Schiller: The German Shakespeare?

Michael Billington in The Guardian:

Shakespeare is crucial to an understanding of Schiller, and one thing we have come to grasp in the past 20 years is the close kinship between German romanticism and our own dramatic tradition. George Steiner in The Death of Tragedy points out that Goethe and Schiller both adapted Shakespeare’s plays for the Weimar stage. In November 1797 you even find Schiller writing to Goethe: “In the last days I have been reading the plays of Shakespeare which deal with the War of the Roses and now that I have finished Richard III , I am filled with true amazement. No Shakespearean play has so much reminded me of Greek tragedy.” Insofar as Richard III deals with the fulfilment of a curse, Schiller was exactly right.

In fact, Schiller is much closer to us than to the hermetic French classical tradition of Racine and Corneille – a point instinctively understood by a young generation of directors free from the anti-German bias of their predecessors. When Lindsay Posner staged a thrilling version of The Robbers at the Gate in 1995, as part of a Sturm und Drang season, the Shakespearean echoes were loud and strong. In the play, two brothers compete for their father’s trust. The villainous Franz inescapably reminded one of Edmund in Lear ; the heroic Karl debated suicide in the manner of Hamlet; and when their imprisoned father cried out from the cellar, he became an echo of Shakespeare’s Ghost.

More here.