Supplementary Appendix 329f.1

Goethe and Schiller on the guest performances of
Friederike Unzelmann at the Weimar Theater in September/October 1801 [*]

Goethe is full of praise concerning Friederike Unzelmann’s autumn 1801 performances in his letter to Georg Sartorius on 10 October 1801: [1]

Madam Unzelmann also arrived here at the end of September and gave perhaps seven guest performances. I was extraordinarily entertained and pleased by her consistently characteristic, measured, purposeful, appropriate, and unforced performance style, and were I to focus on the specifics of her talent in this regard, I would extol how, compared to her fellow actors, she presents a consistently pleasing style with the greatest facility, being, moreover, capable, even when she has no lines to speak, of rendering through pantomime an element enhancing the performance of each of the others that thereby also animates the whole.

Similarly Schiller in a letter to Christian Gottfried Körner on 23 September 1801: [2]

On our return here, we found many attractions. Madame Unzelmann had just arrived, and the day after our return, Mary Stuart was given at the theatre. Madame Unzelmann acts this part with great feeling and judgment; her declamation is clear and full, but I should like to see a little more warmth — a little more of the tragedian. She is too much under the dominion of the prejudice of a natural style; her language is almost conversational, and all she said, appeared to me, too real — this is Iffland’s school — and it may be the universal taste at Berlin. In a woman of Madame Unzezlmann’s graceful and noble nature, it can be put up with; but in an ordinary being it must be insupportable, as we witnessed at Leipzig in the representation of the Maid of Orleans. [3]

Goethe then also thanked Friederike Unzelmann on 1 October 1801: [4]

Please accept, most charming Madam, this farewell gift, commensurate though it be not with your merit, or even with our gratitude, but rather only with our limited powers. Please remember us kindly, whereby we in our own turn will certainly keenly miss your own presence both in the theater and in society.

Weimar, 1 October 1801


In his Tag- und Jahres-Hefte, Goethe remarks in connection with the Weimar theater for 1801: [5]

No small influence on our representations of this year was exercised by Madame Unzelmann, who appeared on our boards in principal parts at the end of September. A great deal of inconvenience, nay of positively prejudicial influence, attends the appearance of guests at theatres. We as far as possible declined their services, unless they offered occasion of stimulus and improvement to our stock company, an advantage possible only in the case of excellent artists. Madame Unzelmann gave eight successive important representations, in which the whole company appeared in important parts, and both on their own account and in relation also to the new guest were summoned to the exercise of their utmost powers. This proved an incalculable incitement.

Schiller wrote to August Wilhelm Iffland on 23 September 1801 about the extension of her engagement in Weimar.

Weimar, 23 September [Wednesday] 1801

It is to your generosity, my dear friend, that we owe the grand pleasure of having seen Madame Unzelmann perform the role of Maria Stuart the day before yesterday. I was all the more pleasantly surprised inasmuch as I had just arrived back from my journey the previous evening and almost missed this pleasure. Her performance was excellent, full of character, delicacy, and emotion; in her meaningful, subtle style of declamation we recognized the master from whom she learned.

Madam Unzelmann has received an urgent rappel [French, “recall”] from you, which she is eager to follow, since she loves you and fears displeasing you. All of us here, however, are extremely interested in having her remain for a few more days and perform some other roles as well. She will therefore be requesting a prolongation of her leave, and I would add my own request to hers. You will be providing for considerable joy for us all, and I do believe we have some rights to such a gift insofar as you have not fulfilled our hopes in that regard yet yourself.

Stay well, my dear friend, and retain your fondness for me.



[*] Concerning Friederike Unzelmann’s performance schedule in Weimar, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 10. Back.

[1] Weimarer Ausgabe 4:15:259—60. Back.

[2] Correspondence of Schiller with Körner, trans. Leonard Simpson, 3 vols. (London 1849), 3:247–48; concerning Schiller’s itinerary at the time, see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe of 14 August 1801 (letter 327a), note 10; he had returned to Weimar from Dresden on Sunday, 20 September 1801. Back.

[3] Concerning the naturalistic style of acting to which Schiller here alludes, see Gloria Flaherty, “Empathy and Distance: German Romantic Theories of Acting Reconsidered,” in Romantic Drama, ed. Gerald Gillespie (Philadelphia 1994), 181–208, here 197:

August Wilhelm [Schlegel] considered August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue (1761–1819) one of the worst perpetrators of theatrical naturalism and took him to task in Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen . . . The play, constructed out of the same techniques Tieck employed in his prologue and upside-down world [Die verkehrte Welt], pokes fun at the mimetic doctrine and the resultant confusion it caused about aesthetic reality and about acting.

See also Flaherty’s remarks in Caroline’s letter to Schelling in October 1800 (letter 273), note 4. Back.

[4] (Weimarer Ausgabe 4:15:257) Back.

[5] Weimarer Ausgabe 1:35:118–19; Works, vol. 2, The Autobiography of Goethe: Truth and Poetry: From my own Life, Books xiv–xx; together with his Annals; or, Day and Year Papers, trans. anonymously (London 1882), 259–60. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott