Early Innovations in Shakespearean Performance: Ludwig Tieck, William Poel, and Their Relationships to the Nazarenes and Pre-Raphaelites

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This dissertation attempts to reanalyze the Elizabethan stage work of Ludwig Tieck and William Poel through a historically cultural lens, instead of within the frame of Shakespearean performance. Connecting these men personally and idealogically to two artistic groups, the Nazarenes and the Pre-Raphaelites, reveals, through their respective productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Measure for Measure, their positions as Romantic artists in changing societies. The German Romantics used their art to progress towards a unified German nation. Tieck, who knew Novalis, the Schlegel brothers, and Schleiermacher, exhibited more political awareness than he is usually give credit for. His production of A Midsummer Night's Dream on an attempted recreation of an Elizabethan stage can be read as a theatrical event in which Tieck displayed, both by product and by procedure, his ideal nation in which all classes are connected intellectually and culturally, but at the same time understand the specific role they must fill in society.

Poel's production of Measure for Measure on an Elizabethan stage, when viewed in relation to Pre-Raphaelite thought, reveals a tension in Poel's work between his pristine Victorian aesthetic and his appreciation for the flawed human being.  This manifested itself in Poel's producing a play with sexually explicit and morally difficult themes, which he then heavily cut to soften some of the discomfort.  Under the influence of Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites, Poel would have been exposed to ideas which praise humans over machines, and accept a wider range of human emotion and expression than was typically acceptable to his Victorian society.  If Poel did not share some of the Pre-Raphaelite fascination with more difficult subjects, he could easily have stayed far away from this difficult play.  His choice of the play, and his connections with the Pre-Raphaelites, cause me to question the typical view of Poel as overly prudish.  I argue instead that he was negotiating a new place for the artist in society, using Shakespeare and Elizabethan practices, which exalted the full range of human capacity through such tools as the noble grotesque, while keeping the ultimate goal of elevating and improving his audience.