Fritz Kortner

Authored by: Klaus Völker , Wilhelm Hortmann

The Routledge Companion to Directors’ Shakespeare

Print publication date:  April  2010
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415400442
eBook ISBN: 9780203932520
Adobe ISBN: 9781134146482


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During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the most prominent Shakespeare-director of the German-speaking theatre was undoubtedly Max Reinhardt. Of course, there were others, such as Saladin Schmitt who, from 1920 to 1940, produced nearly all of Shakespeare’s plays – a most respectable achievement for a middle-sized theatre in an industrial town like Bochum even if the presentations did not go beyond the frame of creditably acted and well-constructed performances of the classics. However, Schmitt’s meritorious and continuous efforts to bring all of Shakespeare’s works onto the stage could not vie with the highlights elsewhere, notably in Berlin, for example: Leopold Jessner’s Richard III, Othello and Macbeth at the Berlin Staatstheater during the 1920s; Erich Engel’s Coriolanus and The Tempest at the Deutsches Theater during the 1930s, not to mention the legendary production of Richard III (1937) directed by Jürgen Fehling at the Staatstheater under Gustaf Gründgens as Intendant, which was understood as an implicit denunciation of the Nazis and their crimes. Fritz Kortner’s work as a Shakespeare director falls into the years from 1950 to 1970 when this former protagonist of expressionist acting during the Weimar Republic (1919–32) renewed the German theatre with a number of highly expressive Shakespeare productions in which the light touch of comedy and a reading penetrating to the spiritual core of the plays combined in felicitous union.

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