Arthur Schnitzler

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Plays by Arthur Schnitzler

La Ronde

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Schnitzler’s comic masterpiece shows a spectrum of social class from prostitutes to noblemen in a series of drily observed sexual encounters. It is a cycle of ten dialogues, retaining one character from each scene into the next one, so that a prostitute picks up a solider who then seduces a housemaid who then falls into bed with her master. The cycle is completed by a return to the prostitute of the first scene. Famously, each scene features a set of dashes, denoting sexual intercourse. It is a witty, knowing examination of the rituals of seduction and shame and the hollow sounds of courtship.

La Ronde formed the basis of a famous film in 1950, but its real notoriety goes back to 1900 when it was privately printed and subsequently banned. It was not performed until 1920 in Berlin, where anti-Semitic riots broke out, resulting in the arrest and trial of the cast and director, allegedly for obscenity. The controversy continued with David Hare’s 1998 adaptation, The Blue Room.

Frank Marcus’s translation was aired on the BBC in 1982.

Picture of Arthur Schnitzler

Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) was born and brought up in Vienna. He was a doctor by profession, whose views often matched those of Sigmund Freud, his contemporary and fellow-Viennese. Schnitzler started writing stories, poems, essays and one-act plays in the 1880s. As well as Anatol (published 1892) and La Ronde (Reigen, published 1900), his prolific work for the theatre includes the tragedy Playing with Love (Liebelei, 1895), The Green Cockatoo (Der grune Kakadu, 1899), set on the eve of the French Revolution, and The Legacy (Das Vermachtnis, 1898).