Scene 1: Open Countryside. The town in the distance.
In the play's opening scene, Woyzeck and his fellow military man, Andres, are cutting canes in the bushes. Throughout the scene, Woyzeck hallucinates and Andres sings folk songs. Woyzeck is convinced he hears sounds in the undergrowth. He points out a line on the grass and tells Andres it is the mark left by an executed prisoner'shead when chopped off. Turning it into a sort of ghost story, he adds: "someone picked it up once, thought it was a hedgehog. Three days and three nights, and he was lying in his coffin." Woyzeck imagines that he hears a sound, and is convinced that it is the secretive Freemasons plotting in secret tunnels beneath them. Next he sees apocalyptic visions in the sky, exclaiming: "How bright it is!Flames are raging through the heavens and a distant roar like trumpets. It's getting nearer! Let's get away. Don't look back." He grabs Andres and pulls him into the bushes. Andres admits that he is scared and then hears a real sound: the military drums beating a tattoo in the distance. He tells Woyzeck that they must return to the town.
Scene 2: The town.
Marie is holding her child at thewindow and Margreth is at her respective window when the military tattoo marches by, led by the Drum-Major. Both women remark on how stalwart the Drum-Major is, and he salutes them. Seeing the "friendly sparkle in [Marie's] eye," Margreth teases her neighbor about being attracted to the Drum-Major. She teases Marie about having a child out of wedlock and insinuates that Marie wants to sleep with theDrum-Major, saying, "you can see clean through seven pairs of leather breeches!" Marie calls Margreth a "Bitch" and slams the window. Then she comforts her child by saying: "Don't fret, little 'un ... You're just a poor little tart's kid, and you makes your mum happy with your bastard face," and singing a folk song about having an illegitimate child. Woyzeck knocks at the window, but cannot come inbecause he must hurry to roll-call. Before leaving, he spouts hallucinatory thoughts to Marie's bewilderment: "Marie, it's happened again, lots of things. Is it not written: and behold, there rose up smoke from the land like smoke from a furnace? ... It followed right behind me as far as the town. Where's it going to end?" Then he rushes off. Marie exclaims, to herself and also perhaps to herchild, how strange Woyzeck is acting. Specifically she notes: "He'll go beserk with all them thoughts of his." He did not even acknowledge his child when he stopped by. By the end of the scene it has fallen pitch black because the street lamp is not working. Marie remarks that it "gives [her] the shivers."
Scene 3: Stalls, lights, people.
Marie and Woyzeck are walking around a fair. The sceneopens with a poor old man and child singing and dancing for money. Their song is pessimistic and nonchalant: "In this world shall none abide, / All of us we have to die, / And well we know it too!" Woyzeck pities them. Soon after, they come upon a Showman promoting his spectacle, which is implied to be a dancing monkey. He calls: "Consider the creature as God first made it; nothing, just nothing. Addcivilization and see what you've got: walks upright, wears trousers and carries a cane." He goes on to claim: "It's all edication, he's got animal brains, or rather: brainy animality, he's not the pig-stupid sort like some people ... The monkey's already a soldier, though that's not saying much-the bottom-most species of human kind!" Woyzeck and Marie decide to go in to see the show. Just then theSergeant and Drum-Major notice Marie and remark hungrily on her attractiveness. The former remarks on her beautiful black hair and eyes, and the latter boasts: "Spawn whole regiments of cavalry she could, breed drum-majors by the dozen!" They follow Marie (and Woyzeck) into the booth.
Scene 4: Inside the booth.
Inside the fair booth, Marie and Woyzeck watch the Showman's act with his special...