Mein Leopold

   by Adolph L'Arronge.
   Premiered 1873. Mein Leopold is a satire on the moral climate pervading the Gründerjahre, or "foundation years," of the Second Reich. L'Arronge's central character is Gustav Weigelt, a nearly illiterate yet prosperous parvenu, a proud member of the "new" establishment. He is also a beleaguered father. Weigelt had been a cobbler until the explosion of real estate prices in Berlin allowed him to convert his property into an apartment building. His success made him oblivious to the profligacy of his beloved son Leopold, who in many ways embodied the "new" Germany based on materialism, luxury, and pretentiousness. Weigelt embodies the Wilhelmine self-made man, curiously emblematic of newly rich entrepreneurs, men of commerce who retained characteristics of a Berlin stereotype. He owns a leather-bound collection of Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang Goethe ("the former in cowhide and the latter in pigskin") but can barely read a sales contract. Add to this functional illiteracy some deft touches of brutish-ness and greed, along with a full helping of overindulgence toward his son. In one instance, Weigelt evicts a poor family from the shanty in his courtyard in order to install a stable so that Leopold can keep a horse and impress everyone as a gentleman of leisure.
   By the play's final act, Weigelt is a sadder, poorer, but wiser man. Forced to liquidate all his assets in order to pay off his son's debts, he works alone at his cobbler's bench. He becomes reconciled with his other children, whom he has neglected in favor of the wastrel son. The son, who had (in addition to pauperizing his father) offended the honor of a young lady and run off to America, had seen his business ventures there fail, so he is coming back to Germany a fully repentant prodigal for a reunion with his father.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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