Hanschen is shown as confident, flirtatious, and pragmatic. He sees the reality of what is happening to the other children around him, and is not naive. He believes dreams are only fantasy, and are impractical.
In the play, Hans is equally as cognisant as his musical counterpart. However, while his play version believes that all adults are just pretending to be better than they really are, the musical makes it clear that he believes, and compels Ernst to believe, that respectability, honesty, and integrity are all lies made up by adults to help them be happy with their own lives. Hans says that his ideal future is one full of pleasure and happiness, which was translated into the musical adaption as Hanschen telling Ernst that the ideal life is one of a bystander who merely 'skims the cream' rather than creating a fuss or overworking. It should be noted that in the musical, Hanschen is referring to taking advantage of the system rather than just despairing about the idiocy of it.
In contrast to Melchior, he does not, "rock the boat", and instead keeps his opinions to himself. He believes that not challenging the system and the people that enforce it will benefit him in the end. This different approach to life set him up as a foil for Melchior, demonstrating what Melchior could have been if he had made different decisions. Sheik and Sater, further included a reprise of "Word of Your Body" for the love duet between Hasnchen and Ernst to indicate the parallels in their story with Melchior and Wendla.
Like Melchior, he also appears to be very intelligent but uses his knowledge in favour of the school system in order to further his place in society in the future.
In the play, he is shown to be very lyrical and romantic while still as cynical as he is in the musical. It is implied that he may be younger than the other boys as Melchior and Moritz refer to him as "little Hanschen Rilow." He is also more educated than the other boys. He shows a vast knowledge of Shakespeare and classical art (making many allusions to classical works during his "Desdemona" monologue as well as speaking in Latin). He was educated on sex by his governess at a very young age and so has a much more mature understanding of the adult world.
Fun Facts Edit
- Hanschen is bisexual because he is shown to be attracted to both males (Ernst, Bobby Maler, etc.) and females (My Junk) in the musical.
- In the Deaf West production, at the end of Totally Fucked, Hanschen (played by Andy Mientus) takes down his pants and moons the audience. He then has to put his pants back on for the vineyard scene.
- In the middle of "My Junk," Hanschen masturbates to a postcard with Correggio's "Jupiter and Io" on it. He also makes an Othello reference by beginning the monologue with, "Have you prayed tonight, Desdemona?"
- Hänschen is the diminutive form of Hans, Hanschen's name in the play. In some translations of the play, the English equivalent of this nickname is used "Hansi" or "Hansy" depending on the text. Either name means the same thing as "Hänschen" and is simply there to clarify to a non-German speaking audience that his real name is Hans and is being referred to by a nickname. Sometimes Melchior and Moritz also refer to him as "Little Hansi Rilow" or "little Hänschen Rilow" depending on the translation implying he may be slightly younger/smaller than them.
- In the musical, his name is actually Hanschen (without the umlauted a), which is neither a nickname nor a real German name, for reasons unknown. There's a clear difference in pronunciation in the musical's Hanschen and the play's Hänschen, if the spelling wasn't enough to differentiate them.
- In "My Junk," there's a stage direction that says (As the song reaches a climax, so does HANSCHEN).
- Hanschen's attitude & feelings towards romance, life, and Ernst have become a source of controversy between individuals. Some see him as manipulative and abusive, and others as caring and genuine. Even within a single production, interpretations are vastly different, and this has led to conflict over the subject.
- He canonically has a brother as mentioned in his Desdemona monologue in the original play
- On Instagram, Michael Arden confirmed that the woman painting a picture of a young boy during "My Junk" is Hanschen's mother painting him as a baby. As the woman is played by Marlee Matlin one can come to the conclusion that Hanschen, like Melchior, is a CODA (child of a deaf adult).
- Hanschen has been hypothesized as being infertile