Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) is rightly called the prophet of sexuality in modern drama. He himself wandered the world in the company of adventurers, libertines, "perverts," and underground figures, seeking to "know love in all its manifestations." Society's antagonism toward the power of sex is the motivating force in the entire body of his work. And yet Wedekind was a moralist in the strictest sense: sex, he seems to say, is its own enemy. His concept of morality was ambivalent: a child of the Victorian age, he was torn between conventional bourgeois morality and the new morality of sexual freedom. It is difficult to overestimate Wedikind's role in contemporary drama, as a vital force in modern expressionism and as a direct forerunner of the so-called Theater of the Absurd, especially in the work of such seminal writers as Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. Reacting against the bathos of neo-romanticism and the stolidity of naturalism, he struck deep roots.
The four plays in this volume represent the cream of his work. Spring's Awakening is the first play openly to discuss the problems of adolescence and puberty, and to this day it is one of the major plays in the international modern repertory. Lulu is Wedekind's quintessential study of the archetypal feminine in her unwitting and unwilling destructiveness of life while attempting to raise it to its highest pinnacle. Liberation is Lulu's goal, a goal she chases down the paths of experience with a vengeance. Sexual liberation, social liberation, political liberation, personal liberation, the liberation to be her own being. Nobody owns her, though every man she encounters tries mightily. Nobody can handle her, as every man she meets attempts. Nobody knows who or what she is, and that's the way she wants it. The Tenor is one of the great farces in dramatic literature. Its hero Gerardo is the epitome of the self-serving egocentric matinee idol of the age, the great Wagner Singer of his generation, whom women of all sizes and shapes and ages pursue with a single intent: to bed him no matter what. The play is a tour-de-force of brilliant dialogue, wit, and situation, and it has successfully held the stage since the time of its first production. The Marquis of Keith is rightly considered Wedekind's masterpiece of dramatic construction. It concerns the dealings of a would-be entrepreneur who is caught between two ethical premises: the life of the pleasure-seeking sensualist and that of the idealistic moralist. Mr. Mueller's brilliant, idiomatic new translations of these staples of modern repertory give renewed life to some of the theater's most enturable and famous works. [via]