«To call fools into a circle»: Benjamin’s interpretation of As you like it and The Tempest

  • Alice Barale Università di Firenze

Abstract

Calderon and Shakespeare are the two main authors that lie behind Benjamin’s examination of the German baroque drama. This paper addresses the importance of Shakespeare in his difference from the other big European cousin, Calderon. This does not mean that, according to Benjamin, Shakespeare is more important than Calderon (his beautiful essay on Calderon of 1923 contradicts this point), but rather that the English author brings to light an element that in Calderon is in some way missing. This is what Benjamin in some critical texts from the period of the Trauerpielbuch calls the «dramatic».

Why does Benjamin say here that the dramatic precedes the tragic? And what does this have to do with the two Shakespearian characters he refers to in a letter of the same year, Caliban and Ariel? Moreover, is the interpretation of The Tempest that this passage implies the same as the one that he suggested in his previous essay on As you like it (1918)?

These questions will lead to a few passages of the Trauerspielbuch that were particularly difficult to translate (not only in the two Italian previous translations, but also in the first English version, by John Osborne) and that can shed light on some important aspects of the book itself. In this context, another Shakespearian character will come to the aid, the Jacques of As you like it, with his Greek invocation «to call fools into a circle».

Riferimenti bibliografici

BENJAMIN, Walter, “Trauerspiel und Tragödie”, in Id., Gesammelte Schriften, hrsg. von R. Tiedemann, H. Schweppenhäuser, unter Mitwirkung von T. W. Adorno, G. Scholem, 7 voll., Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a.M. 1991, vol. II.1, pp. 133-7; It. transl. in Id., Origine del drama barocco tedesco, a cura di A. Barale, prefazione di F. Desideri, Carocci, Roma 2018, pp. 349-53.

BENJAMIN, Walter, “Die Bedeutung der Sprache in Trauerspiel und Tragödie”, in Id., Gesammelte Schriften, cit., vol. II.1, pp. 137-40; It. transl. in Id., Origine del drama barocco tedesco, cit., pp. 349-53.

BENJAMIN, Walter, “Shakespeare: Wie es euch gefällt”, in Id., Gesammelte Schriften, cit., vol. II.2, pp. 610-11.

BENJAMIN, Walter, Gesammelte Briefe, ed. by C. Gödde, H. Lonitz, vol. 2, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1996.

BENJAMIN, Walter, “Calderon’s El mayor monstruo, los celos and Hebbel’s Herodes und Mariamne. Comments on the Problem of Historical Drama”, in Id., Selected Writings, eds. M. Bullock and M. W. Jennings, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Ma. 1996, vol. I, pp. 363-386; it. trans. in Origine del dramma barocco tedesco, cit., pp. 369-99.

BENJAMIN, Walter, “Letter to Hugo von Hofmannsthal of 11 June 1925”, in G. Scholem, T. W. Adorno (eds.), The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, cit., pp. 270-4 (It. transl. in W. Benjamin, Origine del dramma barocco tedesco, cit., pp. 431-34).

BENJAMIN, Walter, “Letter to Hugo von Hofmannsthal of 28 December 1925”, in G. Scholem, T. W. Adorno (eds.), The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, cit., pp. 286-7 (It. transl. in W. Benjamin, Origine del dramma barocco tedesco, cit., pp. 441-3).

BENJAMIN, Walter, “Review of Der Turm”, Die literarische Welt, II, 15, 1926 (now in: Id. Gesammelte Schriften, cit., vol. III, pp. 29-33; It. transl. in Id. Origine del dramma barocco tedesco, cit., pp. 435-9).

BENJAMIN, Walter, Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels, in Id., Gesammelte Schriften, cit., vol. I.1, pp. 203-409.

BENJAMIN, Walter, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, trans. by H. Eiland, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Ma. 2019.

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CACCIARI, Massimo, “Intransitabili utopie”, in H. von Hofmannsthal, La torre, tr. it. di S. Bortoli, Adelphi, Milano 1978.

DESIDERI, Fabrizio, Walter Benjamin: il tempo e le forme, Editori Riuniti, Roma 1980.

HOFMANNSTHAL, Hugo von, Der Turm: ein Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen, in Id. Der Turm: zwei Fassungen, Contumax, Berlin 2017.

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SHAKESPEARE, William, As you like it (1599), Norton Critical Editions, London 2001.

TAGLIACOZZO, Tamara, Walter Benjamin e la musica, Il Glifo, Roma.

Pubblicato
2019-12-30
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Varia