EESE 6/1996

Thorsten Unger (Göttingen)

English Plays on the Gotha Stage: Appendix II

The following list groups all plays translated from the English in the order of the opening nights. Apart from the English titles of the plays and the translations performed at Gotha, information on the frequency of their performances at Drury Lane Theatre, London, is included in order to permit a first assessment of the significance of each play in the context of English drama.1

The survey is based on the figures in Richard Hodermann, Geschichte des Gothaischen Hoftheaters. 1775-1779. Nach den Quellen. Hamburg/Leipzig 1894 (Theatergeschichtliche Forschungen 9), pp. 141-176, and in Rudolf Schlösser, Vom Hamburger Nationaltheater zur Gothaer Hofbühne 1767-1779. Hamburg/Leipzig 1895 (Theatergeschichtliche Forschungen 13), pp. 66-80.

The entries contain the following information: opening night and title of the play as performed at Gotha - number of performances - date of the last performance (* before the title marking those plays brought on stage by the company of Seyler and Ekhof) - English title - year of the London premiere - author of the original - translation performed at Gotha - if applicable, a note concerning performances at Drury Lane Theatre, which is based on: Drury Lane Calendar 1747-1776. Compiled from the Playbills and Edited with an Introduction by Dougald MacMillan, Oxford 1938.

  • 25/10/1775
    Sie läßt sich herab, um zu siegen, oder die Irrthümer einer Nacht (9 performances, up to 5/8/1778)
    Engl. She Stoops to Conquer: Or the Mistakes of a Night (1773), by Oliver Goldsmith
    Translation: Wittenberg

  • 8/11/1775
    Barnwell, Kaufmann von London (tragedy; 1 p.)
    Engl. The London Merchant; or, the History of George Barnwell (1731), by George Lillo
    Tr.: Hamburg 1752
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1748

  • 4/1/1776
    Die eifersüchtige Ehefrau (1 p.)
    Engl. The Jealous Wife (1761), by George Colman
    Tr.: Stephanie der Jüngere, after Bode
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1761, diminishing frequency of performances in the '70s

  • 1/5/1776
    Der Westindier (5 p., up to 2/12/1778)
    Engl. The West Indian (1771), by Richard Cumberland
    Tr.: Bode (1772)
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1771, diminishing frequency since 1775

  • 19/7/1776
    * Die Werber (6 p., up to 31/10/1778)
    Engl. The Recruiting Officer (1706), by George Farquhar
    Tr.: Stephanie der Jüngere (1769)
    Drury Lane: repertory play, performed almost every season

  • 4/9/1776
    Der beste Mann (2 p., up to 23/9/1776)
    Engl. Rule a Wife and have a Wife (1624; printed in 1640), by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher
    Tr.: Bock
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1756

  • 25/9/1776
    * Romeo und Julie (9 p., up to 16/7/1779)
    Engl. Romeo and Juliet (1597), by William Shakespeare
    Tr.: text: Gotter, music: Benda
    Drury Lane: repertory play

  • 2/10/1776
    * Was sein soll, schickt sich wohl (5 p., up to 27/12/1777)
    Engl. The Sister (1769), by Charlotte Lennox
    Tr.: Bock

  • 4/11/1776
    * Der schöne Flüchtling (2 p., up to 9/12/1776)
    Engl. The Runaway (1776), by Hannah Cowley
    Tr.: Helmolt
    Drury Lane: first night on 15/2/1776

  • 20/12/1776
    * Der Ton der grossen Welt (6 p., up to 4/11/1778)
    Engl. Bon Ton; or, High Life Above Stairs (1775), by George Colman and David Garrick
    Tr.: Helmolt
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1775

  • 28/4/1777
    * Die Nebenbuhler (12 p., up to 28/7/1779)
    Engl. The Rivals (1775), by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
    Tr.: Engelbrecht

  • 25/6/1777
    Die heimliche Heirath (8 p., up to 31/5/1779)
    Engl. The Clandestine Marriage (1766), by George Colman and David Garrick
    Tr.: Christian Heinrich Schmid
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1766

  • 30/7/1777
    * Die Nothlügen (2 p., up to 9/3/1778)
    Engl. The Lying Valet (1741), by David Garrick
    Tr.: ?
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1747

  • 31/10/1777
    * Er hat den Teufel im Leibe! (4 p., up to 23/2/1778)
    Engl. The Deuce is in Him (1763), by George Colman
    Tr.: Reichard, after Riccoboni's translation
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1763

  • 17/11/1777
    Zu gut ist nicht gut (3 p., up to 21/1/1778)
    Engl. The Good Natur'd Man (1768), by Oliver Goldsmith
    Tr.: Johann Friedrich Schmidt

  • 16/1/1778
    * Der argwöhnische Ehemann (7 p., up to 18/8/1779)
    Engl. The Suspicious Husband (1747), by Benjamin Hoadly
    Tr.: Gotter
    Drury Lane: repertory play since 1747

  • 30/1/1778
    * Hamlet (10 p., up to 5/7/1779)
    Engl. Hamlet (1602), by William Shakespeare
    Tr.: Schröder
    Drury Lane: repertory play

  • 26/6/1778
    * So muß man mir nicht kommen, oder: Der Schläger (2 p., up to 17/8/1778)
    [not identified]

  • 22/7/1778 * Wie man eine Hand umkehrt, oder: Der flatterhafte Ehemann (5 p., up to 9/7/1779)
    Engl. The School for Wives (1774), by Hugh Kelly
    Tr.: Bock
    Drury Lane: first night on 11/12/1773; diminishing frequency of performances

  • 2/10/1778
    Beverley oder der Englische Spieler (tr.; 2 p., up to 30/11/1778)
    Engl. The Gamester (1752)
    Tr.: Bode
    Drury Lane: first night on 7/2/1753 (11 p.), taken up again in 1770/71, continually on stage during the '70s

    Some remarks on this list:

  • Only plays that had been successful at the renowned and privileged London repertoire theatres, Drury Lane and Covent Garden were chosen for the Gotha theatre. In the Restoration period these theatres had been granted charters by Charles II which entitled them exclusively to bring on stage so-called "legitimate drama", i.e. tragedy and comedy. Smaller "illegitimate theatres" were to provide popular entertainment in various hybrid forms with an obligatory proportion of musical parts, such as "ballad opera" and "burlesque".2 One of the consequences of this decree, which was not abolished until the 1843 Act for Regulating Theatres, was that Drury Lane and Covent Garden held the status of official theatres representing national drama and "the function", as it were, "of museums preserving the English dramatic tradition".3 This had a conservative rather than innovative effect on new dramatic productions, and it favoured, as did censorship since 1737, rather conservative programmes.4 Not surprisingly, continental adaptations of English plays followed the example of Drury Lane and Covent Garden, the more so since David Garrick, England's most famous and most discussed actor of the time, was one of the managers at Drury Lane from September 1747 until June 1776. Of the plays brought on stage at Gotha, a minor proportion had been part of the permanent repertoire of the London theatres for a long time (e.g. Lillo's Barnwell, since 1731, Farquhar's Recruiting Officer, since 1706, Hoadly's The Suspicious Husband, since 1747). But for the most part they had been taken up more recently, and successfully, in the late 1760s and '70s (e.g. Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer in 1773, Cumberland's The West Indian in 1771, Colman/Garrick's The Clandestine Marriage in 1766). The plays performed at Gotha had been successes in London and were chosen with remarkable efforts to create variety and to be fashionable.

  • At other German theatres, the situation was much the same, and it is very likely that the programme makers looked to one another for inspiration. Heinrich August Ottokar Reichard (1751-1828), who directed the Gotha theatre together with Conrad Ekhof, published two periodicals which were widely read throughout the German-speaking area: the Gothaer Theaterkalender5 and the Theater-Journal für Deutschland.6 Both reported regularly on the programmes of foreign houses and also on the repertoire of several select touring companies, e.g. the Seyler Company. Up-to-date publications of this kind allow a lively exchange of information, which is to be seen in an interrelationship with the prevailing fashion. Of the twenty plays adapted from English originals which were performed at Gotha, for instance, fifteen are also to be found in the programme of the Burgtheater at Vienna. What is more, they seem to have met with equal approval, as far as can be judged by the number of performances.7

  • Of the variety of genres, mostly bourgeois sentimental forms were selected at Gotha, in the tragic as well as in the comic sector. Although the genre of tragedy still corresponded to the fashion in England, the English taste in comedy was already changing. Of tragic plays, the proportion of which consisted of five to ten per cent at Gotha, two well-known examples of domestic tragedy were taken up again from the Seyler repertoire. The London Merchant; or, the History of George Barnwell (1731), by George Lillo, which was staged again at Gotha in 1775, is generally regarded as the first bourgeois tragedy ever and was of great influence on Diderot. Similarly, Miss Sara Sampson, by Lessing, obviously reveals its debt to Barnwell. It was first performed in 1755, one year after the first performance in German of Lillo's play (Hamburg, 1754). The other play, The Gamester by Edward Moore, was first performed at Drury Lane in 1753 and at Gotha in 1778. It is about the self-destruction of Beverley, a well-to-do bourgeois, who was ruined after having been lured into gambling by a rogue. It may be interpreted as treating, in a sentimental manner, the tragic refusal to follow an inner moral sense. In addition, two Shakespearean tragedies, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, were performed in considerably altered versions, with their tragic endings changed and with the sentimental traits being emphasized. These adaptations became great successes at Gotha and elsewhere. The Gotha theatre was the first German house to perform the Schröder translation of Hamlet, with Ekhof as the ghost. In this adaptation Hamlet stays alive, is reconciled with Laertes and is made king.8 Romeo and Juliet was first performed at Gotha in a special adaptation: as a musical play with spoken dialogue and short musical interludes by Georg Benda (1722-1795). The libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter (1746-1797) was published in 1779, together with the piano score;9 it has a happy end. In the history of music, this first setting of Shakespeare's play is regarded as an important document of the development of musical play before Mozart. It was an extraordinary success and was staged at all the important German theatres, inter alia those at Berlin, Mannheim and Vienna, until well into the '90s. Romeo und Julie was performed nine times at Gotha. The co-operation with Benda, the composer, was generally highly productive. His name and that of the Gothaer Hoftheater are also linked to the development of the Melodram in the 18th century, a combination of spoken text and music which is intended to accompany, illustrate, and interpret the text. Following the example of Rousseau, it was cultivated by Benda with Ariadne auf Naxos (text: Brandes) and Medea (text: Gotter). Among Benda's successful musical plays, based on Gotter libretti and performed at the Gothaer Hoftheater, the following can be highlighted: Der Jahrmarkt, Walder and Der Holzhauer oder Die drei Wünsche.

  • As to comedies, they cannot be classified as accurately on the English side, because the usual labels of literary history - most importantly, the Restoration comedy of manners and the sentimental comedy - represent conceptual categories from which the individual plays depart, sometimes considerably throughout the 18th century. The "old-timer" at Gotha is Rule a Wife and Have a Wife (1624), by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, which belongs to the tradition of Jonson's comedy of humours. It was staged in a new translation by Bock, published in 1778, under the title Der beste Mann.10 Only a later, bourgeois moralizing version of this Restoration comedy of manners was staged at Gotha as The Recruiting Officer (1706) by Farquhar. Most of the comedies brought on stage at Gotha show certain sentimental traits and are usually classified as sentimental comedies, emphasizing, as they do a touching virtuousness destined to appeal to the emotions. Laughter, especially if caused by a base subject, is of less importance in these plays. Among these can be included the greater part of the comedies by Colman, Cowley, Cumberland, Garrick, Kelly, and Lennox, as well as some of those by Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, although these, in English literary history, are generally seen as succeeding the sentimental tradition11 and are called "laughing comedies" as opposed to "weeping comedies" according to an essay attributed to Goldsmith himself.12 In comedies of this kind the professed virtuousness is replaced by witty entertainment.

    Back to 'English Plays on the Gotha Stage'


    For a discussion about some of the translations, cf. Gerd Nover, Die deutschen Übersetzungen und Bearbeitungen englischer Komödien im 18. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt 1982 (Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe 1, 462), pp. 205-251.
    Cf. Hans Ulrich Seeber, Englische Literaturgeschichte. Stuttgart 1991, p. 207; Heinz Kosok, "Drama und Theater in England: 1700-1900" in: Heinz Kosok (ed.), Das englische Drama im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert: Interpretationen. Berlin 1976, pp. 7-24, here: pp. 11f. For general information on the period cf. Percy Fitzgerald, A New History of the English Stage. From the Restoration to the Liberty of the Theatres, in Connection with the Patent houses, 2 vols. London 1882.
    Kosok, Drama und Theater, p. 11.
    Cf. ibid. pp. 11f.
    The first issue appeared in the theatre's year of foundation: Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1775, Gotha: bey Carl Wilhelm Ettinger, [1774].
    Theater-Journal für Deutschland vom Jahre 1777. Erstes Stück. Gotha, bey Carl Wilhelm Ettinger.
    At Vienna, the following plays were particularly successful: Cumberland's Westindier (50x, up to 1836), Farquhar's Recruiting Officer (13x), Sheridan's Nebenbuhler (19x), Colman's Er hat den Teufel im Leibe (16x), Kelly's Wie man eine Hand umkehrt (25x), and Hamlet. For informations on the programme: Burgtheater 1776-1976. Aufführungen und Besetzungen von 200 Jahren, by Minna von Alth, 2 vols., Wien 1979.
    Cf. Adolf Winds, Hamlet auf der deutschen Bühne bis zur Gegenwart. Berlin 1909 (Schriften der Gesellschaft für Theatergeschichte 12), p. 42.
    Romeo und Julie, Ein Schauspiel mit Gesang in drey Aufzügen. Leipzig: im Verlage der Dykischen Buchhandlung, 1779.
    Published in: Vermischtes Theater der Ausländer, vol. 1, Leipzig 1778; cf. Nover, Die deutschen Übersetzungen, p. 212.
    For a detailed classification cf. Elmar Lehmann, 'Not merely sentimental'. Studien zu Goldsmiths Komödien. Munich 1974 (Beihefte zu Poetica 11).
    This essay, "On the theatre", was published anonymously in 1773 in the Westminster Magazine. Cf. Richard Bevis, The Laughing Tradition: Stage Comedy in Garrick's Day, London 1981, p. 81.