The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 519 pages of information about The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 02.

Thus Coriolanus is pervaded throughout by anger that the masses will not acknowledge the preeminence of their superiors.  In Julius Caesar everything turns upon the conception that the better people do not wish any one placed in supreme authority because they imagine, mistakenly, that they can work in unison. Anthony and Cleopatra, calls out with a thousand tongues that self-indulgence and action are incompatible.  And further investigation will rouse our admiration of this variety again and again.

II

SHAKESPEARE COMPARED WITH THE ANCIENT AND THE MOST MODERN POETS

The interest that animates Shakespeare’s great spirit lies within the limits of the world; for though prophecy and madness, dreams, presentiments, portents, fairies and goblins, ghosts, witches and sorcerers, form a magic element which color his creations at the fitting moment, yet those phantasms are by no means the chief components of his productions; it is the verities and experiences of his life that are the great basis upon which they rest, and that is why everything that proceeds from him appears so genuine and pithy.  We perceive, therefore, that he belongs not so much to the modern world, which has been termed the romantic one, as to a naive world, since, though his significance really rests upon the present, he scarcely, even in his tenderest moments, touches the borders of longing, and then only at the outermost edge.

Nevertheless, more intimately examined, he is a decidedly modern poet, divided from the ancients by a tremendous gulf, not as regards outward form, which is not to be considered here at all, but as regards the inmost, the profoundest significance of his work.

I shall, in the first place, protect myself by saying that it is by no means my intention to adduce the following terminology as exhaustive or final; my attempt is, rather not so much to add a new contrast to those already familiar, as to point out that it is included in them.  These contrasts are: 

    Antique Modern

    Naive Sentimental

    Pagan Christian

    Heroic Romantic

    Real Idealistic

    Necessity Freedom

Sollen (Duty; shall; must; should). Wollen (Desire; inclination; would).

The greatest torments, as well as the most frequent, that beset man spring from the discordances in us all between duty and desire, between duty and performance (Vollbringen); and it is these discordances that so often embarrass man during his earthly course.  The slightest confusion, arising from a trivial error which may be cleared up unexpectedly and without injury, gives rise to ridiculous situations.  The greatest confusion, on the contrary, insoluble or unsolved, offers us the tragic elements.

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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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