Der Zuschauer

A Journal of Essays and Reportage on Drama, History, and Literature

Archive for November 2008

Voltaire Has Sent Us This Picture

with 3 comments


Voltaire, lived in exile in Great Britain from 1726 to 1729. In 1734 he published his Philosophical Letters, or, Lettres anglaises. Containing letters on Quakers, on Parliament, Commerce, Inoculation with smallpox, Newton, Decartes, Bacon, and a System of Gravitation, they are written from acute observation, with witty insight, and at times, absurd wrong-headedness. They are a delight. Below we offer some extracts from the two letters, On Tragedy and On Comedy. We will remind you that Voltaire saw himself, chiefly as a dramatist.

“The English already had a theatre, as sis the Spanish, when the French still had nothing but portable stages. Shakespeare, who was considered the English Corneille, flourished at about the time of Lope de Vega. He had a strong and fertile genius, full of naturalness and sublimity, without the slightest spark of good taste or the least knowledge of the rules.”

“I am going to tell you something rash but true, namely that the excellence of this author ruined the English theatre.”

“You know that in the tragedy of the Moor of Venice, a most touching play, a husband strangles his wife on the stage, and while the poor woman is being strangled, she shrieks that she is dying most undeservedly. You are not unaware that in Hamlet gravediggers dig a grave, swallowing drinks and singing popular songs, cracking jokes typical of men of their calling about the skulls they come across. But what will surprise you is that these stupidities should have been animated in the reign of Charles II, which was the age of politeness and the golden age of the art.”

We will spare you much of Voltaire’s translations into French of some of the great soliloquies. “To be or not be,” in the German, robustly “Sein oder nicht sein.” Voltaire’s “free” translation goes to a rhyming, meandering couplet”
“Demmure; il faut choisir, et passer a l’instnat
Dela vie a la mort, ou de l’etre au neant.”

“The plays of the English tragic writers, almost all barbarous, quite lacking in good taste, order and plausibility, have amazing flashes amid this gloom. The style is too bombastic, too far removed from nature, too much copied from Hebrew writers who are themselves so full of Asiatic hot hair.”

Written by herrdramaturg

November 12, 2008 at 10:54 am

Wasser: How Does It Rise?

leave a comment »


Various and numerous observers have now written in to report seeing our man, Herr Doktor Stanley Richardson, reading in the Diesel Cafe in Davis Square. He was said by most to be reading A.J. Ayer’s book, Thomas Paine; although some have said it was Heinrich Mann’s Zwischen den Rassen; one even argued it was Celine’s Mort a Credit. We are, here on Guam Island, simply glad to know he has somehow reconstituted himself after spontaneous combustion, and hope to see him ripen into an old raunchy cheese before his translation from this material life.

The Editors

Written by herrdramaturg

November 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm

World Shaking Events

leave a comment »


We have received a report, involving spontaneous combustion, regarding our Northeast Corridor correspondent, Stanley Richardson. It seems he was noticed by various of our spies reading through copies of The Examiner and taking notes on the opera criticism of Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, et al, when he disapeared in a cloud of white smoke. This was in the Tisch Library at Tufts University. His books, notes, and writing remained, but no sight of this young man we call Hothead or Roman Candle Red. Why has he left us? Where did he go? Opera is not worth a candle to our rueful amazement and concern. Let us know, Dear Readers, if you have learned anything.

The Editors, Der Zuschauer

Written by herrdramaturg

November 5, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Bop, Bop, We Are a New Nation

leave a comment »


Written by herrdramaturg

November 5, 2008 at 11:45 am

Work, Intellectual and Various

leave a comment »

Dear Readers,
We have yet to locate the said Dr. Stanley R. Richardson. It has been suggested by the unruly C.D. Grabbe, fondly, that he may have cooked some bad redfish, frozen and from Bahia; more over that he imbibed too much Icelandic ale with Auden and MacNeice. If nothing else we will find the body eventually. And you can count our complete election records.
Yours truly,
John Dennis

Written by herrdramaturg

November 2, 2008 at 3:13 pm