Letter 369f

369f. Schelling to Goethe in Weimar: Jena, 17 September 1802 [*]

Jena, 17 September 1802

. . . Enclosed is a translation of the first act of Shakespeare’s Menaechmi; [1] the last time you were here, [2] I was honored to inquire whether you might be inclined to organize a performance of it in Weimar. In that case, the entire translation could be at your disposal toward December of this year.

The translation stays as close as possible to the original, excepting a few instances of mitigation for the sake of performance, the likes of which will probably be necessary here and there in the following acts as well. The focus has been on providing you with the pleasing possibility of repeated presentations of a mask play on the Weimar stage, and on arranging things such that, as it now seems, all the roles, and especially also female roles, could be filled without difficulty.

The autumn equinox, with its damp weather, already arrived a bit earlier here in Jena with Vermehren’s Almanach. [3]

Should you have any news for Madam Schlegel with regard to the matter in question, [4] might I respectfully ask that that you be so kind as to relate such to me; in case you need to speak with me in person, I am certainly amenable to coming over to Weimar on the day you specify. [5] . . .


[*] Sources: Goethe und die Romantik 1:223–24; Fuhrmans 2:437–38. Back.

[1] That is, the Comedy of Errors, so-named in German after one of Shakespeare’s primary sources, a play (originally in Latin) by the same name by the Roman playwright Plautus (ca. 254–184 BCE); concerning another source from which Shakespeare drew, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 16 November 1801 (letter 330), note 26.

Schelling is apparently referring here to an attempted translation or stage adaptation by Caroline. Although the piece was never performed, it is of some significance that Caroline seems to have tried to carry forward at least some form of the edition of Shakespeare, whereas Wilhelm would not publish another volume until 1810.

Here the frontispiece to the Comedy of Errors from The British Theatre; or, A Collection of Plays which are acted at the Theateres Royal, Drury Lane, Covent Garden, and Haymarket, vol. 1 (London 1808):



[2] 3–27 August 1802 (Weimarer Ausgabe 61, 63). Back.

[3] Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1803, ed. Bernhard Vermehren ( Frankfurt 1803); such anthologies regularly appeared during the autumn (Michaelmas) of the preceding year. Here, of course, Schelling is wryly criticizing Vermehren’s anthology. Back.

[4] Caroline’s divorce from Wilhelm Schlegel; the couple was hoping to circumvent the consistory through Goethe’s mediation with Karl August (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Scheidung [“divorce”] [1788], Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.775):


The local church consistory generally had the last word in cases of divorce. Here Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustrations of (1) a meeting of hierarchical consistory members ca. 1774, and (2) an individual having to appear before such a consistory (“Ein hierarchisches Konsistorium,” from the Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate LXXIII d; Sebaldus vor dem Consistorium [1774]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-51]; both illustrations Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-15]):




[5] Schelling was in Weimar on Wednesday, 22 September 1802 (see Goethe’s letter to him on 18 September 1802 [letter 369g]).

Although Goethe does not note the visit in his diary, Schelling mentions it to Wilhelm Schlegel in his letter to him on 24 September 1802 (letter 369i) (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; illustration of Goethe’s Weimar house on an early postcard: “Vor dem Goethehaus zu Weimars klassischer Zeit”):




Translation © 2016 Doug Stott