Overcoming Boundaries by Translating Mirth : Harlequin, Pickelhering, Hanswurst



Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description One of the typical features of European Renaissance theatre is the figure of the clown. Its prototype Harlequin (Arlecchino) from the Italian histrionic tradition of commedia dell’arte infiltrated theatrical practices of several nations with the help of travelling players (clown Jean Pottage in France; Jack Pudding in England). The Italians were, however, not the only disseminators of this tradition. For the German lands, the character of Pickelhering, becoming extremely popular on the 17th-century German stages, was an import from England made by English itinerant actors. Pickelhering was initially incorporated in the Englishmen’s plays translated into German (the character appears in the dramatis personae of Romio and Julietta) and then emancipated in his own Pickelhering-sketches (a sketch Pickelhering in the Box (Pickelhering in der Kiste) is an adaptation of the English jig Singing Simpkin). The character was later utilized by German dramatists (notably Andreas Gryphius, whose play Absurda Comica, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, features Pickelhering as one of the mechanicals) and joined, and for a several decades replaced, his German cousin Hanswurst. Although the beginning of the 18th century brought severe critique against this comical figure from German theoretician Johann Christoph Gottsched, who was assisted by the famous female principal Neuberin, the spirit of this unruly figure survived on popular stages, and even Johann Wolfgang Goethe could not resist playing with this character in his unfinished drama Hanswurst’s Wedding or the Course of the World (Hanswursts Hochzeit oder die Lauf der Welt, 1775), where he explored the non-existent limitations of this prank character, partly mediated to his culture from English. This paper focuses on the transitory phase of this Anglo-German exchange and explores the English clown as a phenomenon crossing borders of both geographical and cultural domains.
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