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National Theatre, Budapest
Written by András Sütő
drama in two acts
directed by István Znamenák
play time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with one intermission)
THE PALM SUNDAY OF A HORSE DEALER
BY ANDRÁS SÜTŐ
Michael Kohlhaasis an 1811 novella by Heinrich von Kleist, based on a 16th-century story of Hans Kohlhase. The play of András Sütő is a stage adaptation of the novella, slightly different from the original story.
The Brandenburg horse dealer, Michael Kohlhaas is leading a team of horses in the direction of Saxony when an official of Wenzel von Tronka detains him, claiming that he does not have proper transit papers. The official demands that Kohlhaas leave two horses as collateral.
In Dresden (Saxony) Kohlhaas discovers that this collateral was totally arbitrary, and proceeds to demand return of his horses. When he arrives at the castle of Wenzel von Tronka he discovers that the horses have been suffering from working in the fields and his hired man, who protested against the mistreatment of the horses, has been beaten.
Kohlhaas sues Wenzel von Tronka for the cost of medical treatment of his hired man and for rehabilitation of his horses. After some time he finds that the suit was turned down through political influence of Wenzel's relatives. His wife, who is struck down by a guard in her attempt to deliver a petition to the Elector of Saxony, dies of her injuries. Kohlhaas persists in demanding his rights. In spite of all support, he remains unsuccessful. Since he cannot progress through legal channels, Kohlhaas resorts to criminal means. He begins a private war.
Together with some men he destroys the castle of Wenzel, and takes him as his prisoner. Through personal intervention, Martin Luther tries to convince the court to deal with the case of the horses, and give Kohlhaas another three days to put down his weapons. At the same time Luther writes a manifest against him. Then we are at the court where the verdict is that Wenzel must rehabilitate the horses, and he is sentenced to several years of prison, while Kohlhaas is sentenced to death. When Kohlhaas hears that his suit against Wenzel has been successful, being pleased that justice has been served, and as he admits that his own deeds deserve death penalty, he submits willingly to the execution.