The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 09 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 647 pages of information about The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 09.
if of any one, while Koerner in his Nightwatchman has drawn nothing but a funny caricature; with the former the character shapes the situations, whereas with the latter the situations shape the characters, if I may use this expression.  I should be giving myself a great deal of unnecessary trouble if I should engage in a further analysis of the two comedies which I have mentioned, since at all events I could only adduce sundry details, and such details in this case prove absolutely nothing; for the only safe criterion of the truly comic is that the picture as a whole, apart from what wit has done for it, should arouse interest as an organic adaptation of nature.  With the rascally, lustful, country judge, Adam, in the Broken Pitcher, this is certainly the case; one can safely take away from him the few witty sallies which he indulges in:  but what the nightwatchman Schwalbe would become if one attempted the same procedure with him, I should not like to decide; probably a clown, who has been deprived of his wooden sword and cap and bells, and whose plain, honest features show that he has only executed such droll antics for the sake of his bread and butter.  Schwalbe is merely ridiculous, but Adam is comic; the difference, to define it more clearly, consists in this; every caricature, because it diverges from laws which are eternal and necessary, without standing in eternity as a peculiarly constructed whole, has a tinge of incongruity, consequently of ridiculousness; while only that caricature of nature can be comic of which the divergences are self-consistent, which shows therefore that it is founded in itself.  The poet should take only the comic as a subject of treatment; for he can never lay stress upon detached separate phenomena, if he cannot prove the connection between them and the general whole, if they do not constitute for him a window through which he looks down into Nature’s breast.  It is easy to calculate, accordingly, how high Theodor Koerner’s services to the comedy should be rated, provided he has actually succeeded with his smaller things, The Nightwatchman, The Green Domino, etc., in furnishing amusing farces.  To accomplish this, nothing was required but natural gaiety combined with a talent for representation, and many men who were anything but poets have been equipped with both.

It still remains for us to estimate what Koerner and Kleist have achieved in narrative.  In this field Koerner has produced such mere trifles that it would be unjust for one to infer from them the least thing touching his characteristics, as it probably never occurred to him to consider himself a story-writer.  Heinrich von Kleist’s novels and stories, on the other hand, belong among the best that German literature possesses.  Almost all the narratives of our writers, with the exception of a few productions by Hoffmann and Tieck, suffer, if I may say so, from the monstrousness of the subjects chosen, if they

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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 09 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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