When Austrian classical tragedy goes intercultural: On the metrical simulation of linguistic otherness in Franz Grillparzer’s The Golden Fleece

Dirk Weissmann


As Austrian playwright Franz Grillparzer (1791–1872) stated himself, his early masterpiece The Golden Fleece (1820) is structured by a basic cultural dualism between Greeks and Colchians. In order to express the gap between these two ethnic groups, his play uses two different metrical schemes: the canonical blank verse, coming from G. E. Lessing and Weimar Classicism, put in the mouth of Greek characters, and free verse for expressing the ‘barbarism’ of non-Greek, i. e., Colchian characters. Grillparzer thus manages to make perceivable for the spectator the linguistic otherness of the characters of the play without using any foreign tongue. This article illustrates the nature and functioning of this culturally and ethnically determined dramatic language, investigating those passages where the question of identity is directly linked to the verse meter. Yet the initial dualism often yields to more complex, hybrid forms of language, in cases where a given character’s identity is blurred. Accordingly, the article discusses the possibilities and limits of that specific kind of simulated multilingualism, and inquires about its meaning in the context of 1820s Vienna and the multicultural and multilingual Habsburg Empire.  


simulated multilingualism, Austrian literature, metrics, Grillparzer, German drama

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.