Author: Moschoula Kiri, drama student
Translation: Athanasopoulou Panagiota

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play, Clavigo, was written in May, 1774 in the space of exactly 8 days. It was published in July, 1774 and it is the first play Goethe signs with his name. The original title of the play is: Goethe J.W., Clavigo, 1779. The play, translated by George Depasta, was published by NEFELI publications in Athens in 2005. Furthermore, the play was presented by the Notos theater during the winter period of 2004-2005 on the Central Stage of the theater Amore with the following producers: George Depasta in translation, John Houvarda in directing, Elli Papageorgakopoulou in scenery – costumes,  Lefteris Pavlopoulos in lighting, Anna Papafigou and Roula Chitouri as director’s assistants, Kiriaki Chicha as set designer’s assistant.

Goethe, aged 25, wrote this love drama based on Mémoires contre Goezman, in which the French playwrighter Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais refers to his little sister’s seduction, moral humiliation and psychosomatic annihilation by a Spanish social climber and playboy, Clavigo. The play was written in May 1774 in just 8 days. The setting is Madrid. The play has five acts which mean that it takes plays in different places. Specifically, the locations are: Calvigo’s residence, Gliber’s house and the street outside Gliber’s house.

The subject of the play is the dilemma one has to face, to either place the joy of selfless love first or the benefits of a socially renowned career. Goethe, aged 25, draws from his experience but also from Mémoires contre Goezman by the French poet-dramatist but also merchant Beaumarchais, about seduction, moral humiliation and the psychosomatic annihilation of his little sister by a Spanish adventurer and gigolo, Clavigo, and writes in eight days the psychological love but also deeply social drama, “Clavigo”.

The play has been repeatedly analyzed in regard to the hero’s character, so it is a tragedy of the soul. Clavigo is presented as an emotional being whose only weakness is nothing other than the superiority of his assets. His instability derives from the sensitivity that characterizes him as a person. According to H.J. Meessen, Goethe was interested in the difficulty of mixing the characteristics of weakness and greatness in a person and the distinction of personality in clash with them, with love as a catalyst. Wolfgang Kayser, a German literature scholar, highlights that “Clavigo is not a great soul; but someone who is impressionable and vulnerable due to his weakness to stand in the personal conflict of his adviser…

The play constitutes a fair, valid, studied, occasionally fine specimen as the social background brings out the power of the soul, in moderation, high esthetic taste and findings that are on point. The classical music, the excellent lighting, the poetic atmosphere, the plain scenery and the elegant costumes transfer the viewer to a magical trip, in an excellent romantic awakening that penetrates the burning soul like a shiver.

Clavigo is the prototype of a psychologically unstable person. He is easily misled by his superficial friend, Carlos, who is arrogant, ambitious and has romantic feelings for Mari.  “You cannot have it all”. His vanity led him to death. It is a masterpiece that passes messages unconsciously to the mind of the viewer. Goethe succeeds in moving through drama cleverly, creating suspense and interest.

It is an 18th century play that mirrors the daily human relationships of today. He writes about love, the frenzy of ambition and deliberate yuppies, in a substantial and revolutionary way, luring the viewers with the flowing rhythm into the intense love and the dilemma of consciousness, thus weaving this play masterfully.