Early Shakespeare Performances in Germany
Or "My Kingdom for a Copyright!"
Shakespeare's works were not translated into German then shipped to German actors for local production immediately upon the Bard's completion of his plays. Rather, the English performing artists who benefitted from Shakespeare's material slowly tiptoed their way into German audiences like a mountebank insideously slipping his way into an audience member's better judgement.
During the SCA period, before 1600, pieces of Shakespeare's material were performed by English actors for German audiences in a kind of "Coming Attractions" fashion. The Bard's best, audience pleasing bits were selected and incorporated into German comedies for years before full Shakespeare plays were performed in Germany. English actors teased the German people with Shakespearean salsa before the whole enchilada was served.
Wealthy European nobles often paid foreign traveling troupes to perform in their homes for special occasions. One great example of this practice was the 1575 Commedia dell'Arte play performed at Trauznitz Castle in Landshut, Germany for the Duke of Bavaria upon the occasion of a wedding. This play is portrayed in a mural along a 6 story staircase still visible in the castle today as can be seen at this web page: https://www.burg-
Performing troupes from Italian cities, France, Spain, and England were seen throughout Germany prior to 1600, just like the Trauznitz Commedia play of 1575. Shakespeare's material was used by English troupes in a smattering of skits, speeches, and stolen plots ensconced in comedy variety shows customized for the paying patron and his audience.
Here at Atlantia's German Christmas Market, our little English troupe of actors will recreate a version of what German audiences could possibly have seen before 1600 when Shakespeare's works were just starting to infiltrate the continent.
Our local business contact, Frau Genef Wolfstein, has done wonders by getting us gigs at the houses of rich nobles during this exciting Christmas season. When we take some time to explore performing in the street at her local Christmas market, we hope to discover which of our favorite Shakespeare pieces appeals best to the German audiences. Will it be the comedies as our fellow English actors have reported back in London? Will it be the passionate war speeches? Will the performance by women be accepted?
Come help us with medieval market research for Shakespeare's works in Germany!
Preliminary research used to inform our presentation will be provided in hard copy at Twelfth Night.