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Write a detailed commentary on Friedrich von Homburg, Act 4 sc.4, ll.1331-1394 (Papier und Feder, Wachs und Petschaft mir! to scene end)

At first sight, taken in isolation, this scene appears to focus on the relationship between the Prince and Natalie, the only significant speaking characters in it, as she visits him in his prison cell.  However, the only physical demonstration of romantic love is the brief kiss she gives him with her penultimate speech, presented far from tenderly as an exclamatory command: 'Nimm diesen Kuß!' (1385).  Their dialogue deals with the question of the Prince having his execution, due the next day, repealed.  The scene is thus emotive, portraying the two characters' individual character traits in their responses.  The commentary that follows will deal in equal measure with the Prince and Natalie, as their personal styles of reaction in this tense, frantic context are illustrated as contrasts that lend both their roles significance.  From the outset, stylistic distinctions need to be highlighted. This will be done by first considering the metre in which the scene is presented as a singular, unified element, before turning to focus on each of the characters and the key themes they represent: the Prince, embodying division and complexity of personal identity; and Natalie, representing strength in the face of adversity and attempting to reconfigure communicative dynamics.   

Metrically, this passage is typical of the play, composed in the iambic pentameter, each line being decasyllabic.  This symbolises the rigidity of convention in which the characters function: if all that is presented is a series of symmetrical lines, speaking them would seem like imprisonment.  Strikingly, their tonal delivery underlines how both the Prince - who is physically imprisoned - and Natalie - who strives to "release" the Prince, literally and metaphorically - are more powerful dramatic characters than the poetic metre can constrain.  Punctuation is a device consistently deployed to appropriately interrupt the rhythm, vary the dynamics, and de-poeticise the passage.  Exclamations are especially frequent, starting with the first line of the passage, where the Prince calls for his writing materials without delay, each time signalling conviction on the part of the speaking character.  All but three of Natalie's speeches contain exclamations, indicating her strength of character on the one hand and the tension she injects into the scene on the other.  The three exceptions all represent interrogation, symbolised by another appropriate punctuation mark: 'Was sagst du?' (1360), 'Gleichviel?' (1373), and 'Du ungeheuerster, ich glaub, du schriebst?' indicate her disbelief at the Prince's communication in his letter - and not explicit in the play.  Thus, we are reminded that there is more to the acts of communication at the heart of this passage than the metre and even the stage directions convey.  Both characters punctuate the traditional Classical form with the Romantic problem of individual conviction at odds with society.   Frequent further punctuation - dashes, colons and semi-colons, as well as the pause in l.1336 - necessitates variation in pitch or tempo to convey the heightened emotion that distinguishes this passage from previous scenes (Act III, scene i onwards).  Then, the Prince's false assumptions about the Kurfürst's motive for imprisoning him were also met with disbelief - but not with the inescapable confrontation and demands for immediate response provided in this passage by Natalie and her emphasis on the lack of time.  Significantly, the use of a comma to form a symmetrical caesura at the syllabic centre of several of Natalie's lines in her longest speech contrasts with the aforementioned disruptive punctuation.  Natalie's evenly punctuated, fluent style thematises her clarity of insight and persistence in endeavouring to persuade the Prince to seek his pardon, even given his uncooperative behaviour 'Die Regung lob ich, die dein Herz ergriff' (1364) and the sheer horror of the impending situation 'Aus Karabinern, überm Grabeshügel' (1365).  This even tone is exceptional, though: the marriage between style and content is cemented by disruption in many of the other lines, marked by frequent short questions and responses, prompting and prompted by the longer speeches, and conveying tensions between the incompatibilities of the Prince's mindset with the mindsets of Natalie and those who have passed judgement on him.  Yet, even the prosaic words and phrases are integral to the decasyllabic blank verse (hence the line numbering) provided they are spoken quickly, as the tension of the scene demands, by two performers in vocal harmony, which Kleist's use of repetition invites - for example, 'Gleichviel!/ Gleichviel?/ Er handle, wie er darf' (1372).

In historical terms, both characters are "out of time" as far as Classicism and Enlightenment thinking are concerned, and they convey this metaphorically in their behaviour.  Natalie is motivated by the urgency of saving the Prince's threatened life at what she perceives - and he fails to see - as the last moment.  She believes a rational response to the Kurfürst, 'wie ers ... verlangt' (1369) will save the day, but this is only partly an enlightened view, as she is calling here for a variation on the theme of obedience to authority, not a deviation, by ingeniously persuading her father to revise his reaction to the Prince.  The Prince, nevertheless, thinks otherwise, and she cannot acknowledge his fundamental complexity of character which has resulted inevitably in a muddled response that reverts to an unenlightened, duty-bound admission of guilt that destroys any notion of Classical heroism she has already undermined by her dominance in driving the scene forward.  The Prince's unheeded request to her, 'Laß, einen Augenblick! Mir scheint -' (1359) is especially resonant in its qualified style: both characters perform on impulse, according to what seems most honourable at the time, without enquiring into more profound psychological motivations.  This shortcoming is all the more evident when we compare literature of the Romantic movement.

All in all, this passage reaches one point of conclusion: the Prince will evidently not consent to his execution.  Nevertheless, given his erratic responses, the fundamental problem of the play (for characters and audience alike) of how the Prince should be accommodated in society remains unresolved.  We await in Act V the responses of his military colleagues and superiors, with every sense that his erratic behaviour will bring about further twists and turns in the plot.  This passage is a microcosm of the play as a whole,  'a deliberate deviation from conventional historical and heroic drama' (Garland, 1997, 668), which we associate with the Classical tradition, pointing towards Romanticism.  Romantic traits include not only the haunting imagery of death prefigured and its effects upon a troubled central character whose state of mind is at odds with the realities around him, but also the effects so prominent in this passage of a strong female presence upon this character.

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