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Ludwig Tieck’s "Puss-in-Boots" and Theater of the Absurd

A Commentated Bilingual Edition

Series:

Gerald Gillespie

Johann Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853) was one of the most formative influences of the romantic movement, inspiring such major figures as Novalis and Hoffmann. Not only did his tales and novels shape the course of German romantic fiction; as a translator he helped to naturalize Shakespeare and Cervantes; as an editor he was among the first to recognize Kleist.
Tieck’s precocious invention of ironic-fantastic comedy quickly found resonance among fellow romantics, who worked under the parallel influence of the Goethean revolution in drama exhibited in Faust. Yet Tieck’s play Puss-in-Boots (1797) had to wait a full century before its impulses were transmitted, by Pirandello, to modern anti-theater and theater of the absurd.
The Tieckian direction anticipates the metaphysical strains both of symbolist and of existentialist theater and the beneficent absurdism of Wilder and Ionesco. As the boundary between stage and audience completely dissolves in Puss-in-Boots, we experience the transcendent delight of pure theater and unsettling doubts about our own roles on the world’s stage.

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INTRODUCTION : Romanticism and Innovation in Dramatic Literature: Tieck’s Contribution

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INTRODUCTION Romanticism and Innovation in Dramatic Literature: Tieck’s Contribution 1. Tieck and the Context of Romanticism Although we are unlikely to rank him alongside Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as the latter’s heir, as did many of their own contemporaries in both Germany and England (Boening, 1977, vol. 6), we have regained a better appreciation of Ludwig Tieck’s achievements and influence. Most critics today concede that he was one of the key figures in the formation of Romantic genres and patterns, but a participant who out- lived the core Romantic decades. A watershed in re-evaluating Tieck’s contribution was marked by Rudolf Lieske’s attempt (1933) to explain the long-lived writer’s movement toward Realism out of the inner logic of his early thought and temperament, and by Edwin H. Zeydel’s study (1931) of his manifold relationships with England and English literature. Zeydel then subsumed these important details in the first complete modern artistic biography (1935). Robert Minder’s positive reassess- ment of Tieck as a Romantic writer appeared almost simultaneously (1936). Emil Staiger’s essay of 1963, which viewed the agility and irony of the early Romantic circle as a virtue born of necessity in the face of an overwhelming literary inheritance, remains among the best examples of the “reluctant” mode of tribute. Tieck’s cardinal role is nowadays, however, increasingly interpreted not by supposed ruling standards of the Goethean age but in the light of the new meaning of Romanticism that has evolved in the later twentieth century. In an essay published in 1968, Minder...

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