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«Stella: A Play for Lovers» (1776) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Edited By Kristina Becker and Susan Gustafson

Goethe’s play Stella (1776) caused so much turmoil in Germany that it was retracted from the stage. In England, it was portrayed as evidence of lesser German values because of its portrayal of a ménage à trois. This new translation provides an introduction exploring the reception of the play in Germany and England, scholarly interpretations of the play, and the portions that were left out in earlier translations. The introduction also outlines the major questions the play highlights: Why do the two women, Stella and Cecilia, ultimately accept the ménage à trois? Can they trust Fernando, who flirts with every woman he meets? Do women and men conceive of marriage and loving commitments differently? Do the women agree to the ménage à trois because it is the only way they can be together as friends or as lovers? In addition, this translation has an appendix that outlines all of the changes (over 100) that Goethe made in 1806 in order to get the play back on stage. A useful resource for students, teachers, and scholars alike, this translation sheds new light on Goethe’s classic play.

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In 1806 Goethe re-wrote Stella: A Play for Lovers in order to get the play back on stage and changed the title to: Stella: A Tragedy. The translations provided here are based on the two versions of the play provided in the Münchner Ausgabe of Goethe’s works. Stella: A Play for Lovers (1776) in the Münchner Ausgabe, edited by Hans-Jürgen Shings, vol. 1.2., 1988, 37–77 and Stella: A Tragedy in the Münchner Ausgabe, edited by Victor Lange, vol. 6.1., 1986, 462–505. In this appendix we list line-by-line all of the changes Goethe made in 1806 that should be of interest to scholars, students, and the general audience. Some whole passages were changed in addition to the ending. Many of the changes involve punctuation, for example, shifts from question marks to explanation points and vice versa. These punctuation changes shift the meaning of the text and affect the way that actors and actresses speak the lines and what emotions they are highlighting for the audience. In addition, Goethe often changed lines and essential nuances with the addition of a word or a few words. For example, at the beginning of Act 1, Goethe wrote in 1776: “Landlady: If I were to marry again, it would be only because alone it is too difficult to hold the whole pack in line!” And in 1806 he altered this line to: “Landlady: If I were to marry again, it would be only because alone it is...

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