Friedrich Nietzsche, Miscellaneous Maxims and opinions (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche).

Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions, the first supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1879.  A second supplement, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten) followed in 1880.

  

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Previous Section   170. THE GERMANS IN THE THEATRE   Next Section

The Germans in the Theatre.  The real theatrical talent of the Germans was Kotzebue.  He and his Germans, those of higher as well as those.  of middle-class society, were necessarily associated, and his contemporaries should have said of him in all seriousness, "in him we live and move and have our being”.  Here was nothing — no constraint, pretence, or half-enjoyment: what he could and would do was understood.  Yes, until now the honest theatrical success on the German stage has been in the hands of the shamefaced or unashamed heirs of Kotzebue's methods and influence — that is, as far as comedy still flourishes at all.  The result is that much of the Germanism of that age, sometimes far off from the great towns, still survives.  Good-natured; incontinent in small pleasures; always ready.  for tears; with the desire, in the theatre at any rate, to be able to get rid of their innate sobriety and strict attention to duty and exercise; a smiling, nay, a laughing indulgence; confusing goodness and sympathy and welding them into one, as is the essential characteristic of German sentimentality; exceedingly happy at a noble, magnanimous action; for the rest, submissive towards superiors, envious of each other, and yet in their heart of hearts thoroughly self-satisfied — such were they and such was he.  The second dramatic talent was Schiller.  He discovered a class of hearers which had hitherto never been taken into consideration: among the callow German youth of both sexes.  His poetry responded to their higher, nobler, more violent if more confused emotions, their delight in the jingle of moral words (a delight that begins to disappear when we reach the thirties).  Thus he won for himself, by virtue of the passionateness and partisanship of the young, a success which gradually reacted with advantage upon those of riper years.  Generally speaking, Schiller rejuvenated the Germans.  Goethe stood and still stands above the Germans in every respect.  To them he will never belong.  How could a nation in well-being and well-wishing come up to the intellectuality of Goethe?  Beethoven composed and Schopenhauer philosophised above the heads of the Germans, and it was above their heads, in the same way, that Goethe wrote his Tasso, his Iphigenie.  He was followed by a small company of highly cultured persons, who were educated by antiquity, life, and travel, and had grown out of German ways of thought.  He himself did not wish it to be otherwise.  When the Romantics set up their well -conceived Goethe cult; when their amazing skill in appreciation was passed on to the disciples of Hegel, the real educators of the Germans of this century; when the awakening national ambition turned out advantageous to the fame of the German poets; when the real standard of the nation, as to whether it could honestly find enjoyment in anything, became inexorably subordinated to the judgment of individuals and to that national ambition, — that is, when people began to enjoy by compulsion, — then arose that false, spurious German culture which was ashamed of Kotzebue; which brought Sophocles, Calderon, and even the Second Part of Goethe's Faust on the stage; and which, on account of its foul tongue and congested stomach, no longer knows now what it likes and what it finds tedious.  Happy are those who have taste, even if it be a bad taste!  Only by this characteristic can one be wise as well as happy.  Hence the Greeks, who were very refined in such matters, designated the sage by a word that means "man of taste” and called wisdom, artistic as well as scientific, "taste" (sophia).  
 

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