Frank Wedekind

Plays by Frank Wedekind

Spring Awakening

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Spring Awakening is a classic but still startling play, addressing adolescent sexuality at a time when sexual oppression and ignorance made puberty a confusing and terrifying mystery.

Notorious for its supposed pornographic content, the play addresses homosexuality, abuse, abortion, rape, suicide and sadism, with an acute and semi-lyrical directness astonishing for its time. A group of teenagers struggle with fear and curiosity about their growing sexual feelings, while the adults raise a wall of disgust and misinformation.

It is a mosaic of scenes, the mood shifting between comedy and alarm, the characters tense and fiercely etched: a seminal and vastly influential treatment of adolescence, education and generational conflict.

Edward Bond’s scrupulous translation first brought the play to English audiences when it premiered at the National Theatre in 1974; it is now considered to be the definitive English translation.

Picture of Frank Wedekind

Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) was a journalist, advertising manager, secretary to a circus, cabaret artist, satirist, convict and actor as well as the author of twenty-one plays, many of which reflect aspects of his extraordinary career.

He himself paid for the publication of Spring Awakening (1891), though it was not staged till 1906. (In England it was banned from public performance until 1963.) Earth Spirit (1895), the first of his plays to be seen on stage (1898), introduced the sexually voracious Lulu, who also figured in Pandora's Box (1904) and subsequently in Alban Berg's opera Lulu (1935) and in Peter Barnes' conflation of the two plays seen in England in 1970.

Other notable plays include The Marquis of Keith (1900; British premiere, 1974), King Nicolo (1902), Castle Wetterstein (1910) and Franziska (1912).