The reception of Schiller's Wilhelm Tell in England and America
Kuehne, Wayne Eric
Master of Arts
This thesis considers the reception of Schiller's Wilhelm Tell in England and America from its first publication in 1804 to the present. The main sections of the thesis treat the reception of the play as a literary work, as a textbook for schools and colleges, and as a drama appearing on the stage. Appendices are included which indicate the circulation of the play in textbooks and English translations. In two particular areas, this thesis contradicts previous research: First, the Schiller celebrations, especially the celebration of 1859, have been portrayed as popular demonstrations of affection by non-Germans for Germany's poet of freedom. No evidence could be found to indicate any such popularity either before or after 1859. The greatest support for Tell and Schiller in either country came from the German Forty-eighters and the Turnvereine, but there is no evidence that any considerable percentage of the German immigrants shared their views. The great success of the celebrations among the immigrants lay in the fact that they were literally "celebrations." Second, in determining the reception of Tell, the thesis investigates the assumption that James Sheridan Knowles' William Tell: or, The Hero of Switzerland (1825) is "an English adaptation of the German play." This assumption is rejected. Knowles' play cannot in any sense be considered an "adaptation of Schiller's play." The similarities can be explained by the fact that they both use the same historical sources. It is doubtful that Knowles' Tell would have been confused as an adaptation if it had been written prior to 1804. Since it is so frequently cited as ', then English version of Schiller's Tell for the stage, an Interesting and significant question arises: has a direct translation of Schiller's Tell ever been performed on the English or American stage! So far as this Investigation has been able to determine, no such English performance has ever been undertaken. A definitive history of Schiller's plays would have to continue this investigation. The absence of Tell on the English-language stage considerably alters the picture of the popular reception which works dealing with this subject have created. In considering the reception of the play, the influence of the German immigrants, especially the Forty-Fighters, has long been neglected as a major factor in the popularity the play enjoyed.