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Earth Spirit

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Earth Spirit (1895) (Erdgeist) is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the first part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays; the second is Pandora's Box (1904), both depicting a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed". In German folklore an erdgeist is a gnome, first described in Goethe's Faust (1808). Together with Pandora's Box, Wedekind's play formed the basis for the silent film Pandora's Box (1929) starring Louise Brooks and the opera Lulu by Alban Berg (1935, premiered posthumously in 1937). In the original manuscript, dating from 1894, the ‘Lulu’ drama was in five acts and subtitled ‘A Monster Tragedy’. Wedekind subsequently divided the work into two plays: Earth Spirit (German: Erdgeist, first printed 1895) and Pandora’s Box (German: Die Büchse der Pandora, first performed 1904). The premiere of Earth Spirit took place in Leipzig on 25 February 1898, in a production by Carl Heine, with Wedekind himself in the role of Dr Schön. Wedekind is known to have taken his inspiration from at least two sources: the pantomime Lulu by Félicien Champsaur, which he saw in Paris in the early 1890s, and the sex murders of Jack the Ripper in London in 1888. The Lulu character may also have been partially inspired by the famed dancer/courtesan Lola Montez, also a woman of humble origin who fabricated an exotic identity.
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original title: Der Erdgeist, Erdgeist
language: German
date of publication: 1895
genre: tragedy

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