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In order to provide adequate financial support for his girlfriend Marie and her little boy, Wozzeck takes on a number of odd jobs to earn additional income. For example, he regularly shaves the captain, cuts sticks, and makes himself available to the doctor for questionable medical experiments – such as a diet of beans and wether meat. Restless and hounded by tormenting delusions, he hustles from one job to the next, a constant target for the ridicule and sadism of the captain and doctor. His only anchor in life is his relationship with Marie. However, she is attracted to the handsome drum major, with whom she finally enters into a sexual relationship.
When Wozzeck discovers that she has a new pair of earrings, he starts to become suspicious. The obviously malicious insinuations made by the doctor and the captain make it clear to him that he has been deceived by Marie. He asks her about the matter, but Marie brusquely rebuffs Wozzeck. When he then sees her dancing in public with the drum major, who later even enthuses to Wozzeck about her physical merits, Wozzeck decides to murder Marie. The next time he meets up outside with Marie, he carries out his plan and stabs Marie to death.
Shortly thereafter, when Margret and others discover blood on Wozzeck, he returns to the scene to find a better hiding place for the knife he had thrown away; he wades deeper and deeper into the water and drowns.
Marie’s little boy, teased by the other children, is left a complete orphan, still too young to understand what has happened.