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

A Commentated Bilingual Edition


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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DER GESTIEFELTE KATER KINDERMÄRCHEN IN DREI AKTEN MIT ZWISCHENSPIELEN, EINEM PROLOGE UND EPILOGE PUSS-IN-BOOTS FAIRY-TALE FOR CHILDREN IN THREE ACTS WITH INTERLUDES, A PROLOGUE, AND EPILOGUE 48 Personen Personen Der König Die Prinzessin seine Tochter Prinz Nathanael von Malsinki Leander Hofgelehrter Hanswurst Hofnarr Ein Kammerdiener Der Koch Lorenz Brüder Barthel und Gottlieb Bauern Hinze ein Kater Ein Wirt Kunz Michel Gesetz ein Popanz Ein Besänftiger Der Dichter Ein Soldat Zwei Husaren Zwei Liebende Bediente Musiker Ein Bauer Der Souffleur Ein Schuhmacher Ein Historiograph Fischer Müller Bötticher Leutner Schlosser Wiesener Dessen Nachbar Elefanten Löwen Bären Ein Amtmann Adler und andere Vögel Ein Kaninchen Rebhühner Jupiter Terkaleon Der Maschinist Gespenster Affen Das Publikum Bauern Dramatis Personæ 49 Dramatis Personæ1 The King The Princess his daughter Prince Nathanael of Malsinki Leander court scholar Jackpudding court fool A groom of the chamber The cook Lorenz Barthel Gottlieb Hinze a tomcat An innkeeper Kunz Michel Law a bugbear A pacifier The author A soldier Two hussars Two lovers Servants Musicians A peasant The prompter A shoemaker A historiographer Fischer Müller Bötticher Leutner Schlosser Wiesener His neighbor Elephants Lions Bears An official Eagles and other birds A rabbit Partridges Jupiter Terkaleon The machinist Ghosts Apes The public peasants peasant brothers 50 Prolog Prolog (Die Szene ist im Parterre, die Lichter sind schon angezündet, die Musiker sind im Orchester versammelt.–Das Schauspiel ist voll, man schwatzt durcheinander, Ankommende, u.s.w. Fischer, Müller, Schlosser,...

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