Supplementary Appendix 380.2

Anonymous, “Madame Unzelmann in Stuttgart,”
Der Freimüthige oder Berlinische Zeitung für gebildete,
unbefangene Leser
(1803) 105 (Monday, 4 July 1803), 419–2.

You mentioned that you would like to hear something about the sojourn of the excellent Madame Unzelmann in our residence. What you were told about her stay in Frankfurt, namely, that Madame Unzelmann was admired, that people were astonished at the diversity of her many roles, at her simple versatility in each and every role, at the decorum and spirit that never abandons her, at the power she brings to the tragic, and the facile caprice she exhibits in the comic — that, approximately, would be all I could relate to you from here, at least in an abbreviated fashion, nor is any of it new.

Something quite new, if such be otherwise possible, and something rather unbecoming for the public about whom one might be relating it, would be the opposite. A grand and enduring habit of seeing excellence can make more definite and more conscious the impressions a public receives through such excellence.

The receptivity and supple cultivation of our own public here immediately came to expression at Madame Unzelmann’s first appearance, as Countess Orsina, when various subtle, involuntary gasps and reactions could be heard among members of the audience not merely on the occasion of such passages in which the artist expressed the more powerful passions of her role, but also in reaction to the more refined transitions and shadings that exhibit not a trace of discernible intentionality of the sort with which you in Berlin must be quite familiar in Madame Unzelmann’s performances. [1]

Hence there can be no question whether the public here similarly paid homage to her arts and indeed to the feminine arts in Maria Stuart. —

The next day, she appeared again as Natalia in Die Korsen. The infinitely charming, cheerful sentiment that she brought to this role as an upright, funny girl in love, and with utter effortlessness, this sentiment, which alone is capable of defending the genre of comedy against a certain formulaic criticism, expressed itself during the entire performance in the same way as did the impression she made during her initial performance as Orsina, that is, in a way that could not but reward both her performance and the public’s own powers of discernment as equally as did the loud applause she elicited at the end of the performance itself.

In this performance, she vividly revived the memory of several evenings during the previous summer: the general sentiment was envy — a sentiment the evocation of which one is not wont to take the wrong way — of Berlin, which has the pleasure of beholding performers like Iffland and Madame Unzelmann together in this spirit and style. As consolation, several persons imagined that there seemed to be cases in which one might say about the Berlin public:

 O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint etc.
(O, [they] would count themselves lucky,
if they but knew how good they had it)
[Virgil, The Georgics, 458].

After her return from Munich, she will again visit our town, and has already halfway, as it were, promised to perform [Schiller’s] Jungfrau von Orleans: the electoral prince has given instructions for all necessary props for this performance – (the costumes that Iffland ordered last year were all destroyed in the fire that consumed the Small Theater) — to be prepared by the time she returns.

Since, however, she has not yet performed this role, she was unable to say definitely whether she might be able to prepare the role in the interim, when she would have little free time. When one beholds what she is able to accomplish, one can readily comprehend that she would need a far lengthier period to prepare for such a work of art. By contrast, however, what she does accomplish does allow for the possibility, with her practiced memory, ability to perform a quick read, and with the self-confidence that attends a genius, of presenting such a work of art after a few days, especially if her own choice demonstrates an earlier interest in the object.


[1] Friederike Unzelmann performed the role of Countess Orsina in Lessing’s Emilia Galotti, published in Lessing’s Trauerspiele (Berlin 1772) (here the countess in an anonymous illustration with the character of Marinelli, “Und sie laufen nicht mit?,” Marinelli und Gräfin Orsina aus Lessings Emilia Galotti [1785]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur Z WB IX 39; second illustration: Emilia Galotti, Lessing’s Meisterdramen, vol. 2, [Berlin 1869]; third illustration: frontispiece to Emilia Galotti: A Tragedy, trans. Benjamin Thompson [London 1800]):


See Madame de Staël’s assessment of the character of the countess in Germany, 2 vols. (Boston 1859), 1:266:

The part of the Countess Orsina, a young mistress of the prince, whom he abandons for Emilia, is drawn with the greatest genius, — a mixture of frivolity and violence, which we may well expect to find in a young Italian attached to a court. This woman shows us what society has produced, and what that same society has not been able to destroy, — the natural character of the South, combined with all that is most factitious in the manners of the great world, and the singular assemblage of haughtiness in vice and vanity in sentiment.

Concerning the story, see John G. Robertston, A History of German Literature (New York 1902), 279:

This was Emilia Galotti (1772), a modern version of the story of Virginia [Livy’s story of Appius Claudius and Verginia], to which Lessing had been attracted in earlier years. Like Miss Sara Sampson, Emilia Galotti is a “bürgerliches Trauerspiel”; but while the former was still tentative, and essentially English, the new drama is, in the best sense, a national German tragedy, even although the scene is laid at an Italian Court.

The Prince of Guastalla loves the daughter of Odoardo Galotti, but learns that she is on the point of marrying a Count Appiani. The prince’s chamberlain, Marinelli, conceives a plot by means of which the marriage may be frustrated; he causes the carriage containing Count Appiani, Emilia, and her mother to be waylaid near a country residence of the prince. The count is shot and Emilia carried to the castle on the pretence that she is being rescued.


Her father, however, learns the prince’s designs from Orsina [who goads the father and provides a dagger], a forsaken mistress of the latter, and, rather than leave his daughter to the prince’s mercy, stabs her.


The weak point of Emilia Galotti is its denouement; it is questionable, indeed, if any dramatist could justify the murder of Virginia in the eyes of a modern audience, and Lessing was certainly not able to do so. Apart from this, Emilia Galotti is an admirable tragedy; its construction is masterly, and two at least of its characters, Marinelli and Orsina, take rank with the best in German dramatic literature. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott