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.The plays came hot from the creator’s hand—a vast tragedy in ten acts begun by Schiller in 1796 and preceded by a one-act introduction, Wallensteins Lager, which Coleridge omitted as superfluous.With all due reservation concerning detail, Coleridge’s Wallenstein deserves to rank among the climactic examples of English poetic translation, though English immunity in this century to the genius of the greatest German tragedian will probably continue to keep it off the London stage.Coleridge’s view of Schiller was the view of his age : he had been bowled over by Die Räuber as a Cambridge undergraduate in 1794, and his knowledge of German, it is now clear, was already considerable before he set out for Germany with Wordsworth in 1798.He was the first great English author for whom German, rather than French or Latin, was the chief point of entry into continental civilization.The Wallenstein confirms, this view: Coleridge omits and dilates, but his misunderstandings are not numerous for a work of such scale.His unfulfilled version of Part I of Goethe’s Faust, which he seems to have promised to translate for John Murray in 1814, must have been well within his range; ‘no one but Coleridge’ as Shelley wrote in a letter of April 1822, ‘is capable of this work.’The fascination of Coleridge’s Wallenstein lies in the spectacle of one great poet at work upon another with a third, Shakespeare, holding varying sway over them both.The German originals were already Shakespearean, and to an extent that German audiences have perhaps seldom realized.The world of haughty, and yet bitingly argumentative, debate and intrigue among the great ones of a national past, and in an age of civil war, interspersed with humorous prose scenes allotted to their menials, reminds the English reader irresistibly of Shakespeare’s histories, and the striking interrelation between the public pretensions and private weaknesses of Schiller’s soldiers and noblemen of the Thirty Years War reminds the English reader of Julius Caesar too.The heroic and deluded figure of Wallenstein himself, buoyed up by a faith in astrology into a conviction that, in deserting the Emperor for the Protestant cause, he can carry his army with him into the Swedish camp, succeeds in real measure in establishing itself, much as Shakespeare’s Brutus does, in the double role of public hero and private conscience.Schiller had isolated and intensified the problem with something like Shakespeare’s eye for the dramatic chance: ‘I am purposely seeking for limitation in the historical sources,’ he wrote to Körner, ‘in order that my ideas may be strictly determined and realized by surrounding circumstance.’ The notion of determining by selected circumstance is one that must have fallen aptly upon a Coleridge fresh from a visit to Germany itself, the great source and origin in that age, as De Quincey later saw, of an historical awareness in poetry.The contrast with what French drama had to offer in 1800 is decisive: France might have taught him heroic drama, but in serious theatre it could teach him nothing better.Wallenstein is a play of intrigue set against a realized, and consciously limited, background of seventeenth-century Germany, a play of minutely shifting political and personal relations—relations which shift as far as a point of reversal so that, at the close, Wallenstein is murdered by one of his own followers—and where the tragedy of the direct and idealistic young Max Piccolomini sets off the true nature of a world where a man must intrigue or die.In one large regard only, the play remains stubbornly un-Shakespearean—in its explicitness.It belongs damagingly to an age in European drama where the simplest actions performed before the eyes of the audience still need to be reported by some bystander (‘He dies’); and grandiose as it is, it remains in its details something of a test to the patience of another age.Coleridge found a modern Shakespearean play and shakespeareanized it more.His preface calls the translation a literal one, ‘wherever I was not prevented by absolute differences of idiom’ (CPW 599), but this is a licence almost infinite in its extension.Coleridge seems to have been aware of the embarrassingly large English shadow that lies across the German, and in a manuscript note he knowingly convicted Schiller of one ‘most egregious misimitation of Shakespeare’, in the ludicrous talk that he attributes to his murderers (CPW 599).And yet he recogizes that the Shakespeare in question is not, fortunately, that of Lear or Othello, but rather the less disciplined world of Richard 11 or Henry VI.History is less tidy than tragedy: ‘We scarcely expect rapidity in an Historical Drama; and many prolix speeches are pardoned from characters whose names and actions have formed the most amusing tales of our early life’ (CPW 725).The presence of Shakespeare is not most easily demonstrated by individual passages, since it is a kind of omnipresence of word, action, and atmosphere; but one or two passages may serve [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]