When discussing theatre and origins of a certain theatrical material the contextual information of the time is a key aspect of looking into the time. The problem that we faced was that the material that was presented was so limited, and the general knowledge bank on Baroque German Theatre is non-existent, so the contextual information really became a crucial issue. The list of contextual information that could be spoken about could cover an entire class period, but because we are limited to 20 minutes, we had to make tough decisions and choose what works for our presentation to get the class interested in Baroque German Theatre, and what information is superfluous.
Because "[b]oth the literary conventions of the day and the German language itself were intimately connected with the sociological and historical development of the times,"(Spahr xiv) the contextual information that we choose to use is quite important. The contextual information that we will be focusing on (as of now) are those of Gryphius' embellishments of other stories, the German government and Monarchy of the time, the importance that very little of Gryphius' plays are translated into English, and the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years War is a large contextual information point when we talk about Baroque German theatre, within the frame of Gryphius, because it directly influenced his life as well as the writings that he produced, since all of his plays were published at the end of the war. This effect of war is seen within Gryphius' play Horribilicribrifax, whose main focus is on a ragged soldier, which was a prominent aspect in Germany at the end of the war. The German government and Monarchy plays into the framework of the Thirty Years War as well, because as the war coming to a close, "Gryphius was [also] elected representative of the Estates to..."(Spahr xiv) Habsburg, a monarch of the time. The fact that Gryphius was held with such high esteem within the Monarchy buttresses why in Leo Armenius he takes the stance that regicide, or the overthrowing of the governmental body, is a bad thing. One of the most important contextual information pieces that we talk about in our presentation is "Who Is Gryphius?" Since we have very little of his actual works translated to English, we have to take what others say about him as truth which creates a picture of Gryphius that could be completely wrong. This will allow us to bring our presentation back to a Historiographical perspective and tie back to the overall theme of the class.
The Thirty Years' War had the biggest impact on Gryphius' work. The war really affects his work two fold on a religious level as well as more physical level. Religiously Gryphius was born to a Lutheran Deacon and raised into the Protestant faith. Since the war between the Protestants and the Catholics was at the center of the conflict in the Thirty Years War, Gryphius had a large personal stake in it and the outcomes. On a more personal level his father fought and died in the war which is thought to have radicalized his faith even further, as well as explain a link in a series of sonnets where Gryphius talks passionately about the valor of martyrdom. As for a physical level, the Thirty Years War had a tremendous impact on Germany's path to capitalism and industrialization and for the latter half of the century Germany was left in shambles. This war left Germany with a large number of causalities, as well as physical and economical damage to the country in general. This war all that Gryphius had ever known, as the war was going on the entire time that he was growing up, and it wasn't until right after the war was finished that he began to write his plays. This greatly impacted Gryphius' writing both in structure and in theme.
This topic could be expanded upon so much, that we could talk for a full class and still not be done explaining all of the information, but we don't have a full class, we only have 20 minutes to we have to choose a few big ideas/contextual elements that we have to eliminate from the presentation but still get the main points across. One contextual element that has to be synthesized is an in-depth look into his life (what we know of it) and how that really affected him and his writing (instead of eliminating all of this life information, we will synthesize it to fit a few facts into other aspects of the presentation). To fit into the 20 minute range we are unable to speak about all of Gryphius' plays or sonnets, so we had to narrow it down to two of the plays and focus on them. The problem with this though is that we are taking a very narrow sample of his works to write on, and since the two plays that we chose (Leo Armenius and Horribilicribrifax) are more well-known they might be casting shadows on his other works which may be more significant for the time period. Much like his plays shrouding each other, we will have to leave out the fact that because Gryphius is so well known that he often shrouds the other playwrights of the time. This is a historiographical problem that if time permits we may add in, but as of now we will have to eliminate it in effort to preserve time.