Great is the wealth of beauty in the poetry of past peoples and times, specially in the century of our great poets who form the judgment and excite the imagination of the poet of the present. This immeasurable wealth of the products of art is perhaps the greatest blessing for a future in which the popular energy works most powerfully, taking up what has affinity for it and casting off what resists it. But during a time of weak rest of the national spirit, this inheritance was a disadvantage for the creative activity of the poets, because it favored a lack of distinctive style. Only a few years ago, in Germany, it was almost an accident whether an Athenian or a Roman, Calderon or Shakespeare, whether Goethe or Schiller, Scribe or Dumas, attracted the soul of the young poet into the magic circle of their style and their forms.
The poet of the present begins, furthermore, as a beneficiary who richly receives, and is thereby incited to his own creative activity. He has, usually, no life occupation which binds him to a particular, definite field of poetry. It is again almost by chance, what species of poetical composition attracts him. He may let his sentiments ring out in lyrics; he may write a romance; at last the theater entices him,—the brilliance of the author’s evening, the applause of the audience, the power of the received tragic impressions. There are few German poets who have not first commended themselves to the public, in a volume of lyrics, then tried their luck on the stage, and finally contented themselves with the more quiet success of a romance. Without any doubt, their poetic talent showed greatest capability in one of these directions. But as external relations laid no restrictions on them, and now one, now another field attracted more strongly, the circle in which their power moved with greatest freedom, did not come into fullest completion. The great secret of a rich creative activity is limitation to a single branch of the beautiful art. This the Hellenes knew very well. Whoever wrote tragedies, let comedy alone. Whoever used hexameter, avoided the iambus.
But the poet, also, to whom the creation of dramatic figures is a necessity, lives, if he does not stride upon the boards as an actor or director, apart from the theater. He may write or not. External pressure, a mighty lever to move talent, is almost entirely wanting. The theater has become the daily pleasure of the peaceful citizen, and collects not the worst, but not the most pretentious social element. In this large expansion, it has lost some of the dignity and loftiness which the poet might wish for the drama of serious style. There are brought on the stage, buffoonery, opera, comedy, forms and theories of life of different centuries. All is sought which can please, the newest, the most singular; and, again, what affords the great multitude most pleasure, thrusts all else aside.
The resources of material for the poet have become almost boundless,—the Greek and the Roman worlds, the Middle Ages. Sacred writings and poetry of the Jews and Christians, even the people of the Orient, history, legends of the present, open their treasures to the searcher. But this offers the disadvantage, that with such infinite material, a choice becomes difficult, and is almost an accident, and that none of these sources is in a condition to attract the German exclusively, or preferably. Finally, for the German, as it appears, the time has not yet come when the dramatic life of the people, itself, flows out richly and unimpeded. Gladly would we see in the appearances of the newest present the beginnings of a new development of national character, beginnings which do not yet contribute to art. That it is still so difficult for the dramatic poet to raise himself from the epic and lyric conception of character and of situations, is no accident.
But the poet must labor for the stage. Only in connection with the actor’s art does he produce the best results which are possible to his poetry. The reading drama is fundamentally only a makeshift of a time in which the full power of dramatic creation has not yet appeared among a people, or has disappeared again. The species is an old one. Already among the Greeks pieces were written for recitation, and still more of the Latin recitation pieces have been transmitted to us. Among the Germans, the reading drama, from the early comedies of nun Hroswith, through the stylistic attempts of the first humanists, even to the greatest poem of our language, has a long history. Infinitely varied is the poetical worth of these works. But the employment of poetic form for dramatic effects, which renounce the claim of being the highest of their species, is considered, on the whole, a limitation, against which art itself and the interested reader protests.
In the pages of this book, the attempt has been made to show that the technical work of the dramatic composer is not entirely easy and free from pains. This kind of poetry demands more from the poet than any other. It demands a peculiar, but rarely found capability for representing the mental processes of men of significant and unusual power of action; a nature well tempered with passion and clearness of vision; a developed and certain poetic endowment, and a knowledge of men, as well as what in real life, is called character; an accurate knowledge of the stage and its needs must be added. And yet it is striking, that of the many who make incursions into this field of creative work, the most are only dilettanti friends of the beautiful; but just these choose the most exacting labor, and such a one as promises them the very least success. It is indeed serious work to write a romance which merits the name of work of art; but every educated person with constructive skill and knowledge of men, who has not attempted anything as a poet, may offer something readable, wherein single significant impressions of real life, what he has seen, what he has felt, are spiritedly interwoven. Why does the most capricious muse of all muses, so unapproachable, so ill-mannered toward everybody who does not wholly belong to her,—why does she attract cultured men, very capable men? What enemy of their life guides just such warm-hearted friends, who busy themselves with poetry during their hours of leisure from active duties, into a poetical field, in which the closest combination of an always rare constructive energy, with an unusual, firm, secure mastery of the forms of art, is the assumed condition of lasting success? Does a secret longing of man for what is most lacking in him, possibly, lead him astray? And does the dilettanti, just for this reason, seek to develop the drama in himself, because it is denied him, with all his poetic visions, to animate creatively his restless fluttering feelings in the body of any other form of art? Undeniably, the attempts of such persons to labor for the stage, are vain and hopeless. But for the poet who has been equipped for all his life with dramatic power, we wish, before all other possessions, a firm and patient heart. He must, however, bring to his employment still another means of advancement; he must feel quickly and joyfully what is charming in a subject, and yet have the deliberation to carry it within his breast till it is natural. Before he ascends the stage as creative genius, he must for a long time make himself intimate with the chief laws of creation; for he must understand how to prove whether a subject is useful, in the essentials. Even in this, judgment must from the first moment watch over his warm heart, where the charm of composition arises; a play which has failed, means to him, on the average, a year of his life lost.
The imagination of different poets does not seize upon material with equal rapidity; the beginner’s seeking soul hovers lightly about any summit which offers itself, and the nest is built beneath the first budding branch. He who is warned by experience, becomes critical and tests too long. Often it is not an accident that suggests a subject to the soul, but the mood and impressions of the soul’s own life, which attract the fancy in a definite direction. For the soul works secretly upon a piece before it finds hero and chief scenes; and what it demands from the material is that this may offer the possibility of certain scenic effects.
The difficulties which the various subjects and materials offer, have been made sufficiently prominent. But he who finds it difficult to decide, may consider that it depends on the power of his talents whether, in most events, they are changed into a useful action. A positive poetic power needs only a few moments out of legend, history, narrative, only one strong and momentous contrast, out of which to form an action.
If the dramatic poet of old times found these traits in the legend shortly before the destruction of the hero of the epic, it may yet be asked whether, in historical dramas, it is just as necessary to make the chief heroes of this sort the central figures in an action, that this may have its movements about them, their adventures, and their overthrow. How difficult and perilous it is to make use artistically of an historical life, has already been discussed. Let it not be objected that the greater historical interest which the heroes awaken, and the patriotic enthusiasm which the poet and the spectator alike bring to them, make them specially adapted to the drama. The old German history offers comparatively few heroic figures whose remembrance is dear through a great interest, in the present time. What to our people are the emperors of the Saxon, Prankish, Staufen, or Hapsburg houses? The purposes for which they conquered and died are perhaps condemned by the convictions of the present time; the struggles of their life have remained with no occurrences easily understood by us; for the popular mind, they are dead and buried. But further, the conscientious poet, before the not numerous historical heroes who still live in the memory of the people, will recognize new restrictions which narrow the freshness of his creative power. Just this patriotic sympathy which he brings with him, and expects from the hearer, lessens the superior freedom with which, as poet, he must hover over every character, and misleads him into special kinds of presentation or a sort of portrait sketching. If once, to one German poet, the dramatic figure of the great Elector has been successful, Luther, Maria Theresa, “Old Fritz,” have only so much the more frequently failed.
But it is not at all necessary to make historical kings and generals, the heroes of an historical drama, which can be constructed advantageously on only a little period of their historical life. Much more agreeably and profitably may be exhibited the reaction which their lives have had upon the lives of others. How well has Schiller done this in Don Carlos, in Mary Stuart ! The Phillip of the former play is a brilliant example, showing how an historical character is to be used as a partner in a play.
With the life of well-known historical heroes a multitude of figures is connected, of whom single characteristic traits have been reported; and these successfully incite free invention. These accessory figures of history, whose life and its events the poet has at his free disposal, are specially convenient. One treasonous act and its punishment, one passionate deed of hatred and its consequences, one scene from a great family quarrel, one defiant struggle or sly play against a superior power, give him an abundant material. And such traits and such incidents are found on every page of our history, as in the history of all civilized nations.
Whoever is conscious of his own power chooses his pictures confidently, rather from the materials not yet arranged for art, but found in the real life of the past, and of modern times, than from such stock as is offered him from the other species of poetry. For the serious drama, material taken from romances and modern novels is not of much account. If Shakespeare used material from novels, his sources were, in our sense of the word, only short anecdotes, in which, of course, an artistic consistency and a powerful conclusion are already present. In the elaborated epic narrative of the present, the fancy of the poet shows its power frequently, just in effects which are intrinsically hostile to the dramatist; and the embellished and agreeable elaboration of the men and the situations in the romance, may rather dull than sharpen the imagination of the dramatist. He will hardly do wrong to the property of another if he draws his material from this circle of invention. For if he is an artist, very little will pass from the creation of another over into his drama.
The tragic poet is able, of course, to invent his action without using any material already at hand. But indeed, this happens less often, and with more difficulty than one would suppose. Among the great dramas of our stage, just as it once was in ancient times, there are few which are not constructed from already used material. For it is a characteristic of the power of imagination, that it perceives more vividly and exactly the movements in the life of men, if it can attach itself to a particular figure and its adventures. The image which imagination discovers for itself is not so easily made firm and powerful, that there is inclination to put upon it steady and assiduous labor.
And yet one conviction the poet may keep in his quiet soul, that no material is entirely good, little wholly bad. From this side also, there is no perfect work of art. Every subject has its inherent difficulties and disadvantages which the art of the poet is so far able to overcome, that the whole gives the impression of beauty and greatness. These weaknesses are to be recognized, but only by the practiced eye; and every work of art gives the critic, from this point of view, occasion for the exercise of his functions. He who judges must be on the lookout, that in the face of this deficiency, he understands whether the poet has done his duty, whether he has used all the means of his art, to master or to conceal.
In the joyful consciousness that he is beginning a gallant work, the poet must sternly take his position over against what has become dear to him, and test it, so soon as his soul begins to move about the accumulated material to beautify it. He will have to make the idea distinct, and eliminate everything accidental that clings to it from reality.
To the first charm that becomes ardent in his soul, belong characteristic utterances of the hero in single moments of his inner agitation or powerful activity. In order to increase the number of the pictures of such moments, and in order to intensify the characters, he will earnestly seek to understand the real life and surroundings of his hero. He will, therefore, contemplating a historical drama, make good studies, and this labor will have rich reward; for from it appear to him a great number of visions and pictures which may be readily joined in imagination to the growing work. The grateful soul of the German has, for just such characterizing details, a very sensitive feeling; and the poet will therefore have need to be on his guard that historic costume, the historic marvellous and infrequent do not assume too much importance.
If he has in this way extended, as much as possible, the world of his artistic vision, then let him throw aside his books, and wrestle for the freedom which is necessary to him, in order to have free play upon the accumulated material. But let him hold fast in his mind, as a restraint upon his directing power, four rules: a short course to the action, few persons, few changes, and even in the first plan, strong relief to the important parts of the action.
He may write out his plans or not; on the whole, this is not of much account. Elaborate written explanations have this advantage, that they make single purposes distinct through reflection; but they have the disadvantage, that they easily clog the imagination, and render more difficult the necessary transformation and elimination. One sheet is enough to contain a perfect outline.
Before the poet begins his elaboration, the characters of his heroes and their positions relative to one another, must be clearly fixed in mind, in all essentials; and so the results of each single scene. Then during the labor, the scenes take shape easily, as does their dramatic course.
Of course, this serious labor before beginning to write does not exclude minor changes in the characters; for the creative skill of the poet does not stand still. He intends to direct his characters, and they impel him. It is a joyful process which he notices in himself as the conceived characters, through his creative power and under the logical force of events, become living beings. A new invention attaches to one already expressed—and suddenly there flames up a beautiful and great effect. And while the goal and resting-place by the way are fixed in his clear gaze, the surging feeling labors over the effects, exciting and exalting the poet himself. It is a strong inner excitement, cheering and strengthening the favorably endowed poet; for above the most violent agitation, through the fancy which in the most passionate parts of his action excites his nerves almost to convulsion and reddens his cheeks, the spirit hovers in perfect clearness, ruling, choosing freely, and ordering and arranging systematically.
The labor of the same poet is different at different moments. Many of these appear to him brilliant; their previously perceived effects move his spirit animatedly; what has been written down appears only as a weak copy of a glowing inner picture, whose magic color has vanished; other moments develop perhaps, slowly, not without effort; the fancy is sluggish, the nerve-tension not strong enough; and sometimes it seems as if the creative power rebels against the situation. Such scenes, however, are not always, the worst.
The force of creative energy, too, is quite varying. One is rapid in the labor of writing down what is composed; to another, forms take shape slowly, and do not express themselves fluently on paper. The more rapid workers do not always have the advantage. Their danger is that they often fix the images too soon, before the work of fancy has reached the needed maturity. It is often possible for the poet to say to himself, that the inner unconscious labor is done, and to recognize the moment when the details of the effects have been rightly completed. The maturing of the pictures, however, is an important matter; and it is a peculiarity of creative power, that, as we might say, it is in operation at hours in which the poet is not consciously at his work.
Not unimportant is the order of sequence in which the poet writes out his piece. For one, the well trained imagination works out scenes and acts in regular succession; for another, it seizes on, now this, now that part of a great effect. What has been written comes to exercise a controlling influence on what is to be written. As soon as conception and vision and feeling are recorded in words, they stand face to face with the poet as an outsider giving direction; they suggest the new, and their color and their effects change what may come later. Whoever works in the regular order will have the advantage that mood develops from mood, situation from situation, in regular course. He will not always avoid making the way over which he would guide his characters, deviate a little and gradually, under his hands. It appears that Schiller has so worked. Whoever, on the other hand, sets before himself what the sportive fancy has vividly illuminated, will probably supervise more securely the aggregate effect and movement of his masterpiece; he will, however, now here, now there, during his labor, have to make changes in motives and in individual traits. This was, at least in single cases, the work of Goethe.
When the piece has been completed beyond the catastrophe, and the heart is exalted with gladness on account of the finished work, then the reaction which prevails everywhere after a highly excited frame of mind, begins. The soul of the poet is still very warm, the aggregate of beauty which he has created, and enjoyed while creating, the inner image which he has of its effects, he embodies still unconfused in the written work. It appears to him, according to the mood of the hour, either a failure or a vast success; on the whole, if in a normal state of mind, he will feel an inclination to trust to the power which his work attests. But his work is not yet finished, at least if he is a German. If the poet writes to have his work put on the boards, he does not, as has been said, yet feel, every moment, the impressions which the forces of his piece produce on the stage. Dramatic power works unequally also in this direction; and it is pleasant to notice the oscillations, in themselves. They may be perceived in the works of even great poets. One scene is distinguished by a vivid conception of the scenic action, the discourse is broken, the effects more exactly harmonized by transitions; at another time, it flows more agreeably for the reader than for the actor. And however rightly the poet may have perceived the sum of scenic effects, in detail, the sense of the words and the effect which, from the writing-table, they produce on the receptive mind, have had more of his attention than their sound, and their mediation with the spectator through the actor. But not only does the actor’s right prevail touching a piece, requiring here greater prominence of one effect, there a modification; but the audience is, to the poet, an ideal body demanding a definite treatment. As the power of imagination was greater in the hearer in the time of Shakespeare, the enjoyment of spoken words greater, but the comprehension of connections slower, so the audience of to-day has a soul with definite qualities. It has already taken up much, its comprehension of the connections is quick, its demands for powerful movement are great, its preference for definite kinds of situations is inordinately developed.
The poet will therefore be compelled to adapt his work to the actor’s art and the demands of the public. This business, the stage term of which is “adapting” (aptiren), the poet is able only in rare cases to achieve alone.
In the land of dramatic poetry,the cutting out of passages is wrongly in bad repute; it is rather (since for a time, the creative work of the German poet is accustomed to begin with a weak development of the sense of form) the greatest benefit which can be conferred upon his piece, an indispensable prerequisite to presentation on the stage, the one means of insuring success. Further, it is frequently a right which the actor’s art must enforce against the poet; omissions are the invisible helpers which adjust the demands of the spectator and the claims of the poet; whoever with quiet enjoyment perceives clearly, at his worktable, the poetical beauty of a piece, thinks, not willingly, how the effects will be changed in the light of the stage. Even worthy authors who have chosen the most serviceable calling of explaining to their contemporaries the beauties of the greatest poets, look down with contempt on a tradesman’s custom of the stage, which unmercifully mangles the most beautiful poetry. Only from the brush of a careful manager do the beautiful forms in the masterpieces of Schiller and Shakespeare come forward in the right proportion for the stage. Of course, every theater does not have a technical director, who with delicacy and understanding arranges the pieces so as to adapt them to the stage. Very adverse is the rude hand that cuts into the dramatic beauty, because it may present an inconvenience or does not conform to the taste of an exacting audience. But the misuse of an indispensable means should not bring that means into ill-repute; and if one would depreciate the complaints of the poets, over the misuse of their works, according to their justification, one would in most cases do them wrong.
Now in this adapting of a piece, much is merely of personal opinion; the justification of many single omissions is sometimes doubtful. The direction of a theater, which has, as a matter of course, the effect on a particular stage in mind, will have greater regard to the personality of its actors than will be welcome to the poet before the presentation. To an able actor who is specially esteemed by the audience, the director will sometimes allow to remain what is unnecessary; when he expects some good result from it, he may take an accessory effect from a role whose setting must be imperfect, if he is convinced that the actor is unable to bring it out.
The author of a work must not, therefore, leave the cutting down of his play entirely to strangers. He can accomplish it himself if he has had long experience with the stage; but otherwise he will need the aid of other hands. He must reserve to himself the last judgment in the matter; and he will not usually allow the management to abridge his piece without his approval. But he will, with self-denial, listen to the opinions of men who have had greater experience, and have an inclination to yield to them where his artistic conscience does not make concessions impossible for him. But since his judgment is hardly unembarrassed, he must, at the first intrusion of a benevolent criticism into his soul, wind about through uncertainty and inner struggles, to the great exercise of his judgment. The first disturbance in the pleasant peace of a poetic mind, which is just rejoicing in a completed work, is perhaps painful for a weak soul; but it is as wholesome as a draft of fresh air in the sultry summer. The poet is to respect and love his work so long as he bears it about as an ideal, and works upon it; the completed work must be dismissed. It must be as if strange to him, in order that he may gain freedom for new work.
And yet the poet must attempt the first adaptation, while his work is still on his desk. It is an unfriendly business, but it is necessary. Perhaps while he has been writing, he has perceived that some parts are necessary. Many moods which have been dear to him, he has more broadly elaborated than a slight warning of his conscience now approves. Nay, it is possible that his work, after the completion of his labor, in the moment when he considers it done, is still a quite chaotic mass of correct and artistic effects, and of episodical or injuriously uneven finish.
Now the time has come when he may repair what he slighted in his former labor. He must go through scene by scene, testing; in each he must investigate the course of individual roles, the posing, the proposed movements of the persons; he must try to make the picture of the scene vivid at each moment on the stage; he must hit upon the exact position of the entrances and exits through which his persons come upon the stage and leave; he must consider, also, the scenery and the properties, whether they hinder or whether they aid as much as possible.
Not less carefully let him examine the current of the scene itself. Perhaps in this process he will discover prolixities; for to one writing, an accessory trait of character may easily seem too important; or the role of a favorite has come to the front in a way to disturb the aggregate effect; or the presentations of speeches and responses are too frequent. Let him inexorably expunge what does not conduce to the worth of the scenic structure, however beautiful it may be in itself. Let him go further and test the connection of the scenes of an act, the one aggregate effect. Let him exert his whole art to avoid the change of scenery within acts, and fully, when by such a change the act will be twice broken. At the first glance, the probable seems impossible to him, but it must be possible.
And if he considers the acts concluded, their combination of scenes satisfactory, then let him compare the climax of effects in the single acts, and see that the power of the second part corresponds also to the first. Let him raise the climax by an effort of his best poetic power, and let him have a sharp eye upon the act of the return. For if the hearers should not be satisfied with the catastrophe, the fault lies frequently in the previous act.
The time within which the action must complete itself will be determined for the modern poet by the custom of his contemporaries. We read with astonishment of the capacity of the Athenians to endure for almost an entire day, the greatest and most thrilling tragic effects. Even Shakespeare’s pieces are not much longer than our audience might be accustomed to, were they given unabridged, in a small auditorium where more rapid speaking is possible; they would not require, on the average, more than four hours. The German unwillingly tolerates now in a closed theater, a play which takes much longer than three hours. This is a circumstance in no way to be disregarded; for in the time which extends beyond this, however exciting the action may be, there are disturbances by the withdrawal of single spectators; and it is not possible to hinder the restlessness of the remaining ones. But such a limitation is for this reason a disadvantage, that in view of a great subject and great elaboration, three hours is a very short time; especially on our stage, where from the time of a five-act play, during the four intervals between acts, fully a half hour is lost. Of all the German poets, it was notoriously most difficult for Schiller to complete his play within the stage time; and although his verses flow rapidly, his plays, unabridged, would take more time on the whole than the audience would be willing to. give.
A five act play, which after its arrangement for the stage contains an average of five hundred lines to the act, exceeds the allotted time. As a rule, not more than two thousand lines should be considered the regular length of a stage piece, a limit which is conditioned by the character of the piece, the average rate of utterance, compactness, or lighter flow of the verse; also through this, whether the action of the piece itself demands many divisions, pauses, movements of masses, pantomimic activity; lastly, through the stage upon which it is played; for the size and acoustics of the house and habits of the place exercise an essential influence.
Of course, most of the stage pieces of our great poets are considerably longer;23 but the poet would now vainly appeal to their example. For their works all hail from a time in which the present stage usage was not yet adopted, or was less compulsory. And finally, in our time, patrons take the liberty of old friends, to chose the time of their departure, with no respect to the convenience of others. He who would now be at home on the stage, must submit to a usage which cannot at once be changed. The poet will then estimate his piece according to the number of verses; and if this, as may be feared, extends beyond the stage time, he must once more examine it with reference to what may be omitted.
When he has ended this severe labor of self-criticism, improving his piece as much as possible, then he may begin to think of preparing it for the public eye. For this work, an experienced theater friend is indispensable. The poet will seek such a one in the director or manager of a great stage. To him he will send his work in manuscript. Now begins a new examination, discussion, abridgement, till the wording is satisfactory for the presentation on the stage. If the poet has accepted the changes necessary to make his piece conform to its purpose, it is usually put at an early date on the boards, in the theater in connection with which he has confidently ventured his fortune. If it is possible for him to witness this performance, it will be very advantageous to him, not so much, however, because he at once perceives the disadvantages and defects of his work (for to young poets, self-knowledge comes seldom so quickly), as because, to the experienced director of a stage, many weaknesses and redundancies of a piece first become apparent on its being performed.
It is true that a poet’s first connection with the stage is not free from discomfort. His anxiety about the reception of the piece creeps close about his brave heart. The abbreviated parts always cause pain; and the striding on the half-dark stage becomes painful on account of the secret uncertainty, and his consideration of the imperfect rendering of the actor. But this connection has also something that is refreshing and instructive: the trials, the apprehension of the real stage pictures, the acquaintance with the customs and arrangements of the theater. And with a tolerable success of the play, the remembrance of the occasion remains, perhaps, a worthy possession of the poet in his later life.
Here a warning. The young poet is to take part for a few times in the rehearsal and in the presentation. He is to make himself acquainted with the details of the arrangement, the control of the entire combination, the wishes of the actors. But he is not to make a hobby of his pieces. He is not to persist in these too warmly; he is not to seek the applause of new men too zealously. And, further, he is not to play the director, and is to mingle in the rehearsal only where it is positively urged. He is no actor, and he may scarcely, in the rush of rehearsal, correct what an actor is failing in. Let him notice what strikes him; and let him discuss this later with the actor. The place of the poet is in the test of reading. Let him so arrange his work that if he has voice and practice, he himself may first read it aloud, and in a second rehearsal hear the actors read their roles. The good influence which he may exercise, will be best assured in this way.
The great independence of different provinces has hindered in Germany the success of a piece on the stage in a capital city, from being a criterion of its success on the other stages of the country. A German play must have the good fortune of meeting success in eight or ten of the great theaters in different parts of Germany, before its course upon the rest may be assured. While the reputation of a piece which comes from the stronghold of Vienna determines, to a certain degree, its fate at the other theaters of the empire, the Berlin court theater has a still smaller circle in which it gives prestige. What pleases in Dresden displeases perhaps in Leipsic [sic], and a success in Hanover insures no success in Brunswick. Meantime, the connection of the German theaters reaches so far, that the success of a piece on one or two respectable stages calls the attention of the others to it. Lack of attention to what is available everywhere is, in general, not the greatest reproach which at present can be cast upon the German stage.
If a piece stood the test of a first appearance, there were formerly two ways of making its use more extensive. The first was to print the piece and send copies to different theaters; the other was to commit the manuscript to an agent to be pushed.
Now, the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composition at Leipsic [sic], by its director, represents the rights and interests of its members among the different theaters; it takes charge of the business of getting a piece on the stage, supervises its appearance on the boards, attends to the collection of the compensation (honoraria) and percentages. Whoever has to do with theaters, as a young writer, cannot now dispense with the support of this society; and it is to his interest to become a member.
But besides this, it is desirable for a young author to come into close relations with the theaters themselves, their distinguished managers, leaders, and professors. In this way he becomes acquainted with theatrical life, its demands and its needs. Therefore, with his first piece let him take a middle course. If his manuscript is printed (let him not use too small type and make the prompter weep over it), let him give it for the majority of theaters to the director of the Society; let him reserve to himself, however, the transmission to and intercourse with some theaters from which he can expect particular demands. Besides, it is desirable to send copies of his work to individual prominent actors at famous theaters. He needs the warm devotion and generous sympathy of the actors; it will be friendly, too, for him to facilitate the study of their roles. A connection thus begun with the highly esteemed talent of the stage will not only be useful to the author; it can win to him men of prominence, ardent admirers of the beautiful, perhaps helpful and faithful friends. To the German poet there is greater need of fresh suggestions, stimulating intercourse with cultivated actors, than any thing else; for, in this way he attains most easily what too generally is lacking, an accurate knowledge of what is effective on the stage. Even Lessing learned this by experience.
If the poet has done all this, on the reasonable success of his piece, he will soon, through a somewhat extensive correspondence, be initiated into the secrets of stage life.
And finally, when the young dramatist has in this way sent the child of his dreams out into the world, he will have sufficient opportunity to develop within himself something besides knowledge of the stage. It will be his duty to endure brilliant successes without haughtiness and conceit, and to accept sorrowful defeats without losing courage. He will have plenty of occasion to test and fashion his self-consciousness; and in the airy realm of the stage, in face of the actors, the authors of the day, and the spectators, to make something of himself worth more than being a technically educated poet—a steadfast man, who not only perceives the beautiful in his dreams, but who shall be honestly determined unceasingly to represent it in his own life.