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CHAPTER III.

THE ROMANTIC SCHOOL. SCHLEGEL AND TIECK. GERMAN

EDITIONS OF AND WORKS ON SHAKSPEARE.

The year 1796–97—in which Schiller again turned de cidedly to dramatic poetry, and ever after energetically pursued the direction described in our last chapter-has in another respect, also, bec me an important year for the history of Shakspeare in Germany.

August Wilhelm Schlegel had, in 1796, contributed the first specimens of his translation of Shakspeare to the IIoren,' and victoriously driven off the field the old prejudice against verse in dramatic poetry, and during the years between 1797 and 1810 appeared his unrivalled translation of seventeen of Shakspeare's plays, a translation which will perhaps never be excelled. This is the first translation which, with truly genial skill, gives a faithful reflex not only of Shakspeare's thoughts, but also of their peculiar form, the remarkable alternation between prose and blank verse, and of Shakspeare's treatment of the latter,-in short, of Shakspeare's style in all its characteristic turns and metamorphoses. It is a notorious fact that it was this translation which has made the greatest of modern dramatic poets the spiritual property of the German nation, and which, so to say, has nationalised and Germanised him in the truest sense of the word, and made him one of our own flesh and blood. Its merits, therefore, cannot be too highly estimated. Tieck, in conjunction with some younger friends, completed the translation, and although his part of the work does not exhibit the same masterly skill, still it is done in a manner worthy of the highest praise. *

* Tieck's, and even Schlegel's translation has recently been carped at, and some have tried to circulate the opinion that it is full of faults and defects, and that, accordingly, it will be necessary to have a new translation, more especially as during the last fifty years our knowledge of the language and literature, of the manners and customs, etc., of the Shakspearian age, and thus of Shakspeare's own use of the language and his mode of expression, has mad

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A. W. Schlegel, as is well-known, belonged to the socalled Romanticists. His translation was a fruit of this new branch on the tree of German literature, and was as much a product of the Romantic School as a foil to it, the support of its influence, and the lever of its development. It gave rise to a new spirit of enthusiasm among the younger aspiring minds. Shakspeare! in him alone are intellect, poetry and geniality! was the war-cry of numerous band of vigorous champions who, like Goethe and his associates in former days, marched out in the exuberant conviction of their own worth against the prevailing æsthetic taste (which favoured besides Goethe and Schiller, even such writers as Iffland, Kotzebue, Lafontaine and others), as well as against other mental tendencies—more especially against so-called illuminati, men who pretended to special spiritual or intellectual enlightenment. In what way this new tendency had proceeded with historical consistency out of the historical development of the German mind, out of religious, political and social conditions, more especially out of poetry and literature itself, does not belong to our subject here. It is enough to know that this tendency stood in decided opposition to the path pursued by Goethe after his journey to Italy, and soon afterwards by Schiller also, for it turned to the spirit and poetry of the Middle Ages, whereas Goethe and Schiller inclined towards cla-sic antiquity. This accordingly likewise determined their relation to Shakspeare. For while Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, and men of kindred minds, followed that side of the double nature of Shakspeare's plays which belonged to the spirit of modern times, and while they admired the naturalness, the psychological truth of his characterisation, his wealth of thought, his acuteness of reflection, the ethical pathos of his representations, and the gigantic greatness of his subjects,—the Romantic School followed that side of Shakspeare's works which was turned towards the Middle Ages and revelled in the fantastic element; in the bizarre ideas and the strange creations of a free and unfettered imagination; in the ingenious symbolisms and reflexes from the regions of the marvellous ; in the magic and the supernatural, in short, in the romantic chiaro-scuro which pervades Shakspeare's poetry. This side was naturally connected with the humorous element in Shakspeare, in so far as humour may be called the wit of the fancy, fantastic wit. They also directed their attention to form, and indeed not only. of language but also to the form of the dramatic composition, to the style of its scenic representation, in other words, to the individual and characteristic features of Shakspeare's style.

considerable progress. The last remark is perfectly correct, and has been discussed in our preceding Book. It is also quite true that Schlegel--principally because he did not possess this deeper knowledge—has often enough made blunders in individual points. But these blunders can, without difficulty or detriment to the whole, be rectified often by the mere alteration of a word or of a single line. Now-a-days, nothing is easier than to clothe a given subject in flowing, pleasant, and regular verse; this, considering the present highly poetical development of our language, is a merit which scarcely comes into consideration. But a master in the art of translation proves himself to be a master by his fine, penetratiog appreciation of the inner mental peculiarity, and the poetic character of the foreign poet, by his sound and pure feeling for style, and by his ability to give expression to it in single words, as well as in the character and the construction of the whole, without injuring the genius of the German language. In this respect, I think, Schlegel still stands unrivalled, and this is the opinion also of acknowledged authorities such as Bernays, Delius, Freiligrath, Gildemeister, W. A. B. Hertzberg, Al. Schmidt, and others.

This new conception formed a new epoch in the history of the Shakspearian drama. For inasmuch as the Romantic School separated it from its connection with the ancient drama, and regarded it more as a product of modern times born of the Middle Ages, they could not but be specially qualified and inclined to investigate its history, and to conceive it in a true light. Schlegel and Tieck have in this respect done great service; Schlegel more especially by his Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, the value of which I have already spoken of on p. 451. Buat even more important are the services which have been rendered by the Romanticists in the domain of æstetic criticism. Their sound knowledge of medieval, as well as of ancient art and poetry, their preference for the former, and their historical studies of these, could not but lead them to the conviction, that the formation of the English national theatre, and more especially of the Shakspearian drama, was not only based upon

different historical foundations, but also upon different æsthetic fundamental views, from those of ancient art. This conviction was the starting-point of their style of criticism, which, accordingly, was directed more particularly to the æsthetic appreciation of the national and individual characteristics of Shakspeare's works. Schlegel, Tieck, Solger, and others, may, therefore, to some extent, be said to have completed Lessing's style of criticism. For while the latter aimed more at pointing out the internal agreement of Shakspeare's works with the real nature of ancient art, and with the true significance of the Aristotelian rules, in order to bring the great poet nearer to the prevailing classic taste of the age, the former set forth the difference between the two, and endeavoured to exhibit the peculiar formation of Shakspeare's plays and their poetical character in it. They have done great service as regards the apprehension of Shakspeare's special beauties, and of the characteristic peculiarities of his style, and as regards the correct appreciation of individual singularities, and of apparent defects and faults, in short, as regards the æsthetic understanding of single features. But they did not succeed in discovering the general laws of art which form the basis of Shakspeare's style, although it was only through the explanation of these that the peculiarly Shakspearian form of the drama could be justified from an æsthetic point of view. They failed in this because, on the one hand, their attention was directed tvo exclusively to individualities, peculiarities, and single features, and because, on the other hand, they clung too one-sidedly to the medieval form of art, and thus theoretically conceived the nature of poetry to consist merely in the free, uncontrolled play of the creative imagination, and the nature of art itself, in a shapeless ideality, in a mere reference to the substance of the idea unrepresentable in itself, and incapable of being brought into any form on account of its infinite nature (Solger); they

ultimately even went so far as to conceive poetry to consist in Frederick Schlegel's notorious idea of irony. From these theoretical points of view the more they endeavoured to understand Shakspeare and to recognise his greatness, the more he seemed to them the incomprehensible' and 'the unfathomable,' simply because, in fact, genius is absolutely the general creative imagination par excellence. And conversely the unfathomable Shakspeare became the main stay for those one-sided theories. In fact, they saw in him nothing but fantastic humour, genial exuberance, and creative freedom ; in short, only that side of the poet where his poetry rises above historical reality and actual life, and which certainly does seem only to play with it; they, however, wholly overlooked, or at least did not take into account, that this idealism of Shakspeare's is based upon the soundest and soberest knowledge of real life, that it is but the poetry of real life, and therefore, at the same time, represents life in its unvarnished truth. Nay, in being so engrossed with individual features and peculiarities, and in losing sight of general features, by which after all the former are in all cases determined, they were even occasionally wrong in their criticism of individual points. This, I think, I have already proved as regards Tieck's opinion of some of Shakspeare's doubtful plays. The first steps in the investigation of the above-mentioned general rules of Shakspeare's style, and hence their first æsthetic justification, were reserved for the later days of German æsthetic science, as a result of its own further development.

This conception of Shakspeare, which forms the foundation of the criticism of the Romanticists, appears to penetrate and determine their own poetical productions. Shakspeare is evidently the prototype of their artistic activity; as a few decades previously he had aroused from their sleep the geniuses of Goethe, of Schiller and their young associates, so he a second time awakened to poetry--and particularly to dramatic poetry--the talents of a number of highly-gifted minds. This is not the place to enter into a close examination of Tieck, Novalis, and of the two Schlegels, of Arnim Bretano, Fouqué, and others. Our only object here is to place their relation to

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