Buchner, Georg

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

  • Date of entry: Jun-19-1997


Woyzeck is the all-purpose servant of a German Captain. The Captain considers him amoral and stupid, largely because Woyzeck is poor. Woyzeck also makes money by allowing the Doctor to experiment on him. He has eaten nothing but peas in order to prove some unstated scientific premise.

Woyzeck discovers his girlfriend, Marie, with whom he has had a son, having an affair with the drum major. He brings Marie to the side of a pond and slits her throat. After getting drunk, Woyzeck realizes that people are looking at him suspiciously and he returns to the pond and presumably drowns himself.


The Doctor and Captain are major characters in the play but they have no proper names. They are meant to be representative of the forces that manipulate humanity while falling short of full human status themselves. The Doctor has no compassion; he experiments merely to see the results, not to do good. At one point, he throws his cat out the window to watch how it will land.

The Captain has a strict morality that makes him incapable of seeing Woyzeck's deeper morality. Woyzeck himself is one of the first anti-heroes, sacrificed to powers larger than himself. The play was turned into a famous 20th century opera with music by Alban Berg of the second Viennese school.


First published: 1837. Translated by Michael Hamburger.

Primary Source

Leonce and Lena/Lenz/Woyzeck


Univ. of Chicago Press

Place Published