The project investigates the reception of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in Germany after 1945 by bringing together the cultural and stage history of the play. The changes in the perception of the Jewish moneylender Shylock since 1945 are understood as conflict-ridden attempts at coming to terms with the German past: the Shoah, guilt and remembrance and German anti-Semitism.
The reception of The Merchant of Venice in the Federal Republic of Germany, in the German Democratic Republic, and eventually in the reunified Germany will be traced by means of a diachronic perspective. Additionally, a synchronic perspective will be employed in order to place relevant theatre productions, adaptations, translations and spin-offs as well as academic studies on the play in their historical contexts and to relate them to important political and historical events or debates within German discourses of remembrance (such as the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, the discussions on plays by Rolf Hochhuth and Rainer-Werner Fassbinder, the "historians' quarrel" of the 1980s, Reunification, and the long debates concerning a central Holocaust memorial).
Thus, the project not only revises and amends existing studies about the German reception of Shakespeare in the 20th century, but it also problematizes the traditional evocation of a close link between Shakespeare and the so-called "German spirit" (cf. Gundolf, Shakespeare und der deutsche Geist). Eventually, the question will be raised to what extent current sociopolitical debates (globalization, problems within a multi-ethnic society, religious fundamentalism) are reflected upon in recent productions and whether new tendencies in the reception of the play are emerging.
Prof. Dr. Sabine Schülting
Dr. Zeno Ackermann