Lessing's Dramatic Theory: Being an Introduction to & Commentary on His Hamburgische Dramaturgie

Lessing's Dramatic Theory: Being an Introduction to & Commentary on His Hamburgische Dramaturgie

Lessing's Dramatic Theory: Being an Introduction to & Commentary on His Hamburgische Dramaturgie

Lessing's Dramatic Theory: Being an Introduction to & Commentary on His Hamburgische Dramaturgie

Excerpt

The German drama was the last of the greater national dramas of Europe to free itself from the leading-strings of the Church, to emerge from that common matrix of dramatised liturgy and naïively reproduced biblical story from which the drama sets out in all Christian lands. Apart from such plays, performed, or at least controlled, by servants of the Church, one can hardly point to any German dramatic literature before the sixteenth century; the instincts of the people for imitative representation, resting often on traditions which stretched back into pre-Christian times, took no shape which could be described as literary. The profession of the actor was correspondingly slower to disengage itself from that of the mediaeval mountebank who provided the favourite entertainment of the common crowd.

The sixteenth century was not without promise of a kind. Indeed, in the striving of the literature of that century to dissociate itself from the all-obsessing religious controversy the drama was not behindhand; it does reveal, in a dim, unconscious way, some effort to take upon itself aesthetic form. Slowly and with difficulty the humanistic drama of ancient pedigree found acceptance with the German people; but, Latin in form, technique and spirit, it long remained an exotic. For that matter, the highest dramatic achievement of Germany in the sixteenth century is to be sought in the plays written in the Latin language. This fact alone is testimony to the lack of a dramatic art that could be called national, or had root in the consciousness of the people. The movement for religious reform which filled the sixteenth century, however, provided the plays of that century with a serious content; and, difficult as their untutored authors found it to press their ardent Protestantism into the Procrustean bed of humanistic form--the resultant products were often grotesque enough--a certain progress as the century advanced is noticeable. More hopeful, in many ways, than the religious drama was the beginning of a genuinely autochthonous comedy which knew nothing of humanistic example, with the 'Fastnachtspiele' or shrovetide plays, which in the hands of the prolific cobbler poet of Nürnberg, Hans Sachs, often attained a high degree of excellence. Thus there was dramatic promise of a kind in the sixteenth century, and one likes to think that under more auspicious political and social conditions, the German people might

RL 1 . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.