A farcical, sometimes ribald comic form, the Posse reached its highest popularity and definition as a legitimate dramatic genre in the mid-1840s. Several variations on the Posse developed before then, among them Zauberposse, Lokalposse, and Posse mit Gesang. The form usually features a young hero who suffers a series of non-threatening misfortunes on his way to a happy outcome by the play's conclusion. The Posse is historically indebted to the comme-dia for its various comic types, though it is thought to have derived its principal formal characteristics from Shrovetide plays of the 16th century.
   The addition of the low-comic character Hanswurst to the Posse was a result of cross-breeding between commedia and Shrovetide plays in the later 16th century. Hanswurst was a regular feature of the Posse throughout the 17th century, making his most frequent appearances in Vienna. The Posse survived several attacks from reformers such as Johann Christoph Gottsched, Caroline Neuber, and others in the 18th century, though the reformers' efforts to get rid of Hanswurst—at least in his most vulgar aspects — were successful. The Posse remained in the repertoires of many German troupes without Hanswurst, while others did variations on the Posse format by adding magical settings and characters. Among the most significant of these was Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812), who employed music by Mozart to create Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), perhaps the best known of all Zauberpossen. Adolf Bäuerle created Zaberl, a distant cousin of Hanswurst, for the numerous vehicles he wrote for himself in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which were Possen mit Gesang (which included several songs in the performance). They featured popular melodies as interludes in the action; Bäuerle's works resembled those of Karl Meisl (1775-1853), who wrote more than 200 of them featuring another Hanswurst cousin, this one named Kasperle. Later Carl Carl created Staberl, and by the second decade of the 19th century, the Posse had reached such a point of popularity with audiences that several theaters depended on it for survival. Such a market attracted and sustained the talents of Ferdinand Raimund and Johann Nepomuk Nestroy; in their hands the Posse reached unprecedented artistic levels by the mid-19th century, a level few playwrights since them have been able successfully to emulate.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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