|34| Although we have been quite well informed concerning the premiere of Hamlet on 17 December 1777 in the adaptation by Schröder with [Johann Franz Hieronymus] Brockmann [1745–1812] in the title role,  until recently little or nothing was known about how the premiere of Wilhelm Schlegel’s Hamlet came about.
Johann Valentin Teichmann mentions the performance only in addenda, maintaining that Schlegel received 67 Thaler 19 Groschen for the adaptation.  And although Eduard Devrient does briefly mention the premiere, he adds incorrectly that Schlegel’s Hamlet replaced that of Friedrich Ludwig Schröder.  Rudolf Genée similarly seems uninformed concerning the difficulties that faced the Berlin performance of Schlegel’s Hamlet, making do instead with merely maintaining that this premiere |35| represented a genuinely artistic accomplishment insofar as it not only involved this particular play itself, but also introduced Shakespeare to the German stage for the first time in the original meter. 
Both Max Martersteig  and Monty Jacobs  fail to make any mention of this fact. Not even the studies by Alexander von Weilen  and Adolf Winds,  part of the competition sponsored by the German Shakespeare Society, exhaust this topic, as little as does Hans Daffis,  though they do provide welcome hints and cast considerable new light on the topic.
And yet a wealth of sources in this respect still awaits systematic examination. Hence it is certainly worth surveying once more the entire material relating to this subject, one recently augmented by the epistolary collection Caroline. Briefe aus der Frühromantik published in an enhanced edition by Erich Schmidt after Georg Waitz;  in this context, special attention will be given the relationship between Iffland and his wife with August Wilhelm Schlegel and his wife, Caroline, as well as with his brother Friedrich.
A welcome complement to the information provided by published documents are the letters related below from Iffland and his wife to A. W. Schlegel, letters that, although listed in Anton Klette’s index of letters in A. W. Schlegel’s literary estate,  have — with the exception of the conclusion to a letter from Madam Iffland published by Georg Waitz  — not previously been published. They currently constitute volume 19 of Wilhelm Schlegel’s literary estate in the Royal State Library in Dresden.  They will be reprinted here |36| word for word, without any changes even to the absolutely hair-raising orthography and punctuation. 
The first mention of Schlegel’s translation of Shakespeare in connection with Iffland is found in a letter Friedrich Schlegel wrote to his brother August Wilhelm from Berlin on 2 August 1797,  where we read:
Unger  gave Iffland your Shakespeare  I recently saw him [Iffland] at his [Unger’s] house. He is among the most pleasant company I have encountered, except that he speaks more with himself and utterly lacks the gift of bringing others to express themselves. —
Although he immediately began to talk quite nicely about your Shakespeare, given the company we were in I could neither begin a more detailed conversation about it nor simply blurt it out. — Unger believes that although difficulties may arise, it still might be possible. —
Iffland is now away from 3 weeks at a spa. — I will try to get behind Fleck,  who would secure a grand and advantageous role in any Shakespearean piece, something not at all the case with Iffland himself.
At the time, Wilhelm Schlegel had not yet made Iffland’s personal acquaintance, not having been present at the latter’s first guest performance in Weimar in 1796.  One may safely assume that Friedrich, who continually pressed his brother, Caroline, and the latter’s daughter from her first marriage to visit Berlin during the spring of 1798,  intended to facilitate precisely this acquaintance.
To that end, he turned to Helene Unger, née |37| von Rothenburg, the wife of Wilhelm’s publisher, who was active as a novelist and translator and, as he writes, was intent on being his friend à toute bride,  though he speaks derisively of her as “the old lady,” “the cat,” and “the Ungermonster.” She was viewed as being extraordinarily aristocratically proud. 
His plan was to secure accommodations for his brother, Caroline, and her daughter with the Ungers, who had a grand house, and reported to Wilhelm as early as 18 December 1797 that the Ungers would be quite pleased were they to come the following spring (1798) after the Leipzig book fair.  On 25 March 1798, he writes:  “Like all the other booksellers, Unger will going to Leipzig on 3, 4, and 5 May, and remaining there for two weeks. His wife, however, would welcome all of you (after his departure, of course). She will already be residing out in the Garden [Tiergarten] and will not disturb us any more than necessary.”
It is not quite clear whether Madam Unger’s offer was both serious and sincere, since this same letter of 25 March itself concludes: “Madam Unger intimated today that she would not yet be residing in the Garden if you come before Unger, and I would not at all be pleased with that. — Write me next very explicitly when you will be coming.”  The continuation of this letter reveals the reason behind Friedrich’s change of disposition, where we read: “I am hoping you will also profit from old Madam Unger. For several weeks now, she has been yearning joyously in her heart for your arrival. She writes that she is a hot-headed fool. So gird yourself with sufficient courage, for she seriously assaults people.” 
In any event, nothing came of these plans. Iffland had left for Leipzig with the Ungers and was not expected back until late May or early June.  By April, Friedrich had already given up all hope, writing on 13 April: “It really is a crying shame that they [Caroline and Auguste] are not coming. I do hope you will return by way of Berlin. If possible, I will visit you in Dresden.”
What was not possible to arrange in Berlin, however, very soon came about in Weimar as if by default. Shortly after 20 April 1798, Iffland traveled |38| with his wife and maidservant to Weimar,  where from 24 April till 4 May he gave guest performances on seven evenings. Schlegel and Caroline journeyed over from Jena to attend these guest performances, beholding his accomplishments full of admiration and also attending several breakfasts given by Goethe in the artist’s honor.  Caroline used the opportunity to interest Iffland’s in Gotter  and his wife, Luise, Caroline’s intimate friend. 
At the time, she yet considered Iffland to be trustworthy, something which, as we will see, was later not the case; for in that letter of 2 May 1798, she remarks: “Once Iffland puts his mind to something, you can count on his most enthusiastic participation, though he may, to be sure, be overburdened with business matters.” 
A few days later, on 9 May, Caroline and her daughter departed for Dresden,  while Wilhelm departed for Berlin soon thereafter.  His five-week visit in Berlin brought about an agreement with Iffland to stage Hamlet in Berlin that autumn in Schlegel’s translation in its original form, virtually without changes.  Wilhelm’s letter from Berlin to Goethe on 10 June 1798 informs us of such,  where we read:
I have already seen Iffland several times both in and away from the theater, though in neither case as frequently as I might have wished. . . . I read Hamlet aloud to him;  he listened with rapt attention and considerable sensibility for the overall piece, for its internal and more profound structure amid seeming incoherencies, and for the essential propriety of all the surroundings. It |39| made such an impression on him that he expressed in the most animated fashion his interest in staging the piece completely in its original form, without any changes: a risky venture in whose successful implementation I take the keenest interest.
He wrote to Goethe from Dresden on 18 July 1798 concerning his Berlin trip:
Nor would I have counted those [five]weeks [in Berlin] as completely lost even had they accomplished nothing more than the performance of Hamlet, for which I arranged everything with Iffland during my final days there. He will be remaining completely faithful to original form except for several expressions for which we had to supply different readings for the sake of tolerable propriety, and several instances of taking license with respect to theater changes, the latter certainly sooner allowable because certain stage directions do not come from Shakespeare in any case and because of the lack or dearth of the necessary equipment. 
Wilhelm also seems to have related his expectations concerning Hamlet to his wife, who writes from Dresden to Luise Gotter in late June or early July 1798: “Schlegel and Iffland have grand plans together; Hamlet is to be given in its entirety in Schlegel’s translation — if this comes about around Michaelmas, then we will surely be returning by way of Berlin.” 
For the time being, however, the hopes of all involved would come to nothing, since the premiere of Hamlet anticipated for the autumn had to be postponed for an entire year. The following, previously unpublished letter from Iffland to A. W. Schlegel on 3 September 1798 informs us concerning the reasons: 
It is with a sort of distressed misery that I put quill to paper, for I have no prospect that Hamlet might be performed before the spring in a fashion worthy of both you and us. Continuing illnesses [among the actors] perpetually cause one person to get thrown into harness for another. I myself, moreover, must fête sundry people, and in this management press, amid the daily grind |40| of earning a living — what can become of Hamlet? Out of necessity, Mattausch,  for a few days, as a convalescent, will perform a modest, old role as a stopgap, but there can be absolutely no thought of learning a new one.
Please do consider all these factors together and not despair in me, who only yesterday at noon, finally totally convinced of the impossibility, was able to resolve to write this. Does this mean that I will have to do without you both until the spring? 
But do believe me when I say that you will then — to the extent possible — have a genuinely unadulterated bit of enjoyment, and that the — moreover, not even certain — patchwork that would instead have come about could not but have raised your indignation.
Now, however, I am wholly and completely concerned to learn when and for how long you can come during the spring. Please do give me the pleasure of learning this very soon indeed.
It quite pains me to part from this letter, which will be turning your travel carriage to the side instead of to us. We love you as ardently as one must. My wife intends to tell you that herself. 
Alas! Amid all this tumultuous concern for making a living — my head is completely distracted by the office, and art inundated with facit — summa and salvo. That is certainly to be reckoned as grief in every possible sense, and I confess I am quite distressed and anxious amid it all! Do sympathize with me. My better feelings, oppressed by circumstances, do sometime deserve such!
With the utmost sincerity, your
Berlin, 3 September 1798
The letter Iffland’s wife writes to Wilhelm in Dresden (to which Iffland refers at the end of his own letter) has also been preserved and is included here with all the mistakes of orthography and |41| punctuation etc. [ed. note: albeit less in translation]. It is extremely poorly written and as a result difficult to read. One wonders, moreover, at how little facility of expression it attests, something possibly deriving from Madam Iffland’s earlier position as a chamber servant to the Duchess of Zweibrücken Marie Wilhelmine Auguste and from her south-German origins. At the time, Caroline otherwise still considered her a good woman, something Wilhelm Schlegel had confirmed after five weeks of social contact with her.  Her letter to Schlegel reads as follows:
Berlin, 8 September 1798
I had to wait quite long before your letter finally arrived; you led me to hope I might hear something from you quite soon, and as you well know — we are inclined to believe what we wish — so to punish you I am responding almost immediately!
I am unable to function as an unbiased or impartial judge concerning your comportment in Berlin, since — as I have, you recall, already sincerely confessed to you — I am very, very sensitive concerning one particular point with regard to which Madame Schlegel, I am inclined to believe, would be considerably more reasonable.
I am so pleased to hear that you remember your stay here fondly; indeed, it almost allows me to hope that you might perhaps return [to Jena] by way of Berlin even without being able to attend the performance of Hamlet. It would sorely grieve me to have to abandon my wonderful anticipation of having you and your good wife with us now in addition to the appearance of Hamlet, to which I and everyone here were so ardently looking forward.
My husband has probably already related to you the reasons making it impossible to arrange this performance in so short a period; illness and absence, though likely the latter less than the former, are simply thwarting everything. Since if not the entire theater personal, then certainly the more useful part is necessary for such an undertaking, from both the opera and the dramatic theater proper, my husband would very much like to apply the highest degree of care to this excellent new creation.
Were he excessively rushed, he would invariably fall short of the goal, and even should the sick recover, the lame nonetheless still need their long unused limbs, later, when their [your?] time allows, but earlier than in the spring, Hamlet can be performed; my husband would like to hear your real wishes in this regard, i.e., whether you prefer that the premiere be postponed until you yourself are present, or find it more pleasing to have it performed as early as possible.
I would be quite satisfied with the quarrel between nature and the portrayal of nature if such were possible; but seriously, the charming area in which you already have now long indulged almost make me envious. For years I have been able to think of no other place that attracts me more, given all the descriptions, than does Dresden; perhaps one day I will yet visit it. If fate would be so kind yet as to fulfill just one wish for my pleasure, that would be it.
|42| What I now add for you, my dear Madam Schlegel,  your good husband is certainly permitted to know himself. He is fearful concerning this coming winter, and concerning the professor [his anticipated professorship in Jena?], I would be more fearful for you with respect to this change if the men even without office and position had not already made such concern into a habit for us, it was nonetheless not all that bad with the new Nina,  at the very least the frequent pangs of conscience were a good sign — by now your charming amiability will have long extinguished the attraction of other charms.
But do come despite the risk and complete your triumph. — I hope you are pleased to hear assurances of the most cordial respect from your
These remarks notwithstanding, the intention remained firm to perform Hamlet as soon as possible, something we know from various letters that repeatedly speak about precisely this plan. Friedrich makes the first reference in this regard in an otherwise undated letter to his niece in October 1798: “I have recently encountered Iffland at theater time. He has been extremely cordial, talking constantly about Wilhelm, about Caroline and Hamlet, and taking me with him into the theater.” 
In October 1798 we find Wilhelm and Caroline back in Jena, whither they had returned by way of Weimar in September without passing through Berlin, though still occupied with the anticipated performance. We read in a letter from Caroline to Luise Gotter on 24 October 1798: “He [Iffland] is a bit troubled just now. Hamlet could not yet be performed, but will perhaps this coming spring. In the meantime, he delivered 3 plays himself, though these need no new stage props or sets.” 
It was especially Wilhelm himself who held fast to the notion of traveling to Berlin, something we deduce from Friedrich’s remark in a letter to him on 2 November 1798, where we read: “What a wonderful and splendid thing that you are once again entertaining the idea of coming to Berlin. |43| I do not know anything specific about Hamlet.”  It thus seems that Iffland was intentionally keeping silent because he saw the impossibility of staging the performance soon, something to which one of Caroline’s remarks in a letter to Luise Gotter in late 1798 or early 1799 suggests: “I still have nothing from the Ifflands. Neither is particularly fond of writing, and he is quite busy at the moment.” 
Over the course of that winter, however, both Wilhelm and Caroline picked up their plan anew. As early as 4 February 1799, Caroline relates quite specifically to Hardenberg: “The week before Easter we will be going to Berlin.”  And on 19 February 1799 Friedrich, delighted at the prospect, joyously responds to Caroline: “It is splendid, divine, and more than divine that you are so resolved to come to Berlin. If you do not do so after all, then I will pawn house and home and come to you there. — In this regard it is also good that you wrote the old lady Beast so charming and proper a letter.” 
Soon thereafter, Friedrich came upon the idea that Wilhelm and Caroline might be able to secure lodging with Dorothea Veit  should Madam Unger make trouble. This idea increasingly took hold of him, not least because Iffland had once again begun speaking quite resolutely about Hamlet,  so much so that Friedrich could write in March 1798: 
One more important point now. I visited the grayish cat several times but was unable to find out what she had written you with respect to your coming, and I certainly did not want to do her the favor of asking directly. If they do not issue you a proper invitation, then assume you will be staying with Madam Veit, who will be moving into a proper and spacious logis this month. She would be enormously pleased if that were to happen, as would I. All of you would be able to enjoy the company of Schleiermacher, Tieck, and several others, and could do so much better there than in the foule [Fr., “crowd, mob”] at the Ungers.
It should be equally easy to arrange things with Iffland, and if he were not to miss the Ungerian meat pot at the more frugal dinner table, then you will receive yet another demonstration of his authenticity; or would you prefer not to have it |44| depend on something of that sort? —
Although you, too, would be doing without certain elements of luxury, you would also be doing without a certain measure of ennui. Please do consider that it would be especially difficult for you in particular to live with as grayish a cat as the old lady is. Moreover, the Ifflands are on anything but good terms with Unger, i.e., with the cat, just now.
Despite this disinclination toward the Ungers, the following letter speaks about them yet again:
You will thus probably stay at the Charité d’amour, namely, with old lady Anger [Unger]. Fortunately, she is sufficiently self-sufficient to love herself and make herself unhappy. She has promised to reside in the School Garden then, and he is a German gentleman through and through. The room is very nice, and I wish you would come, but with Auguste, otherwise I will be forced to hate you. 
Friedrich begins his next letter to Caroline with the words:
Yesterday I did something stupid by presenting to the two of you Unger’s offer without mentioning all the favorable secondary circumstances, namely, that the Ungers were already planning to reside in the Garden at that time in any event,  and that she explicitly emphasized several times that they had absolutely no intention of disturbing you in any way. The latter is indeed quite necessary, since she is currently quarreling and squabbling with absolutely everyone. 
Negotiations between Friedrich and his brother and sister-in-law, in which Dorothea Veit also intervened with her own requests and suggestions, continue through many of the following letters;  a comprehensive examination of all the details in this regard, however, would go beyond the scope of the present study. The material point is that Iffland was once again more seriously occupied with Hamlet, concerning which Friedrich relates the following to Caroline in March 1799: 
Ever since the gospel of your arrival has been proclaimed, Iffland has been applying himself quite properly to the fine arts. He is scanning in the Piccolomini [part 2 of Schiller’s Wallenstein trilogy], sends his regards to me from the most distant ends of the earth, is once again performing Hamlet ideally (i.e., in thought) — in a word, is becoming quite elegant.
Although these letters, obviously written very hastily one after the other, were not more specifically dated by Waitz (1871) and Schmidt (1913), they do fall in the period prior to 19 March 1799, something clear from the following, previously unpublished letter from |45| Iffland’s own hand to Wilhelm Schlegel on 19 March 1799, in which he announces the postponement of the performance of Hamlet to Michaelmas:
Berlin, 19 March 1799
Although the notion is rather improbable that so raw and rough an animal as I might be firmly resolved in both feeling and opinion, it is nonetheless true. My original opinion and love for both you and Hamlet remains unaltered. You have profited insofar as the public’s clamoring prompted the Piccolomini to be moved forward,  and that I then staged Gotter’s Merope next.  Without these predecessors, neither the actors nor the public could quite get their proper footing.
Now it seems Madam Unzelmann  will be away on a journey till the end of April, and even were she not, we must not delay with the conclusion to Wallenstein.  I myself am building a country house  and will be departing on 15 May for 6 weeks to conquer the necessary funds. You have my word of honor that Hamlet will be performed at Michaelmas. Unless you yourself prefer the beginning of August. My feeling is that the previously mentioned circumstances prevent that now, hence at Michaelmas, since this time is a holiday period there as well and we may then anticipate the pleasure of your presence. The public, moreover, is more receptive in the autumn.
— You can absolutely count on the certainty of the performance!
Shylock and Richard are indefeasibly in the hands of Herr Fleck.  I am also yearning in anticipation for a dramatic piece from your own hand — and would be delighted to do everything possible for both your honor and profit. — Please ask your dear wife to tell Madame Gotter that at Michaelmas she will receive twenty Pistoles [Louis d’or] from me for the Dorfjunker and the altered Mariane,  and the one copy of the Dorfjunker.  She should not trouble herself because of the printing. With our warm regards to both of you, your
|46| This news that Iffland was planning to depart on tour prompted the Schlegels to abandon their Berlin trip altogether. They must have related this decision rather quickly to Friedrich, who presumably prior to 26 March laconically cries out: “You are not coming!”  Dorothea, however, in a letter to Caroline on 26 March, is still speaking about accommodations with the Ungers and about coming out to meet them as far as Potsdam.  Caroline relates the definitive decision to cancel the trip in a letter to Luise Gottter on 1 April 1799:
Unfortunately, for the time being we are not going to Berlin. Only imagine, Iffland writes that on 15 March he will be leaving Berlin for 6 weeks, and without Iffland, there is no salvation in Berlin. . . . Iffland has also charged us with relating to you that around Michaelmas he will be sending you 20 louis d’or and returning one of the copies of Der schöne Geist.  Just why he is not sending it to you earlier I know not, at least the copy itself. But it will not help much to ask him about it. He is extremely slow at answering — he cannot, and laments quite pathetically about the tension and pressures of his business. 20 louis d’or is not very much; that said, I do understand that because the one play is not entirely new, and the other not entirely original, he cannot really do better than that with the theater funds, moreover, it is also not by Kotzebue.
Although once more nothing came of the Berlin trip during the spring, the correspondence between the Schlegels and Ifflands continued. We know from a letter Madam Iffland wrote to Caroline probably toward the end of April 1799, though it seems to have been lost, that the Piccolomini were received quite frostily in Berlin even though Iffland himself had performed the role of Octavio “magnificently.”  Friedrich, however, could have no rest, and in a letter from the summer of 1799 demanded to learn definitively whether it was still set that Caroline would be coming earlier with Auguste. “It is wonderful thus, and will be wonderful as well.”  In the meantime, a plan initiated by Fichte surfaced according to which Wilhelm and Caroline would move to Berlin, where they would constitute a grand family, including with Schelling.  But since both Madam Fichte and Wilhelm Schlegel were opposed, nothing came of the idea.
|47| Instead of going to Berlin themselves, Wilhelm and Caroline instead received Friedrich, Dorothea, Tieck, and other Berlin friends at their home in Jena. Because of the constant comings and goings and the attendant confusion, Caroline found not a moment’s rest, so consuming were the household chores alone, and was much too fatigued to consider traveling to Berlin. Hence she succinctly reports to her friend Luise Gotter on 5 October 1798: “On 10 October Schlegel’s Hamlet will be performed in Berlin. Although we were supposed to be going, it simply became too much for me for every conceivable reason.” 
Thus did it happen that not a single person from among those most intimately connected with the project were present in Berlin for the premiere of Hamlet on 15 October 1799, which also explains why one finds not a single word concerning the performance in the correspondence between Friedrich and Wilhelm. Only Justizrath Hufeland from Jena and his wife attended the performance, something Caroline relates to her daughter, Auguste, on 14 October 1799 with the words: “They [the Hufelands]  must be in Berlin now and are attending the performance of Hamlet, for which I have simply lost all desire.” 
As far as we know, the performance of Hamlet was received rather indifferently. Because the two Berlin newspapers — published by Voss and Spener — were not publishing theater review at the time in any case, their silence is understandable.  Yet even the Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit, edited by Rambach and [from 1799] Ignaz Aurelius Fessler, which did indeed publish detailed theater reviews, passes over this performance. By contrast, a detailed critique of Schlegel’s translation and the performance itself, signed by “M.,” appeared as “Über die Aufführung des Hamlet. Nach A. W. Schlegels Übersetzung,” Jahrbücher für die preussische Monarchie unter der Regierung Wilhelms des Dritten 3 (1799) 337–47, to which Georg Vincke already drew |48| attention in 1886  and from which both Weilen  and Winds  drew the necessary information. Weilen found a second review in the Berliner Zeitschrift für Freunde der schönen Künste, des Geschmacks und der Moden (ed. Rhode) 2 (1799) 147ff.,  specifically citing the comments relating to the actors’ accomplishments, among whom Iffland is particularly praised for his performance of Polonius, Friederike Unzelmann for hers as Ophelia.
In the meantime, the prompter’s book — earlier believed lost  — turned up in the library of the Berlin Royal General Theater Director, though it has not yet been published, as would have been extremely worthwhile.  “There is not a trace . . . of any props and such as understood today. It demonstrates quite clearly that it was to be simply a performance with no cuts.”
It is thus all the more important that a previously unknown letter from Iffland’s own hand to Schlegel attests that he himself was satisfied with the performance and its success.
B[erlin], 5 November 1799
I flatter myself that Herr Justizrath Hufeland has already told you that Hamlet was performed with the utmost care, having a grand effect of the sort it could not but have. I was too anxious in my more awkward constitution  to perform the role of Hamlet himself, not least because the fencing scene could not be eliminated, I myself am a very poor fencer, and our parterre happens to understand parries and thrusts like no one else.
I would, moreover, likely have been inclined to try to revivify what I already feel for the role of Hamlet.  No prince has ever signed over territory with as much difficulty and chagrin as I wrote the name of Herr Beschort next to the role of Hamlet.  Whence also — the |49| long delay.  It seems I did manage to make a modest impression as Polonius, one I will endeavor to maintain. —
Please allow the theater to offer to you what I tried to get you to accept through Herr Unger at the time Hamlet appeared. I am very sorry that the High Treasury Administration expresses my own esteem for the piece so weakly, and, moreover, burdens you to produce a receipt.  Alas, such is the way things are done in this paper world of ours. My wife’s and my own warmest regards to you and your dear wife.
This is the last letter Iffland wrote to Schlegel concerning Hamlet. One cannot but notice that in these letters, he addresses only the external hindrances facing the performances, never once asking Schlegel’s advice concerning the piece’s props or sets.  This omission is all the more noticeable in view of the regular written correspondence Iffland carried on with Schlegel concerning the latter’s wishes and views during preparations for the performance of Julius Caesar in Schlegel’s translation in 1803. 
We do not know what Schlegel himself — who in his Berlin lectures beginning in 1801 engaged in personal propaganda for his demand that the Shakespearean |50| pieces be performed without deletions and without dramaturgical adaptation  — we do not know what he himself thought about the Berlin performance. In any event, Iffland’s performances as Polonius do not seem to have impressed him, for he writes to Goethe from Berlin on 28 April 1801: “Indeed, I have not seen him in any versified tragedy except as Polonius, which I cannot count.” 
As is well known, Schlegel’s Hamlet could not maintain itself. As early as 1807, it again had to yield to Schröder’s adaptation, and it was to be several years — in fact, until 1816 — before Schlegel’s translation, in the adaptation of Dr. F. Horn, again appeared on the Berlin stage,  when finally, as Adolf Winds says, “the change in the Zeitgeist assisted Schlegel’s Hamlet to victory, for it was primarily aesthetic rather than ethical considerations that had become determinative for the warmth of reception.” 
The relationship between the Schlegels and Iffland and his wife became increasingly tense over time. Although various reasons may be adduced in this regard, perhaps Iffland’s increasing intimacy with the hated August von Kotzebue was the most decisive. The first signs of discord or rupture appear in a letter Friedrich Schlegel wrote to Caroline in July 1799, in which we read: “It is good and praiseworthy of Tieck [who could never stand Iffland] to try and open your eyes, as it were, concerning a certain Iffland.” 
We can see from this comment that it was especially Friedrich who repeatedly tried to win over his brother and sister-in-law against Iffland. He viewed Iffland as a “weak individual,”  thought it quite ill that they insisted on “making something of Iffland”  and, as Marianne von Eybenberg related to Goethe on 19 January 1799, had composed an extremely malicious xenium about Iffland. 
But since Iffland was indispensable to Wilhelm Schlegel because the latter needed him for |51| the Berlin performance of Ion, Caroline advised him on 20 (21) December 1801: 
My dear friend, if you continue to be serious about the theater, something I am now hoping and wishing more than ever, you must perhaps develop a personal rapport with Iffland again after all, for though he will doubtless continue to engage in his villainous machinations, something he cannot help doing in any case, he will have to accept all your plays.
Schlegel followed his spouse’s advice and reestablished not only written,  but also personal contact with Iffland,  who despite his initial, not inconsiderable reservations about Ion eventually agreed perform it. 
Again, however, things proceeded too slowly for Caroline, who saw ill will at work in every delay and thought Iffland to be a hypocrite.  She attended the Berlin performance of Ion on 15 May 1802 with both Schlegel and Schelling,  though we know only that her expectations were far more modest than for the previous performance in Weimar [on 2 January 1802]; we do not know how satisfied she was with the former. Although she visited Madam Iffland during her stay in Berlin, she did not speak with Iffland himself. She writes from Jena to Julie Gotter in this regard on 15 June 1802: 
I would like to . . . report further that I visited Madam Iffland and she me, but that I otherwise saw nothing more of them, and Iffland not at all except on stage. The entire society whose company I kept is, after all, to be reckoned among his archenemies, and although Schlegel is on courteous terms with him, Iffland would probably be quite eager to do him considerable harm if he did not fear him. . . . Madam Iffland is uglier than ever but as sensible as usual. They have a beautiful house with the customary sandy Berlin surroundings. 
It is difficult to decide which of the two parties contributed more to this discord. Caroline  doubtless allowed herself |52| to be too easily swayed by Iffland’s “archenemies,” though Iffland’s character was likely also not entirely above reproach. In any event, when drawing on those of Caroline’s remarks that must stand in the stead of those of her husband, one is well advised to remember the judgment made on her letters by the sober but always clear thinker Karl Goedeke: “Too much has been made of Caroline’s letters, which were calculated for their addressees; they are theatrical performances that do not really correspond to life backstage.” 
[*] Original: Ella Horn, “Geschichte der ersten Aufführung von Schlegels Hamlet-Übersetzung auf dem Kgl. Nationaltheater zu Berlin. Mit unveröffentlichten Briefen Ifflands und seiner Frau an A. W. Schlegel,” Jahrbuch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 51 (1915) 34–52. — Footnote numbering according to the original pagination is indicated [in brackets]; letter references are altered where possible to reflect letter numbers in the present edition or more recent editions.
Horn’s article provides a useful framework for the numerous allusions to and lengthier discussions of the circumstances surrounding the premiere of Hamlet in the translation published by Wilhelm Schlegel in volume 3 (1798) of his edition of Shakespeare. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 34] [Ella Horn notes in her initial footnote:] I am indebted to the late Professor Arthur Hermann Lier of Dresden for supporting literary documentation. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 34] See Rudolf Genée, Geschichte der Shakespeare’schen Dramen in Deutschland (Leipzig 1870) 247ff., and idem in Nord und Süd (Berlin 1877) 398ff. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 34] Johann Valentin Teichmanns Literarischer Nachlass, ed. Franz Dingelstedt (Stuttgart 1863) 352, 460. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 34] Geschichte der deutschen Schauspielkunst, rev. ed. (Berlin 1905) 2:101. Back.
 [note 5 on p. 34] Hundert Jahre des Kgl. Schauspielhauses (Berlin 1868) 68, 69; Ifflands Theaterleitung 1769–1814 (Berlin 1896) 30. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 35] Das deutsche Theater im 19. Jahrhundert (Leipzig 1904). Back.
 [note 2 on p. 35] Deutsche Schauspielkunst. Zeugnisse zur Bühnengeschichte klassischer Rollen (Leipzig 1913). Back.
 [note 3 on p. 35] Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, Schriften der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 3 (Berlin 1908) 81f. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 35] Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, Schriften der Gesellschaft für Theatergeschichte 12 (Berlin 1909) 46 (see also the index s.v. Beschort and Iffland). Back.
 [note 5 on p. 35] Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, Literarische Forschungen, ed. Joseph Schick and M. Freiherr von Waldberg (Berlin 1912) 55f. Back.
 [note 7 on p. 35] Verzeichniss der von A.W. Schlegel nachgelassenen Briefsammlung, nebst Mittheilung ausgewählter Proben des Briefwechsels mit den Gebrüdern von Humboldt, F. Schleiermacher, B.G. Niebuhr, und J. Grimm (Bonn 1868). Back.
 [note 9 on p. 35] Manuscript Dresden e90. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 36] Unfortunately the search for Wilhelm Schlegel’s responses was unsuccessful. If they are extant, they are likely in the archives of the general directorship of the Royal Theater in Berlin, since Schlegel’s later letters to Iffland concerning the performance of Julius Caesar (published in the Jahrbuch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 7  48ff.) are preserved there. The theater administration, however, denied my request for permission to access those archives. Back.
 [note 3 on p.; 36] Publisher of Wilhelm’s translation. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 36] The reference can only be to volume 1, which appeared in 1797; Friedrich presumably wanted to prompt Iffland to stage Julius Caesar. See Weilen, Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, 87. Back.
 [note 5 on p. 36] Johann Friedrich Fleck, the well-known Berlin actor (1757–1801). Back.
 [note 6 on p. 36] See Caroline’s undated letter to Luise Gotter in October/November 1796 (letter 173). Back.
 [note 7 on p. 36] Cf., e.g., Friedrich to Caroline on 12 December 1797 (letter 192c), and Friedrich to Auguste between November 1797 and February/March 1798 (letters 191b, 194a, 195c, 198a). [Ed. note: Friedrich similarly pressed them in the spring of 1797; see below concerning the redating of several of the letters Horn adduces in this context.] Back.
 [note 2 on p. 38] [Ed. note: Concerning Iffland’s performances in Weimar, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in April 1798 (letter 199), with note 5. Incorrectly noted in Horn’s footnote as (1913) 1:721n199 (should read: 1:723n199).] Back.
 [note 3 on p. 38] Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, head of the Gotha court theater (1746–97), who had extended his hospitality to Caroline after her release from prison on charges of sedition (see Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter 153f.). Back.
 [note 4 on p. 38] See Caroline to Luise Gotter on 2 May 1798 (letter 200). Back.
 [note 5 on p. 38] Ibid. Back.
 [note 6 on p. 38] Wilhelm Schlegel to Auguste on 3 June 1798 (letter 201); also Wilhelm Schlegel to Goethe on 9 May 1798 (letter 200c). Back.
 [note 7 on p. 38] Friedrich to Auguste on 28 May 1798 (letter 200f). Back.
 [note 8 on p. 38] See Rudolf Genée, Hundert Jahre des Kgl. Schauspielhauses (Berlin 1868) 69. Back.
 [note 9 on p. 38] Letter 201a. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 39] Letter 202b Back.
 [note 2 on p. 39] Letter 202b. This passage is also adduced by Marie Joachimi-Dege, Deutsche Shakespeare-Probleme im 18. Jahrhundert und im Zeitalter der Romantik, Untersuchungen zur neueren Sprach- und Literaturgeschichte 12, ed. Oskar Walzel (Leipaig 1907) 233. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 39] Letter 202. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 39] There is no salutation in either this or the following letters. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 40] Franz Mattausch (1767–1833), from 1789 engaged as an actor in Berlin. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 40] I.e., Wilhelm and Caroline. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 40] An adaptation of The Jew. A Comedy (London 1794) by Richard Cumberland premiered in Berlin on 22 August 1798. See C. Schäffer and C. Hartmann, Das Kgl. Theater in Berlin (Berlin 1886) 47. Concerning the polemical pamphlets generated by this performance, see Ludwig Geiger, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin, vol. 2 (Berlin 1871) 152ff. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 40] I.e., those who wish to crucify Iffland, viz. make his life difficult. Back.
 [note 5 on p. 40] One will find quite detailed information concerning Iffland’s wife, Luise, née Greuhn, in Iffland’s letters to his sister, published by Ludwig Geiger in the Schriften der Gesellschaft für Theatergeschichte, vol. 6 (Berlifn 1905) 228–34. Luise Iffland’s letters there, which Geiger reproaches for the most varied sins against grammar and orthography, seem to have been silently corrected. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 41] See Caroline to Luise Gotter in late June/early July 1798 (letter 202). Back.
 [note 2 on p. 42] The reference is to Friederike Unzelmann — with whom Schlegel was infatuated — in the title role in the play Nina (see Schmidt , 1:724 [notes to letter 202, now supplementary appendix Friederike Unzelmann]). Back.
 [note 3 on p. 42] Letter 203e. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 42] Letter 206. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 43] Letter 214. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 43] Letter 219. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 43] Letter 221. Friedrich was still anticipating lodgings for Wilhelm and Caroline with Friederike Unger. Back.
 [note 6 on p. 43] Friedrich to Caroline in February 1799 (letter 224). Back.
 [note 7 on p. 43] Letter 225. [Ed. note: in reference to Madam Unger as a “greyish cat,” Friedrich plays on the German word “grayish” (gräulich) in assonance with the word for “horrible, dreadful, frightful” (greulich)]. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 44] Letter 195a [which is, however, to be dated a year earlier than does Horn here, namely, to mid-February 1798; concerning the dating, see the editorial note to letter 195a]. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 44] Letter 224c, 224e.[Ed. note: note that some letters in this sequence have since been redated.] Back.
 [note 5 on p. 44] Letter 224b. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 45] Schiller’s Die Piccolomini, in fünf Aufzügen was performed on 18 February 1799 (see Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline on 19 February 1799 [letter 221]). Back.
 [note 2 on p. 45] Merope. Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen, a tragedy adapted from Voltaire, was performed on 10 March 1799 (see C. Schäffer and C. Hartmann, Die Kgl. Theater in Berlin [Berlin 1886] 60). Back.
 [note 3 on p. 45] [This note merely cross-references the previous information on Friederike Unzelmann.] Back.
 [note 4 on p. 45] Premiere of Schiller’s Wallenstein’s Tod: ein Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen on 17 May 1799 (see C. Schäffer and C. Hartmann, Die Kgl. Theater in Berlin, 67). Back.
 [note 5 on p. 45] Iffland’s garden house near Berlin (today Höhe Tiergartenstrasse 29) is depicted by Johann Baptist Hössel ca. 1800 in Becker’s Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen (Leipzig 1822), 18, and in Otto Güntter, Friedrich Schiller: Sein Leben und seine Dichtungen (Leipzig 1925), 108:
He went on tour to earn the money to finance construction (which according to the actor Friedrich Ludwig Schröder, who dined there on 19 July 1800, cost him 8300 Thaler; Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer, Friedrich Ludwig Schröder. Beitrag zur Kunde des Menschen und des Künstlers, 2 parts in 3 vols. [part 2 in 2 vols.] [Hamburg 1819; rev. ed. Hamburg 1823] 2:200). — The “holiday period” he goes on to speak about is the semester break preceding the winter semester at the university in Jena. Back.
 [note 6 on p. 45] See also note 19 above [note 5 on p. 36]. Back.
 [note 7 on p. 45] Gotter’s Mariane, adapted from La Harpe, one of the most popular tragedies of the time, had been performed in Berlin countless times since 22 July 1776. The reworking of the piece, i.e., the “altered” Mariane, which had been found in his literary estate, appeared in 1802 as the first installment of his Literarischer Nachlass (see Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter 213, 214). [Concerning the disposition and fate of these posthumous pieces, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in March 1797 (letter 181) with note 2 and esp. also supplementary appendix 181.1 and supplementary appendix 107a.1]. Back.
 [note 8 on p. 45] Der poetische Dorfjunker, after Destouches in the adaptation of Gottsched’s wife, Luise Gottsched, reworked by Gotter with the new title Der schöne Geist; it appeared in 1802 in the third volume of his Literarischer Nachlass (see Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter 276f.). Back.
 [note 1 on p. 46] Letter 230. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 46] Letter 225a. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 46] Caroline to Luise Gotter on 24 April 1799 (letter 235). Back.
 [note 5 on p. 46] Letter 241a. Back.
 [note 6 on p. 46] See Fichte to Madam Fichte from Berlin on 2 August 1799 (notes to letter 241), Friedrich to Caroline in July 1799 (letter 242) and Dorothea to Caroline on 3 August 1799 (letter 243). Back.
 [note 1 on p. 47] Letter 246. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 47] The reference can only be to Jena professor of law Gottlieb Hufeland (1760–1817). See ADB 12:296ff. The physician Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland did not receive an appointment in Berlin until 1800. See ADB 13:286. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 47] [Ed. note: When the earlier head of the Vossische Zeitung, Johann Andreas Rüdigger, died in 1751 without a male heir, his son-in-law, Christian Friedrich Voss took over the paper, which appeared three times a week in 150–200 copies and was available only in bookstores. Berlin residents quickly referred to the paper only as “die Vossische,” or even “Aunt Voss,” though its real title since 1785 was Königlich Privilegirte Berlinische Zeitung von Staats- und gelehrten Sachen. — The Spenersche Zeitung began as the Berlinische Nachrichten von Staats- und gelehrten Sachen and was the largest and most important Berlin newspaper next to the Vossische Zeitung. It was founded in 1740 by the publisher Ambrosius Haude, after whose death in 1748 the newspaper passed to Johann Karl Spener, then to Johann Karl Philipp Spener.]
The Vossische Zeitung did not begin publishing theater reviews until 1803, the Spenersche Zeitung not until 1802. See Rudolf Genée, Hundert Jahre des Kgl. Schauspielhauses, 72, 85. These dates refute the assertion by Gisbert Vincke, “Zur Geschichte der deutschen Shakespeare-Bearbeitung,” the Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 17 (1882) 82–99, here 86, that the newspapers were intentionally silent about the premiere of Hamlet. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 48] “Die Berliner Hamlet-Aufführung unter Iffland, zum ersten Mal nach Schlegel’s Uebersetzung,” Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 21 (1886) 312–13. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 48] Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, 89ff. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 48] Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, 47. Back.
 [note 5 on p. 48] Gisbert Vincke, “Zur Geschichte der deutschen Shakespeare-Bearbeitung,” the Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 17 (1882) 86. Back.
 [note 6 on. p. 48] See Hans Daffis, Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, 60. Back.
 [note 7 on p. 48] According to Eduard Devrient, Geschichte der deutschen Schauspielkunst (Berlin 1905), 2:103, Iffland’s shortcomings “derived to a large part from his by nature rather ungifted physical attributes . . . His stocky body was deformed particularly by an extremely large and protruding stomach, compared to which his thighs seemed weak, and yet his calves — above extremely small feet — seemed especially strong.”
[Here Friederike Unzelmann and August Wilhelm Iffland in an illustration by Franz Catel to Iffland’s play Die Hausfreundin (Almanach für Theater und Theaterfreunde auf das Jahr 1807 [Berlin 1807], plate 5):]
 [note 9 on p. 48] Friedrich Jonas Beschort (1767–1846); singer and actor, debuted in Berlin in 1796 after working with the Daber theater company in Worms and with Schröder in Hamburg. See Johann Valentin Teichmanns literarischer Nachlass, ed. Franz Dingelstedt (Stuttgart 1863) 59, 445. Here Beschort in performance 1799 as Hamlet, act v, scene ii: “O! yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt”:
And in a portrait from the same year as Hamlet (Carl Wilhelm Seeliger, Beschort als Hamlet; British Museum; Museum number 1898,0520.32):
 [note 1 on p. 49] Iffland seems genuinely to have toyed with the idea of playing Hamlet himself, for Friedrich Schlegel writes to Auguste, Caroline’s daughter, in November 1798 (letter 207c): “Only imagine: I recently spoke with Madam Fleck, who did not know at all that, as word has it, Iffland is intending to play the role of Hamlet in Hamlet, and she asked me quite naively who would be performing that role. And I preferred to let her remain in ignorance.” Concerning Luise Fleck, see Johann Valentin Teichmanns Literarischer Nachlass, 60, 443. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 49] According to Teichmann, Johann Valentin Teichmanns Literarischer Nachlass, 460, Schlegel received 67 Thaler 19 Groschen for the adaptation of Hamlet. Back.
Be so kind as to write each time on a piece of paper
ZE [z. E. = zum Eintritt (for admittance?)]
Schlegel, 28 February 1801
and submit it at the entrance; thus will it be introduced and everything corrected.
Berlin, 28 February 1801
When Schlegel intended to go to the theater, showing these lines at the entrance secured him free admittance. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 49] This refutes Vincke’s suspicion in “Zur Geschichte der deutschen Shakespeare-Bearbeitung,” Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 17 (1882) 86, that such did take place. Back.
 [note 5 on p. 49] Wendelin von Maltzahn, “Julius Cäsar. Für die Bühne eingerichtet von A. W. Schlegel,” Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 7 (1872) 48–81. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 50] See Hans Daffis, Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, 61, 62. Back.
 [note 2 on p. 50] Letter 312c. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 50] See R. G., “Hamlet seit hundert Jahren in Berlin,” Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 13 (1878) 284–87, here 287. Back.
 [note 4 on p. 50] Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart, 5. Back.
 [note 5 on p. 50] Letter 241. Back.
 [note 6 on p. 50] To Caroline in February 1799 (letter 224). Back.
 [note 7 on p. 50] To Auguste after mid-April 1799 (letter 230c).Back.
 [note 8 on p. 50] Ludwig Geiger, “Einundzwanzig Briefe von Marianne von Eybenberg [ . . . ],” Goethe Jahrbuch 14 (1893) 27–142, here 36. Back.
 [note 1 on p. 51] Letter 336; see also 11 January 1802 (letter 340). [Ed. note: the background to the performances (and fate) of Wilhelm’s play Ion. Ein Schauspiel (Hamburg 1803) will be addressed at length later in this edition.] Back.
 [note 2 on p. 51] See the correspondence between Schlegel and Iffland published in Johann Valentin Teichmanns Literarischer Nachlass, 275–80. Back.
 [note 3 on p. 51] Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel on 22 February 1802 (letter 348). Back.
 [note 4 on p. 51] Ludwig Geiger, “Schauspielerbriefe. 23 Briefe A. W. Ifflands und zwar 21 an Goethe und Kirms [ . . . ],” Goethe Jahrbuch 26 (1905) 51–73, here 59. Back.
 [note 5 on p. 51] Caroline to Luise Gotter on 23 January 1801 (letter 283); to Wilhelm Schlegel on 4 January 1802 (letter 339); to Wilhelm on 18 March 1802 (letter 356). Back.
 [note 6 on p. 51] Hugo von Kleimayr, Zu A. W. Schlegels Jon, ein Jahresbericht des K. K. Gymnasium in Anaim für 1911/12 (Znaim 1912) 22, 23, though Kleimayr used only the first edition Caroline’s letters for his study. Back.
 [note 7 on p. 51] Letter 363. Back.
 [note 8 on p. 51] Iffland’s garden house near Berlin (today Höhe Tiergartenstrasse 29) (see note 69 above). Back.
 [note 9 on p. 51] Who, as has been recently ascertained, copied out her husband’s translations for the printer and variously — and arbitrarily — bowdlerized them [? M. F.]. See Hermann Conrad, Unechtheiten in der ersten Ausgabe der Schlegel’schen Shakespeare-Übersetzung (Berlin 1913) (see the materials translated from Conrad’s study in this edition). Back.
Translation © 2012 Doug Stott