Ernst Toller



  • (1893 - 1939) German playwright and poet, who pioneeredexpressionism in the theater. His earliest and most important playswere written during the five years (1919 - 24) he spent in prisonfor leading strikes and demonstrations in post-war Munich. The firstof these works to be produced was Die Wandlung (Transfiguration),which was staged in Berlin in 1919. Based loosely on the events ofToller's own life, it depicts the evolution of an enthusiastic volunteersoldier into a revolutionary pacifist. Masse-Mensch (Manand the Masses), first seen at the Volksbühne in 1920, showedworking men rebelling against their condition of near-slavery. Itwas also one of the first modern dramas to introduce the Sprechchor,or speaking chorus.

    A number of Toller's plays dealt with historical subjects.The verse play Die Maschinenstürmer (The Machine Wreckers;1922) explored the causes of the Luddite riots of 1815, while Feueraus den Kesseln (Draw the fires!; 1930) depicted the 1917Kiel mutiny that helped to spark the Bolshevik revolution. Anothermajor work was Hoppla, wir leben! (Hurrah, we Live!;1927), staged in 1929 as Hoppla! at the Gate Theatre, London.The protagonist commits suicide when he discovers that the formerrevolutionaries are now living comfortable and satisfied lives.

    When the Nazis took control in 1933, Toller was driven intoexile. He committed suicide in New York shortly after Germany's invasionof Czechoslovakia.