Date of Degree
Mario di Gangi
European History | Literature in English, British Isles | Theatre History
William Shakespeare, Germany, Nationalism, Nineteenth Century, Theatre, Drama
This dissertation explores the staging, criticism, and translation of Shakespearean drama in Germany in the period between the end of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s leadership of the Weimar Court Theatre in 1817 and 1867, when Franz von Dingelstedt left his directorial post at that same theatre to move to Vienna. My dissertation investigates the crucial role Shakespearean performance had on German national identity-building by focusing on landmark Shakespearean productions created by three artists: the directors, translators, and authors Ludwig Tieck, Karl Leberecht Immermann, and Franz von Dingelstedt. I track how the growing popularity of Shakespeare in Germany occurred in a symbiotic relationship with Germany’s nationalist movement in the nineteenth century. Throughout the half-century on which I focus, the directors I study exhibited the same goal: to create successful works of art that were aligned with the development of Germany into a unified nation. My examination of these artists and their work allows me to demonstrate how nation-building sometimes relies upon creative borrowings and appropriations; in the period examined in this study, Shakespeare was reconfigured as a “German” author to serve the purposes of the German artists and nascent German nation.
The dissertation opens with an examination of the history of Shakespeare in Germany up to 1817, focusing on the various artists and critics who created early translations and productions and brought Shakespeare to the attention of Germans, albeit without effectively popularizing him among broad audiences. The central three chapters take Tieck, Immermann, and Dingelstedt’s Shakespearean work as case studies, examining how they used Shakespeare to develop new theatrical techniques that reflected broader cultural sentiments as the many German states coalesced into a single nation. The concluding chapter turns to the work of the Meininger troupe, which toured German Shakespearean productions outside of a unified Germany from 1875 – 1890, influencing future generations of theatre directors—including English-language directors—while ably demonstrating the cultural power of the newly unified German state.
Venning, Daniel Rockhill Siegel, "Shakespeare for the Volk: Shakespeare and the Development of the Idea of German Nationhood, 1817–1867" (2016). CUNY Academic Works.
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