Die Soldaten


Marie, the daughter of Wesener, a fancy goods merchant, is engaged to Stolzius, a draper. Baron Desportes, an aristocratic young French army officer, makes advances to the young bourgeois girl, and succeeds in winning her affections. Wesener himself raises his daughter’s hopes of making a socially advantageous marriage; in spite of this, she suffers from disturbing premonitions of her eventual fate. Desportes’ officer friends invite Stolzius, who supplies the regiment with cloth, to join them at a coffee house, where they make cruel and lewd insinuations about Marie’s relationship with Desportes. Stolzius writes Marie a letter conveying his disappointment in her, which in turn distresses Marie, who consequently gives in to Desportes’ advances. In the meantime, the officers amuse themselves as officers do. Eisenhardt, the field chaplain, and Captain Pirzel, whom the stupefying mindlessness of military service has turned distinctly eccentric, and who is the butt of his comrade’s scorn, try in vain to regulate the unscrupulousness, corruption and unbridled pleasure-seeking that prevails in the regiment. When Desportes grows tired of Marie, he tries to palm her off on his comrades. Stolzius joins the regiment in an attempt to keep an eye on Marie. He becomes the batman of Mary, a friend of Desportes’. Mistreated and beaten down, he can only watch as little by little Marie becomes, in his mother’s indignant words, ever more like a “soldier's whore”. When the son of the Countess de la Roche is the next to fall in love with Marie, the Countess takes the girl into her home, both to protect her from the officers’ advances and to prevent her son from making any foolish mistakes. Marie, though, keeps trying to contact Desportes, who finally gets rid of her by luring her to his supposed whereabouts, where she is raped by his gamekeeper. Dishonoured and broken, she is forced onto the streets. Her father, her family and the Countess search far her in vain. Stolzius avenges his lost fiancée by poisoning first Desportes and then himself. – One day, a streetwalker begs Wesener for money. Wesener fails to recognise that she is his own daughter.