¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 [0.1] “This publication” refers to the gazette distributed at the opening of the theatre on 22 April 1767, not to the edition of collected essays published in 1769.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 [0.2] Johann Elias Schegel (1719-1749), early 18th-century playwright and theater theorist. The quote is from his “Schreiben von Errichtung eines Theaters in Kopenhagen” (“Writings on the Establishment of a Theater in Copenhagen”). Lessing both misattributes the quote to Schlegel’s “Gedanken zur Aufnahme des dänischen Theaters” (“Thoughts on the Improvement of the Danish Theater”) and misquotes the passage. The original translates: “The reason that there has yet been no continuously existing local theater here seems to be this: that previously the concern of working for their own profit and loss was left to the actors themselves” Werke 3: 252. Cf. Eaton 30-88; Robertson 24.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 [1.1] Set in 12th-century Jerusalem, Olint und Sophronia (Olindo and Sophronia),by Johann Friedrich von Cronegk (1731-1758), depicts Olindo’s love for the Christian Sophronia. After Olindo steals a crucifix meant to protect the city from Crusaders, he and Sophronia offer to martyr themselves to save her people from the wrath of the sultan, Aladin. In the production, Konrad Ekhof played Olindo’s father, Evander, and Sophie Hensel played Clorinda, a heathen queen also in love with Olindo. Johann Michael Böck and Susanna Mecour played the title roles. For a production history and fuller synopsis of this play, see Robertson 54-57.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 [1.3] Cronegk’s play Codrus (1757), about the last king of Athens,initiated a revival of Alexandrine tragedies in Germany and led to his posthumous fame, even as bourgeois dramas such as Lessing’s Miss Sara Sampson (1755) gained in popularity.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 [1.4] The story of Olindo and Sophronia appears in the second book of Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered ). Mendelssohn had previously criticized Cronegk’s writing in the periodical Briefe, die neueste Litteratur betreffend (Letters 190 & 191, dated 8 Oct and 15 Oct 1761), and his arguments are strongly reflected by Lessing.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 [1.5] Here Lessing lays out a few of the key criteria he will use throughout the Hamburg Dramaturgy to assess plays and performances: “probability” (Wahrscheinlichkeit), “illusory continuity” (illusorische Stetigkeit), and the notion that an audience should “sympathize” (sympathisieren) with the action or characters.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 [1.6] Book IX of Virgil’s Aeneid contains the story of Nisus and Euryalus, two Trojan soldiers who shared a close bond of friendship. During a raid of an enemy’s camp, Euryalus steals a helmet, which leads to his capture. Although Nisus returns heroically to rescue his friend, both are killed.
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 [2.2] Lessing, like many of his contemporaries, proposed that the theatre could serve as a tool of moral reform; such proponents espoused a universal view of natural behavior founded on moral philosophy. Moral improvement, however, was to be effected through an appeal to spectators’ capacity for compassion, rather than by depicting a “moral lesson.” Cf. “Brief an Nicolai 11.10.1769” (“Letter to Nicolai 11 Oct 1769”) (Werke und Briefe 11/1: 628-29) in which Lessing decries those who would make the stage a moral school.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 [2.3] Above, Lessing uses “pity” (Mitleid), “enthusiasm” (Enthusiasmus) and “sensitive” (empfindlich). These were critical terms in Enlightenment philosophy and an essential component of Lessing’s affective acting theory. Zamor is a “noble savage” who converts to Christianity in Voltaire’s play Alzire, ou les Américains (Alzire; or, The Americans) (1736)
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 [2.4] In Pierre Corneille’s Polyeucte (1642) the titular character, an Armenian prince, converts to Christianity and is martyred. Robertson (174 n.3) asserts that this was the most popular of Corneille’s plays in Germany.
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 [2.7] Until late in the eighteenth century the lighting in German theaters was provided by candles; the Lichtputzer (here translated as “candlesnuffer”) was responsible for maintaining those candles, trimming wicks to prevent them from smoking and extinguishing the flames when it was time for the candles to be changed. On lighting practices in the 18th-century German theater, see Maurer-Schmoock 65-75. English actor, playwright, and entrepreneur David Garrick (1717-79) was considered among the greatest dramatic artists of the century; the literary reference is to Thomas More’s Utopia (1516).
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 [2.8] Konrad Ekhof (1720-78); Lessing gives a variant spelling of his name in the text. Born in Hamburg, Ekhof joined Johann Friedrich Schönemann’s troupe when he was eighteen years old. When the Hamburg National Theater was founded in 1767 Ekhof became a leading member of the company. After the collapse of the Hamburg Theater, he became co-director of the more longstanding national theater at Gotha; the Ekhof-Theater at Schloss Friedenstein is one of the few still-functioning baroque theaters in Europe.
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 [3.1] See [2.8]. Although Lessing presents Ekhof as the ideal actor, Robertson reminds us that Lessing was obligated to praise the company’s leading actors (143).
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 [3.3] The eighteenth-century witnessed a heated debated that placed a mechanistic approach to acting in opposition to a more intuitive approach. Lessing read and translated major proponents of both schools of thought and draws from each in his writing on the acting process in order to suggest this negotiation of voluntary and involuntary emotional processes. For an overview of the debate and its major participants see Roach, The Player’s Passion.
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 [3.4] Lessing’s discussion of the relationship between the actor’s emotion and the legibility of emotional signs draws from a Cartesian understanding of the relationship between mind and body. According to such models, emotion is generated from an intellectual understanding of an idea or image, which is then communicated to the body through a dispersal of “animal spirits.”See Descartes, Selected Philosophical Writings 160-212; 218-238.
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 [3.5] Lessing uses the term “symbolic conclusion” to differentiate universal, systematic knowledge (that which requires dispassionate contemplation of signs) from intuitive understanding, which provides a personal connection to profound truths (see “Abhandlung zur Fabel: I. Von dem Wesen der Fabel” [“Treatise on the Fable: I. On the Nature of the Fable”], Werke und Briefe 4: 372-73).
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 [4.1] Lessing refers to the “hand language” of rhetoricians and actors in ancient Rome, as described in Quintilian, The Institutes of Oratory Bk. 11, Ch. 3, sec. 61-184.
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 [4.2] The ancient pantomime performed wordlessly, sometimes accompanied by music or recited poetry. Here Lessing distinguishes pantomimes from actors who make gestures that support and enhance the spoken word. Lessing appears to use the term “pantomime” and “mime” interchangeably, to mean an actor who performs without speaking.
¶ 34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 [4.3] Two uncompleted works of Lessing speak to his interest in gesture: “Abhandlung von den Pantomimen der Alten” [“Treatise on the Pantomime of the Ancients”] (dated between 1749 and 1750, Werke und Briefe 1: 711-724) and “Der Schauspieler: Ein Werk worinne [sic] die Grundsätze der ganzen körperlichen Beredsamkeit entwickelt werden” [“The Actor: A work in which the basic principles of a whole bodily expressivity will be developed”] (dated between 1750 and 1754, Werke und Briefe 3: 320-329). In his discussion of gesture, Lessing draws on seminal eighteenth-century works of aesthetics and performance, including the Dissertation sur les Représentations Théâtrales des Anciens [Inquiry into the Theatrical Entertainments of the Ancients] (1752) by the Abbé Du Bos (the final installment of his three-part work, Réflexions Critiques sur la Pöesie et sur la Peinture [Critical Reflections on Poetry, Painting, and Music]) partially translated by Lessing in the third part of his Theatralische Bibliothek [Theatrical Library] in 1755, (Werke und Briefe 3: 651-661); Les Beaux-Arts Réduits à un Même Principe [The Fine Arts Distilled into a Few Principles] by Charles Batteux (translated into German individually by Johann Adolf Schlegel and Philipp E. Bertram in 1751; Lessing reviewed both translations in the same year); William Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty (1753); and François (Francesco) Riccoboni’s treatise L’Art du théâtre (1750), which Lessing translated and excerpted (Werke und Briefe 1: 884-935).
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 [4.5] Hogarth’s widely influential treatise on aesthetics in the pictorial and plastic arts was translated into German in 1754 by Christlob Mylius. Lessing provided a preface to the second edition of this book (Werke und Briefe 3: 350ff.). In Chapter 17 (“Of Action”), Hogarth briefly addresses stage movement, explaining that stage action should be graceful and work in conjunction with, rather than against, stage dialogue.
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 [4.6] Hogarth suggests chalking graceful curving lines on a flat surface and training the hand to follow them—an exercise that he describes as “an odd, but perhaps, efficacious method of acquiring a habit of moving in the lines of grace and beauty” (153).
¶ 39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 [4.8] The term Lessing uses here, “das Anschauende,” here translated as “visible,” relates this passage to the eighteenth-century aesthetic concept of “Anschaulichkeit,” (clarity or transparency). As Dorothea von Mücke notes, the “Project of Anschaulichkeit” aimed to remove the veil of artful representation in order to increase the reality effect of the artistic illusion (see von Mücke 18; 40-60).
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 [4.10] Sophie Friederike Hensel (née Sparmann) (1738–89): was one of the leading German actresses of her day, as well as a playwright and librettist. She toured for the majority of her career with the troupe of Konrad (Ernst) Ackermann (1712-71) and was hired by the Hamburg National Theater due to her status as a star performer. Known for her tragic neoclassical roles such as Semiramis, Merope, and Cleopatra, Hensel was also lauded for her performances of Lessing’s Minna, Orsina, and Sara Sampson.
¶ 45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 [5.2] Lessing’s aesthetics of “natural beauty,” which predate the Romantic fascination with the sublime and the grotesque, are founded on ostensibly universal standards of order, proportion, and decorum, and are elaborated upon in Laokoon: oder über die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie (1766) (Werke und Briefe 5.2: 11-206). For an English translation, see Edward Allen McCormick, Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry.
¶ 46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 [5.3] Tr. note: the word Lessing uses here is Marquetenderin, which translates best to the archaic English word “sutler,” a merchant who sold goods from the back of a wagon to the army.
¶ 47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 [5.4] German critics received their view of Shakespeare as an indifferent actor from English biographers like Nicholas Rowe, who wrote in his 1709 biographical preface to Shakespeare’s works that “his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the stage, soon distinguish’d him, if not as an extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer” (61-2).
¶ 49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 [5.6] Lessing’s argument is derived from the first part of Pierre Rémond de Sainte-Albine’s seminal work of acting theory Le Comédien [The Actor](1747), specifically Chapter III, “Un Comédien peut-il avoir trop de Feu?” [“Can an actor have too much fire?”] (41-49). Lessing had planned a translation of Le Comédien, but instead published a detailed description in 1754 in his Theatralische Bibliothek under the title “Auszug aus dem Schauspieler des Herrn Remond von Sainte Albine” (Werke und Briefe 3: 304-311).
¶ 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 [5.7] In Laokoon, Lessing challenges the Latin dictum ut pictura poesis (“as is painting, so is poetry”) most famously employed by Horace in his Ars Poetica. Theatrical performance, Lessing argues, functions as a “transitory picture” and is therefore responsible to different aesthetic criteria than either poetry or painting.
¶ 51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 [5.8] May refer to Dutch painter Pieter Mulier the Younger (1637-1701), nicknamed “Tempesta” for his paintings of stormy seas. Robertson, however, suggests instead a reference to Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), known for his battle scenes (482, n.1). Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), Italian architect and sculptor, is considered synonymous with the Baroque style in architecture.
¶ 53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 [5.10] Seats in the gallery were inexpensive and typically would have been populated by servants and the working classes; the parterre audience would have been made up of students, merchants, lawyers, and other literati.
¶ 56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 [6.1] The author of the prologue and epilogue is unknown. Some historians attribute authorship toJohann Jakob Dusch (1725-87), others to Johann Friedrich Löwen (1727-71), the director of the Hamburg National Theater (Robertson 56-8). Regardless of its provenance, this introduction to the theater’s mission connects it to other eighteenth-century efforts by middle-class literati to promote moral reform through the sentimental theater; a “civilized” populace was meant to espouse bourgeois ideological principles of moderation, compassion, and public citizenship (cf. Fischer-Lichte 146-70).
¶ 58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 [6.3] Elisabeth Lucia Dorothea Löwen (1732-83) (frequently listed erroneously as Eleonore Luise Dorothea), daughter of the influential actor-manager Johann Friedrich Schönemann (1704–82) and wife of Johann Friedrich Löwen. A principal actress of the Hamburg theater, much praised by Lessing. Cf. in particular  and .
¶ 62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 [6.7] Gaul: territory in modern-day Western Europe that was inhabited by the Celtic Gauls during the Roman era; here meant to imply France. Albion: archaic name for England.
¶ 64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 [6.9] James Quin, English actor (1693-1766), particularly noted for his performance of Falstaff. A leading actor of his time, Quin’s popularity was challenged by the ascendency of David Garrick. The latter was seen as a pioneer of new acting methods, in comparison to which Quin’s declamatory style appeared dated. See  for Lessing’s discussion of the relative merits of the two actors.
¶ 66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 [7.1] In this essay Lessing refers to the prologue and epilogue of the Hamburg National Theater’s inaugural play. Cf. . The idea of drama as “a supplement to the law” connects this passage to eighteenth-century debates concerning the relationship of theater and morality to the law; prominent participants include the Abbé Hédelin d’Aubignac, La Practique du théâtre [The Whole Art of the Stage] (1657); Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lettre à d’Alembert sur les spectacles [Letter to D’Alembert on the Theatre] (1758); and, later, Friedrich Schiller, Die Schaubühne als eine moralische Anstalt betrachtet [The Stage Considered as a Moral Institution] (1784), among many others. Cf. also [2.2].
¶ 70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 [7.5] Tr. note: “Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften.” In 1756, the journal’s editor, C. F. Nicolai (1733-1811), held a contest for the best unpublished tragedy by a German author; Cronegk was posthumously awarded the prize for Codrus. Cf. [1.3]. Nicolai, a writer and bookseller, was a close friend of Lessing and of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86). All three were leading figures of the German Enlightenment and co-editors of the periodical Briefe, die neueste Litteratur betreffend.
¶ 72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 [7.7] James Thomson (1700-48), Scottish poet and playwright whose work informed Lessing’s understanding of English drama. Lessing translated Theophilus Cibber’s biography of Thomson (Werke und Briefe 3: 282-99) and provided a preface to the 1756 German translation of his plays (Werke und Briefe 3: 755-61).
¶ 74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 [7.9] Proteus, a shape-changer from Greek mythology. From the Renaissance onward, this appellation was applied to actors who exhibited an uncanny ability to transform themselves and who appeared to lose themselves within a role. Cf. Roach 23-57. The term was applied to Garrick almost immediately upon his debut on the English stage.
¶ 75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 [7.10] Characters from Henry Fielding’s novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749). The passage that follows is loosely paraphrased from Book XVI, Chap. 5 (p. 794).
¶ 76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 [7.11] Although their specific function was contested by critics during the long eighteenth century, prologues and epilogues became an integral part of theatrical evenings, addressing debates over aesthetic concerns, recontexualizing older plays for new audiences, and often engaging social or political issues of the day. Cf. Ennis and Bailey-Slagle 13-32. See also  and .
¶ 81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 [8.1] Pierre-Claude Nivelle de La Chaussée (1692-1754). Mélanide premiered in Hamburg in 1742 (under the direction of actress Sophie Charlotte Schröder, later Ackermann) and was produced regularly in Hamburg in subsequent decades (See Litzmann, 33; and Meyer II/2: 44-47; 49; 52; and 118). The German translator of the work is unknown.
¶ 82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 [8.2] “Comédie larmoyante.” A sentimental drama of the eighteenth-century that blurred the distinction between comedy and tragedy. Mélanide is considered to exemplify the form. Lessing coined the word weinerlich to translate the French term larmoyant in his 1754 essay “Abhandlungen von dem weinerlichen oder rührenden Lustspiele” [“Essays on the weeping or moving comedies”] (Werke und Briefe 3: 264-267; see also Grimm, 28: 903).
¶ 84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 [8.4] The full (and correct) title of the work to which Lessing refers is Memoires de Mademoiselle Bontemps, ou de la Comtesse de Marlou by Thomas-Simon Gueullette (1748); however, Mélanide does not appear to have been based on this work.
¶ 85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 [8.5] In Mélanide, young Rosalie is promised to a marquis, despite her love for Darviane. The conflict is resolved when Darviane is revealed to be the illegitimate son of the marquis and the eponymous Mélanide. In 3.2, Darviane confronts Rosalie about the arranged match and her feelings for him.
¶ 86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 [8.6] Biblioteca teatrale italiana, II: 199ff. Collection of Italian plays and plays translated into Italian, compiled by Ottaviano Diodati between 1762-65, and supplemented with chapters in verse on dramatic theory and performance. Significant in part because of Diodati’s use of the word “drammaturgia” to describe his project.
¶ 88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 [8.8] Julie, oder Wettstreit der Pflicht und Liebe, by Franz von Heufeld (1731-95), premiered in Vienna in 1766. The two previous works were likely Die Haushaltung nach der Mode, oder Was soll man für eine Frau nehmen? [Housekeeping à la mode, or What should one take for a wife?] (1765) and Die Liebhaber nach der Mode, oder Was soll man für einen Mann nehmen? [The Fashionable Lovers, or What should one take for a husband?] (1766).
¶ 90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 [8.10] Lessing refers here to letters written by the philosopher and critic Moses Mendelssohn in the periodical they published jointly with Friedrich Nicolai, Briefe, die neueste Litteratur betreffend, X: 255 ff. See [7.5].
¶ 91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 [8.11] In Rousseau’s novel, lovers St. Preux and Julie, teacher and pupil respectively, are separated when Julie’s father, the Baron d’Étange, marries her to Wolmar, a nobleman. Julie lives happily as a wife and mother until St. Preux is hired to tutor her children; although the affair is not rekindled, Julie eventually realizes that she still loves St. Preux. In Heufeld’s play, Julie and her tutor resist their passion from the outset, Wolmar nobly releases Julie from her engagement, and her father allows the virtuous lovers to marry.
¶ 98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0 [9.4] Champions of bourgeois dramas argued that the private concerns of ordinary citizens were the most universally human, and thus the most compelling, subjects for a play, rather than the uncommon and exceptional deeds of public persons. Previously, both French neoclassicism and the baroque Haupt- und Staatsaktionen had placed great deeds of noble persons at the center of a play’s action. Cf. .
¶ 100 Leave a comment on paragraph 100 0 [9.6] Lessing earlier had explored the relationship between illusion, pleasure, and representations of attractive or repellent objects in Laocoön (McCormick 130-7) and in a letter to Mendelssohn (2 February 1757, Werke und Briefe 11/1: 165-9).
¶ 103 Leave a comment on paragraph 103 0 [9.9] Giovanni Maria Cecchi (1517?-87); La Dote (1550). Cf. Luigi Riccoboni, 135. Luigi Riccoboni (1675?-1753), influential Italian author, theater reformer, and actor who performed at and directed the Comédie-Italienne in Paris. His Réflexions historiques et critiques sur différents théâtres de l’Europe [An Historical and Critical Account of the Theaters in Europe] (1738), the first comparative history of the European theater, influenced Lessing’s own “Beyträge zur Historie und Aufnahme des Theaters” [“Contributions to the History and Improvement of the Theater”] (1750); see “Beyträge” preface and overview (Werke und Briefe 1: 723-33; 1330-36). In 1754, Lessing published (and may have translated) the majority of Riccoboni’s Histoire du théâtre italien [History of Italian Theater] (1728-31) in his Theatralische Bibliothek [Theatrical Library] 2: 135-214.
¶ 104 Leave a comment on paragraph 104 0 [9.10] Philippe Néricault Destouches (1680-1754); Le Tresor caché was published in Oeuvres dramatiques de Néricault Destouches [Dramatic Works of Néricault Destouches] (1757) 4: 259-391. Cf. “Leben des Herrn Nericault Destouches” [“Life of Mr. Nericault Destouches”] (Werke und Briefe 3: 312-18).
¶ 109 Leave a comment on paragraph 109 0 [10.2] Destouches, Le Trésor caché (1745), Le Tambour nocturne (1736), and La fausse Agnès, ou Le poète campagnard (wr. 1727); the latter two were translated by Luise Adelgunde Gottsched as Das Gespenste mit der Trummel [The Ghost with the Drum] and Der Poetische Dorfjunker [The Poetical Village Squire] in volumes 2 and 3 respectively of J. C. Gottsched’s Die Deutsche Schaubühne (1741-45). Le Tambour nocturne was itself an adaptation of Joseph Addison, The Drummer, or the Haunted House (1715/16).
¶ 110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0 [10.3] Destouches, Le Philosophe marié (1727), Le Glorieux (1732), and Le Dissipateur (1733). Le Glorieux was translated as Der Ruhmredige [The Conceited Count] by J. E. Schlegel (1761); Le Dissipateur was translated by L. A. Gottsched as Der Verschwender [The Spendthrift] (1741). An English version of The Conceited Count appears in Regnard, et. al., Heirs of Moliere 89-196.
¶ 111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0 [10.4] Herr Schulwitz, character in Das Gespenst mit der Trummel (M. Pincé in the original). Herr von Masuren, character in Der Poetische Dorfjunker (M. des Mazures in the original).
¶ 112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0 [10.5] Lessing upholds the view that comedy is both moral and useful; its function is to heighten our ability to recognize the ridiculous and to avoid such behaviors in ourselves. (Cf. “Letter to Nicolai,” Werke und Briefe 11/1: 120). If too moralistic, however, comedy no longer generates genuine laughter; conversely, if its characters are too ridiculous, they become merely repellent.
¶ 115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0 [10.8] Lessing’s animosity toward Voltaire in this and other essays can be attributed in part to an incident between the two authors. While still a young unknown, Lessing was lent a portion of a work in progress by the renowned French author; fearing piracy or an unauthorized translation, Voltaire demanded its return. (“Letter from Voltaire,” Werke und Briefe 11/1: 37-8; and Nisbet 92-3.) Lessing was later denied the post of Royal Librarian by Voltaire’s patron, Frederick II of Prussia; it is speculated that the earlier incident may have been a contributing factor, although Frederick had always maintained a low opinion of German authors.
¶ 116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0 [10.9] Charles-Simon Favart (1710-92), French dramatist, librettist, and director of the opéra comique, author of Isabelle et Gertrude ou les Sylphes supposés [Isabelle and Gertrude, or the Supposed Sylphs] (1765).
¶ 117 Leave a comment on paragraph 117 0 [10.10] Gabalis, a master of the occult in the satirical novel Le Comte de Gabalis, ou Entretiens sur les sciences secretes [The Count of Gabalis, or Conversations about the Secret Sciences] (1670) by the Abbé de Montfaucon de Villars (1635-73). A sylph is a folkloric, elemental being of the air.
¶ 119 Leave a comment on paragraph 119 0 [10.12] Five-act tragedy. Sémiramis, Queen of Babylon, has colluded in the murder of her husband Ninus, whose ghost rises to demand justice. The German translation was provided by Löwen.
¶ 120 Leave a comment on paragraph 120 0 [10.13] Lessing refers to the “Dissertation sur la tragédie ancienne et modern” [“Dissertation on Ancient and Modern Tragedy”] (1748), published as a preface to Sémiramis, in which Voltaire argues for the superiority of modern French tragedy over that of the ancients.
¶ 121 Leave a comment on paragraph 121 0 [10.14] As theater became increasingly oriented toward the middle classes over the course of the eighteenth century, new dramatic modes such as bourgeois drama as well as new audience demographics necessitated a shift in theater-going practices that had favored aristocratic privilege. This shift included the elimination of the seventeenth-century practice of allowing (sometimes more than a hundred) socially important spectators to sit on the stage.
¶ 123 Leave a comment on paragraph 123 0 [10.16] Queen Sémiramis seeks to marry a young general, Arzace, not knowing he is her long-lost son; the ghost of Ninus prevents the marriage by revealing their true relationship. In the final act of the play, Arzace fatally stabs his mother in his father’s tomb, mistaking her for his enemy.
¶ 124 Leave a comment on paragraph 124 0 [10.17] The playwright and historian Jean-François Marmontel recounts that the ghost of Ninus had to struggle to make his way through the throng of spectators on the stage. (Common lore has that an usher—some say Voltaire himself—was forced to call out “Gentlemen, make way for the ghost!”) The ensuing hilarity fueled Voltaire’s campaign to remove spectators from the French stage; the practice was abolished in 1759.