Supplementary Appendix 31.1

Concerning August Wilhelm Iffland and Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, see Rudolf Schlösser, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, 123–24:

Gotter was always well informed concerning events in the Mannheim theater. Although he regretted that intolerance made it impossible to perform Lessing’s Nathan der Weise: Ein dramatisches Gedicht in fünf Aufzügen (n. p. 1779) (letter of 8 February 1780), he was heartily glad that theater director [Wolfgang Heribert] Dalberg was satisfied with the progress and diligence of the actors themselves (letter of 25 October 1781) and was himself quite interested in hearing about the premiere [on 13 January 1782] of Schiller’s play Die Räuber: Ein Schauspiel (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1781) (letter of 24 March 1782 [i.e., shortly before Caroline’s letter here]):

Performing Die Räuber was a bold undertaking, possible perhaps only in Mannheim. I congratulate the actors for having endured the trial. Judging their reaction from that of Iffland, this piece apparently receives first prize in the genre of the “frightful.” But heaven preserve us from more plays of this type!

To open a gallery of Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustration to Schiller’s piece, click on the image below:


Gotter’s anxiety in the face of such “outgrowths of Shakespearianism” was growing, and Schiller’s emergence was certainly not something that would assuage his disinclination against the “geniuses” [of the Storm-and-Stress literary movement]. Just when one might think the Storm-and-Stress movement had run its course, suddenly this new writer emerges following in its footsteps and taking control of Gotter’s theater of choice in Mannheim. Though there is no direct documentation of Gotter’s hostility toward Schiller, it is at least probable that the preface to Gotter’s second volume of poems was largely directed against Schiller.

See Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, Gedichte: Zweyter Band (Gotha 1788), i–xxii, where Gotter vents at length against the excesses of the German theater in the wake of what he considers in part a vulgar appropriation of Shakespeare and an inclination to pander to the baser desires of the public, e.g.:

It has often been pointed out with considerable derision how the most changeable of all nations is in fact the most stable in matters of the theater, and especially as regards the tragedy, and how that nation clings with a kind of religious adoration to the theory and manner sanctified by their Corneille, Racine, Voltaire.

That notwithstanding, if unrestraint and exaggeration are the measure of genius, and if a favorable inclination toward every eccentric spawn of the imagination stamped with the name “dramatic play,” or relish over against any and all passionate caricature and the crudest portrayals of horrific scenes attest a nation’s receptivity of tragic beauty, then we Germans are looking down from a dizzying height onto our neighbors on the Seine, and in fact are even outdoing the British; indeed, as it turns out, it is the Germans themselves who are the most tragic people of Europe. . . .

Shakespeare and a few [German] originals successfully modeled on him managed to enchant our public, sweeping our dear nation of imitators off its feet. What happened was precisely what Lessing himself had prophetically predicted, namely, we bounced backward against the precipice of yet another abyss. To wit, we sought ebullient applause . . . by overthrowing all rules, in piling up characters and events, machinery and ostentation, by tastelessly admixing the horrific with the ridiculous, the bombastic with the coarse, and by boldly presenting unseen things in unprecedented language. The geniuses of power arose [the Storm-and-Stress writers], and were at least fortunate enough to enjoy a measure of ephemeral success.

Theater directors were quick to bait spectators with this enticing lure of novelty, and preferred to debase the theater into a marketplace vending booth that they might fill the loges and parterre rather than run the risk of presenting an offering to the muses worthy of their deity — amid empty seats. . . .

Here performances of actors sufficiently popular enough to fill the loges and parterre as described ([1] Der neuesten Moden Almanach auf das Jahr 1795; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [2] Joseph Richter, Bildergalerie weltlicher Misbräuche: Ein Gegenstück zur Bildergalerie katholischer und klösterlicher Misbräuche [Frankfurt, Leipzig 1785], illustration following p. 248):



Translation © 2011 Doug Stott