Love Without Stockings (Danish: Kjærlighed Uden Strømper) is a Dano-Norwegian parody play written in 1772, poking fun of the classical tragedy genre. It puts regular people in impossibly over the top tragedy poses, all for trivial purposes, making the plot inherently funny. The play was written by Norwegian satirist Johann Herman Wessel, while living in Denmark, as a witty answer to a more regular tragedy, Sarine, written by a friend of his. Because of the "Weird Al" Effect, this play is still remembered today, while Sarine is almost forgotten.
The plotline revolves around Grete, who has had a terrible nightmare, of an evil spirit, announcing that she never will be married unless it happens that very day. That sets up the tragic one-day premise. She is, however, enganged to a taylor, Johan, who is busy tailoring a new pair of pants for a major who damaged them. She then confides in her best friend, Mette, who has to come up with a cunning plan. All the while, it is revealed that Johan is unable to marry unless he has a couple of stockings, and he has none, because he is only an acolyte and therefore poor. He proceeds, with the help of Mette, to steal the stockings from his rival, Mads, who discovers it and inervenes during the wedding ceremony, with the help of his friend Jesper, to have Johan arrested as a thief. But, Johan complains, he is supposed to be a hero, and therefore he is not a thief. It is then pointed out to him that he is no hero, only a tailor. In this dramatic reveal, Johan takes a knife and stabs himself to death, dishonored. Grete follows suit, and stabs herself with the same knife. Then, Mads does the same, and after him, Mette. Jesper, the last man standing, decides to do the same, uttering the moral of the play: "May God always provide your love with stockings..."
Then, the Psychopomp from Classical Mythology, Mercury, appears. He complains because he rather would have been somewhere else, but was kicked out by Jove, and grudgingly proceeds to wake the others, to lead them on. They immidiately ask him what he is doing, and Mette points out that they all are good christians, and what business has a Roman god in this day and age? Mercury wryly points out that his role is obligatory in a tragic epilogue, only to be met by a fit of laughter from the five main characters. They all proceed to sing the end chorus: "The madder, the better".
And that´s about it.
- Big Eater: Mercury complains that his fellow olympian gods are this. He, on the contrary has to run errands all the time, and always arrives late for dinner. On stage, he quickly attacks the stewed peas.
- Chekhov's Gun: The stockings mentioned in the title. Also the monogram of Mads, embroidered into the stockings by Grethe of all persons.
- Chewing the Scenery: Mandatory. The whole point of the play is to juxtapose the petty lack of proper stockings to the vast tragedy genre. Done the right way, it becomes hilarious to watch.
- Deus ex Machina: Averted because Mercury arrived too late to solve anything.
- The Hero: Johan. Sort of. Heavily deconstructed in the final scenes.
- Medium Awareness: The characters constantly discuss the premise of a Tragedy because they are bound to be in it.
- Musical Episode: The play is full of Stock Parody arias, written in italian style (by a resident Italian). This also pokes fun of the Opera Seria genre, because the lofty Italian style sounds quite off, compared to the themes in the songs. The composer also made a point in putting in a lot of musican in-jokes, like losing a bar or two, messing with the tremolos, and so on.
- Prophetic Dream: Grete begins the play waking from it with a start, realizing that her marriage is doomed unless she gets it done that very day.
- Spoof Aesop: "May God always provide your love with stockings".
- Suicide as Comedy: The play ends with all characters dead.
- "Weird Al" Effect: An early Scandinavian example. The play it parodied is almost entirely forgotten, but this one lives on.
- Wham Line: He does´nt have any stockings!