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Full text of "The Technique of Bridging Gaps in the Action of German Drama since Gottsched. II (Concluded)"

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THE TECHNIQUE OF BRIDGING GAPS IN THE ACTION 
OF GERMAN DRAMA SINCE GOTTSCHED 

[Concluded] 

8. Reports Accompanied by Alarms 

Not infrequently reports are strengthened by some accompanying 
audible or visible manifestation, elsewhere than on the stage. If 
audible, the audience may, or may not, be permitted to hear. If 
visible, of course only the characters can see. In Gottsched's Cato, 
noises (groans) are heard twice by the audience as well as on the 
stage, according to the stage directions: (Man horet einen Tumult 
drinnen). At the first noises Porcius rushes into the next room. 
The others continue the conversation, for the stage must never be 
left unoccupied. Then Porcius comes back with the report that 
Gato has turned his dagger against himself. As he concludes, 
Cato staggers forth, having stabbed himself in secret, to die openly, 
on the stage, after a long exhortation to son and daughter. 

Schlegel in his tragedies makes frequent use of "alarms" as 
additional testimony in support of narrative. In the Trojanerinnen,^ 
Andromache, in the confusion of the storming of the city, has hidden 
Hector's son in a temple. Ulysses is determined to destroy the house 
of Troy root and branch, and in his search for this very youth finds 
the mother, Andromache, who denies any knowledge of her son's 
whereabouts, pretending fear that he is already dead. Ulysses 
shrewdly suspects that the boy is hidden in the sanctuary and sends 
his soldiers to raze the temple to the earth. As the work of destruc- 
tion progresses he points to the falling walls, for all is visible from 
the stage. In rising anxiety Andromache watches until her courage 
weakens, and to save her son's life she confesses his hiding-place 
in the temple. The boy is then found, seized, and hurled headlong 
from the highest battlement. The scene of torture for the mother, 
of cold calculation on the part of Ulysses, is extremely effective. 

1 First written in 1737; reiieatedly remodeled; first published in 1747. Of. Bugen 
Wolfl, EUas Schlegel (Kiel, 1892). 
363] 53 [MODEEN Philologt, January, 1911 



54 W. R. Mybbs 

In Dido, a cry is heard' from the adjoining room, where Dido 
kills herself. The door opens and we see her lying in her blood. 
She dies upon the stage, after last words. 

In Herrmann,^ shouts indicate the approach of the victorious 
warriors' and later when Herrmann appears* he brings the weapons 
of Varus to substantiate his report of a complete victory. 

In Orest u. Pylades,^ Eutrophe, the confidante of Iphigenie, enters 
and reports that a captain is coming with his men. Orest and Pylades, 
knowing that they are being hunted, leave their conversation with 
Iphigenie and attempt to escape at the moment when the voice of 
the high priest is heard at the rear. Then follows action back of 
the scene, punctuated by cries and comments of Iphigenie and 
Eutrophe, who remain upon the stage. Finally we learn from Iphi- 
genie: "Ach sie sind iibermannt!" and Eutrophe: "Schon fiihret 
man sie fort." Behind the stage the friends have struggled with the 
enemy, observed from the stage. The struggle is banished from the 
stage. 

In Cronegk's Codrus (1758),° Medon, the savior of Athens, reports 
the favorable outcome of the conflict in a long prosaic narrative, 
awkwardly introduced and very evidently betraying its epic nature. 
Concluding his report, Medon cites the happy omens in the heavens. 
The terrible storm that has raged in sympathy with the human 
struggle has passed, and the deity promises favor and blessing. 
At the word a peal of thunder sounds from the left, the favorable 
token from the gods in support of his statement and the report. 

Jean Galas (1774) is for Weisse the greatest departure among all 
his dramatic works. Usually he is conservative, leaning toward 
the old Alexandrine models, using those types and that technique. 
Suddenly he attempts to dramatize an occurrence of the day and 
succeeds in putting the newspaper account so to speak into dialogue 
form. 

A young friend of the family visits one evening at the home of 
Jean Galas, a respected merchant of Toulouse, and a Protestant, 
though living in a Roman Catholic city. At nine or ten in the even- 
ing the friend, Lavaisse, and one of the sons of Galas start off for 
the former's lodgings. Galas and his wife accompany them to, the 

>V, iv (1739-44). 21741. »V, li. *V, Iv. »n,lU(1745). «V, xii. 

364 



Gaps in the Action op German Drama 66 

head of the stairs leading down to the street. Meanwhile another son, 
a gloomy, melancholy student, has hanged himself in a fit of despond- 
ency, in the lower hall. When the two young men descend the stairs 
after an exchange of greetings with Galas we have the following stage 
directions (Ein Geschrei unten: sie horchen auf: Geschrei: man hort es) : 
"Das Gott erbarm! Mein Bruder! Weh! Weh! Hulfe!" Then 
Galas descends the stairs. Lavaisse soon comes up to quiet Frau 
Galas, and piece by piece we learn with her what has happened. 
All is told under great excitement, not as a narrative, but in exclama- 
tions. In answer to Frau Galas' question, Lavaisse says: "Nichts; 
Ihr Sohn — ah!" The mother faints. A physician is sent for; 
gradually we learn the details of the scene below. Galas appears 
again; he exclaims: " Mein Sohn wie beugst du mich ! " He speaks 
of "dem Gericht melden"; of "meines Sohnes Schande," and the 
wife helps the report then by correctly surmising the suicide of her 
son. Gaseing; a neighbor who has arrived, hears a tumult in the 
street, though we hear nothing. 

This play makes use of an enormous amount of detail requiring 
many reports of action. Similar at least in this matter of mass of 
detail containing many reports is Goethe's Gotz. 

Here^ we have a masterful and on the stage very effective scene 
made up entirely of a report. Selbitz is borne in wounded and lies 
braced against a tree. But he sends Faud to a vantage point whence 
he can follow with his eye the white plume of Gotz, in his fight with 
the emperor's soldiers. The terse questions of Selbitz, his lively 
comment on the progress of the struggle which he sees so well through 
the eyes of Faud quite arouse the active interest of the reader or 
beholder. Thus, while none of the actual fighting is seen or heard 
by the audience, the whole thing takes place within sight and hear- 
ing of the stage, as we must conceive. By this means the author 
achieves a remarkable effect as of visible action. 

In Bodmer's Brutus, Portia, as she anxiously waits and watches 
for the return of her husband, Brutus, from the assassination of 
Caesar, reports^ what she sees : that the mob is collecting and becom- 
ing tumultuous. Soon the mob itself appears, only to cross the 
stage with half a dozen sentences.* 

' III, xiii. 2 V, V. 5 V, vi. 

365 



56 W. R. Myers 

In Bodmer's Pelopidas, as in Weisse's Befreyung von Theben, the 
tyrant of Thebes is murdered before our eyes. Immediately after- 
ward in each instance we hear the tumult in the next room, where 
the drunken revelers, guests of the tyrant, are being cut down: 
Pelopidas, III, iii (Ein Geruf und Gelerme hinter der Skene wird 
gehort). A report of the butchery then follows. 

In Stephanie's Deserteur aus Kindesliebe, the scene' is the interior 
of a guard hou'se, with guards and prisoners conversing in soldier 
fashion. It is characteristic of Weishard, the young ensign, who is 
on duty at the door, and who, the son of wealthy parents and super- 
cilious, takes no part in the soldier's talk, that he first of all hears the 
sound of blows, and reports that Holbeck, against whom he has a 
grudge, must be running the gauntlet now. The report of his punish- 
ment is the first indication we have that the hero, Holbeck, has 
carried out his plan to desert, and allow himself to be captured at 
once, in order that the money paid for bringing in the deserter might 
be used to pay his father's debts. In this case Weishard hears but 
does not see the occasion of the "alarm." 

Later in the same act^ occurs the following: 

Man hdrt Oeschrey inwendig. 
[Captain Platt inquires :] Was ist das ? 
Weishaed: Sie rufen: der KOnigl der KOnig! 

The king, from behind the scene, then proceeds to give a happy 
ending to the play, his action being reported later on the stage. 

In Emilia Galotti Lessing makes frequent use of " alarms." Recall 
the situation^ where Marinelli first brings the prince to despair by 
his account of the failure of his plan to remove Appiani from Guas- 
talla, and then, under false pretenses, secures from the prince carte 
blanche for a new intrigue even more daring. In addition, he receives 
the promise of exoneration from .all blame for possible consequence. 
At the instant a shot is heard and Marinelli describes the deed at 
that moment being executed. Here the preparation for this report 
fills two pages, rising to a climax and passing in suspense to the 
next scene. Here also Marinelli stands at the window and observes 
what is happening without, mingling his own reflections with a run- 

I III, i. 2 III, vi. 3 III, i. 

366 



Gaps in the Action of Gbeman Deama 57 

ning comment or report upon what is taking place. The assassin, 
Angelo, approaches, and adds the details of the report.' 

Odoardo,^ after leading his wife and the Countess Orsina to the 
latter's carriage, paces up and down the arcade a few times to calm 
himself before going to the prince. Marinelli observes him from the 
window, and comments upon his state of mind: ". . . . Nein, er 

kehrt wieder um Ganz einig ist er mit sich noch nicht. 

Aber um ein Grosses ruhiger ist er . . . . oder scheint er. Fiir 
uns gleich viel!" 

9. False Reports 

Another detail worthy of notice is the use made of false reports, 
reported action which has not really taken place. For present pur- 
poses, reports of this kind readily fall into two classes: first, those 
accepted as true by the audience as well as by the characters of the 
play; and secondly, those which the audience knows to be false, 
although believed by the characters for a time. The second class 
would have to be excluded here. The first class may be considered 
as being a part of the bona fide action so far as the audience is con- 
cerned, up to the moment when the truth becomes known. The use 
of "false reports" to secure dramatic or other effects is common in 
the Alexandrine plays. Here and there the action of whole plays is 
based upon a misunderstanding or false information. And the solu- 
tion of the problem comes in a letter perhaps, or with the arrival of a 
traveler from distant parts, or with the confession of one who knows. 

In Weisse's Matrone von Ephesus,^ the whole action, such as it 
is, rests upon the fabrication of Dorias and Karion. Antiphila, 
the young widow, accompanied by her confidante, Dorias, sets her- 
self down in the tomb of her beloved husband recently laid to rest, 
and vows to remain there till she dies of starvation or of grief. Soon 
hunger makes its call; and a dashing young officer, attracted to the 
tomb by the light of the mourners, loses his heart at once to the 
pretty widow. His duty for the night is to guard the body of a 
felon hanging upon the gallows near by. He is responsible for his 
charge with his life. Dorias, not wishing to die of hunger, willingly 

'Marinelli (der wieder nach dem Fenster geht): "Dort (ahrt der Wagen langsam 
nach der Stadt zuriick. So langsam? Und in jedem Schlage eln Bedienter? Das sind 
Anzeteen, die mlr nicht gefallen: — dass der Streich wolil nur iialb gelungen ist " 

2 V, i. ' 1744, a comedy of one act. 

367 



58 W. R. Myers 

partakes of the officer's lunch. Antiphila still pretends a lack of 
interest in aU things earthly, and threatens to use her dagger to 
hasten her own death if the soldier further disturbs her mourning. 
To cure her mistress of her hypocrisy, Dorias leaves the tomb for 
a moment, returning with the report that the body has been stolen 
from the gallows, at the same time giving Karion a sign. The latter 
goes out, and soon returns, vowing that the body is indeed stolen, that 
love for her has made him forgetful of all thiags, even of a soldier's 
duty, and that his life is forfeit unless someone demand him in mar- 
riage according to the old custom. Alarmed, the widow begins a 
line of reasoning which justifies a new matrimonial venture. Dorias' 
report, sustained and supplemented by Karion's report, furnishes the 
only foundation for action. 

In Gebler's Wittwe^ the widow, Grafin Holdenthal, has several 
suitors who are temporizing until the result be known of a suit which 
if successful would make the countess a very desirable "catch," 
and if unsuccessful would leave her nearly penniless. Here again the 
" action " depends upon the reports which come in from time to time 
concerning the progress of the trial. First comes the news that the 
decision has been reached. Then bad reports arrive, which we must 
consider true on the face of them. Even the uncle of the countess, 
the king's minister, has lost his position or resigned, removing all 
hope for his niece. The suitors make their apologies and take their 
leave, until finally the report comes, this time true, that the countess 
has won everything and that the uncle has been reinstated in power 
and influence. Thus the countess' eyes have been opened to dis- 
criminate among her ostensible admirers, and Laster, in this case 
avarice, receives its due reward in being cheated of its end. But the 
action takes all of its energy from the reports of the suit in progress. 

The report which deceives the audience as well as characters in 
the drama may be used to work up a very dramatic situation. The 
scene in Kriiger's Vitichab already described (III, v)^ is preceded 
by a false report, and in itself contains a false report. Siegmar 
returns to the German camp from the battlefield and reports to the 
old queen mother very circumstantially the course of the battle; 
how Vitichab's life has been in danger, how Siegmar had retreated 

» 1770. 2 Cf. above p. 19. 

368 



Gaps in the Action of German Drama 69 

in order to assist his prince, and how the whole German army had 
then fled. The effect upon the camp of this apparently reliable 
but really false report is an immediate outbreak of excitement, 
shame, and passion for revenge. The old queen, Adelheid, is spokes- 
man. She is on the point of seizing arms herself and rushing with 
the other women to the aid of the men, when Gundomad arrives. 
His well-elaborated report has been described above; at first ensue 
further misunderstanding, more confusion, more reproaches. Then 
comes the true report. From the depths of despair the camp is 
raised to the joy of certain victory, but alas! even Gundomad must 
report the loss of their leader, Vitichab. He describes in detail how 
the prince fell, and how his body was rescued from the enemy. 
Here again is a circumstantial account, proven false by the arrival 
of Vitichab himself (IV, i) upon the scene. The whole situation, 
really somewhat exciting, is made out of whole cloth. It is based 
upon two false reports. That is, false reports prepare the way for 
effect by contrast, and the real report comes with the desired force in 
a situation thus built up. 

Perhaps one more illustration will suffice. In Bodmer's Tarquin 
the people of Rome have risen against the tyrant, after the shameful 
act of his son, Sextus, and Tarquin and TuUia his wife are shut up 
in their palace. Notice here a bit of juggling with reports to secure 
effect. In III, i, Tarquin informs us that Sextus is with the army, 
which is true to him, and that he will probably come soon with 
relief. Here is hope for Tarquin. TuUia follows this speech with 
enlightening comment upon the situation in the city. All classes 
are united against the tyrant and the woman who drove her chariot 
over her own father's body. Tarquin's hope for help from Sextus 
and the army is the only hope. Then follows (III, ii) the report of 
the general, Herennius, just arrived from the army as their ambas- 
sador to the Senate, for whom they have unanimously declared. 
That is to say, no help will come from the army. These three reports 
follow in quick succession and are well planned: Tarquin has one 
hope, the army: but this one hope is the only hope; and the news 
brought by Herennius destroys this only hope. 

Here again the false report is used for the sake of contrast, to 
prepare the way for the true report. 

369 



60 W. E. Myers 

B. SUBSTANCE OP REPORTS 

For the purpose of this examination the matter of reports falls 
conveniently into two categories, according to its practicability or 
impracticability for stage presentation. To be sure, the standard 
of practicability has varied considerably since that time. But 
if the mechanical resources of the stage today are far greater, the 
demands made upon them have equally increased; and at a time 
when all actors, irrespective of the setting of the play, wore powdered 
wigs and high headdresses, not much in the way of absolutely 
faithful reproduction of originals (Naturwahrheit) was exacted in 
stage settings. If imagination could help over one such difficulty 
it might easily conquer other difficulties of faulty or partial staging; 
so that relatively it was no less possible to meet the requirements of 
the public in staging a given scene at that time than at present. 
By observing proper precaution we shall not be led far astray in 
judging of the practicability of the presentation on the stage of certain 

action. 

1. Matter Which Might Be Presented Directly 

A large number of reports belong to the first category. The 
matter reported might with perfect ease be presented on the stage. 
For instance: in Gebler's Klementine the burning of certain papers 
and their being snatched from the fire offers no difficulties. We 
might not care to witness the fainting fit of the heroine, however. 
In Adelheid the reported attack of faintness arrives so suddenly when 
Adelheid receives the ill-omened letter, that she falls with a crash 
which we hear in the adjoining room. From the point of view of the 
heroine there might be satisfactory reasons for reporting rather than 
staging just this scene. Likewise in Lessing's Der junge Gelehrte, 
two quarrel-scenes are reported, as likewise the table-scene with 
the various occupations of the chief characters. In almost all 
reports of this class there is some reason other than the difficulty 
of stage presentation which caused the author to report the action. 
These reasons will be discussed farther on.' 

2. Matter Not Easily Capable of Direct Presentation 

Passing to the second class— those reported rather than staged 

because of practical difficulties of stage presentation — these reports 

1 Pp. 64 e. 

370 



Gaps in the Action op Gbeman Drama 61 

readily fall into several groups: movements of large numbers or 
over large spaces; actions lasting for a considerable time; action 
or situations suppressed from aesthetic or ethical motives; psycho- 
logical processes, affecting the conceptions, the conclusions, the will 
of others so that the action of the persons is influenced. 

The first of these groups is found to be very inclusive. Running 
through the list of reports in the plays examined, we find, for instance, 
battle-scenes reported in many tragedies; as in Gottsched's Agis, 
Kriiger's Vitichab, Pitschel's Darius, Melch. Grimm's Banise, Brawe's 
Brutus, Weisse's Krispus, Bodmer's Der vierte Heinrich, Kaiser, 
and most of the other tragedies of their period. With Lessing's 
Miss Sara Sampson and the middle-class tragedy (burgerliches 
Trauer spiel) came reports of other events than battles. But much 
other material belongs to this first group: mutinies and popular 
uprisings; in Bodmer's Cato, a meeting of the Roman Senate; in 
others of his patriotic plays, gatherings of citizens; in Gottsched's 
Cato, the arrival of ships in port. And many other examples are 
to be found. 

Of reports of movements over large spaces there are also many, 
of many details: in Schlegel's Dido the attempt to burn the ships; 
attempts to escape, as, for instance, from the city;* a forenoon's 
hunt.^ In Schlegel's Geschdftiger Musziggdnger,^ Fortunat wanders 
through half the village making various ridiculous purchases, on 
his way to the house of the Minister. There are almost as many and 
as varied examples of action lasting over considerable time: as in 
Cronegk's Der Misztrauische, where the company has waited an hour 
for Timant to appear; or in many of the reports above cited, where 
the action is extended. 

A number of scenes could be cited which for ethical or aesthetic 
reasons are preferably reported. One or two examples will suffice. 
In Gebler's Klementine the autopsy to determine the fact of the 
poisoning of the Baron takes place in the house but not on the stage. 
Again, the meeting of the prince with Emilia in the church is better 
reported than seen. In the Kindermorderin of Wagner, however, 
as early as 1776, there is an attempt in truly modem spirit to pre- 
sent on the stage, in all the details of reality, the evil of the society of 

'Grimm, Banise. ^ Ayrenhott, Postzug. '1741. 

371 



62 W. R. Myebs 

that day. This play was actually presented, although afterward 
withdrawn from the stage.' 

Other classes of matter reported, to be only mentioned here, 
are (1) action requiring a different scene for only a short time, 
therefore hardly worthy of a change of scene, even on the most 
"realistic" stage. The actions or situations themselves, while 
belonging properly to the main action, may be so brief as to be 
easily passed over without a shifting of scenes. Many such reports 
occur in the comedies of this period. Important situations are 
often brought to the single scene of action and elaborated. Brief 
actions are reported. (2) Death scenes are often described. The 
discussion of these classes of reports will occur later in more detail.^ 

It has already been indicated that the subject-matter of reports 
began to change under the influence of Lessing's Miss Sara Sampson. 
Before that time tragedies had dealt with the fate of kings and 
princes, men of high estate, whose personal dispositions affected the 
nation. With such material for subject-matter oi the drama, 
naturally the reports deal with expressions of this power, with battles, 
with armies, with popular movements, with plots and councils. 
In the case of Weisse, whose works may be considered to indicate 
conservatively the dramatic tendencies of his time, we find his 
tragedies, including Atreiis und Thyest (1766), making use of such 
subject-matter. Only in two tragedies does he choose a middle- 
class theme: Die Flucht and Jean Colas. 

In comedy no such striking change is to be detected in the subject- 
matter of reports. Before as well as after the appearance of Minna 
von Bamhelm, comedy concerned itself with the lives of the middle 
and lower classes chiefly. The fundamental change in the aim of 
comedy brought with it differences in the choice of material, to be 
sure; but in the matter of reports not much change is noticeable, 
because, after all, the material was taken from the daily life of 
common people. 

Again, important psychological processes are often more easily 
reported than presented on the stage. One example may suffice. 

' 01. D. Lit. DenJcmale, XIII, "Vorrede z. d. Theaterstuckeu H. L. Wagners." This 
presentation was by the Wake Co. In Pressburg. Few changes were made lor the stage. 

2 Pp. 67 ff. 

372 



Gaps in the Action of German Drama 63 

Kriiger in his Yitichah requires for his plot that Dankwart the (sup- 
posed) son of Siegmar should assassinate Vitichab, in reality his 
own brother. To this end he relates to us^ how Tiberius in some 
marvelous fashion wins over Dankwart (Radogast) to the Roman 
cause. Now Tiberius has just mortally wounded Siegmar in single 
combat and has been attacked in turn by Dankwart. It was the 
duty as well as the passionate desire of the son to avenge the father. 
Yet in the heat of the conflict he allows himself to be seduced by 
the enemy of his country and the murderer of his father. We 
should prefer to see for ourselves by what persuasive powers this 
miracle was wrought. 

C. THE PLACE OP OCCURRENCE: HOW DETERMINED 

1. Kinds of Dramatic Writing 

Having now discussed methods and technique and the subject- 
matter of reports, some observations may be made as to where reports 
occur. And it at once becomes evident that they appear most 
frequently and to the greatest length in tragedy, during this period. 

Because the results so obtained are representative for the period 
we may once more take the works of Weisse by way of illustration. 
In twelve comedies the aggregate number of lines of report was 
about 172; in nine tragedies,^ 680 lines; which means an average 
of 75 lines for each tragedy and 13 lines for each report, and only 14 
lines for each comedy and 10 lines for each report. Thus the average 
amount of report in the tragedies is five times that of the comedies 
and the average length of each report is slightly greater. The 
number of reports in the nine tragedies is 54, in the twelve comedies 
only 17, or as 3: 1. One of these nine tragedies contains no reports,^ 
while four of the twelve comedies are without report. Thus the 
number of individual reports is less in comedy. 

If we compare the usage in Minna von Bamhelm with that in 
Emilia Galotti, we find a similar preponderance of report in tragedy. 

There are two possible grounds for these conditions. First, 
in comedy, the author is more concerned with the development of 
dialogue in ludicrous situations. The action or activities of the 

»v, 1. 

2 This excludes Jean Calas, which is of entirely different character. 
' In the sense ol reported action. 

373 



64 W. R. Myers 

characters are not so much intended to be of importance in them- 
selves as to be laughable to the spectators, and are therefore to be 
seen, not reported. In fact many of the early comedies are hardly 
more than a series of comic situations with little or no dramatic unity 
in the modern sense. Secondly, the subject-matter of comedy is 
simpler; direct presentation of the action is therefore less difficult, 
and the necessity of employing the "report" is reduced in con- 
sequence. 

In both tragedy and comedy Weisse narrates most where he has 
to handle the most material in the plot. He is helpless before 
details of the action and in both cases resorts to narrative out of 
pure necessity. Thus the four comedies' which contain no report 
are all extremely simple in plot, and are of one act only. Another 
of one act'^ has only 10 lines of report, and two of three acts^ each 
have respectively 14 and 20 lines. Some of the five-act comedies 
have only a few lines, but the highest number of lines of report is 
found in these more pretentious plays, in one"* 50 lines and in another' 
44 lines. 

The operetta (Singspiel) has some similarity to the comedy. The 
action and the plot are extremely simple. The situations are even 
more emphasized and the transitions even less carefvdly made. Thus 
the occasion for reporting action is reduced, and in fact the number 
of reports is very small, usually only one or two, the total number 
of lines ranging from 5 to 15. Only in Lottchen am Hofe^ (1767) 
there are 72 lines of narrative, distributed in three reports. In the 
Aerntekranz (1770), one of the two original with Weisse, there are 
two reports and 6 lines of narrative. 

In the pastoral play of this period almost the same is true. The 
plan, not to speak of a plot, is as simple as the characters themselves, 
and narrative is seldom made use of. 

2. The Author's Regard for the Three Unities 
Many narratives exist only because the author has conformed 
strictly to the "three unities." Especially was the author helpless 

1 Naturaliensammler, W eibergeklatsche, GroszTnuth, Walder. 

2 Malrone. ^ Poeten; Der Miaztrauische. 

* Proiektmacher. * Freundschaft. 

• This is a free translation after Mme. Favart, Minettealacour (1756). 

374 



Gaps in the Action op German Drama 65 

before the requirement of unity of scene. As late a writer as Gebler, 
in his Klementine, relies almost entirely upon reports for his action, 
as though for him there were no other technique possible. There 
seems to be no attempt upon the author's part to bring the action 
upon the stage. 

But Elias Schlegel was keenly conscious of the problem of pre- 
senting the action as action upon the stage, of the injustice and the 
unnaturalness of the narrow requirements which bound the drama of 
his time. We have his forceful protest against the current construc- 
tion put upon the unity of place:* 

.... kurz, wenn die Personen nur deswegen in den angezeigten 
Saal oder Garten kommen, um auf die Schaublihne zu treten, . . . . es 
wiirde welt besser gewesen sein, wenn der Verf asser, nach dem Gebrauche 
der Englander,^ die Szene aus dem Hause des einen in das Haus des 
anderen verlegt, und den Zuschauer seinem Helden nachgefuhrt hStte; 
als dasz er seinem Helden die Miihe macht, den Zuschauern zu gef alien, 
an einen Platz zu kommen, wo er nichts zu tun hat. 

In practice, however, Schlegel adhered closely to the unity of 
place, as did the others of his time. Had Schlegel lived a few years 
longer,^ with his growing independence in forming his conclusions 
and in expressing them,^ and especially because of his growing cosmo- 
politanism, his readiness to adopt the good and reject the bad from 
whatever source, French, English, Italians, or Danes, he would 
doubtless have hastened the day of freedom from slavery to the 
French unities, to Delikatesse, and the like. As it was, Lessing was 
in large part responsible for the transmission of English freedom to 
the German drama, in its beginnings. 

As for change of scene, Lessing's early comedies have strictly one 
scene. But the appearance of the characters in this one room is 
each time much better motivated than in the plays of his contempo- 
raries, whose scenes of action are often absolutely colorless, the pres- 
ence of the persons unaccounted for. In Miss Sara Sampson there 
is frequent change of scene, at the beginning of each act, and besides 
this III, ii, and again III, vii, back to the scene of III, i. These 

1 "Gedanken zur Aufnahme des dUnischen Theaters," Werke, Bd. 3. S. 295 (1747). 

2 As early as 1741 Schlegel had written a comparison of Shakespeare and Gryphius. 

3 He died In 1749, at the age ol thirty. 

'See Rentsch, Schlegel als Trauerspieldichter (Leipzig, 1890), 1211. 

375 



66 W. R. Myers 

changes in Act III may have been made by means of a "middle 
curtain" as in I, iii, however. This "middle curtain" is used from 
the very first of this period, for example, in Gottsched's Cato. But 
Lessing even moves his scene to another house. Act II: "Der Schau- 
platz stellt das Zimmer der Marwood vor, in einem andem Gasthofe." 
Gronegk says in the foreword to his Codrus (1758) : 

Die That des Codrus, namlich sich unbekannterweise unter dem Thore 
umbringen zu lassen, war gar nicht auf die Biihae zu bringen, und muszte 
durch eine Erzfthlung vorgetragen werden, wenn man nicht die Einheit 
des Ortes beleidigen, oder, welches eben so viel wftre, einen zweiten 
Vorhang woUte aufziehen lassen. Einige deutsche TragSdienschreiber 
gebrauchen dieses Mittel mit dem Vorhange. Meine Meynung davon 
will ich nicht sagen: aber die Meynung d'Aubignac will ich Ihnen 
hersetzen, ob Sie ihn gleich so gut kennen, als ich. Er saget: "ces 
rideaux ne sont bons, qu'fi, faire des couvertures pour berner ceux, qui les 
ont inventus et ceux, qui les approuvent." 

To use Weisse's tragedies again to indicate conservatively the 
progress made by the German drama toward greater freedom from 
unity of scene, we find that in the year 1764 he finishes two tragedies, 
in each of which there is a change of scene with the opening of Act 
V.^ After this time he vacillates; changing the scene in Act V 
only in Atreus und Thyest (1766) and Romeo und Julie (1767); 
returning to strict unity of place in Die Flucht (1770) , and with utter 
freedom of scene in Jean Colas (1774). This last play^ shows 
undoubtedly the influence of Gotz,^ and we know the Shakespearean 
origin of Goethe's wild joy in overriding the bounds of unity of time 
and place.* Weisse seems to have been quite carried off his con- 
servative footing by the popularity of Gotz, to conclude from the 
difference between Colas and any previous play of his. 

The comparative freedom of scene in Lessing's Minna^ and the 
complete freedom in his Emilia and his Nathan are too familiar to 
require mention. 

In the latter part of this, period careful writers, while adopting 
to a limited extent freedom of scenes, preferred to restrict the change 
to the fifth act. Even actor-dramatists like Brandes and the younger 

■ Krispus and Die Befreyung von Theben. 
2 Appeared in June of the previous year. 

' As well as of LlUo's London Merchant. ' See Rede zum Shakespearetag, 1770. 

5 At the beginning of each act, but only two scenes are employed. 

376 



Gaps in the Action of German Dkama 67 

Stephanie are conservative. Brandes in the Medicder admits two 
changes, and in the Gasthoff and Der Schein betriigt no change. In 
Stephanie's Deserteur there is only one change, but in his Werber 
occur frequent changes. Bodmer shows Shakespearean influence 
by changes of scene, but always at the beginning of acts. However, 
from about 1770 on, the number of those plays requiring frequent 
change of scene increased rapidly. 

Of comedy it may be said in general that progress toward freedom 
of scene was slower than in tragedy because the plot was simpler 
and there was less need for change of scene. Even Lessing's Minna 
has only two different scenes, making the change only at the begin- 
ning of acts. 

The requirement of strict unity of place explains the presence 
of a large number of the reports in the dramas examined. Authors 
who are, and when they are, bound by unity of place make relatively 
more use of reports. 

However, other elements enter in to determine the occurrence 
and the extent of the employment of "reports." Granting the 
observance of strict unity of place, the subject-matter of the drama 
itself may be difficult of presentation on the stage; the action may 
include several battles or the like. Again multiplicity of detail may 
cause the full direct presentation of the action to increase unduly 
the length of the drama. Reports considerably condense presenta- 
tion. Gebler's Addheid illustrates this well. Adelheid is a theatrical 
play, with perhaps half the action on the stage. But there is much 
detail, too much to be worked into the stage action of that time, even 
with the four changes of scene. Hence much is reported. 

The unity of time -was strictly observed throughout this period. 
Only occasionally was there an example of moderate freedom. Thus 
Bodmer's Brutus lasts through somewhat more than twenty-four 
hours. Even Lessing carefully observed this requirement, and free- 
dom came first with the new admirers of Shakespeare and the English, 
of whom Goethe was one.^ 

3. The Author's Regard for "Delikatesse" 
As to why certain kinds of action are reported, the reason must 
be sought in what was termed " franzosische Delikatesse." According 
1 Compare Gotz for lack of unity of time. 

377 



68 W. R. Myers 

to French canons it was vulgar to present bloodshed or fighting or any- 
rough or energetic action upon the stage. Death itself was usually- 
banished from the scene, or if admitted, was carefully rehearsed to 
eliminate all unpleasant characteristics. Elias Schlegel,' while 
still (1741) writing as a pupil of Gottsched "von der Unahnlichkeit 
in der Nachahmung" says: 

Der Abscheu vor der Sache, die uns vorgestellt wird, tOtet Ofters die 
Lust, die wir aus der Ahnlichkeit derselben empfinden wollen, und 
gebiert statt derselben in uns Widerwillen und Ekel. SoUten uns 
Kaserei, Ohnmacht, und Tod so schrecklich abgebildet vor Augen stehen, 
als sie in der Tat sind; so wurde Ofters das Vergniigen, das uns die 
Nachahmung derselben gewahren soUte, in Entsetzen verkehrt werden, 
das KOcheln und Ziicken eines Sterbenden wurde die Beherztesten aus 
ihrem Vergniigen reiszen, imd die Erinnerung, dasz es nur ein Betrug 
sei, wlirde zu schwach sein, unser Gemiith, welches einmal von trau- 
rigen Empfindungen voll wftre, wieder aufzuheitern. [Diese Teile der 
Handlung kann man] auch nicht hinweglassen, ohne den Menschen die 
lebhaftesten Vorstellungen zu rauben. Es ist kein anderes Mittel ilbrig, 

als dasz wir diese Bilder den Vorbildern unahnlich machen man 

wird wenigstens dasjenige, was bei dem schrecklicken Augenblicke des 
Todes noch sanftes und siiszes wahrgenommen werden kann; ganz 
gelinde Bewegungen, ein Hauptneigen, welches mehr einen Schlftfrigen, 
als einen, der mit dem Tode kampft, anzuzeigen scheint; eine Stimme, 
welche zwar unterbrochen wird, aber nicht rOchelt, zu der Vorstellung 
des Todes brauchen kOnnen; kurz, man wird selber eine Art des Todes 
schaffen mlissen, die sich jedermann wlinschen mochte, und keiner 
erhalt. 

This protest of Schlegel's, and the readiness -with which the French 
standard of delicacy, fine propriety (Delikatesse) , was adopted by 
those Germans who were endeavoring to raise the standards of the 
German stage, can be correctly explained as a reaction, to an extreme 
at first, against the coarseness of the Haupt- und Staatsaktionen 
which until recently were the only German dramatic product. Ger- 
mans began to realize that the usage of their neighbors was much 
more refined, and a first step was to adopt the foreign standards 
bodily. 

Weisse, writing twenty years later in the Beytrag zum deutschen 
Theater, speaking of what the Germans might well learn from the 
French and from the English, and what they should avoid, says: 

• Dramattirgische Schriften, Werke, III, 174; ct. Deutsche Lit.- Denk male des IS. 
Jahrhunderts, XXVI, 102. 

378 



Gaps in the Action of German Dkama 69 

"Das Ziigellose, Unregelmaszige und oft in eine Wildheit ausartende 
der Englander, und das lacherliche, galante, coquettenmaszige und 
seichte der Franzosen vermeiden." So that Weisse still disapproved 
of the energy of the English stage. Bodmer, while an admirer and 
imitator of Shakespeare's historical plays, considered any attempt 
to bring battle-scenes or fighting upon the stage to be ridiculous 
and out of place.' So much from some of the dramatist-critics 
before and contemporary with Lessing. 

It is necessary to observe to what extent these principles were 
carried out in the practice of dramatists of this period. In tragedy 
Gottsched, and his adherents generally, carefully avoided anji;hing 
which might offend the most refined taste. In his Cato, Act V, 
Gottsched followed Addison closely, but Addison in his turn was 
an imitator of French technique. Hence Gottsched's imitation 
of him. Cato stabs himself behind the curtain and comes forth 
supported by attendants, to die after a long parting address^ to son 
and daughter. This last scene is partly French, partly Gottsched's 
own, but not English. The death-scene is robbed of all unpleasant- 
ness. No fighting or roughness is permitted on the stage. Ephr. 
Kriiger avoids death, battles, and duels. Schlegel avoids death- 
scenes by means of reports in Dido, Die Trojanerinnen, Herrmann, and 
Canut. He avoids acts of force, battles, and duels in Orest, as well 
as in all of the others named. Yet in Orest the king dies upon the 
stage, and we see Orest in his madness and the king in his rage.' 
Dido retires behind the rear curtain to stab herseK, but after her 
scream the curtain is withdrawn and we behold the end.* Cronegk 
causes his hero, Codrus, to receive his mortal wound without the 
city gates, but he is carried in to play his r61e to the end and dies 
upon the stage as the curtain descends. 

Weisse allows Richard III to enter with bloody dagger, and to 
strike dead the rascal Catesby before our eyes. In Mustapha (L761) 
we see at the last the band of rough janissaries in considerable num- 
bers, the black servants of the Sultan, and murder upon the stage. 
In Rosemunde of the same year we see a double poisoning and death 

^SeuflEert, Introd. to Bodmer's Karl von Burgund, In Deutsche LitieraturdenkTnale d, 
IS. Jahrhunderts, IX. 

' Twenty-nine lines. s Revised for the last time in 1745. 

^Deutsche Schaubilhne, V (1744). Final lorm. 

379 



70 W. R. Myers 

upon the stage. Nothing is reported. In the Befreyung von Theben 
(1764) one murder is done before our eyes, wholesale slaughter is 
reported in the next room, and fighting without in the streets. 
In Atreus (1766) a tumult of the people is reported, but death occurs 
in Act V upon the stage, for here, as in Krispus, of the same year, 
the scene is changed for the express purpose of making the death upon 
the stage possible. Likewise in Romeo (1767) we see the death of 
Romeo and Juliet by poison and dagger at the family tomb. Here 
a curtain at the rear is used to secure the change of scene. In Jean 
Calas (1774) all sorts of action are both reported and seen. 

In Brawe's Brutus the death of Brutus occurs on the stage. 

In Gebler's Adelheid, on two occasions, a fainting fit of Adelheid 
is reported — in one ease we hear the noise as she falls to the floor, 
striking a chair, as we are told later. 

Moreover, II, vii, the madness of Siegmar is reported, not seen, 
perhaps out of consideration for the feelings of spectators. Yet in 
the fifth act Siegmar, in making a thrust at Dahlen of whom he is 
jealous, runs his own wife through with a sword and then kills himself 
in true "theatrical" style. Also in Gebler's Klementine, the taking 
of poison we see, but fainting and death occur elsewhere than on the 
stage. 

Bodmer several times avoids death scenes by reporting, such 
as the death of Caesar in Brutus, and the slaughter of the banqueters 
in Pelopidas. He prefers to report fighting, as in Italus or Pelopidas. 
But several times he introduces considerable numbers upon the 
stage; in Brutus, V, iv, or in his Cato the group of women protesting 
against the bill to prohibit the wearing of personal adornment- 
And in his Italus he allows (III, ii) the strenuous heroine herself to 
stretch the false Alboin, her suitor, in the dust with his own spear 
when he boasts of killing her lover, Sigoveses. 

In practice the theory is not always strictly adhered to, even by 
Schlegel himself, and as the English drama, meaning chiefly Shake- 
speare, became better known in Germany and Switzerland, the greater 
freedom in point of delicacy ( Delikatesse) became apparent in the 
works of German dramatists. 

It is of interest to note the almost entire absence of ensemble- 
scenes in the early plays of this period, and the substitution there- 

380 



Gaps in the Action of German Deama 71 

for of narrative. The plays named above, Mustapha, Brutus, and 
Cato, are the only examples observed where considerable numbers 
occupy the stage at once. Bodmer may have been influenced by 
Shakespeare, but for Weisse the technique is surprising. On the other 
hand, a multitude of instances like the assassination of Caesar in 
Brutus, or the meeting of conspirators, testify to the use of reports 
to avoid such mass-scenes. 

In comedy nice propriety (Delikatesse) is observed in other regards 
by the first writer of modern German comedy, Frau Gottsched, less 
than by her successors. Frau Gottsched practiced her husband's 
theory: "Es musz also eine Comodie .... die gemeinsten Redens- 
arten beybehalten.'" For example, in her Testament (1743) she 
uses oaths and figures which would be questionable in any society, 
one of her feminine characters, Amalie, joining in the merriment. 
On the other hand she reports, for instance, the scene at the table 
as do Cronegk, Gellert, Ayrenhoff, and Lessing in his Der junge Ge- 
lehrte (III, i). Now and then such a scene is presented for certain 
especial purposes, as when Stephanie shows the humble peasant 
family at supper with their own soldier son quartered at their home. 
The simple long-suffering of the honest parents gains an effective 
background from this scene. In Stephanie's Werber there is repeated 
eating and drinking. In Brandes' Gasthoff there is drinking upon the 
stage. These of course follow Lessing's Minna, where there is 
drinking. Just enjoys the landlord's good brandy without experi- 
encing a change of sentiment toward the donor. In IV, i, the 
morning meal has just been taken, the table is cleared, and coffee 
is served and partaken of (IV, iii). 

4. The Author's Models for Individual Plays 
Especially in the earlier part of this period German writers of 
dramas regularly chose several plays, or often only one play, usually 
French, after which the new play was constructed.^ In this process, 
since every other detail was closely imitated, it was natural that 
almost the exact technique of narrative reports was also faithfully 
if not always well reproduced. It is useless to attempt here more 
than to cite a few characteristic examples. 

• Critiache Dichtkunat, 2. Aufl. (Leipzig, 1737), II, it, par. 19. 
2 See Gottsched's Schaubahne for names of such writers and the models used. 

381 



72 W. R. Myers 

Gottsched with his Cato represents the one extreme of close imi- 
tation. " Reports " are copied word for word with the rest from the 
original of Addison and Deschamps.' Where Gottsched inserts any 
composition of his own it is only to elaborate the report found in the 
model. ^ In the translation of reports the technique sometimes suffers, 
as when Addison says (V, i) : " Hark ! a second groan ! Heaven 
help us all," which Gottsched renders (V, vii): "Allein das Poltern 
wird zum andern Mai gehort. Ihr Gotter ! Steht uns bei ! " With 
most other writers of "original" plays published in the Schaubuhne 
there was similar close imitation of the technique of reports, without 
the direct borrowing of language from the model. The technique 
is that of the French plays published in translation in the Schaubuhne 
as models.^ In comedy, Frau Gottsched's technique in her three 
original plays* is very like that in her prose translations from Des- 
touches.' 

With Elias Schlegel it is difficult to speak of direct imitation of 
models in this detail of technique. For his first tragedies the ideas 
and material came from classical sources. He had studied with 
zeal Euripides, Sophocles and Horace, H6delin and Boileau, Opitz 
and Canitz." But in addition he had mastered the principles of the 
Critische Dichtkunst. To the material of Euripides and Seneca, 
therefore, he applied the rules learned from Gottsched in producing 
his Trojanerinnen and his Geschwister in Taurien. Dido was written 
at first to oppose a regular play to the irregular Dido of his friend 
Schell, a fellow-pupil at Schul-Pforta. In his later plays, while 
he takes materials and ideas from many sources in a very cosmopoli- 
tan way, his formal technique in the matter of reports remains always 
his own interpretation of the French rules learned from Gottsched. 

In his earlier tragedies especially, Weisse clings closely for his 

material to dramas already successful. There is evidence enough 

that he was familiar with Shakespeare's Richard III before he wrote 

his own tragedy of that title. Here imitation of model in the technique 

of reports is unquestionable. The material of the English play is 

1 Of. Joh. Krflger In D. Nat. Lit., XLII, 38. « Cf . IV. UI. 

'E.g., 'Ra.cm.e, Iphigenie (translated by Gottsched); Voltaire, Zaire (Joh. Joach. 
Schwabe) and Alzire (Frau Gottsched); Oomeille, Horatier (Glaubitz) and Cid (Lange). 
* Die ungleiche Heirat, Die HausfranzHsin, Das Testament. 
^ Das Gespenst init der Trummel, Der Verschwender, Der poetische Dorfjunker. 
" a. Wolfl, SchUgel, 5 f . 

382 



Gaps in the Action of Geeman Drama 73 

forced into French form. As late as 1764, when Krispus appeared, 
Weisse imitated essentially the technique of reports of his real though 
unacknowledged model,' Racine's PMdre (1677). Romeo und Julie 
is another attempt to improve upon Shakespeare. It is interesting 
to compare the technique of reports. The action reported (III, 
i, v) appears upon the stage in the English plays. With Weisse, 
IV, i takes the place of V, i, ii with Shakespeare, but in Shakespeare 
we see Romeo as he receives the news of Juliet's death (V, i). 
The report of five lines (IV, v) does not appear in Shakespeare, but 
the reports in V, v (Weisse) and V, ii (Shakespeare) correspond. 
Thus Weisse makes more use of the report, but the reports of Shake- 
speare are far more effective.^ It may be noted here in passing that 
in the first printed form of Weisse's play the speeches were much 
longer than in the later edition; IV, v, for instance, was twice as long.' 
Direct imitation of one or a few definite models during the con- 
struction of an original play, including the technique of reported 
action, can be affirmed only of the first part of this period, say till 
1750. It is as if the technique had to be learned by the German 
dramatists by working over concrete models. In the fifties and 
sixties frequent examples of such imitation are found, as in Weisse's 
Krispus. In general, however, the technique was by that time so well 
in hand that material from any source could be forced into the 
stereotyped form. 

5. The General Influence of Foreign Dramaturgical Ideas 
Unquestionably the dramaturgical ideas of Germany at the end 
of the first quarter of the eighteenth century were adopted almost 
bodily from France. The French drama developed from the Latin; 
the tragedy especially from Seneca, without very great influence 
from the Greek.* Corneille was the first important dramatist and 
critic to interpret Aristotle for France. When the study of Greek 
models came to be given the place of first importance, the conven- 
tions which had developed in France out of the Latin drama had 

■ Compare the reports In Phidre, II, vi with Krispus, III, ill; PMdre, III, lii with 
Krispus, III, vU. The reports In Phidre, V, v, vl are not found In Weisse's version. 

2 Of. IV, 1 (Weisse), V, i (Shakespeare). 

^01. Beitrag zum deutschen Theater. 5. Th. (1768); Trauerspiele, 4. Th. (Leipzig, 
1776). 

'Ct. Miller, The Tragedies of Seneca (Chicago, 1907); Introduction by Manly, 6. 

383 



74 W. R. Myers 

already been fixed or were taking definite form, and Corneille 
explained Aristotle in such manner as to support the French usage 
as he found it, and was making it.' It is of chief interest therefore 
to see the resemblance between the French drama even of the time 
of Gottsched, and the tragedies of Seneca. 

Some of the characteristics of Seneca's tragedies are, to use 
Manly's phrasing, "love for broad description, for introspection 
and reflection, for elaborate monologue, and catchy sententiousness." 
He finds " an accumulation of horrors and a consistently unfortunate 
ending," "the perfection of form" only, "a formal schematism, clear 
because simple and lifeless." He mentions the "scanty scenery," 
as the "cause of long descriptive passages"; "passages of fine 
language, eloquentia"; and the "melodramatic character" of the 
plays. 

Of these characteristics some went over to the French and some 
to the English, somewhat according to the temperament of the two 
peoples. In French tragedy we find love for description, introspec- 
tion, reflection (with or without confidants), "a formal schematism," 
often "clear because simple and lifeless," "scanty scenery," "fine 
language." In English tragedy we find, rather than these character- 
istics, presentation of action of all sorts upon the stage, even 
"horrors"; death upon the stage in violent form; in general a much 
more marked tendency to melodrama. Descriptions in Shakespeare 
are rather short and suggestive than "broad." 

Thus occurred a wide separation between the dramaturgical 
ideas of England and France. At the beginning of the period of 
this examination, the one-sided development of the French drama 
had nearly reached its culmination. It remained for Diderot to begin 
the criticism necessary to open the eyes of Frenchmen to the faults of 
their drama. In Germany Diderot found in Lessing one who eagerly 
took the best from him as he did from others and rejected what he 

1 "II faut done savoir quelles sont ces rSgles; mais notre malheur est qu'Aristote et 
Horace aprSs lui en ont ficrit assez obscur6ment pour avoir besoin d'interprStes, et que 
ceux qui leur en ont voulu servir jusque ici ne les ont souvent expliqugs qu'en grammair- 
lens ou en philosophes. Comme ils avolent plus d'fitude et de speculation que d' experi- 
ence du thSatre, leur lecture nous pent rendre plus doctes, mais non pas nous donner 
beaucoup de lumiSres fort sOres pour y rfiussir. 

"Je hasarderai quelque chose sur cinquante ans de travail pour la scSne, et en dirai 
mes pens6es tout simplement " — Corneille, Diacoura du poeme dramalique, 16. 

384 



Gaps in the Action op Geeman Drama 75 

found to be false. Germany proved to be better soil for the seeds 
of reform than did France; for the French ideas were after all exotic 
and superficial in Germany. French formality held far shorter 
sway there than had the Haupt- und Staatsaktionen, the wild out- 
growth of the Shakespeare stage in Germany. And now the return 
swing of the pendulum soon became rapid toward the English idea 
of action on the stage, character as expressed in action, not described. 
The movement began definitely with Lessing's prose tragedy of 
burgher life, in 1755. Two years later Brawe's Brutus appeared, 
in pentameter, showing influence of English form. In 1764 appeared 
Weisse's Befreyung von Theben, showing not only in external form 
(pentameter) , but also in many other ways, English influence. The 
later tragedies of Weisse are all in prose. Weisse's concession to 
English ideas shows how popular those ideas had become in Germany. 
By the second half of the sixties, in fact, the reform was assured; 
and by the early seventies spirits were ripe for the Shakespeare 
revolution that came with Gotz. The interest of this present examina- 
tion stops, however, with the attainment of freedom from the slavery 
to rule, and leaves the further development into violent extremes 
for later observation. 

To resume briefly, early in this period the German tragedy 
inherits from the Latin through the French the technique of reported 
action, the requirement of nice propriety (Delikatesse) being added 
by the French. The " horrors " of Seneca are passed on to the Eng- 
lish, while the French refinement of taste becomes so affected that 
not even a box o' the ear is permitted without protest, not only 
from the owner of the ear, but from the critic as well. Only under 
Lessing's influence are the two elements of the Senecan tragedy 
reunited. 

Moreover there is characteristic of the German plays of this 
period directly influenced by the French a strong tendency to paint 
human feeling, sentiment. It was an effort to present character 
as opposed to action. But it seems to me to be one expression in 
Germany of that sentimentalism or sensibility which was a watch- 
word of the eighteenth century in France. At first this character- 
istic was universal in German tragedy. The growth of English 
influence caused its disappearance to a large extent. 

385 



76 W. R. Myees 

In the light of what has preceded, the relation of these changes 
to the technique of reporting action is apparent. Suffice it to say 
that the freedom gained from external forms and in the selection 
of subject-matter was accompanied by similar independence from 
requirements affecting narrative technique, such as the unity of 
place, Ddikatesse, and the like; and it became the effort no longer 
merely to make reports formally perfect, but to make them effective, 
to make them accomplish something toward the action. 

D. THE FUNCTION OR OCCASION OP REPORTS 

1. To Present Action 

After having thus far considered the technique and substance 
of reports and the place of their occurrence, let us examine as to 
the function of reports and the occasion for their employment. 

Except where mentioned, no reports have been considered which 
are not necessary to the completeness of the dramatic action; but 
the dependence of the action upon reports varies greatly within this 
period. In the tragedies of Gottsched and his followers, Ephr. 
Kriiger, Melchior Grimm, Pitschel, Camerer, and Elias Schlegel,' 
almost the entire action is reported. Cronegk depends somewhat 
less upon reported action. Bodmer reports almost all his action. 
Brawe reports some of the rising action, the falling action, and the 
retarding moment. Gebler, in Vienna, one of the last followers of 
the old "regular" school, supplies thus almost every step of the 
action in his Klementine (1771). Weisse's tragedies show much 
variation. In Edward III (1758), Richard III (1759), and Befreyung 
von Theben (1764), almost all the action is reported. In Krispus 
(1760-64) and Romeo und Julie (1767), somewhat more of the action 
is seen. But here in each case there is change of scene (V). In the 
Flucht (1769-70) and Jean Colas (1774) most of the action occurs 
before our eyes with change of scene. In the case of Mustapha 
(1761), Rosemunde (1761), and Atreus und Thyest (1766) there is 
little action and almost nothing reported. In the last-named play 
there is change of scene in the fifth act. 

Weisse's use of the report to present action seems to depend 
first upon the matter chosen for the drama. If there was much 

> Whose early works belong in this category. 

386 



Gaps in the Action of German Drama 77 

action he necessarily reported much. Secondly, if he allowed him- 
self a little more freedom from the strict unity of place, the amount 
of narrative was reduced. But he never won any real independence 
from the narrow technique he had once for all learned of Gottsched. 

Lessing, in Miss Sara Sampson (1755), several times reports 
action. All the reports are in the fifth act. The administering 
of the poison is reported in four scenes: i, v, vii, x; the incident of 
the stranger who enticed away Mellef ont is reported in three scones : 
i, ii, iii; the departure of Marwood, in scene v; and the report that 
no physician could be found, in scene x. There is much here to 
remind one of the old technique, with elaborate reports, divisions 
of reports among several persons, with even a' restatement of the 
narrative as a whole in one case.^ But an essential difference between 
these reports and those of others of the same decade is, that these 
reports are interesting because of the fact which they communicate, 
and not as an elaborate account of an important action. For instance, 
it makes the end certain when we learn from Mellefont that no 
medical assistance can be found. Our interest is only for the fact. 
Likewise we have no desire to see the various stages of Miss Sara's 
fainting fit and just how the poison was administered. We are 
quite satisfied to hear the testimony. These are details subordinate 
as compared with those parts of the action which have occurred 
before our eyes. Lessing surrounds the framework of his action 
with interesting but subordinate reported action; his predecessors 
and many of his contemporaries presented the framework by means 
of narrative. 

2. To Motivate Expressions of Emotion 

Following a discussion of the use of reports to present the action 
of the drama, it should be observed that in most tragedies of the 
first half of this period the end of drama was not action. It was 
emotion that was portrayed. Not human beings moved to action 
by passion and will, but human sentiment expressed or described 
in what was considered to be sympathetic and beautiful language. 
Especially is this true of the Alexandrine plays of this time; so 
much so, that in support of this statement almost any one of them 
might justly be cited. 

• The poisoning: the letter of Marwood recounts all the circumstances. 

387 



78 W. R. Myebs 

With this condition clearly in mind, it is no longer difficult to 
understand the use of reports to motivate the expression of emotion. 
A single report of very scant action suffices to set off long tirades, 
and a succession of such reports builds up a slender skeleton having 
the task of supporting and lending shape to a body only too often 
ponderously flabby. Whether consciously or not, the author aims 
first to express emotion. In effect he subordinates action, using 
it as a means to an end. Even substituting the report for presenta- 
tion upon the stage, he makes action a mere source of motivation. 
The extent to which this process is carried varies greatly. Fre- 
quently it extends through the whole play, or only isolated speeches 
may be thus motivated.^ But in this wise much of the "report" 
in the early part of this period is to be accounted for. 

3. To Motivate Action 

The next most important use of narrative is to motivate follow- 
ing action. Thus the matter of a report may or may not be itself 
a part of the action in the narrow sense; yet if later events would 
be unmotivated without the given account, the report becomes 
essential. 

The employment of narration for the purpose of motivation occurs 
to a considerable extent in the tragedies of this period, especially 
the later ones, but is even more frequently found in the comedies. 
Thus in Gebler's tragedy Adelheid (1774), the report of armed men 
concealed in the woods motivates the presence of the bandit who 
sends the fatal letter to Adelheid. Or the reported reading of the 
letter by Adelheid motivates her whole succeeding action, her efforts 
to leave her husband, who appears now as the murderer of her former 
betrothed lover. In Frau Gottsched's comedy Das Testament^ 
the report^ of the broken carriages and the lame horses motivates 
the decision of Frau Tiefenborn to remain at home instead of going 
to the country as planned. In Weisse's Matrone von Ephesus (1744) 
he motivates the whole action by news concerning the body hanging 
on the gallows. In his Poeten nach der Mode (1751), II, ix serves 
to make the situation clear at once, and the following action intelli- 
gible; in Hke manner III, ii serves the same purpose. The same 

> El. Schlegel, Herrmann. ^ III, Iv. 

388 



Gaps in the Action of German Drama 79 

technique is found in Der Misztrauische gegen sich selbst, Der Projekt- 
macher, and others. In Brandes' Gasthoff (1767) the whole action is 
rather sprawling and not well motivated, but the reported occur- 
rences are parts of the action, and furnish a basis for further action. 
In Ayrenhoff's Postzug,^ the steward {Verwalter) describes a table- 
scene, which motivates several events that take place later: the 
Count expresses suspicions, founded upon occurrences at the dinner, 
as to a love affair between his bride and the major; and the con- 
versation with Lisette is an important scene for the action. 

In Lessing's early comedies the reports motivate the action to a 
large extent, as for instance, in Der junge Gelehrte, II, iii, or III, i, 
the report of the table-scene. Sometimes this is done in a threadbare 
fashion, as in Die alte Jungfer (II, i) Lisette tells Lelia quite appar- 
ently so that we may know what to expect: ". . . . sie hat den 
Augenblick nach einem Schneider, nach einem Spitzenmanne, nach 
einer Aufsetzerin und nach einem Poeten geschickt." 

A difference is noticeable in the comedies between the nature of 
the earlier and the later reports in many cases. The more strict 
use of narrative carefully to motivate a part of the action of the play 
as a whole is more often found in the later comedies. In the earlier 
ones the reports serve as a basis for the local situation without 
so much relation to the unity of the action. This of course was a 
fault of the whole play, not of the report. The early comedies were 
rather a succession of situations, capable of indefinite multiplication. 
A report was used in two ways: first, a comparatively short account 
was sometimes expanded to a ridiculous situation in the mere telling, 
as in Joh. Ohm. Kriiger's Candidaten.^ Johann dallies with his report, 
cracking jokes imtil his master threatens his life, when he pretends 
to begin to relate the events " historically " in lieu of a better order 
of events. The result is that a short report in substance covers 
four pages in the telUng, and if well played the situation might 
be quite ludicrous. Or secondly, a narrative is made to open a situa- 
tion, which is then so developed as to be laughable, as in Weisse's 
Misztrauischer (II, iii), where the bold Herr Pelfer turns to his own 
advantage Frau Drummer's report;' for he lets it be understood 

» II, 1. 2 V, i. 

' That someone unknown has presented her daughter with a beautiful gift, suitable 
as a gift from an accepted suitor. 

389 



80 W. R. Myers 

luider the very eyes of the real suitor, whose proxy (Brautwerber) he 
is, that he, Pelfer, is the lover and the author of the gift in question. 
Thus a ludicrous, if somewhat impossible, situation is developed, 
based upon the report of Frau Drummer. 

4. To Relieve the Author in His Helplessness 

Very frequently the occasion for narration is the pure helplessness 
of the author before the difficulties of dramatic composition. 

If the author is in embarrassment as to how to gather up the 
loose threads of his story and put an end to the " action," for example, 
he inserts a narrative report, which serves his purpose immediately 
and quickly: as in Weisse's Edward III (V, ii), where Nordfolk 
lends the author much needed assistance in hastening the end. 
Especially in the Alexandrine tragedies the presentation is so broad 
that, to get anywhere, considerable action must be condensed into 
reports. 

The natural inclination to advance along the line of least resistance 
explains the tendency to describe action in detail, supplying motives 
practically at wUl; because the spectator has no way of controlling 
the author's statement without seeing the action with his own eyes. 
This is assuredly a comfortable method of securing the desired effect 
of the action without the trouble of presenting the whole action in a 
convincing way to the spectator. This method is especially conven- 
ient where a psychological process has to be shown.' 

Another kind of report is a manifestation of helplessness on the 
part of the author. The great dramatists of the world, among 
them Shakespeare and Schiller, when confronted with an extended 
action involving a mass of detail, have had the power of selecting 
characteristic and essential actions for careful presentation, of sub- 
ordinating some minor details, and of rejecting what was unnecessary. 
The faculty rightly to select and reject is not the least sign of great- 
ness in a dramatist. Among the dramas examined there are several 
in which the author is overwhelmed by the details and can help 
himself only by condensing them into reports and introducing thus 
all the circumstances of the action. By closer motivation much 
of the material carried along might have been dropped, and the action 

« Cf. Krttger, Vitichab, V, i; see p. 62. 

390 



Gaps in the Action of Geeman Dbama 81 

made clearer and simpler. Here are evidences too of the naturalism 
which appeared at this time and manifested itself in various ways. 
In the drama there was a tendency to copy life as it actually existed, 
to present on the stage a bit of real life. Thus Weisse's Jean Calas 
(1774) presents dramatically before our eyes the "tragic" fate of a 
poor French Protestant, but is no tragedy. At the same time, the 
author introduces with great circumstantiality all the details of 
the current accounts of the event, making very frequent use of the 
report. 

Short reports are used here and there to move the persons about, 
like wires of the puppet show. In Frau Gottsched's Testament 
(II, vii) occurs an excellent illustration. Amalie never allows her 
aunt to be alone for more than a few moments at a time, in her 
eagerness to overhear all plans with reference to the making of the 
aunt's will. This has gone on before our eyes continually. Just 
now the author wants to introduce an important situation in which 
the aunt receives and accepts an offer of marriage — a most important 
development in the "aunt's plot" of the action. Of course this 
situation must not be interrupted prematurely, so the author 
announces a reason why Amalie does not appear as we should other- 
wise expect: "Nein, ich habe ihr einen Brief an meinen Kaufmann 
in der Stadt zu schreiben gegeben. Den kann sie in keiner Stunde 
fertig bekommen." Again (II, x). Dr. Hippokras has disappeared 
for a time and he has to report how he has busied himself: "Fr. v. 
Tiefenborn: 'Haben Sie etwa wieder was erfahren?' Dr. Hippokras: 
' Nein. Ich habe einige von euer Gnaden kranken Hofgesinde besucht, 
und da fast anderthalb Stunden zugebracht.' " Other such instances 
occur in the same play: III, vi, III, vii. 

Gellert uses reports to move his characters about, usually short 
reports. Thus in Das Loos in der Lotterie (1746; II, vii) Damon has 
led his sister-in-law out to the garden; similarly in III, ii, vii; V, 
vii. Compare also Die kranke Frau} 

5. To Effect Transition or to Occupy Time 

There are several minor uses made of reports which may be 
mentioned. A report stands occasionally at the beginning of an 

'Written before 1747; Lustspiele (Leipzig, 1763). 

391 



82 W. R. Myers 

act or of a scene to connect it with the preceding division. Thus 
in Gebler's Adelheid, III, i seems to be distinctly a "transition" 
report connecting Act III with Act II. Dahlen, in Act III, takes 
up the report begun by himself to the servant, Gotthard, in the last 
scene of the previous act and completes the information concerning 
Siegmar's attack of madness before passing to the further action 
of Act III. 

Again, a report may be used to occupy time in order to secure 
the effect of verisimilitude (Wahrscheinlichkeit) . No better illus- 
tration could be found than Act V, scene v of Gottsched's Cato. 
Porcius is commanded by his father to run down to the harbor and 
see if the fleeing fugitives are safe on the ships. Thence he returns, 
V, vii, with a report. To fill in the time while Porcius does the errand 
three scenes are inserted. Of these scene v is a narrative. To keep 
us interested Phokas entertains us with a description of the innocent 
sweet sleep and probable dreams of the noble man, Cato. He 
has just seen him lying in slumber behind the curtain at the back 
of the stage, which perforce represents an inner room. In addition, 
this report is intended to center our attention upon Cato, and arouse 
our sympathy for the hero Just before he takes his own life. The 
catastrophe follows quickly after this, during the recital of Porcius. 

Narrative is frequently used to substantiate as fact, as finished, 
what has previously been outUned, or made probable, or agreed 
upon before our eyes. Such reports are found both in tragedy and 
in comedy.' 

6. To Reveal Character 

Reports of two other kinds should be discussed here, classified 
according as they are used for the purpose of characterization, or of 
presenting the author's philosophy in "purpose dramas." 

Persons are made to report much, in the dramas examined, with 
the effect, and doubtless also the intention, of filling in details in 
our conception of this or that character of the action, making it 
more real, or perhaps only more pronounced as a type. There are 
many degrees of closeness in the connection of such reports with 
the action. Here only those have been considered which contribute 
directly to the action and to the conception of character. Strictly, 

1 E.g., Gottsched's Cato, II, vil; Ohm. Krttger, Candidaten, II, xil. 

392 



Gaps in the Action of Geeman Deama 83 

many such reports are episodes, serving as exposition rather than 
as action in the narrow sense. But in the period under considera- 
tion strict classification from a modern standpoint becomes imprac- 
ticable, because of the different conception at that time of the nature 
of dramatic action. 

To cite one example from many: In Bodmer's Brutus, IV, x, 
in a moment of the severest trial, as Brutus stands in Caesar's house 
with good reason for believing that his plot has been disclosed to 
the dictator, a slave comes bringing news to Brutus that his wife 
has fainted repeatedly. He knows the cause — anxiety for him and 
his undertaking. Yet he maintains a cool, self-reliant exterior; 
a test of strength well added. 

7. To Present the Author's Philosophy 

Of "purpose dramas" there are two kinds. The author may so 
choose or shape his material that (a) the actions preach his phi- 
losophy without words. The reader draws the necessary conclusions. 
Or (6) the characters, with more or less introduction, make active 
propaganda for the author's views. Bodmer, in his national dramas, 
sometimes uses a narrative to introduce a subject for discussion, so 
to speak, an occasion for patriotic harangues. Slightly different in 
nature is the report in Brutus, III, iii. In one sense the action 
recounted is simple: Cassius took Brutus to the meeting of conspira- 
tors and they made plans to murder Caesar. But the author intends 
to report and does report more than the mere outward action. 
He wishes to convey to us an impression of the confusion of opinion 
among the conspirators before the coming of Brutus and their united 
sentiment afterward. To this end he causes Cassius to quote indi- 
rectly the different opinions expressed. At this point he very cleverly 
allows us to see Brutus deceive himself before our eyes in a charac- 
teristic manner. Cassius says, " .... in jedem Angesichte gliihete 
der Zorn, der einen Vater, einen Sohn, eine Braut zu rachen hat"; 
Brutus substitutes for revenge his own higher motive : " . . . . wir 
woUen nichts rachen, Cassius, als das Vaterland, in ihm hat Caesar 
jedem Homer, Vater, Sohn und Braut ermordet"; and by uncon- 
sciously imputing his own noble sentiments to others Brutus fatally 
deceives himself. 

3a3 



84 W. R. Myers 

Here the action to be reported is not merely a deed in the author's 
mind, not merely the coming together in a meeting, nor even merely 
the conclusion reached or determined upon; just as important it is 
to him to report the philosophy, the steps by which the determina- 
tion was reached. The transition is easy from reporting such 
philosophizing to further discussion, and such a transition occurs. 
Brutus' speech cited above, coming after two pages of narrative, 
introduces a whole page of philosophizing upon the deserts of a 
tyrant, capable though he be, at the hands of republican patriots. 
Brutus, whose thoughts are upon deeds, then returns to the report 
of plans completed at the meeting. But even with Brutus Caesar 
is not briefly " Caesar," but " . . . . den .... der sein Leben nach 
alien gottlichen und menschlichen Gesetzen verwiirkt hat." No 
chance is lost to promulgate the republican doctrine. The report 
finally goes over into a continued consideration of plans, supported 
by a further extensive course of philosophizing. 

In Gebler's Adelheid less preaching is done, but the facts are 
made to speak loudly for themselves and the moral is plain: the 
evil of jealousy and of too passionate love. 

8. To Add Significant Coloring to Salient Features of the Action 

Occasionally actions gain in force by being reported, not seen. 
A number of reports can be cited where the account takes on color 
of some kind from the medium of transmission. In Gebler's Klemen- 
tine (II, xi), Friedrich, in reporting the arrival of the police officials 
after the death of the Baron, contrives to add to the mere report 
the apprehension that foul play has been done. The report has 
gained this touch of suspicion from the medium of transmission. 
Or in Adelheid (I, vi), Hedwig reports to her brother Siegmar the 
visit of a strange man during his absence, with a communication 
for Adelheid, Siegmar's wife. This action, if seen, might be and was 
simple enough. Yet heard from Hedwig's lips, jealous of Adelheid 
and impetuous as she was, it was a different matter. As reported 
by her the account was colored with insinuations calculated to 
fire the suspicious nature of her brother, and from merely passing 
through this medium the report gained in effectiveness over the 
plain event if seen on the stage. 

394 



Gaps in the Action of German Drama 85 

III. CONCLUSION 

A. CHANGES IN THEORY 

To review in conclusion the results of our examination of this 
period, we find very little expression of theory definitely applicable 
to the technique of reports. Starting with the borrowed views of 
Gottsched and his followers, as best stated in the Critische Dicht- 
kunst, we find arguments for the strict observance of the unities, 
of franzosische Delikatesse, for correctness of form, for the use of 
verse (Alexandrine) in tragedy, and of prose in comedy. Following 
the straight line of development, Elias Schlegel is the next to offer 
any important contribution to theory, with his protest' against 
slavish adherence to the unities, especially the unity of place. He 
urges also the advantage of verse for comedy as well as tragedy.^ 
Lessing alone seems to have heeded the young Schlegel, by whom he 
must have been influenced early in his career. And Lessing, who 
forced a hearing for himself, not only emphasized the protest of 
Schlegel,* but rebelled against the prevailing idea of Delikatesse,* 
supported with arguments' the middle-class tragedy which he intro- 
duced, taught the use of prose for the serious drama,* required real 
action in place of sentiment, and among other things emphasized 
the necessity of making the dialogue natural.' 

The theories of these three men were by far the most important in 
determining the development of the technique of reports. It is 
unnecessary here to mention the theoretical writings of such men as 
Cronegk, who protested' vehemently against even the use of a curtain 
at the rear of the scene, or as Weisse, who, while giving out a policy 
of compromise between French and English dramaturgical ideas,' 
in effect followed the old pattern almost up to the last. 

B. CHANGES IN PRACTICE 

In practice, however, the actual evolution can be detected in 
numerous details, as appears in the foregoing. In closing, a brief 
review of the more important evidence is added. 

1 Gedanken zur Aufnahme des dunischen Theaters (1747). 

2 Schreiben ilber die KomBdie in Veraen (1740). 
'E.g., Hamburgiache Dramaturgie. 46. Sttlck. 

< E.g., ibid., 66. Stuck. ' E.g., ibid., 14. Stttck. « E.g., ibid., 13. Stuck. 

' E.g., ibid., 59. Stiick. ' Preface to Codrus. 

» Beytrag sum deutschen Theater (1766), Part I, Introduction. 

395 



86 W. R. Myebs 

Of considerable interest is the development of the monologue. 
At first it was carefully avoided to satisfy the requirements of veri- 
similitude (Wahrscheinlichkeit) . As means to this end, confidants 
(Vertraute) were employed. With the conviction that the means were 
even worse than the original evil, the confidence was transferred 
to the audience, and now the monologue was used even to an extreme 
and without sufficient motivation, by authors like Brandes. 

Toward the last years of Lessing's life, and through the influence 
of his example, the assignment of reports to certain types of charac- 
ters ceased to a large extent, and it was possible for any character 
to be the bearer of a report properly motivated. 

Not only was the pedantic use of types cast overboard; but 
there began with Lessing, or more properly with Elias Schlegel, 
a serious study of the technique of the drama hitherto unknown in 
Germany. Gircmnstances occasioned that only Lessing's thoughts 
should become widely influential. The changes found at this time 
were by no means all concretely introduced by Lessing; rather was 
it true that his great example stimulated emulation in others, even 
in this period. For we find some men such as Gemmingen, who 
worked well and thought with much independence. 

Among other evidences of the deepening of the study of technique 
are the following changes in the technique of individual reports. 

At the beginning of this period, the emphasis upon form extended 
even to the "reports." Their mechanism became very elaborate 
as formal technique developed, so that three different classes are 
distinguishable: undisguised narrative, embellished narrative, and 
veiled narrative. As a result of Lessing's influence and serious study 
the reports retain the best of this formal technique, with as little 
cumbersome machinery as possible; but their nature is essentially 
changed by the beginnings of psychological development. 

In the early plays we find elaborate expansion of reports, even 
to great length, with labored attempts to increase the interest even 
to a small climax within the narrative. The element of excitement 
in reports is at first largely physical, later it becomes psychological. 
Moreover the introduction of real suspense marks a change from 
early methods. The conversational style is at first exceedingly 
circumstantial, and not until Lessing had set the example was a 

396 



Gaps in the Action of German Drama 87 

rapidly moving natural dialogue attained, except occasionally. 
After the appearance of Minna von Barnhelm imitations were many. 
The use of minor details of technique, interruptions, and the like, 
Lessing essentially subtilized. There was an increase in the skilful 
use of "alarms" to accompany reports. 

There is a remarkable development also in motivation: motiva- 
tion of the choice of characters, of the use of the narrative, and of 
individual reports. At first external and obvious, or lacking entirely, 
the motivation became later skilful and usually psychological. 

Psychological development in reports before the appearance of 
Lessing's later dramas is rather accidental than otherwise. 

Aside from these narrow but not unimportant details of technique, 
there were broader changes affecting the "reports," tallying closely 
with the theories of Lessing already cited. The growing freedom 
from the slavish observance of the three unities and of Delikatesse 
made possible the introduction to the stage of much action hitherto 
reported. Matter was now excluded from direct presentation by 
reason of its unimportance or other impracticability, not for mere 
formal reasons. Thus, whereas " reports " were at first a necessity 
for the presentation of action, they were used later at the discretion 
of the author. Closely related to this also is the change in the end 
or object of the tragedy. After Lessing's Emilia Galotti especially 
a unified action was assured to the drama and not a mere dramatic 
presentation of emotion. 

In the external form there is a gradual change from Alexandrine 
verse to the English measure, pentameter, and, through this inter- 
mediate step,' to prose. This is true for the tragedy. In the 
comedy, prose was used from the first by Frau Gottsched, although 
Alexandrines were employed occasionally by a few authors, among 
them Elias Schlegel. As is well known, Lessing was in large part 
responsible for the introduction first of pentameter, and then through 
his Miss Sara Sampson, of prose. Later, in his dramatic poem Nathan, 
Lessing returns to verse, a circumstance prophetic, as events proved, 
of the return of the German classic drama to a preference for verse. 

Very marked is the change in style, reaching even the reports, 
from wordy, inflated descriptions to conversation, in both tragedy 

• For others than Lessing, e.g., Weisse. 

397 



88 W. R. Myees 

and comedy. Here the influence of the middle-class tragedy (biirger- 
liche Tragodie) is evident. There is less necessity for reporting action. 
Instead of the old descriptions of battles and the like, action difficult 
of reproduction upon the stage, the action now occurs naturally 
within four walls, perhaps. Moreover, from the nature of the case 
the style of language of the middle-class tragedy is simpler, homelier. 
In the comedy of Lessing, the dialogue is put upon a basis of sparkling 
intellectuality, in place of hvundrum circumstantiality — in reports 
as elsewhere. 

In conclusion, it may be said that the development of the technique 
of reports in the German drama of this period is away from that of 
the French drama. Beginning with complete adoption of French 
technique in this detail, as in others, as early as 1747 Elias Schlegel 
began to protest. To be sure, he had read La Motte's criticism as 
well as English dramas; just as Lessing had read Diderot. But in 
both cases the honor of the French prophet was least at home. The 
French were less ready than the Germans for reform, as Lessing says, 
because the drama, as it was, was a product of their own, and dear 
to them, while in Germany it was a foreign growth, more readily 
displaced by something better. Certain it is that with the appearance 
of Miss Sara Sampson in 1755 a period began in which the Germans 
led the French in the reform of dramatic technique. 

W. R. Myers 

OxpoBD, Ohio