Woyzeck Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1879 (written, 1836; English translation, 1927)

First produced: 1913

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Locale: Germany

Characters DiscussedFriedrich Johann Franz Woyzeck

Friedrich WoyzeckJohann Franz Woyzeck (FREE-drihkh YOH-hahn frahnts VOY-tsehk), a superstitious, slow-witted peasant conscripted as a fusilier in the German army. He is devoted to his sweetheart and their small son. To earn money to support them, he does many menial jobs, including shaving the Captain. He attributes his low moral standards to his poverty and lack of education. He has strange visions and is driven out of his mind by his mistress’ infidelity. He kills her and then drowns accidentally while trying to get rid of the murder weapon.


Andres (AHN-drehs), a matter-of-fact soldier and Woyzeck’s friend.


Marie, Woyzeck’s mistress and the mother of his little boy. A hearty, earthy person, she takes the Drum Major as her second lover, defying Woyzeck when he discovers her infidelity. She is murdered by Woyzeck after he sees her dancing with the Drum Major at an inn.

The Drum Major

The Drum Major, Marie’s second lover. A swaggering, powerful man, he beats Woyzeck badly in a fight over Marie.

The Captain

The Captain, Woyzeck’s commander. He teases Woyzeck about being a cuckold, thereby arousing Woyzeck’s suspicions about Marie.

The Doctor

The Doctor, an eccentric. He pays Woyzeck to submit to absurd medical experiments. He finds Woyzeck laughable and makes the man appear ridiculous in front of others.


Karl, a loafer in the garrison town. He says, before Marie’s murder, that he smells blood on Woyzeck.


Kaethe (KAY-teh), a girl at the inn in the garrison town. She is the first to notice that Woyzeck has blood on his hands after he has murdered Marie.

BibliographyJames, Dorothy. “The ‘Interesting Case’ of Büchner’s Woyzeck.” In Patterns of Change: German Drama and the European Tradition, edited by Dorothy James and Silvia Ranawake. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. A fine introduction to the place of Woyzeck in German drama. Also places Büchner in a context of developing European thought.Kaufmann, Friedrich Wilhelm. German Dramatists of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Russell & Russell, 1972. Kaufmann notes that in plays such as Woyzeck, Büchner is dramatizing the collapse of old European values and the process of coming to grips with new realities. Woyzeck himself is an Everyman, condemned by his poverty to a life of misery.Mills, Ken. “Moon, Madness, and Murder: The Motivation of Woyzeck’s Killing of Marie.” German Life and Letters 41 (July, 1988): 430-436. Discusses Woyzeck’s murder of Marie as less an act of jealousy than an act of expiation.Ritchie, J. M. German Expressionist Drama. Boston: Twayne, 1976. Notes the influence of Woyzeck on twentieth century German expressionist drama and provides compelling evidence for the play’s being ahead of its time.Stodder, Joseph H. “The Influences of Othello on Büchner’s Woyzeck.” Modern Language Review 69 (January, 1974): 115-120. An interesting comparison that points to the plot similarities between William Shakespeare’s Othello (1604) and Büchner’s Woyzeck, which both concern men driven by jealousy to murder women they love and are then tortured by remorse. Leads the author to conclude that Shakespeare’s work was a direct influence on Büchner.
Categories: Characters