By Thomas L. Jeffers (auth.)
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Extra info for Apprenticeships: The Bildungsroman from Goethe to Santayana
Other people are essential to the hero’s growth, and it is a tribute to Goethe’s or Mann’s skill at characterization that we feel as complexly sympathetic toward them as we do. Still, as I have noted in Clavdia Chauchat’s remark, these other people are plainly subordinate: their job is to water, fertilize, and prune the growing “plant,” the Bildungsheld, whose nursery is the world. Take, on the other hand, the hero of a typical English 36 The BILDUNGSROMAN from Goethe to Santayana Bildungsroman, Thackeray’s Pendennis or Dickens’s David Copperfield, who is usually presented quite otherwise.
To act Hamlet is, for Wilhelm, a homeopathic therapy. In his interpretation, the Prince doesn’t conceive and execute a “scheme of vengeance”; rather, the original murder “rolls itself along with all its consequences,” dragging the good into an abyss with the wicked—all as “Fate alone” decrees. How close this is to Shakespeare’s dramatic poem isn’t the question. Wilhelm sees in Hamlet what he sees in himself: indecision, intellectualism, and an interest in the theater. More importantly, he wants to believe there is a “fate” that has ordered him to become an actor, and that can therefore be held responsible for his having defied his father.
Goethe merits praise for having, in art speech, given body to that ideal at the birth of a democratic European civilization. ” If the English novelists who read Carlyle’s translation of Wilhelm Meister broadened and enriched the applicability of Goethe’s concept of self-cultivation, it was sometimes because, qua novelists, they were better artists than he, but it was also because they wrote about and for a society whose economic and therefore political circumstances already provided a reasonably high baseline of equal opportunity, which they could plausibly imagine going higher still.
Apprenticeships: The Bildungsroman from Goethe to Santayana by Thomas L. Jeffers (auth.)