From strolling players to moral institution: theatre as one constituent of public life
Lessing’s complaint, in the eighty-first Literary Letter of 7 February 1760, appropriately characterised the condition of German theatre in the first half of the eighteenth century. The ‘strolling players’ still toured the land as they had done one hundred years before with their wagons, from Königsberg – even St Petersburg – and Warsaw in the east to Strasbourg and Colmar in the west, from Flensburg and Schleswig in the north to Bern and Lucerne in the south. In this respect, not much had changed since the days of the English players who came to the Continent under the leader-
ship of Robert Brown and the clown Thomas Saxfield, John Bradstreet and Ralph Reed, John Green and Joris Joliphus (George Jolly), and founded the acting profession in Germany. They also toured across the country and put up stages in the great cities, such as Leipzig, Frankfurt, Cologne, Nuremberg, Munich or Augsburg at trade fairs. Sometimes, they were even invited to the court for a fixed engagement as in Kassel, for Landgrave Moritz and in Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, for Duke Heinrich Julius. But their German disciples in the eighteenth century could no longer hope for such strokes of luck. The troupes belonging to Caroline Neuber (between 1727 and 1750), Franz Schuch (1740-70), Johann Friedrich Schönemann (1740-57), Heinrich Gottfried Koch (1750-75), Konrad Ernst Ackermann (1753-67) and Carl Theophil Doebbelin (1756-89) were forced to keep their heads above water by keeping permanently on tour right up to the mid-1760s.