Melchior Gabor is a schoolboy living in Germany in 1891. Melchior is frustrated because he understands that the society in which he lives is hiding information from its youth, and believes that the adults in his community do not have young peoples' best interests in mind. Melchior is often described as a radical throughout both the play and the musical. In the play, Melchior has been noted to be in the top three of his class, though he could be higher if he wanted to. In both the play and musical he is perceived as headstrong, handsome, and charismatic, leading to him to be well-liked among his peers. However, his teachers find him disruptive and aggravating as he often protests against their lessons. Melchior comes from a loving home, despite hints being placed in the play that he does not have a close relationship with his father. However, Melchior does have a very close relationship with his Mother (Fanny Gabor), who strived to raise him in a liberal-minded and forward-thinking home. Despite being a year younger than his best friend Moritz Stiefel in the play, he is much more informed than him on topics such as puberty and sexuality.
Revolting, Realism and RealityEdit
Melchior is the first of the boys to fully understand the nature of the human body and its changes as a result of puberty. This is reiterated in the musical throughout the song The Bitch of Living- while the rest of the boys express a lack of understanding about their sexual and worldly frustrations (and the general angst of going through puberty), Melchior answers their pleas. Melchior realizes that not everything that the boys were taught in school was completely accurate and that society had missed certain subjects out. The adults did this so that the boys wouldn't ask questions and doubt their ideology.
Moritz and MelchiorEdit
The friendship between Melchior and Moritz Steifel began at an early age. Despite the boys' differing social statuses, they remained very good friends, much to their peers' confusion. Namely, Herr Knockenbruch and Fräulein Knuppledick think it "unfathomable" as to why Melchior, someone with "thoroughly distinct capabilities," would choose to spend his time with Moritz, someone they find to be a "neurasthenic imbecile." Moritz explains with horror and confusion to Melchior that he has been experiencing "sticky dreams," which Melchior reassures him are perfectly normal and happen to all boys their age. Moritz requests a more thorough explanation, which Melchior provides in the form of a ten-page essay entitled "The Art of Sleeping With," complete with detailed illustrations of male and female genitalia. This essay circulates throughout the school. In the play, he is uninterested in how the girl is feeling, but in the musical he is fascinated by it, actively putting himself in that place for the essay. The essay is used as evidence to get Melchior expelled after Moritz commits suicide, as the essay is seen as proof of not only Melchior's corruptions, but Melchior's 'motivation' to corrupt his peers.
Wendla and MelchiorEdit
Wendla and Melchior's relationship is central to the plot. They are attracted to each other, both physically and intellectually. As children, they often participated in community service activities together through they church, but as they grew older, opportunities to interact became very infrequent. They are drawn together by a need to debate and question their society, and they challenge each other with their reasoning and ideas. There is a feeling of mutual understanding between them that they have not found in others. They flirt innocently, holding hands and taking walks together. After Wendla learns that her close friend Martha is frequently physically abused by her father, she asks Melchior to beat her with a wooden switch, so that she may attempt to empathize. Melchior initially refuses, appalled by the idea of hurting her. After Wendla continues to insist, he reluctantly obliges. At first he does not put any force into it, but he suddenly becomes enraged and beats her in earnest, leaving Wendla curled up on the ground in tears. Melchior is horrified by what he has done, and runs away. It is unclear whether or not his act of sadism had sexual motivations, (though Melchior's later line, "Something started in me, when I hit you." may suggest this). After recovering, Wendla finds him alone in the hayloft of his parents' barn. Melchior asks her to leave, as he cannot bring himself to face her again after knowing how badly he hurt her (and, in some productions, it is implied that he had been masturbating and he doesn't want her to see him in such a state). Wendla says that she does not blame Melchior, and that it was her fault for asking in the first place. Melchior attempts to kiss her, but she pulls away, believing that it is wrong for them to engage in such activity. Melchior persists, believing that she clearly desires him but that the morals their society has instilled in her are preventing her from reciprocating. Wendla gives in, and they ultimately have sexual intercourse. There is a much debate over whether or not Melchior raped her. In the play, it is clear that their encounter was entirely non-consensual. However, the musical is much more ambiguous, as much of the scene is non-verbal and relies heavily on the direction and the physical actions of the actors.
That being said, Melchior exploits her attraction to him and instead of letting them be equals and explore this feeling together he overpowers her. This comes from an already stated desire by him (in the play) to have something he "has to fight for." He tells Moritz that he doesn't want his "bliss to come as charity." In the musical he says (of a woman having sex) "defending [herself] until finally [she] surrender[s] and feel[s] heaven break over [her]". It is unclear if this is referring to the physical or emotional aspect of sex, and is quite possible that Melchior thinks that it refers to both and/or that the two are intertwined.
His rape of Wendla and his subsequent lack of remorse (His longing to be with her again) is proof to his mother that Melchior is not as innocent as she wants to believe, and so, allows her husband to send him off to a correctional/reformatory school. In both the play and the musical, the rape leads to Wendla getting pregnant and dying from a botched abortion.
To note, in the play Melchior is later remoseful once being sent to reformatory. He claims to know Wendla cannot forgive him and he cannot undo what he has done. He says he has taken away her freedom and that she hates him. There is, sadly, no equivalent to this revelatory scene in the musical.
In the play, Melchior is escaping his school and runs into a graveyard to see Moritz's grave. There he is greeted by Moritz's decapitated head, under his arm. Moritz tries to escort Melchior to the afterlife, however, he fails as a Masked man appears and promises Melchior food and salvation from his corruption in exchange that he will not take his own life, Melchior agrees and promises Moritz that he can take his hand when he is older and ready to depart from this world.
Melchior is gifted, charming, and very reflective. Melchior often questions the world and his place in it. He is very critical of Christianity and its ideology. His personality differs between the play and musical; in the play he is significantly more self-absorbed and arrogant. He has a desire for control within relationships. He discovers that he has an explosive temper, and this frightens him. He is very outspoken. He cares deeply for his friends in the musical, as shown when he stands up for Moritz in Latin class even though it results in a beating from his teacher. However, he often fails to consider how others feelings might differ from his own and is pretty self-absorbed, as is evident in the musical's hayloft scene with Wendla; he assumes that her rejection of him only stems from a fear of being shamed by society as opposed to simply not wanting to have sex with him. In the play, while he still cares about his friends, it's also very clear that his own wants come first, no matter what.
Fun Facts Edit
- Melchior refuses to go to church and identifies as an atheist.
- Melchior's favorite book is Faust.
- In the musical, he is at the top of his class. In the play, he's third but could be first "if he tried".
- Many characters call him by the nickname 'Melchi', including Wendla and Moritz.
- Moritz is the first character to call him that, so it stands to reason that the nickname was probably given by him
- There are productions of the show that explore potential queer subtext within Melchior and Mortiz's relationship.In the play there's a decent amount of queer subtext surrounding the pair, especially with the metaphor of the Headless Queen, wherein Moritz is the headless queen and Melchior--constantly at war with himself--would be the king with two heads
- Many say that this wouldn't be a healthy relationship due to Melchior's skewed understanding of how sex and relationships work, his support of abusive power dynamics, how he waves off Moritz's distress (In the musical), and how he's a literal rapist
- Gavin Creel played Melchior in the workshop recordings. Jonathan Groff and Gavin Creel later dated, meaning Melchior dated Melchior.
- In the play and in the musical his age is ambiguous, though he's at least a year younger than Moritz in the play and it's assumed that Sater imagines him as 14-15 in the musical
- While Melchior is never told the true nature of Wendla's death, and there is nothing in the script to suggest that he knows that she had an abortion, actors often portray him as being skeptical of what is written on her gravestone.