An Essay Toward a History of Shakespeare in Norway
by Martin Brown Ruud
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In Det Geniale Menneske Collin defines civilization as that higher state which the human race has attained by means of "psychic organs"—superior to the physical organs. The psychic organs have been created by the human intellect and they are controlled by the intellect. Had man been dependent upon the physical organs solely, he would have remained an animal. His psychic organs have enabled him to create instruments, tangible, such as tools and machines; intangible, such as works of art. These are psychic organs and with their aid man has become a civilized being.

The psychic organs are the creation of the man of genius. To create such organs is his function. The characteristics, then, of the genius are an immense capacity for sympathy and an immense surplus of power; sympathy, that he may know the needs of mankind; power, that he may fashion those great organs of life by which the race may live and grow.

In the various chapters of his book, Collin analyzes in an illuminating way the life and work of Wergeland, Ibsen, and Bjornson as typical men of genius whose expansive sympathy gave them insight and understanding and whose indefatigable energy wrought in the light of their insight mighty psychic organs of cultural progress.

He comes then to Shakespeare as the genius par excellence. The chapter on the Shakespearean Controversy gives first a survey of the development of modern scientific literary criticism from Herder to Taine and Saint Beuve. He goes on to detail the application of this method to the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare. Furnivall, Spalding, and Brandes have attempted to trace the genesis and the chronology of the plays. They would have us believe that the series of tragedies—Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida, Coriolanus, and Timon are the records of an increasing bitterness and pessimism. Brandes and Frank Harris, following Thomas Tyler have, on the basis of the sonnets, constructed a fascinating, but quite fantastic romance.

Vagaries such as these have caused some critics, such as Sidney Lee and Bierfreund, to declare that it is impossible on the basis of the plays to penetrate to Shakespeare the man. His work is too purely objective. Collin is not willing to admit this. He maintains that the scientific biographical method of criticism is fundamentally sound. But it must be rationally applied. The sequence which Brandes has set up is quite impossible. Goswin Konig, in 1888, applying the metrical tests, fixed the order as follows: Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, Othello, Timon, and Lear, and, in another group, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus. These results are confirmed by Bradley in his Shakespearean Tragedy.

Collin accepts this chronology. A careful study of the plays in this order shows a striking community of ethical purpose between the plays of each group. In the plays of the first group, the poet assails with all his mighty wrath what to him seems the basest of all wickedness, treachery. It is characteristic of these plays that none of the villains attains the dignity of a great tragic hero. They are without a virtue to redeem their faults. Shakespeare's conception of the good and evil in these plays approaches a medieval dualism. In the plays of the second group the case is altered. There is no longer a crude dualism in the interpretation of life. Shakespeare has entered into the soul of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, of Antony and Cleopatra, of Coriolanus, and he has found underneath all that is weak and sinful and diseased, a certain nobility and grandeur. He can feel with the regicides in Macbeth; he no longer exposes and scourges; he understands and sympathizes. The clouds of gloom and wrath have cleared away, and Shakespeare has achieved a serenity and a fine poise.

It follows, then, that the theory of a growing pessimism is untenable. We must seek a new line of evolution.]

We need dwell but little on Collin's sketch of the "Vorgeschichte" of Hamlet, for it contributes nothing that is new. Hamlet was a characteristic "revenge tragedy" like the "Spanish Tragedy" and a whole host of others which had grown up in England under the influence, direct and indirect, of Seneca. He points out in a very illuminating way how admirably the "tragedy of blood" fitted the times. Nothing is more characteristic of the renaissance than an intense joy in living. But exactly as the appetite for mere existence became keen, the tragedy of death gained in power. The most passionate joy instinctively calls up the most terrible sorrow. There is a sort of morbid caution here—a feeling that in the moment of happiness it is well to harden oneself against the terrible reaction to come. Conversely, the contemplation of suffering intensifies the joys of the moment. At all events, in such a time, emotions become stronger, colors are brighter, and contrasts are more violent. The "tragedy of blood," therefore, was more than a learned imitation. Its sound and fury met the need of men who lived and died intensely.

The primitive Hamlet was such a play. Shakespeare took over, doubtless with little change, both fable and characters, but he gave to both a new spiritual content. Hamlet's revenge gained a new significance. It is no longer a fight against the murderer of his father, but a battle against "a world out of joint." No wonder that a simple duty of blood revenge becomes a task beyond his powers. He sees the world as a mass of faithlessness, and the weight of it crushes him and makes him sick at heart. This is the tragedy of Hamlet—his will is paralyzed and, with it, his passion for revenge. He fights a double battle, against his uncle and against himself. The conviction that Shakespeare, and not his predecessor, has given this turn to the tragedy is sustained by the other plays of the same period, Lear and Timon of Athens. They exhibit three different stages of the same disease, a disease in which man's natural love of fighting is turned against himself.

Collin denies that the tragedy of Hamlet is that of a contemplative soul who is called upon to solve great practical problems. What right have we to assume that Hamlet is a weak, excessively reflective nature? Hamlet is strong and regal, capable of great, concrete attainments. But he can do nothing except by violent and eccentric starts; his will is paralyzed by a fatal sickness. He suffers from a disease not so uncommon in modern literature—the tendency to see things in the darkest light. Is it far from the pessimism of Hamlet to the pessimism of Schopenhauer and Tolstoi? Great souls like Byron and Heine and Ibsen have seen life as Hamlet saw it, and they have struggled as he did, "like wounded warriors against the miseries of the times."

But from this we must not assume that Shakespeare himself was pessimistic. To him Hamlet's state of mind was pathological. One might as well say that he was a murderer because he wrote Macbeth, a misogynist because he created characters like Isabella and Ophelia, a wife murderer because he wrote Othello, or a suicide because he wrote Timon of Athens as to say that he was a pessimist because he wrote Hamlet—the tragedy of an irresolute avenger. This interpretation is contradicted by the very play itself. "At Hamlet's side is the thoroughly healthy Horatio, almost a standard by which his abnormality may be measured. At Lear's side stand Cordelia and Kent, faithful and sound to the core. If the hater of mankind, Timon, had written a play about a rich man who was betrayed by his friends, he would unquestionably have portrayed even the servants as scoundrels. But Shakespeare never presented his characters as all black. Pathological states of mind are not presented as normal."

Collin admits, nevertheless, that there may be something autobiographical in the great tragedies. Undoubtedly Shakespeare felt that there was an iron discipline in beholding a great tragedy. To live it over in the soul tempered it, gave it firmness and resolution, and it is not impossible that the sympathetic, high-strung Shakespeare needed just such discipline. But we must not forget the element of play. All art is, in a sense, a game with images and feelings and human utterances. "In all this century-old discussion about the subtlety of Hamlet's character critics have forgotten that a piece of literature is, first of all, a festive sport with clear pictures, finely organized emotions, and eloquent words uttered in moments of deep feeling." The poet who remembers this will use his work to drive from the earth something of its gloom and melancholy. He will strengthen himself that he may strengthen others.

I have tried to give an adequate synopsis of Collin's article but, in addition to the difficulties of translating the language, there are the difficulties, infinitely greater, of putting into definite words all that the Norwegian hints at and suggests. It is not high praise to say that Collin has written the most notable piece of Shakespeare criticism in Norway; indeed, nothing better has been written either in Norway or Denmark.

The study of Shakespeare in Norway was not, as the foregoing shows, extensive or profound, but there were many Norwegian scholars who had at least considerable information about things Shakespearean. No great piece of research is to be recorded, but the stimulating criticism of Caspari, Collin, Just Bing, and Bjornson is worth reading to this day.

The same comment may be made on two other contributions—Wiesener's Almindelig Indledning til Shakespeare (General Introduction to Shakespeare), published as an introduction to his school edition of The Merchant of Venice,[24] and Collin's Indledning to his edition of the same play. Both are frankly compilations, but both are admirably organized, admirably written, and full of a personal enthusiasm which gives the old, sometimes hackneyed facts a new interest.

[24. Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice. Med Anmaerkninger og Indledning. Udgivet af G. Wiesener. Kristiania, 1880.]

Wiesener's edition was published in 1880 in Christiania. The text is that of the Cambridge edition with a few necessary cuttings to adapt it for school reading. His introduction covers fifty-two closely printed pages and gives, within these limits, an exceedingly detailed account of the English drama, the Elizabethan stage, Shakespeare's life and work, and a careful study of The Merchant of Venice itself. The editor does not pretend to originality; he has simply tried to bring together well ascertained facts and to present them in the simplest, clearest fashion possible. But the Indledning is to-day, thirty-five years after it was written, fully up to the standard of the best annotated school editions in this country or in England. It is, of course, a little dry and schematic; that could hardly be avoided in an attempt to compress such a vast amount of information into such a small compass, but, for the most part, the details are so clear and vivid that their mass rather heightens than blurs the picture.

From the fact that nothing in this introduction is original, it is hardly necessary to criticise it at length; all that may be demanded is a short survey of the contents. The whole consists of two great divisions, a general introduction to Shakespeare and a special introduction to The Merchant of Venice. The first division is, in turn, subdivided into seven heads: 1. The Pre-Shakespearean Drama. 2. The Life of Shakespeare. 3. Shakespeare's Works—Order and Chronology. 4. Shakespeare as a Dramatist. 5. Shakespeare's Versification. 6. The Text of Shakespeare. 7. The Theatres of Shakespeare's Time. This introduction fills thirty-nine pages and presents an exceedingly useful compendium for the student and the general reader. The short introduction to the play itself discusses briefly the texts, the sources, the characters, Shakespeare's relation to his material and, finally, the meaning of the play. The last section is, however, a translation from Taine and not Wiesener's at all.

The text itself is provided with elaborate notes of the usual text-book sort. In addition to these there is, at the back, an admirable series of notes on the language of Shakespeare. Wiesener explains in simple, compact fashion some of the differences between Elizabethan and modern English and traces these phenomena back to their origins in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. Inadequate as they are, these linguistic notes cannot be too highly praised for the conviction of which they bear evidence—that a complete knowledge of Shakespeare without a knowledge of his language is impossible. To the student of that day these notes must have been a revelation.

The second text edition of a Shakespearean play in Norway was Collin's The Merchant of Venice.[25] His introduction covers much the same ground as Wiesener's, but he offers no sketch of the Elizabethan drama, of Shakespeare's life, or of his development as a dramatic artist. On the other hand, his critical analysis of the play is fuller and, instead of a mere summary, he gives an elaborate exposition of Shakespeare's versification.

[25. The Merchant of Venice. Med Indledning og Anmaerkninger ved Chr. Collin. Kristiania. 1902.]

Collin is a critic of rare insight. Accordingly, although he says nothing new in his discussion of the purport and content of the play, he makes the old story live anew. He images Shakespeare in the midst of his materials—how he found them, how he gave them life and being. The section on Shakespeare's language is not so solid and scientific as Wiesener's, but his discussion of Shakespeare's versification is both longer and more valuable than Wiesener's fragmentary essay, and Shakespeare's relation to his sources is treated much more suggestively.

He points out, first of all, that in Shakespeare's "classical" plays the characters of high rank commonly use verse and those of low rank, prose. This is, however, not a law. The real principle of the interchange of prose and verse is in the emotions to be conveyed. Where these are tense, passionate, exalted, they are communicated in verse; where they are ordinary, commonplace, they are expressed in prose. This rule will hold both for characters of high station and for the most humble. In Act I, for example, Portia speaks in prose to her maid "obviously because Shakespeare would lower the pitch and reduce the suspense. In the following scene, the conversation between Shylock and Bassanio begins in prose. But as soon as Antonio appears, Shylock's emotions are roused to their highest pitch, and his speech turns naturally to verse—even though he is alone and his speech an aside. A storm of passions sets his mind and speech in rhythmic motion. And from that point on, the conversations of Shylock, Bassanio, and Antonio are in verse. In short, rhythmic speech when there is a transition to strong, more dramatic feeling."

The use of prose or verse depends, then, on the kind and depth of feeling rather than on the characters. "In Act II Launcelot Gobbo and his father are the only ones who employ prose. All the others speak in verse—even the servant who tells of Bassanio's arrival. Not only that, but he speaks in splendid verse even though he is merely announcing a messenger:"

"Yet have I not seen So likely an ambassador of love," etc.

Again, in Lear, the servant who protests against Cornwall's cruelty to Gloster, nameless though he is, speaks in noble and stately lines:

Hold your hand, my lord; I've served you ever since I was a child; But better service have I never done you Than now to bid you hold.

When the dramatic feeling warrants it, the humblest rise to the highest poetry. The renaissance was an age of deeper, mightier feelings than our own, and this intense life speaks in verse, for only thus can it adequately express itself.

All this is romantic enough. But it is to be doubted if the men of the renaissance were so different from us that they felt an instinctive need of bursting into song. The causes of the efflorescence of Elizabethan dramatic poetry are not, I think, to be sought in such subtleties as these.

Collin further insists that the only way to understand Shakespeare's versification is to understand his situations and his characters. Rules avail little. If we do not feel the meaning of the music, we shall never understand the meaning of the verse. Shakespeare's variations from the normal blank verse are to be interpreted from this point of view. Hence what the metricists call "irregularities" are not irregularities at all. Collin examines the more important of these irregularities and tries to account for them.

1. Short broken lines as in I, 1-5: I am to learn. Antonio completes this line by a shrug of the shoulders or a gesture. "It would be remarkable," concludes Collin, "if there were no interruptions or pauses even though the characters speak in verse." Another example of this breaking of the line for dramatic purposes is found in I, 3-123 where Shylock suddenly stops after "say this" as if to draw breath and arrange his features. (Sic!)

2. A verse may be abnormally long and contain six feet. This is frequently accidental, but in M of V it is used at least once deliberately—in the oracular inscriptions on the caskets:

"Who chooseth me shall gain what men desire." "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves." "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he has."

Collin explains that putting these formulas into Alexandrines gives them a stiffness and formality appropriate to their purpose.

3. Frequently one or two light syllables are added to the close of the verse:

Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster.


Sleep when he wakes and creep into the jaundice.

Again, in III, 2-214 we have two unstressed syllables:

But who comes here? Lorenzo and his infidel?

"Shakespeare uses this unaccented gliding ending more in his later works to give an easier more unconstrained movement."

4. Occasionally a syllable is lacking, and the foot seems to halt as in V, 1-17:

As far as Belmont. In such a night, etc.

Here a syllable is lacking in the third foot. But artistically this is no defect. We cannot ask that Jessica and Lorenzo always have the right word at hand. The defective line simply means a pause and, therefore, instead of being a blemish, is exactly right.

5. On the other hand, there is often an extra light syllable before the caesura. (I, 1-48):

Because you are not merry; and 'twere as easy, etc.

This extra syllable before the pause gives the effect of a slight retardation. It was another device to make the verse easy and unconstrained.

6. Though the prevailing verse is iambic pentameter, we rarely find more than three or four real accents. The iambic movement is constantly broken and compelled to fight its way through. This gives an added delight, since the ear, attuned to the iambic beat, readily recognizes it when it recurs. The presence of a trochee is no blemish, but a relief:

Vailing her high tops higher than her ribs. (I, 1-28)

This inverted stress occurs frequently in Norwegian poetry. Wergeland was a master of it and used it with great effect, for instance, in his poem to Ludvig Daa beginning:

Med doden i mit hjerte, og smilet om min mund,—

All this gives to Shakespeare's verse a marvellous flexibility and power. Nor are these devices all that the poet had at his disposal. We frequently find three syllables to the foot, giving the line a certain fluidity which a translator only rarely can reproduce. Finally, a further difficulty in translating Shakespeare lies in the richness of the English language in words of one syllable. What literature can rival the grace and smoothness of:

In sooth I know not why I am so sad.

Ten monosyllables in succession! It is enough to drive a translator to despair. Or take:

To be or not to be, that is the question.

To summarize, no other language can rival English in dramatic dialogue in verse, and this is notably true of Shakespeare's English, where the word order is frequently simpler and more elastic than it is in modern English.

Two reviews of Collin quickly appeared in a pedagogical magazine, Den Hoeiere Skole. The first of them,[26] by Ivar Alnaes, is a brief, rather perfunctory review. He points out that The Merchant of Venice is especially adapted to reading in the gymnasium, for it is unified in structure, the characters are clearly presented, the language is not difficult, and the picture is worth while historically. Collin has, therefore, done a great service in making the play available for teaching purposes. Alnaes warmly praises the introduction; it is clear, full, interesting, and marked throughout by a tone of genuine appreciation. But right here lies its weakness. It is not always easy to distinguish ascertained facts from Collin's imaginative combinations. Every page, however, gives evidence of the editor's endeavor to give to the student fresh, stimulating impressions, and new, revealing points of view. This is a great merit and throws a cloak over many eccentricities of language.

[26. Vol. 5 (1903), pp. 51 ff.]

But Collin was not to escape so easily. In the same volume Dr. August Western[27] wrote a severe criticism of Collin's treatment of Shakespeare's versification.

[27. Ibid. pp. 142 ff.]

He agrees, as a matter of course, that Shakespeare is a master of versification, but he does not believe that Collin has proved it. That blank verse is the natural speech of the chief characters or of the minor characters under emotional stress, that prose is usually used by minor characters or by important characters under no emotional strain is, in Dr. Western's opinion, all wrong. Nor is prose per se more restful than poetry. And is not Shylock more emotional in his scene (I, 3) than any of the characters in the casket scene immediately following (II, 1)? According to Collin, then, I, 3 should be in verse and II, 1 in prose! Equally absurd is the theory that Shakespeare's characters speak in verse because their natures demand it. Does Shylock go contrary to nature in III, 1? There is no psychological reason for Verse in Shakespeare. He wrote as he did because convention prescribed it. The same is true of Goethe and Schiller, of Bjornson and Ibsen in their earlier plays. Shakespeare's lapses into prose are, moreover, easy to explain. There must always be something to amuse the gallery. Act III, 1 must be so understood, for though Shakespeare was undoubtedly moved, the effect of the scene was comic. The same is true of the dialogue between Portia and Nerissa in Act I, and of all the scenes in which Launcelot Gobbo appears.

Western admits, however, that much of the prose in Shakespeare cannot be so explained; for example, the opening scenes in Lear and The Tempest. And this brings up another point, i.e., Collin's supposition that Shakespeare's texts as we have them are exactly as he wrote them. When the line halts, Collin simply finds proof of the poet's fine ear! The truth probably is that Shakespeare had a good ear and that he always wrote good lines, but that he took no pains to see that these lines were correctly printed. Take, for example, such a line as:

As far as Belmont. In such a night

This would, if written by anyone else, always be considered bad, and Dr. Western does not believe that Collin's theory of the pauses will hold. The pause plays no part in verse. A line consists of a fixed number of heard syllables. Collin would say that a line like I, 1-73:

I will not fail you,

is filled out with a bow and a swinging of the hat. Then why are the lines just before it, in which Salarino and Salario take leave of each other, not defective? Indeed, how can we be sure that much of what passes for "Shakespeare's versification" is not based on printers' errors? In the folio of 1623 there are long passages printed in prose which, after closer study, we must believe were written in verse—the opening of Lear and The Tempest. Often, too, it is plain that the beginnings and endings of lines have been run together. Take the passage:

Sal: Why, then you are in love.

Ant: Fie, fie!

Sal: Not in love neither? Then let us say you are sad—

The first line is one foot short, the second one foot too long. This Collin would call a stroke of genius; each fie is a complete foot, and the line is complete! But what if the line were printed thus:

Sal: Why, then you are in love.

Ant: Fie, fie!

Sal: Not in Love neither? Then let us say you are sad.

or possibly:

Love neither? Then let's say that you are sad.

Another possible printer's error is found in I, 3-116:

With bated breath and whispering humbleness Say this; Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last.

Are we here to imagine a pause of four feet? And what are we to do with the first folio which has

Say this; Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last.

all in one line? Perhaps some printer chose between the two. At any rate, Collin's theory will not hold. In the schools, of course, one cannot be a text critic but, on the other hand, one must not praise in Shakespeare what may be the tricks of the printer's devil. The text is not always faultless.

Finally, Dr. Western objects to the statement that the difficulty in translating Shakespeare lies in the great number of monosyllables and gives

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad

as proof. Ten monosyllables in one line! But this is not impossible in Norwegian:

For sand, jeg ved ei, hvi jeg er saa trist—

It is not easy to translate Shakespeare, but the difficulty goes deeper than his richness in words of one syllable.

With the greater part of Dr. Western's article everyone will agree. It is doubtful if any case could be made out for the division of prose and verse based on psychology. Shakespeare probably wrote his plays in verse for the same reason that Goethe and Schiller and Oehlenschlaeger did. It was the fashion. And how difficult it is to break with fashion or with old tradition, the history of Ibsen's transition from poetry to prose shows. It is equally certain that in Collin's Introduction it is difficult to distinguish ascertained facts from brilliant speculation. But it is not easy to agree with Dr. Western that Collin's explanation of the "pause" is a tissue of fancy.

In the first place, no one denies that the printers have at times played havoc with Shakespeare's text. Van Dam and Stoffel, to whose book Western refers and whose suggestions are directly responsible for this article, have shown this clearly enough. But when Dr. Western argues that because printers have corrupted the text in some places, they must be held accountable for every defective short line, we answer, it does not follow. In the second place, why should not a pause play a part in prosody as well as in music? Recall Tennyson's verse:

Break, break, break, On thy cold, grey stones, o sea!

where no one feels that the first line is defective. Of course the answer is that in Tennyson no accented syllable is lacking. But it is difficult to understand what difference this makes. When the reader has finished pronouncing Belmont there must be a moment's hesitation before Lorenzo breaks in with:

In such a night

and this pause may have metrical value. The only judge of verse, after all, is the hearer, and, in my opinion, Collin is right when he points out the value of the slight metrical pause between the bits of repartee. Whether Shakespeare counted the syllables beforehand or not, is another matter. In the third place, Collin did not quote in support of his theory the preposterous lines which Dr. Western uses against him. Collin does quote I, 1-5:

I am to learn.

and I, 1-73:

I will not fail you

is a close parallel, but Collin probably would not insist that his theory accounts for every case. As to Dr. Western's other example of good meter spoiled by corrupt texts, Collin would, no doubt, admit the possibility of the proposed emendations. It would not alter his contention that a pause in the line, like a pause in music, is not necessarily void, but may be very significant indeed.

The array of Shakespearean critics in Norway, as we said at the beginning, is not imposing. Nor are their contributions important. But they show, at least, a sound acquaintance with Shakespeare and Shakespeareana, and some of them, like the articles of Just Bing, Brettville Jensen, Christen Collin, and August Western, are interesting and illuminating. Bjornson's article in Aftenbladet is not merely suggestive as Shakespearean criticism, but it throws valuable light on Bjornson himself and his literary development. When we come to the dramatic criticism of Shakespeare's plays, we shall find renewed evidence of a wide and intelligent knowledge of Shakespeare in Norway.


Performances Of Shakespeare's Plays In Norway


The first public theater in Christiania was opened by the Swedish actor, Johan Peter Stroemberg, on January 30, 1827, but no Shakespeare production was put on during his short and troubled administration. Not quite two years later this strictly private undertaking became a semi-public one under the immediate direction of J.K. Boecher, and at the close of the season 1829-30, Boecher gave by way of epilogue to the year, two performances including scenes from Holberg's Melampe, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Oehlenschlaeger's Aladdin. The Danish actor Berg played Hamlet, but we have no further details of the performance. We may be sure, however, that of the two translations available, Boye's and Foersom's, the latter was used. Hamlet, or a part of it, was thus given for the first time in Norway nearly seventeen years after Foersom himself had brought it upon the stage in Denmark.[1]

[1. Blanc: Christianias Theaters Historie, p. 51.]

More than fourteen years were to elapse before the theater took up Shakespeare in earnest. On July 28, 1844, the first complete Shakespearean play was given. This was Macbeth in Foersom's version of Schiller's "bearbeitung," which we shall take up in our studies of Shakespeare in Denmark.[2] No reviews of it are to be found in the newspapers of the time, not even an announcement. This, however, does not prove that the event was unnoticed, for the press of that day was a naive one. Extensive reviews were unknown; the most that the public expected was a notice.

[2. Blanc does not refer to this performance in his Historie. But this and all other data of performances from 1844 to 1899 are taken from his "Fortegnelse over alle dramatiske Arbeider, som siden Kristiania Offentlige Theaters Aabning, den 30. Januar 1827, har vaert opfort af dets Personale indtil 15 Juni 1899." The work is unpublished. Ms 4to, No. 940 in the University Library, Christiania.]

We are equally ignorant of the fate of Othello, performed the next season, being given for the first time on January 3, 1845. Wulff's Danish translation was used. Blanc says in his Historie[3] that Desdemona and Iago were highly praised, but that the play as a whole was greatly beyond the powers of the theater.

[3. See p. 94, note 1.]

Nearly eight years later, November 11, 1852, Romeo and Juliet in Foersom's translation received its Norwegian premiere. The acting version used was that made for the Royal Theater in Copenhagen by A.E. Boye in 1828.[4] Christiania Posten[5] reports a packed house and a tremendous enthusiasm. Romeo (by Wiehe) and Juliet (by Jomfru Svendsen) revealed careful study and complete understanding. The reviewer in Morgenbladet[6] begins with the little essay on Shakespeare so common at the time; "Everyone knows with what colors the immortal Shakespeare depicts human passions. In Othello, jealousy; in Hamlet, despair; in Romeo and Juliet, love, are sung in tones which penetrate to the depths of the soul. Against the background of bitter feud, the love of Romeo and Juliet stands out victorious and beneficent. Even if we cannot comprehend this passion, we can, at least, feel the ennobling power of the story." Both of the leading parts are warmly praised. Of Wiehe the reviewer says: "Der var et Liv af Varme hos ham i fuldt Maal, og den graendselose Fortvivlelse blev gjengivet med en naesten forfaerdelig Troskab."

[4. See Aumont og Collin: Det Danske Nationalteater. V Afsnit, pp. 118 ff.]

[5. Christiania Posten. November 15, 1845.]

[6. Morgenbladet. November 15, 1845.]

The same season (Dec. 11, 1852) the theater also presented As You Like It in the Danish version by Sille Beyer. The performance of two Shakespearean plays within a year may rightly be called an ambitious undertaking for a small theatre without a cent of subsidy. Christiania Posten says: "It is a real kindness to the public to make it acquainted with these old masterpieces. One feels refreshed, as though coming out of a bath, after a plunge into their boundless, pure poetry. The marvellous thing about this comedy (As You Like It) is its wonderful, spontaneous freshness, and its freedom from all sentimentality and emotional nonsense." The acting, says the critic, was admirable, but its high quality must, in a measure, be attributed to the sympathy and enthusiasm of the audience. Wiehe is praised for his interpretation of Orlando and Jomfru Svendsen for her Rosalind.[7] Apparently none of the reviewers noticed that Sille Beyer had turned Shakespeare upside down. Her version was given for the last time on Sept. 25, 1878, and in this connection an interesting discussion sprang up in the press.

[7. Christiania Posten. Dec. 12, 1852.]

The play was presented by student actors, and the performance was therefore less finished than it would have been under other circumstances. Aftenposten was doubtless right when it criticised the director for entrusting so great a play to unpractised hands, assuming that Shakespeare should be played at all. "For our part, we do not believe the time far distant when Shakespeare will cease to be a regular part of the repertoire."[8] To this statement a contributor in Aftenposten for Sept. 28 objected. He admits that Shakespeare wrote his plays for a stage different from our own, that the ease with which Elizabethan scenery was shifted gave his plays a form that makes them difficult to play today. Too often at a modern presentation we feel that we are seeing a succession of scenes rather than unified, organic drama. But, after all, the main thing is the substance—"the weighty content, and this will most certainly secure for them for a long time to come a place in the repertoire of the theater of the Germanic world. So long as we admit that in the delineation of character, in the presentation of noble figures, and in the mastery of dialogue, Shakespeare is unexcelled, so long we must admit that Shakespeare has a place on the modern stage."

[8. Aftenposten. Sept. 21, 1878.]

Where did Aftenposten's reviewer get the idea that Shakespeare's plays are not adapted to the modern stage? Was it from Charles Lamb? At any rate, it is certain that he anticipated a movement that has led to many devices both in the English-speaking countries and in Germany to reproduce the stage conditions under which Shakespeare's plays were performed during his own life.

Of the next Shakespearean piece to be performed in Christiania, All's Well That Ends Well, there is but the briefest mention in the newspapers. We know that it was given in the curiously perverted arrangement by Sille Beyer and was presented twelve times from January 15, 1854 to May 23, 1869. On that day a new version based on Lembcke's translation was used, and in this form the play was given eight times the following seasons. Since January 24, 1882, it has not been performed in Norway.[9]

[9. See Blanc's Fortegnelse. p. 93.]

At the beginning of the next season, October 29, 1854, Much Ado About Nothing was introduced to Kristiania theater-goers under the title Blind Alarm. The translation was by Carl Borgaard, director of the theater. But here, too, contemporary documents leave us in the dark. There is merely a brief announcement in the newspapers. Blanc informs us that Jomfru Svendsen played Hero, and Wiehe, Benedict.[10]

[10. See Blanc's Fortegnelse. p. 93.]

After Blind Alarm Shakespeare disappears from the repertoire for nearly four years. A version of The Taming of the Shrew under the title Hun Maa Taemmes was given on March 28, 1858, but with no great success. Most of the papers ignored it. Aftenbladet merely announced that it had been given.[11]

[11. Aftenbladet. March 22, 1858.]

Viola, Sille Beyer's adaptation of Twelfth Night was presented at Christiania Theater on November 20, 1860, the eighth of Shakespeare's plays to be presented in Norway, and again not merely in a Danish text but in a version made for the Copenhagen Theater.

Neither the critics nor the public were exacting. The press hailed Viola as a tremendous relief from the frothy stuff with which theater-goers had been sickened for a season or two. "The theater finally justified its existence," says Morgenbladet,[12] "by a performance of one of Shakespeare's plays. Viola was beautifully done." The writer then explains in conventional fashion the meaning of the English title and goes on—"But since the celebration of Twelfth Night could interest only the English, the Germans have "bearbeidet" the play and centered the interest around Viola. We have adopted this version." He approves of Sille Beyer's cutting, though he admits that much is lost of the breadth and overwhelming romantic fulness that mark the original. But this he thinks is compensated for by greater intelligibility and the resulting dramatic effect. "Men hvad Stykket ved saadan Forandring, Beklippelse, og Udeladelse saaatsige taber af sin Fylde idet ikke alt det Leende, Sorglose og Romantiske vandre saa ligeberettiget side om side igjennem Stykket, mens det Ovrige samler sig om Viola, det opveies ved den storre Forstaaelighed for vort Publikum og denne mere afrundede sceniske Virkning, Stykket ved Bearbeidelsen har faaet." As the piece is arranged now, Viola and her brother are not on the stage at the same time until Act V. Both roles may therefore be played by Jomfru Svendsen. The critic is captivated by her acting of the double role, and Jorgensen's Malvolio and Johannes Brun's Sir Andrew Aguecheek share with her the glory of a thoroughly successful performance.

[12. November 23, 1860.]

Sille Beyer's Viola was given twelve times. From the thirteenth performance, January 21, 1890, Twelfth Night was given in a new form based on Lembcke's translation.

A thorough search through the newspaper files fails to reveal even a slight notice of The Merchant of Venice (Kjobmanden i Venedig) played for the first time on Sept. 17, 1861. Rahbek's translation was used, and this continued to be the standard until 1874, when, beginning with the eighth performance, it was replaced by Lembcke's.

We come, then, to A Midsummer Night's Dream (Skjaersommernatsdrommen) played in Oehlenschlaeger's translation under Bjornson's direction on April 17, 1865. The play was given ten times from that date till May 27, 1866. In spite of this unusual run it appears to have been only moderately successful, and when Bjornson dropped it in the spring of 1866, it was to disappear from the repertoire for thirty-seven years. On January 15, 1903, it was revived by Bjornson's son, Bjorn Bjornson. This time, however, it was called Midsommernatsdroemmen, and the acting version was based on Lembcke's translation. In this new shape it has been played twenty-seven times up to January, 1913.

The interesting polemic which Bjornson's production occasioned has already been discussed at some length. This may be added, however: A play which, according to the poet's confession, influenced his life as this one did, has played an important part in Norwegian literature. The influence may be intangible. It is none the less real.

More popular than any of the plays which had thus far been presented in Norway was A Winter's Tale, performed at Christiania Theater for the first time on May 4, 1866. The version used had, however, but a faint resemblance to the original. It was a Danish revision of Dingelstedt's Ein Wintermaerchen. I shall discuss this Holst-Dingelstedt text in another place. At this point it is enough to say that Shakespeare is highly diluted. It seems, nevertheless, to have been successful, for between the date of its premiere and March 21, 1893, when it was given for the last time, it received fifty-seven performances, easily breaking all records for Shakespearean plays at the old theater. And at the new National Theater, where it has never been given, no Shakespearean play, with the exception of The Taming of the Shrew has approached its record.

Aftenbladet[13] in its preliminary review said: "Although this is not one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, it is well worth putting on, especially in the form which Dingelstedt has given to it. It was received with the greatest enthusiasm." But Aftenbladet's promised critical review never appeared.

[13. May 5, 1866.]

More interesting and more important than most of the performances which we have thus far considered is that of Henry IV in 1867, while Bjornson was still director. To his desire to give Johannes Brun an opportunity for the display of his genius in the greatest of comic roles we owe this version of the play. Bjornson obviously could not give both parts, and he chose to combine cuttings from the two into a single play with Falstaff as the central figure. The translation used was Lembcke's and the text was only slightly norvagicized.

Bjornson's original prompt book is not now available. In 1910, however, H. Wiers Jensen, a playwright associated with the National Theater, shortened and slightly adapted the version for a revival of the play, which had not been seen in Kristiania since February 8, 1885. We may assume that in all essentials the prompt book of 1910 reproduces that of 1867.

In this Kong Henrik IV the action opens with I Henry IV, II-4, and Act I consists of this scene freely cut and equally freely handled in the distribution of speeches. The opening of the scene, for example, is cut away entirely and replaced by a brief account of the robbery put naively into the mouth of Poins. The opening of Act II is entirely new. Since all the historical scenes of Act I of the original have been omitted, it becomes necessary to give the audience some notion of the background. This is done in a few lines in which the King tells of the revolt of the nobles and of his own difficult situation. Then follows the king's speech from Part I, Act III, Sc. 2:

Lords, give us leave; the prince of Wales and I must have some conference...

and what follows is the remainder of the scene with many cuttings. Sir Walter Blunt does not appear. His role is taken by Warwick.

Act II, Sc. 2 of Bjornson's text follows Part I, Act III, Sc. 3 closely.

Act III, Sc. 1 corresponds with Part I, Act III, Sc. 1 to the point where Lady Mortimer and Lady Percy enter. This episode is cut and the scene resumes with the entrance of the messenger in Part I, Act IV, Sc. 1, line 14. This scene is then followed in outline to the end.

Act III, Sc. 2 begins with Part I, Act IV, Sc. 3 from the entrance of Falstaff, and follows it to the end of the scene. To this is added most of Scene 4, but there is little left of the original action. Only the Falstaff episodes are retained intact.

The last act (IV) is a wonderful composite. Scene 1 corresponds closely to Part II, Act III, Sc. 4, but it is, as usual, severely cut. Scene 2 reverts back to Part II, Act III, Sc. 2 and is based on this scene to line 246, after which it is free handling of Part II, Act V, Sc. 3. Scene 3 is based on Part II, Act V, Sc. 5.

A careful reading of Bjornson's text with the above as a guide will show that this collection of episodes, chaotic as it seems, makes no ineffective play. With a genius—and a genius Johannes Brun was—as Falstaff, one can imagine that the piece went brilliantly. The press received it favorably, though the reviewers were much too critical to allow Bjornson's mangling of the text to go unrebuked.

Aftenbladet has a careful review.[14] The writer admits that in our day it requires courage and labor to put on one of Shakespeare's historical plays, for they were written for a stage radically different from ours. In the Elizabethan times the immense scale of these "histories" presented no difficulties. On a modern stage the mere bulk makes a faithful rendition impossible. And the moment one starts tampering with Shakespeare, trouble begins. No two adapters will agree as to what or how to cut. Moreover, it may well be questioned whether any such cutting as that made for the theater here would be tolerated in any other country with a higher and older Shakespeare "Kultur." The attempt to fuse the two parts of Henry IV would be impossible in a country with higher standards. "Our theater can, however, venture undisturbed to combine these two comprehensive series of scenes into one which shall not require more time than each one of them singly—a venture, to be sure, which is not wholly without precedent in foreign countries. It is clear that the result cannot give an adequate notion of Shakespeare's 'histories' in all their richness of content, but it does, perhaps, give to the theater a series of worth-while problems to work out, the importance of which should not be underestimated. The attempt, too, has made our theater-goers familiar with Shakespeare's greatest comic character, apparently to their immense delight. Added to all this is the fact that the acting was uniformly excellent."

[14. February 18, 1867.]

But by what right is the play called Henry IV? Practically nothing is left of the historical setting, and the spectator is at a loss to know just what the whole thing is about. Certainly the whole emphasis is shifted, for the king, instead of being an important character is overshadowed by Prince Hal. The Falstaff scenes, on the other hand, are left almost in their original fulness, and thus constitute a much more important part of the play than they do in the original. The article closes with a glowing tribute to Johannes Brun as Falstaff.

Morgenbladet[15] goes into greater detail. The reviewer seems to think that Shakespeare had some deep purpose in dividing the material into two parts—he wished to have room to develop the character of Prince Henry. "Accordingly, in the first part he gives us the early stages of Prince Hal's growth, beginning with the Prince of Wales as a sort of superior rake and tracing the development of his better qualities. In Part II we see the complete assertion of his spiritual and intellectual powers." The writer overlooks the fact that what Shakespeare was writing first of all—or rather, what he was revising—was a chronicle. If he required more than five acts to give the history of Henry IV he could use ten and call it two plays. If, in so doing, he gave admirable characterization, it was something inherent in his own genius, not in the materials with which he was working.

[15. February 17, 1867.]

The history, says the reviewer, and the Falstaff scenes are the background for the study of the Prince, each one serving a distinct purpose. But here the history has been made meaningless and the Falstaff episodes have been put in the foreground. He points out that balance, proportion, and perspective are all lost by this. Yet, granting that such revolutionizing of a masterpiece is ever allowable, it must be admitted that Bjornson has done it with considerable skill. Bjornson's purpose is clear enough. He knew that Johannes Brun as Falstaff would score a triumph, and this success for his theater he was determined to secure. The same motive was back of the version which Stjernstrom put on in Stockholm, and there can be little doubt that his success suggested the idea to Bjornson. The nature of the cutting reveals the purpose at every step. For instance, the scene in which the Gadskill robbery is made clear, is cut entirely. We thus lose the first glimpse of the sterner and manlier side of the royal reveller. In fact, if Bjornson had been frank he would have called his play Falstaff—based on certain scenes from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Parts I and II.

Yet, though much has been lost, much of what remains is excellent. Brun's Falstaff almost reconciles us to the sacrifice. Long may he live and delight us with it! It is one of his most superb creations. The cast as a whole is warmly praised. It is interesting to note that at the close of the review the critic suggests that the text be revised with Hagberg's Swedish translation at hand, for Lembcke's Danish contains many words unusual or even unfamiliar in Norwegian.

Henry IV remained popular in Norway, although from February 8, 1885 to February 10, 1910 it was not given in Kristiania. When, in 1910, it was revived with Lovaas as Falstaff, the reception given it by the press was about what it had been a quarter of a century before. Aftenposten's[16] comment is characteristic: "The play is turned upside down. The comic sub-plot with Falstaff as central figure is brought forward to the exclusion of all the rest. More than this, what is retained is shamelessly altered." Much more scathing is a short review by Christian Elster in the magazine Kringsjaa.[17] The play, he declares, has obviously been given to help out the box office by speculating in the popularity of Falstaff. "There is no unity, no coherence, no consistency in the delineation of characters, and even from the comic scenes the spirit has fled."[17]

[16. Aftenposten. February 25, 1910.]

[17. Kringsjaa XV, III (1910), p. 173.]

To all this it may be replied that the public was right when it accepted Falstaff for what he was regardless of the violence done to the original. The Norwegian public cared little about the wars, little even about the king and the prince; but people will tell one today of those glorious evenings when they sat in the theater and revelled in Johannes Brun as the big, elephantine knight.

In the spring of 1813, Foersom himself brought out Hamlet on the Danish stage. Nearly sixty years were to pass before this play was put on in Norway, March 4, 1870.

The press was not lavish in its praise. Dagbladet[18] remarks that though the performance was not what it ought to have been, the audience followed it from first to last with undivided attention. Aftenbladet[19] has a long and interesting review. Most of it is given over to a criticism of Isaachson's Hamlet. First of all, says the reviewer, Isaachson labors under the delusion that every line is cryptic, embodying a secret. This leads him to forget the volume of the part and to invent all sorts of fanciful interpretations for details. Thus he loses the unity of the character. Things are hurried through to a conclusion and the fine transitions are lost. For example, "Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt" is started well, but the speech at once gains in clearness and decision until one wonders at the close why such a Hamlet does not act at once with promptness and vigor. There are, to be sure, occasional excellences, but they do not conceal the fact that, as a whole, Isaachson does not understand Hamlet.

[18. March 5, 1870.]

[19. March 8, 1870.]

Since its first performance Hamlet has been given often in Norway—twenty-eight times at the old Christiania Theater, and (from October 31, 1907) seventeen times at the new National Theater. Its revival in 1907, after an intermission of twenty-four years, was a complete success, although Morgenbladet[20] complained that the performance lacked light and inspiration. The house was full and the audience appreciative.

[20. November 1, 1907.]

Aftenposten[21] found the production admirable. Christensen's Hamlet was a stroke of genius. "Han er voxet i og med Rollen; han har traengt sig ind i den danske Prins' dybeste Individualitet." And of the revival the paper says: "The performance shows that a national theater can solve difficult problems when the effort is made with sympathy, joy, and devotion to art."

[21. November 1, 1907.]

In my judgment no theater could have given a better caste for The Merry Wives of Windsor than that with which Christiania Theater was provided. All the actors were artists of distinction; and it is not strange, therefore, that the first performance was a huge success. Aftenposten[22] declares that Brun's Falstaff was a revelation. Morgenbladet[23] says that the play was done only moderately well. Brun as Falstaff was, however, "especially amusing." Aftenbladet[24] is more generous. "The Merry Wives of Windsor has been awaited with a good deal of interest. Next to the curiosity about the play itself, the chief attraction has been Brun as Falstaff. And though Falstaff as lover gives no such opportunities as Falstaff, the mock hero, Brun makes a notable role out of it because he knows how to seize upon and bring out all there is in it."

[22. May 15, 1873.]

[23. May 15, 1873.]

[24. May 15, 1873.]

Johannes Brun's Falstaff is a classic to this day on the Norwegian stage. In Illustreret Tidende for July 12, 1874, K.A. Winterhjelm has a short appreciation of his work. "Johannes Brun has, as nearly as we can estimate, played something like three hundred roles at Christiania Theater. Many of them, to be sure, are minor parts—but there remains a goodly number of important ones, from the clown in the farce to the chief parts in the great comedies. Merely to enumerate his great successes would carry us far afield. We recall in passing that he has given us Falstaff both in Henry IV and in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Autolycus in A Winter's Tale. Perhaps he lacks something of the nobleman we feel that he should be in Henry IV, but aside from this petty criticism, what a wondrous comic character Brun has given us!"

As to the success of Coriolanus, the sixteenth of Shakespeare's plays to be put on in Kristiania, neither the newspapers nor the magazines give us any clew. If we may believe a little puff in Aftenposten for January 20, 1874, the staging was to be magnificent. Coriolanus was played in a translation by Hartvig Lassen for the first time on January 21, 1874. After thirteen performances it was withdrawn on January 10, 1876, and has not been since presented.

In 1877, Richard III was brought on the boards for the first time, but apparently the occasion was not considered significant, for there is scarcely a notice of it. The public seemed surfeited with Shakespeare, although the average had been less than one Shakespearean play a season. At all events, it was ten years before the theater put on a new one—Julius Caesar, on March 22, 1888. It had the unheard of distinction of being acted sixteen times in one month, from the premiere night to April 22. Yet the papers passed it by with indifference. Most of them gave it merely a notice, and the promised review in Aftenposten never appeared.

Julius Caesar is the last new play to be presented at Christiania Theater or at the National Theater, which replaced the old Christiania Theater in 1899. From October, 1899 to January, 1913 the National Theater has presented eight Shakespearean plays, but every one of them has been a revival of plays previously presented.


Up to a few years ago, the only theater of consequence in Norway, outside of the capital, was at Bergen. In many respects the history of the theater at Bergen is more interesting than that of the theater at Christiania. Established in 1850, while Christiania Theater was still largely Danish, to foster Norwegian dramatic art, it is associated with the greatest names in Norwegian art and letters. The theater owes its origin mainly to Ole Bull; Henrik Ibsen was official playwright from 1851 to 1857, and Bjornson was director from 1857 to 1859. For a dozen years or more "Den Nationale Scene i Bergen" led a precarious existence and finally closed its doors in 1863. In 1876 the theater was reopened. During the first period only two Shakespearean plays were given—Twelfth Night and As You Like It.

As You Like It in Stille Beyer's version was played twice during the season 1855-56, on September 30 and October 3. The press is silent about the performances, but doubtless we may accept Blanc's statement that the task was too severe for the Bergen theater.[25]

[25. Norges Forste Nationale Scene. Kristiania. 1884, p. 206.]

Rather more successful were the two performances of Twelfth Night in a stage version adapted from the German of Deinhardstein. The celebrated Laura Svendsen played the double role of Sebastian-Viola with conspicuous success.[26]

[26. Ibid., p. 304.]

The Merchant of Venice was given for the first time on October 9, 1878, two years after the reopening of the theater. Bergens Tidende[27] calls the production "a creditable piece of amateur theatricals," insisting in a review of some length that the young theater cannot measure up to the demands which a play of Shakespeare's makes. Bergensposten is less severe. Though far from faultless, the presentation was creditable, in some details excellent. But, quite apart from its absolute merits, there is great satisfaction in seeing the theater undertake plays that are worth while.[28] Both papers agree that the audience was large and enthusiastic.

[27. Bergens Tidende, October 10, 1878.]

[28. Bergensposten, October 11, 1878.]

The next season A Winter's Tale was given in H.P. Holst's translation and adaptation of Dingelstedt's German acting version Ein Wintermaerchen. The press greeted it enthusiastically. Bergens Tidende[29] says: "A Winter's Tale was performed at our theater yesterday in a manner that won the enthusiastic applause of a large gathering. The principal actors were called before the curtain again and again. It is greatly to the credit of any theater to give a Shakespeare drama, and all the more so when it can do it in a form as artistically perfect as was yesterday's presentation."

[29. April 20, 1880. Cf. also Bergensposten, April 21, 1880.]

Concerning Othello, third in order in the Shakespearean repertoire in Bergen, the reviews of the first performance, November 13, 1881, are conflicting. Bergens Tidende[30] is all praise. It has no hesitation in pronouncing Johannesen's Iago a masterpiece. Bergensposten[31] calls the performance passable but utterly damns Johannesen—"nothing short of a colossal blunder." Hr. Johannesen is commended to the easily accessible commentaries of Taine and Genee, and to Hamlet's speech to the players. Desdemona and Cassio are dismissed in much the same fashion.

[30. November 14, 1881.]

[31. November 15, 1881.]

A few days later, November 18, Bergensposten reviewed the performance again and was glad to note a great improvement.

Bergens Addressecontoirs Efterretninger[32] agrees with Bergensposten in its estimate of Johannesen. "He gives us only the villain in Iago, not the cunning Ensign who deceives so many." But Desdemona was thoroughly satisfying.

[32. November 15, 1881.]

Whatever may have been its initial success, Othello did not last. It was given four times during the season 1881-2, but was then dropped and has never since been taken up.

Three different groups of Hamlet performances have been given in Bergen. In September, 1883, the Ophelia scenes from Act IV were given; the complete play, however, was not given till November 28, 1886. The press,[33] for once, was unanimous in declaring the production a success. It is interesting that an untried actor at his debut was entrusted with the role. But, to judge from the press comments, Hr. Lochen more than justified the confidence in him. His interpretation of the subtlest character in Shakespeare was thoroughly satisfying.[34]

[33. Cf. Bergens Tidende, November 29, 1886; Bergens Aftenblad, November 29, 1886; Bergensposten, December 2, 1886.]

[34. Cf. Bergens Tidende, November 30, 1886; Bergens Aftenblad, November 29, 1886; Bergensposten, December 1, 1886.]

Finally, it should be noted that a Swedish travelling company under the direction of the well-known August Lindberg played Hamlet in Bergen on November 5, 1895.

It is apparent, from the tone of the press comment that a Shakespearean production was regarded as a serious undertaking. The theater approached the task hesitatingly, and the newspapers always qualify their praise or their blame with some apologetic remark about "the limited resources of our theater." This explains the long gaps between new productions, five years between Othello (1881) and the complete Hamlet (1886); five years likewise between Hamlet and King Henry IV.

Henry IV in Bjornson's stage cutting promised at first to establish itself. Its first performance was greeted by a crowded house, and enthusiasm ran high. The press questions the right of the play to the title of Henry IV, since it is a collection of scenes grouped about Prince Hal and Falstaff. But aside from this purely objective criticism the comment is favorable.[35]

[35. Cf. Bergens Tidende, March 2, 1891; Bergens Aftenblad, March 2, 1891.]

With the second performance (March 4, 1891) comes a change. Bergens Tidende remarks that it is a common experience that a second performance is not so successful as the first. Certainly this was true in the case of Henry IV. The life and sparkle were gone, and the sallies of Falstaff awakened no such infectious laughter as they had a few evenings before.[36] There was no applause from the crowded house, and the coolness of the audience reacted upon the players—all in violent contrast to the first performance. The reviewer in Aftenbladet predicts that the production will have no very long life.[37] He was right. It was given once more, on March 6. Since then the theater-goers of Bergen have not seen it on their own stage.

[36. Cf. March 5, 1891.]

[37. Cf. March 5, 1891.]

Sille Beyer's Viola (which, in turn, is an adaptation of the German of Deinhardstein) had been played twice at the old Bergen Theater, July 17 and 18, 1861. It was now (Oct. 9, 1892) revived in a new cutting based on Lembcke's Danish translation. Bergens Aftenblad declares that the cutting was reckless and the staging almost beggarly. The presentation itself hardly rose above the mediocre.[38] Bergens Tidende, on the other hand, reports that the performance was an entire success. The caste was unexpectedly strong; the costumes and scenery splendid. The audience was appreciative and there was generous applause.[39]

[38. October 10, 1892.]

[39. October 10 and 13, 1892.]

The last new play to find a place on the repertoire at Bergen is Romeo and Juliet. This was performed four times in May, 1897. Like Henry IV, it promised to be a great success, but it survived only four performances. Bergens Tidende[40] gives a careful, well-written analysis of the play and of the presentation. The reviewer gives full credit for the beauty of the staging and the excellence of the acting, but criticises the censor sharply for the unskillful cutting, and the stage manager for the long, tiresome waits. Bergens Aftenblad[41] praises the performance almost without reserve.

[40. May 15, 1897.]

[41. May 15, 1897.]

And the last chapter in the history of Shakespeare's dramas in Bergen is a revival of A Winter's Tale in the season 1902-3. The theater had done its utmost to give a spendid and worthy setting, and great care was given to the rehearsals. The result was a performance which, for beauty, symmetry, and artistic unity ranks among the very best that have ever been seen at the theater. The press was unanimous in its cordial recognition.[42] The play was given no less than nine times during October, 1902. Since then Shakespeare has not been given at Den Nationale Scene i Bergen.

[42. See Bergens Aftenblad for October 6-9, 1902; Bergens Tidende, October 6, 1902.]


Register Of Shakespearean Performances In Norway


I. Christiania Theater.

The following record is an excerpt of all the data relating to Shakespeare in T. Blanc: Fortegnelse over alle dramatiske Arbeider, som siden Kristiania Theaters offentlige Aabning den 30 Januar, 1827, har vaeret opforte paa samme af dets Personale indtil 15 Juni 1899. This Fortegnelse is still unpublished. The MS. is quarto No. 940 in the University Library, Kristiania.

1. Blind Alarm. Skuespil i fem Akter af Shakespeare. (Original Title: Much Ado About Nothing). Translated by Carl Borgaard, from the nineteenth performance, May 18, 1878, under the title Stor Staahei for Ingenting, Oct. 29, 1854, May 26, 1878. 18 times.

2. Coriolanus. Sorgespil i 5 Akter af Shakespeare, bearbeidet for Scenen af H. Lassen. Jan. 21, 1874—Jan. 10, 1876. 13 times.

3. De Muntre Koner i Windsor. Lystspil i 5 Akter af Shakespeare. (Adapted for the stage by H. Lassen.) May 14, 1873, Nov. 8, 1876. 12 times.

4. En Skjaersommernatsdrom. Eventyrkomedie i 5 Akter af W. Shakespeare. (Original Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream.) Translated by Oehlenschlaeger. Music by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. April 17, 1865, May 27, 1866. 10 times.

5. Et Vintereventyr. Romantisk Skuespil i 5 Akter. Adapted from Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale and Dinglestedt's Ein Wintermaerchen by H.P. Holst. Music by Flotow. May 4, 1866, March 21, 1893. 57 times.

6. Hamlet. Tragedie i 5 Akter af W. Shakespeare. Translated by Foersom and Lembcke. March 4, 1870, April 27, 1883. 28 times.

7. Hun Maa Taemmes. Lystspil i 4 Akter. Adapted from Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. March 21, 1858, April 12, 1881. 28 times.

8. Julius Caesar. Tragedie i 5 Akter af William Shakespeare. Translated by H. Lassen. March 22, 1887, April 22, 1887. 16 times.

9. Kjobmanden i Venedig. Skuespil i 5 Akter af Shakespeare. Adapted for the stage from Rahbek's translation. From the eighth performance (Oct. 14, 1874) probably in a new translation by Lembcke. Sept. 17, 1861, June 12, 1882. 23 times.

10. Kong Henrik Den Fjerde. Skuespil i 5 Akter af W. Shakespeare. Adapted by Bjornstjerne Bjornson from King Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 in Lembcke's translation. Feb. 12, 1867, Feb. 8, 1885. 17 times.

11. Kong Richard III. Tragedie i 5 Akter af W. Shakespeare. Translated by Lembcke. May 27, 1877, March 10, 1891. 26 times.

12. Kongens Laege. Romantisk Lystspil i 5 Akter efter Shakespeares All's Well That Ends Well. Adapted by Sille Beyer. From the thirteenth performance (May 23, 1869) given under the title Naar Enden er god er Alting godt in a new translation by Edvard Lembcke. Jan. 5, 1854, Jan. 24, 1882. 20 times.

13. Livet i Skoven. Romantisk Lystspil i 4 Akter efter Shakespeares As You Like It. Adapted by Sille Beyer. Dec. 9, 1852, Sept. 25, 1878. 19 times.

14. Macbeth. Tragedie i 5 Akter af W. Shakespeare. Schiller's version translated by Peter Foersom. Music by Weyse. July 28, 1844, Jan. 6, 1896. 37 times.

15. Othello, Moren af Venedig. Tragedie i 5 Akter af Shakespeare. Translated by P.L. Wulff. Jan. 3, 1845, March 10, 1872. 10 times.

16. Romeo og Julie. Tragedie i 5 Akter af W. Shakespeare. Translated by P. Foersom and A.E. Boye. From the sixth performance (April 4, 1880) probably in a new translation by Lembcke. Nov. 11, 1852, July 12, 1899. 42 times.

17. Viola. Lystspil i 5 Akter efter Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Translated and adapted by Sille Beyer. From the thirteenth performance (Jan. 21, 1890) under the title Helligtrekongersaften, eller hvad man vil. (In Lembcke's translation with music by Catherinus Elling.) Nov. 20, 1860, May 31, 1891. 30 times.

II. Nationaltheatret.

The record of the Shakespearean performances at Nationaltheatret has been compiled from the summary of performances given in the decade 1899-1909 contained in Beretning om Nationaltheatrets Virksomhed i Aaret 1909-1910. Kristiania, 1910. The record of performances subsequent to 1910, as well as the date of the first performances of all plays, has been found in the Journal of the theater.

1. Helligtrekongersaften. (Twelfth Night). Oct. 5, 1899. 10 times.

2. Trold Kan Taemmes. (The Taming of the Shrew.) Dec. 26, 1900. 35 times.

3. En Sommernats Droem. (A Midsummer Night's Dream) Jan. 15, 1903. 20 times.

4. Kjoebmanden i Venedig. (The Merchant of Venice) Sept. 5, 1906. 20 times.

5. Hamlet. Oct. 31, 1907. 17 times.

6. Othello. Oct. 22, 1908. 12 times.

7. Henry IV. Feb. 10, 1910. 10 times.

8. As You Like It. Nov. 7, 1912. This play was still being given when the investigation ceased. Ten performances had been given.


I. The First Theater in Bergen (1850-1863)

The information relating to Shakespeare at the old theater is gathered from T. Blanc: Norges forste nationale Scene. Bergen 1850-1863. Et Bidrag til den norske dramatiske Kunsts Historie. Kristiania, 1884.

1. Livet I Skoven. Romantisk Skuespil i 4 Akter efter Shakespeares As You Like It. Adapted by Sille Beyer. Sept. 30 and Oct. 9, 1855. 2 times.

2. Viola. Lystspil i 5 Akter efter Deinhardsteins Bearbeidelse af Shakespeares What You Will. Adapted by Sille Beyer. July 17 and 18, 1861. 2 times.

II. The New Theater at Bergen (1876)

The following data have been communicated to me by Hr. Christian Landal, of the theater at Bergen. They have been compiled from the Journal (Spillejournal) of the theater.

1. Kjoebmanden i Venedig (The Merchant of Venice) Oct. 9, 11, 13, 1878. Friday, June 18, 1880, the Shylock scenes, with Emil Paulsen (of the Royal Theater in Copenhagen) as guest. 4 times.

2. Et Vintereventyr. (A Winter's Tale) April 19, 21, 25, 26, 28, 1880; May 9, 1880; Nov. 28, 29, 1889; Oct. 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 1902. 18 times.

3. Othello. Nov. 13, 16, 18, 28, 1881. 4 times.

4. Hamlet. Nov. 28 and 29; Dec. 1, 5, 19, 1886. The Ophelia scenes from Act 4 with Ida Falberg Kiachas as guest. Sept. 12, 14, 16, 21, 1883. Guest performance by August Lindberg and his Swedish company. Nov. 15, 1895. 10 times.

5. Helligtrekongersaften. (Twelfth Night) in Lembcke's translation. Oct. 9, 12, 14, 16, 1892; April 23, 1893 in Stavanger. 5 times.

6. Romeo og Julie. May 12, 16, 19, 27, 1897. 4 times.


There have been played in Christiania seventeen plays of Shakespeare's with a total of 540 performances. In Bergen seven Shakespearean plays have been played with a total of 49 performances.

* * * * *

[Errors and Anomalies Noted by Transcriber:


passim Oehlenschlaeger/Oehlenschlaeger variant spellings in original

p. 6n. after 1807 the history of Shakespeare in Denmark is more complicated original has Denkmark

p. 9 It is Coriolanus' outburst of wrath against the pretensions of the tribunes (III, 1) original has 111-1

p. 15 even to thought as sophisticated as this original has sophiscated

p. 32 And when we read the scenes in which Lancelot Gobbo figures... spelling as in original

p. 36 Titania's instructions to the fairies original has faries

p. 39 though there seems to be little to choose between them original has thought here

p. 43 the Foersom-Lembcke version has become standard original has Forsom-Lembcke

p. 50 notably in the duke's speech original has notaby (Silvius and Pippa) original has anid

p. 51 dialogue between Orlando and Rosalind in II, 2 so in original

p. 57 Also he has acquitted himself well original has aquitted

p. 68 nothing to do with the case. original has ...with case.

p. 69 Moliere original has Moliere

p. 80 Cassius' weakness for strong drink so in original

p. 81n. The Shakespearean Controversy original has Shakespeareen

p. 82n. and Bierfreund, to declare original has ...Bierfreund to, declare

p. 86 He images Shakespeare so in original: imagines?

p. 88 in I, 3-123 where Shylock suddenly stops after "say this" original has I-3-1.3 (Sic!) so in original Occasionally a syllable is lacking original has Occassionally

p. 89 Vailing her high tops higher than her ribs. (I, 1-28) original has I-1-28

p. 95nn. See p. 94, note 1. original has p. 85, note 1 November 15, 1845 (twice) date and year as in original

p. 97n. March 22, 1858. date as in original

p. 98 This may be added, however: A play which, according to the... original has This may be according added, however: A play which, to the...

p. 98 As the piece is arranged now, Viola and her brother original has now Viola, and

p. 102, 103 in the magazine Kringsjaa.[17] .... the spirit has fled."[17] duplicate footnote reference in original

p. 103n. November 1, 1907. original has 1917

p. 104 no theater could have given a better caste spelling as in original

p. 107 commentaries of Taine and Genee original has Genee

p. 108 The caste was unexpectedly strong spelling as in original

Danish and Norwegian:

p. 2 hvad for en Aarsag afholder original has an Aarsag Mig synes der er megen Fornuft original has Meg synes...

p. 3 Du maae laese Testamentet for os, Caesars Testament! original has Caesars Testamment

p. 7 Maaskee I har det hort, men da de original has Maaskee i har... Slags Smil, der sig fra Lungen ikke skrev original has Smill

p. 8 Endskjondt de ikke alle kunde see original has ...ikke all kunne...

p. 10 Der mer agtvaerdig er end nogensinde original has ...en nogensinde

p. 11 endnu citeres af Fords Perkin Warbeck, II, 2 original has 11, 2

p. 13 Kinn-Ljosken hadde skemt dei Stjernor (second occurrence) original has Sternor

p. 17 og aldrig hev eg set ein Engel gaa original has en Engel og gjenta mi ser stott eg gaa paa Jori original has Jorl

p. 19 Trojas Murtinder Troilus besteg, original has trojas

p. 20 de Trolddomsurter der foryngede / den gamle Aeson original has Troldomsurter der foryngede den / gamle Aeson Lob fra Venedig med en lystig Elsker original has er lystig Elsker hvis jeg ei horte nogen komme—tys! original has komm-/tys at line break

p. 22 Brum saa dette stolte Hierte brister; original has brist er

p. 33 han hadde som ein attaat-snev; original has altaat-snev

p. 33 "Du fenden," segjer eg, "du raader meg godt." original has "Du fenden, segjer eg... missing close quote

p. 33 "I Soga um Kaupmannen i Venetia original has I, Soga um...

p. 34 Velkomen, vandrar; hev du blomen der? original has Velkomon This is all in the first selection in Syn og Segn, No. 3. original has Syn og segn

p. 36 Fjerde Alven: original has Fjorde Til Nattljos hennar voksbein slit i fleng original has slitt

p. 37 so god natt og bysselull (first occurrence) original has byselul faa vaar dronning ottefull (first occurrence) original has ottefulls faa vaar dronning ottefull (second occurrence) original has otteful

p. 41 Monsaas: Her er ei liste... original has Monsaas

p. 42 langt fleir enn kvinnelippur fram hev bori original has fler

p. 44 Bernardo: original has Bernado

p. 94n. "Fortegnelse over alle dramatiske Arbeider..." original has over all

p. 97 saaatsige taber af sin Fylde not an error (saa at sige)

p. 107 Bergens Addressecontoirs Efterretninger spelling as in original

p. 110 har vaeret opforte paa samme original has varet opforte

p. 110 bearbeidet for Scenen af H. Lassen original has bearbeidet for / for Scenen at line break

p. 111 efter Shakespeares All's Well That Ends Well original has after Shakespeare's...

p. 111, 112 (twice) Romeo og Julie. normal Dano-Norse form of name

p. 112 Deinhardsteins Bearbeidelse af Shakespeares What You Will original has Shakespeare's ]


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