On form and feeling: German drama and the young Walter Scott

Michael Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article provides a reassessment of Walter Scott’s period of reading and translating German drama in 1796-98. This encounter tends to be credited as a pivotal moment in Scott’s career, when the young Scott discovered medieval motifs and the literary depiction of the historical individual in German drama, which he then went on to incorporate into his novels. However, studying the six plays Scott translated (by Iffland, Babo, Maier, Goethe, Schiller, and Lessing) within the context in which the Scottish reading public had been introduced to German drama shows that there is much more to Scott’s reception of German plays. After outlining Scott’s expectations of German drama, this article analyses these six plays to show that, in them, Scott saw the results of formal innovation in casting off the rules of classical drama and portraying situations in which passionate characters could be brought to life. These insights point to the sources of many of Scott’s later innovations in narrative form. While aspects of the historical novel can clearly be traced back to Goethe and Maier, Scott’s narrative structure owes much to the plotting, dialogue, and primacy of situation found in German drama.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-414
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number4
Early online date10 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Walter Scott
  • German drama
  • German Literature
  • novel


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