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Shakespeare under Different Flags: The Bard in German Classrooms from Hitler to Honecker

Barbara Korte and Christina Spittel
Journal of Contemporary History
Vol. 44, No. 2 (Apr., 2009), pp. 267-286
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40543127
Page Count: 20
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Shakespeare under Different Flags: The Bard in German Classrooms from Hitler to Honecker
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Abstract

This article contributes to the study of Shakespeare's appropriation in Germany during the twentieth century, with a particular focus on its two authoritarian regimes: the Third Reich and the German Democratic Republic. Germans have had their very own 'German' Shakespeare since the eighteenth century. Goethe and Schiller, among others, claimed the playwright for their projects of literary (and national) self-assertion. Ideologues in the Third Reich and the GDR conscripted this already 'naturalized' Shakespeare for the purposes of ideological education, and even hailed a new era in the appreciation of his work. Under the swastika, teachers were encouraged to study Shakespeare's Führerfiguren, as well as his anticipation of the racial concerns of National Socialism. In classrooms of the GDR, the emphasis shifted to Shakespeare's humanism and realism, from which, students learned, contemporary socialist literature had evolved. The plays were now read as critical and optimistic responses to a social and political reality defined by class struggle.

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