some justification for Hauptmannâs claim, some core of fact, if not unassailable, at least occasionally accurate. The first recorded English-language performance in Germanyâmost probably of Shakespeareâwas by a troupe of traveling players before the Elector of Saxony in 1586; the first complete German translation of a Shakespeare play was Julius Caesar by C. W. von Borck in 1741. Performances and translations became more frequent, but it was only beginning in the 1760s, through the critical advocacy primarily of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, that the supreme creator of English drama (canât we say of English culture itself?) ascended to a comparable status among the Germans. At that time, however, there was no Germany, but only a hodgepodge of disunited city-states, principalities, bishoprics, and other entities, if not answering to France through direct political allegiance, certainly under French sway in all matters of cultural expression, even of language itself. If the Germans were going to unite as a nation and culture, they would have to throw off this foreign hegemonyâbut to replace it with what? Most of their literature was Gallic imitation and their stages were hemmed in by the neoclassical prohibitions of Corneille, Voltaire, and their epigones. Although Shakespeare was
Theater – Duke University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2000
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