene duchess, from His Imperial Highness himself.

(A tall gentleman, in mourning clothes with a bearing of profound grief, appears, approaches Nepallek and clasps him warmly by the hand.)

ANGELO EISNER VON EISENHOF[3]:    He was my friend you know. I was very close to him.  At the opening of the exhibition to promote the Adriatic Fleet[4] for instance. But what is my sorrow, compared to yours, my dear Privy Counsellor! What must a man like you have suffered in such days as these!

NEPALLEK:       It seems I am to be spared nothing!

(Meanwhile, a gate across the room has been opened and we see it filling up with court society, high-ranking courtiers, civil servants and clergy; a master-of-ceremonies controls access and shows them to allocated seats. As this sacred business begins ever more participants and spectators stream into the ante-chamber; they try to gain entry, producing invitations, and are admitted or turned away. Some ladies of the higher nobility are shown from the room by officious attendants. Ten men in frock coats appear, the press corps; showing no credentials they are led courteously into the mourning chamber, like a guard of honour; they are seated so that they can watch the proceedings while unseen by those who remain outside. Since their arrival the sarcophagi are no longer in plain view. While each of the journalists takes out a sheet of paper, two high-ranking officials approach and announce one another as follows.)

ZAVADIL:    Spielvogel.[5]

SPIELVOGEL:    Zavadil.[6]

BOTH (speaking at the same time):    What a dreary morning. By six o’clock we were at our posts, in order to make all the arrangements.

ANGELO EISNER VON EISENHOF:    (Moves over and speaks earnestly to one of the ten, who have begun to write. He points at several shadowy figures, who all crane their necks and try to step out of the line. He calms them with nods, simultaneously making a dumb show of writing, as if to show them that notice of their presence has already been taken. Meanwhile, Privy Counsellor Schwartz-Gelber[7] and his wife have got close to the group of pressmen and tap the shoulder of one of them.)

PRIVY COUNSELLOR SCHWART-GELBER AND HIS WIFE:    We wouldn’t have let anything prevent us from appearing in person.

ANGELO EISNER VON EISENHOF (turns away from them with an indignant look, to his neighbour Dobner von Dobenau[8]):    And so they want to witness a sacred act! Doubtless for the first time. I feel ashamed, in front of my friend Prince Lobkowitz[9], as he looks over at me now. (He hails him with a wave.) Ah, he has noticed, but he doesn’t recognize me.

DOBNER VON DOBENAU (slowly, with a fixed expression):    As Chief Butler strictly I have the right to be inside with the great and the good.

COUNT LIPPAY[10]:    My success as an artist who has painted a portrait of the Pope, has given me frequent opportunities, in my capacity as papal count and chamberlain, to draw the attention of His Holiness to the unshakable piety of the late noble gentleman, in the midst of these terrible events, all of which His Holiness kindly condescended to take note of.

ANGELO EISNER VON EISENHOF:    So, Lipschitz, what are you doing here? Our fathers in Pilsen[11] would never have let themselves dream –

COUNT LIPPAY:    None of that, Baron, none of that, tempi passati.[12] You know yourself, nemo propheta in sua patria[13], all roads lead to Rome.[14] But have you seen my sons, Count Franz and Count Erwein?

DOBNER VON DOBENAU:    As Chief Butler strictly I have the right –

RIEDL, CAFÉ PROPRIETOR[15]:    During the Adriatic Fleet Exhibition I socialized with His Highness, both as a patriot and simple businessman, in fact I served him his coffee, and why not, when I am so widely acknowledge? People like me really aren’t such dolts, you know. Because of the Archduke’s magnanimous efforts to expand of our fleet I’ve always been, in the spirit of Admiral Tegetthoff[16], an enthusiastic proponent of pursuing the course embarked upon, regardless of personal cost.

DOCTOR CHARAS[17]:    With me as its head, the Volunteer Rescue Service is represented, but so far no opportunity to rescue anyone.

PRIVY COUNSELLOR STUKART, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION[18]:    As head of criminal investigation my presence is self-explanatory. Quite apart from any promotion of my own social standing, my attention was drawn to this case purely because of the criminal investigation aspects, apropos of which I am completely impartial, after all it’s a question of murder; nobody can reproach me with seeking publicity. Of course, in Vienna something so impossible could never have happened. I will not deny that, with regard to an assassination attempt, my honourable colleague in Sarajevo may have adopted similar tactics to my own, which have repeatedly stood the test of time for us; while we can neither know about the preparations for a crime, nor prevent it maturing, after the event much better detection results can usually be achieved. But my honourable colleague in Sarajevo has, regrettably, missed the real goal of criminal investigation, if he was even aiming at it. How differently would I have proceeded once the deed was done! Far beyond the call of official duty I would have made the crime my personal concern; while my detectives worked frantically I would have kept a tight rein on everything myself, until success came and I let the culprit break down and confess under the weight of all the evidence. This is where my honourable colleague in Sarajevo, regrettably, failed; he caught the culprit red-handed. I can only explain this fatal flaw by ineptitude, or perhaps overzealousness on the part of an assassin who did not resist arrest sufficiently; or was it simply bad luck, or just that the police were utterly paralysed by the lamentable occurrence itself? However, since the assassin’s victim can’t be blamed for the disastrous denouement, you won’t find it hard to understand that my presence here should be noted, even if it has to be with all the others.

WILHELM EXNER, GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTAL HEAD[19]:    I stand here as a representative of the interests of technology.

GOVERNOR SIEGHART, THE LAND BANK[20]:     I am here today as governor of the Land Bank, in the secure expectation that with him out of the way the state will move ahead, forthwith, on a track closely aligned to my own economic outlook; hence I stake my claim to a place here.

LANDESBURGER, PRESIDENT OF ANGLOBANK[21]:    People describe me as a magnate in the financial world.  Yet I don’t believe it is beneath even my dignity to take a modest yet proud position behind the coffin of such a powerful man, even if his ideas were entirely opposed to my own.

HERZBERG-FRÄNKEL[22]:    Herzberg-Fränkel. I know he had no regard for lawyers while he was alive, but with death, perhaps a rapprochement.

STEIN AND HEIN, LIBERAL CITY COUNCILLORS[23]:    I have to admit I don’t really know what I’m doing here, but here I am, and here I stay.

TWO AMBASSADORS (moving forward simultaneously):    Honorary Consuls Stiassny.[24] No connection to the deceased at all, but we hurried here now to fulfill our duty without the slightest consideration for that.

THREE IMPERIAL COUNSELLORS (standing in a line):    We appear as a delegation because of our obligation to the manēs[25], the spirits of the dead, hoping for better times, not allowing ourselves to be disabused of a firm conviction that he wanted the best, but was simply badly advised.

SUKFÜL[26]:    Appointed by the Association of Hoteliers, sent forth to express the painful emotions felt by our sector, as we look to a future of uncertainty, unable even to judge whether this event should be interpreted as a hindrance or a help in the planned promotion of our tourist industry. However, be that as it may, I do address my final salute to the deceased.

BIRINSKI AND GLÜCKSMANN[27]:    As representatives of art and culture, art and culture have sent us here to stand at the catafalque of this dead giant of a man, that we may renew our pledge to strive for true ideals, while others have come, apparently, as representatives of industry.

HUGO HELLER, BOOKSELLER[28]:    With my extensive, cultured connections how easily I could have latched on to the illustrious departed on a permanent basis, if only, I regret, death hadn’t come between us.

(During all this a lady in deepest mourning has entered. All move back.)

FRAU PRIVY COUNSELLOR SCHWARZ-GELBER (as if struck by lightning, gives her husband a dig and says):    What did I say!  Everywhere she isn’t wanted. If one could just be alone with one’s own!

FLORA DUB[29]:    How peacefully they lie now! If she were alive she would recall how once I threw flowers at her. I know he was no great friend of the flower festivals of course[30], however, I came anyway, so that they could see that I really do bear them no ill-will.

BEGRUDGER (in foreground):

God of the mighty and the humble,

Auditor of small and great,

You saw your Tester, tested, stumble

Thorn-crowned back to heaven’s gate;

Was He too early or too late?

Was this your aim when life and death

Were sanctified in holy birth?

Was this the gift you gave with breath:

Let loving-kindness lose all worth,

Let insane slaughter fill the earth?

And wasn’t sorrow, in your hand,

A burden for the killer’s soul?                                         

The blood of millions stains the sand,

The ruby-gems of life we stole

Tearing out what made us whole.

Our tears are ersatz, shining glass,

Cheap baubles for a traitor’s kiss;

When God’s great audit comes to pass

And God asks each man what he is,

The tears mankind will cry are His.[31]

(During these words the ceremony begins with the greatest pomp. We see the entire royal household, assembled in the mourning chamber, kneel for the prayers; in front are the three children of the murdered couple. Intermittently the priest’s Latin is heard. Then the organ plays. One of the ten pressmen, who have all gradually obtained entry to the mourning chamber, turns abruptly to a man next to him and speaks in a loud voice.)

JOURNALIST:    Where’s Szomory?[32] We need mood, atmosphere!

(The organ cuts off. There is a moment of silent prayer, only broken by the sobbing of the three children.)

JOURNALIST (to his neighbour):    Get down how they’re praying! Now!

[1] Kraus suggests that the speaking parts in this scene are played by marionettes.

[2] Maximilien Orsini-Rosenberg, count (1846-1922), general, privy counsellor, chamberlain.

[3] Angelo Eisner von Eisenhof, Baron of Trieste (1857-1938), landowner; he was also an amateur opera singer, a writer on music and a patron of, among others, Puccini.

[4] A naval arms race was a part of the build up to the First World War, mainly between Britain and Germany, but Austria-Hungary and Italy were competing for dominance in the Adriatic; Franz Ferdinand was a keen and successful advocate of expanding the Kriegsmarine fleet. The naval shipyards were in Trieste, which explains von Eisenhof’s particular interest in all this.

[5] Spielvogel means something like comic actor, jester, joker; it was also an old term for a pet bird and, by analogy, a lover; it is a not uncommon Jewish surname. In 1787 Joseph II passed a law in Austria which obliged Jews to register a hereditary surname; officials often handed out names with derogatory or absurd meanings, then demanded a bribe to register something less offensive; no bribe and you kept the name.

[6] Czech name, from the past participle of Czech ‘zavadit’, ‘to touch’; no obvious wordplay.

[7] ‘Black-Yellow’, the colours of Imperial Austria and the House of Habsburg. The name echoes that of Rudolf Schwarz-Hiller von Jiskor (1876-1932), lawyer, politician; Viennese councillor, Jewish community leader. ‘Black-yellow’ is a term for Austrian imperial zealots.

[8] Friedrich Dobner von Dobenau (1852-1925), chief butler to the imperial household.

[9] Ferdinand von Lobkowitz, prince (1858-1938), privy counsellor.

[10] Berthold Dominik Lippay, papal count (1864-1920), artist; he painted Pope Pius X and Franz Josef; later referred to as Lipschitz, suggesting he changed his name to hide his Jewishness.

[11] Bohemian industrial city, now in the Czech Republic (Plzeň, Czech); the Jewish name Lipschitz originates, in part, in Bohemia, especially the town of Liebeschitz (Liběšice, Czech).

[12] Italian, here more or ‘that’s all in in the past’, ‘that’s water under the bridge’.

[13] Jerome’s Vulgate; one of Jesus’ best attested sayings, found in all four Gospels: e.g. Luke 4:24 ‘nemo propheta acceptus est in patria sua’, ‘No prophet is accepted in his own country’.

[14] You could get so far as a Jewish Jew; to go further conversion to Christianity was needed.

[15] Ludwig Riedl (1858-1919); proprietor of the Café de l’Europe in Stefansplatz, opposite the Stefansdom; one of Vienna’s most prestigious coffeehouses. Riedl was sometime chairman of the Coffeehouse Owners Association; he epitomised the considerable influence of his ‘calling’.

[16] Wilhelm von Tegetthof, baron (1827-1871), naval commander who defeated the Danes at the battle of Helgoland in 1864 and later the Italians at Lissa in 1866.

[17] Heinrich Charas (1860-1940), head of the Viennese Volunteer Rescue Service.

[18] Moriz Stukart, (1856-1919), politician, cabinet minister, Chief Commissary of Police.

[19] Wilhelm Exner (1840-1931), politician, professor, government scientist, president of the Experimental Technology Department in Vienna.

[20] Rudolf Sieghart (1866-1934), financier, political economist, professor, governor of the Land Bank. Early in life he had changed his name from Singer to disguise his Jewish origins.

[21] This seems to be Adolf Landesberger (1858-1912), even though he was dead by this time; mathmetician and banking authority; sometime president of the Anglo-Austrian Bank.

[22] Sigmund Herzberg-Fränkel (1857-1913), historian, journalist, lawyer, feuilletonist.

[23] Stein and Hein not readily identifiable, but Kraus probably encountered the conjunction of names as real Tweedledum-Tweedledee Liberal politicians. Late 19th century Liberalism had done much to move the empire towards parliamentarianism, yet had become increasingly more German in outlook and leadership (not pan-German), ever more Vienna-centric, as political energy shifted to the empire’s nationalisms; it was now stultifying, as a new establishment propping up the old; its demise would come with the fall of that old order. Kraus anticipates its growing redundancy in the empty ‘here I am, here I stay’ doggedness.

[24] Felix Stiassny von Elzhaim (1867-1938), businessman, industrialist, Venezuelan honorary consul, knighted 1903. The ‘two’ includes Eduard Stiassny (1869-1938), his brother, chemist, industrialist, New Free Press contributor. Both committed suicide after the Anschluss in 1938.

[25] Latin, ‘manes’, spirits of the dead; St Augustine, in ‘The City of God’, quoting Apuleius: ‘Apuleis tells us, indeed, that the souls of men are demons, and that all men become ‘lares’ if they are good, ‘lemures’, if bad, ‘manes’, if it is unclear whether they deserve good or ill’.

[26] Karl Sukfüll (1862), hotelier in Baden, honorary chairman of the Austro-Hungarian Hoteliers. Kraus does not always, as here, details what these people represent, on the basis that his audience knew; I have, when it is clear, and seems helpful, added those details.

[27] Leo Birinski (1880-1951), playwright, screenwriter, director; worked in film in Germany from 1921-1927, then moved to USA, where he had, for a time, a modestly successful career as a screenwriter; he died in poverty in the Bronx, New York. Heinrich Glücksmann (1864-1947), playwright, journalist, feuilleton editor on several newspapers; from 1910 dramaturge at the Volkstheater; taught at the Vienna School of Acting. He wrote several scenarios for films in the 1920’s, notably ‘Theodor Herzl, der Bannerträger des jüdischen Volkes’, ‘The Wandering Jew, the Life of Theodor Herzl’ (1921). He left Austria in 1938; died in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

[28] Hugo Heller ((1870-1923), Viennese bookseller.

[29] Flora Dub, née Kanitz (1849-1931), Viennese, from a successful Jewish commercial family, her husband Josef Dub (1841-1918), Bohemian; often in the New Free Press’s gossip columns.

[30] A Chicago Tribune article (11 June 1892) may throw light on this reference; a forgotten Viennese dispute: ‘Vienna Flower Festival Prohibited – The recent official decree prohibiting the flower festival in Vienna has done more than any incident of recent times to create indignation against the obsolete bureaucratic system which prevails in the pleasure-loving city. All classes were interested in the fête, and all the preparations… had been completed, when the decree was unexpectedly issued… on the grounds of danger from Anarchists’.

[31] Verse appears often through the course of the play. Attempting to reflect its qualities inevitably means a less literal approach to the German than is mostly the case with the prose. Kraus’s concise German has not been matched here by my less concise English and I have expanded his words at points. This translation has produced a 5-line rhyming stanza, instead of Kraus’s blank verse. That’s how it developed, and where poetry is concerned I have followed my instincts. This is a significant poem; its position, immediately before the drama proper begins, speaks for itself; some of its content (blood in the gladiatorial arena, 30-pieces-of-silver-like betrayal) is still being reworked at the play’s end, in the Epilogue. If the persona of the Begrudger is at times more Kraus-like and less Kraus-like, this is surely a moment when, stepping forward into the foreground, he addresses us with considerable directness.

[32] Dezcö Szomory, real name Móric Weisz (1869-1944), Hungarian-Jewish playwright, novelist; ‘a master of the elegant and artificial fin de siècle tradition’,  ‘verbal torrents… tirades… lyrical beauty’. Journalist, critic in Vienna and Budapest; lived in Paris and London.