It’s a miracle I ever got a degree. I remember studying Goethe and Schiller, but it is only really now, almost 20 years later I start seeing them in context. But that’s the pleasure of researching historical fiction, you continually realise how much there is to know. However, that is all a bit serious for this nugget from the Baron von Reisbeck. He is amazed by the numbers of murders involved in the popular theatre of the time, it’s obviously all a bit strong for his taste, and worries that the actors will run out of ways to feign death. Here he is:
‘There are plays in which the chief character successively murders from twelve to fifteen people; and by way of crowning the meritorious deed plants a dagger in his own breast… I have often seen no less than five people at once dying on the German stage, one ringing out his death knell with his feet, another with his arms, a third with his belly, and a fourth with his head, whilst the pit seemed agonizing with joy, especially if the sport lasted and clapped every convulsive movement.’
Now what is that other than the 18th century version of Kill Bill? And don’t the audience members tend to react in the same way? And isn’t there always a cultural commentator available to stand at the back of the stalls and be slightly appalled by it all? Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose. There now I’m meta-commentating with a French tag. Reisbeck would be proud of me.