The Germans in Britain

  • Anna-Marie Taylor
Part of the Insights book series (ISI)


The British influence on German drama may go back at least as far as Lessing. In his descriptions of the pernicious influence of constricting French neo-classicism, Lessing exhorted his compatriots to construct a national drama along the more ‘natural’ lines of their English counterparts, especially Shakespeare, and many writers seem to have responded positively to his advice.1 Plays by Schiller, Goethe, Büchner and Brecht resound, both faintly and loudly, with Shakespearian language and references. But the British presence is not exclusively represented by reverence for one writer. On frequent occasions, dramatic models and characters from a whole range of British drama, from authors as diverse as Christopher Marlowe, George Lillo, and John Gay, have shaped, liberated and given rise to German texts. In fact, British dramatic writing, particularly that of Shakespeare, had, by 1933, become so fully absorbed into the literary tradition in Germany that it posed problems to literary critics of the time who wished to emphasise the native dramatic tradition at the expense of foreign models. In the same way that German writers, both living and dead, were subject to strict racial considerations, much literary examination was conducted as to whether Shakespeare was undeutsch, or whether his work conformed to the laws of the new Germanic art by displaying a nordisch temperament.2


Evening Standard Literary Tradition National Theatre Negative Review Theatre Company 
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Copyright information

© The Editorial Board, Lumière Cooperative Press Ltd 1994

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  • Anna-Marie Taylor

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