Wallensteins Lager

Wallenstein’s Lager; Wallenstein’s Camp (1798)

This short, one-act play sets the scene for what is to come by depicting the army that Wallenstein has created. The dialogues explore the life of the camp and the soldiers' attitudes towards their general.

In Scene 1, the opening words are spoken by a peasant’s boy, and they are ominous:

Vater, es wird nicht gut ablaufen.


Father, it won’t turn out well.

The peasant, his father, is more sanguine and says that a captain who was stabbed has left him a pair of lucky dice which he intends to use. This introduces the theme of chance and gambling. The peasant also says that Terzky’s soldiers are bragging and overconfident, thus introducing the theme of hubris.

In Scene 2, the master of the watch and a trumpeteer consider why they have all been paid double their usual wages. Is it because Wallenstein’s wife, the Duchess of Friedland, has returned from Vienna today? Or is the money intended to entice the foreign troops who have just arrived? Both men agree that something is up, these generals haven’t met for nothing. The master of the watch has seen a Viennese spy. The imperial authorities are after Wallenstein:

Merkst du wohl? sie trauen uns nicht,

Fürchten des Friedländers heimlich Gesicht.

Er ist ihnen zu hoch gestiegen,

Möchten ihn gern herunter kriegen. (lines 77-80)


Do you see? They don’t trust us,

They fear Friedland’s secret intentions.

He has grown too great for them,

They want to bring him down.

In Scene 3, a Croat barters a jewelled collar he has won in a game.

In Scene 4, a constable arrives with the news that the enemy has taken Regensburg, but the trumpeteer is confident that the city will soon be recaptured.

In Scene 5, a well-travelled marketeer arrives. She has followed Wallenstein’s armies from Timisoara to Stralsund. She anticipates Brecht’s Mother Courage and is the mother of a soldier’s boy.

In Scene 6 there is a conversation between a master-at-arms (Wachtmeister), a trumpeteer and two riflemen (Jäger). The first rifleman complains that life is miserable in the Swedish army, and that is why he changed sides. Serving in the imperial army under Tilly, gambling and sexual liaisons were permitted. After Tilly died in 1632, serving the Emperor was no fun, and he was almost going to leave the army when Wallenstein started recruiting again. Now that Wallenstein is in charge, as long as you follow orders, you can do what you like. The second rifleman says that Wallenstein is invincible because he’s got a devil from Hell in his pay.

In Scene 7, the master-at-arms explains how the goddess of war has raised Buttler and Wallenstein to their present stature.

In Scene 8, a Capuchin monk complains that Regensburg has fallen into enemy hands, but Wallenstein and his army don’t seem to care. The monk complains that these soldiers are blasphemous theives. Then the monk starts to abuse Wallenstein himself, saying that Wallenstein is a warmongering heretic.

In Scene 9, a brawl breaks out in a tent: the peasant with his lucky dice wasn’t so lucky after all: the dice were loaded.

In Scene 10, a lynch mob threatens to hang the peasant.

In Scene 11, two cuirassiers from the Pappenheimer regiment arrive. The first curiassier reproves the mob, allowing the peasant to escape. The soldiers say that the Emperor wants them sent to the Netherlands and to Milan; it is a ruse to get the troops away from Wallenstein (lines 691-706). The master-at-arms points out that the soldiers come from many different countries, but Wallenstein has forged them all into one fighting force (lines 805-07). The trumpeteer grumbles that the Emperor is miserly (lines 882-85). The first cuirassier emphasises the importance of honour for the Pappenheimer (lines 911-22). He suggests that each regiment signs a memorandum declaring that they will not be led except by Wallenstein, and present it to Max Piccolomini, the commander of the Pappenheimer, who could act as intermediary between Wallenstein and the Emperor (lines 1029-40). They drink a toast to Max. Then the soldiers form a choir and proclaim that soldiers are free men: they win their lives by risking their lives.

With its depiction of common people during the Thirty Years' War, Wallenstein’s Lager; Wallenstein’s Camp helped to influence Bertolt Brecht's masterpiece, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder; Mother Courage and her Children (written 1939, performed 1941)