Anglo-German cultural relations exemplified: the collaborative cultural enterprise ‘Shakespeare is German’

Submitting Institution

Queen Mary, University of London

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Directly inspired by the research of Rüdiger Görner, in the autumn of 2010 the Globe Theatre and the Goethe Institute in London staged a season of lectures, performances, readings and films entitled `Shakespeare is German'. This materially affected the cultural life of the capital, notably in the direction of 'conserving, preserving and presenting transnational cultural heritage'; it broadened the horizons of more than two thousand attendees; it had a resonance in the media which marked a clear shift in popular conceptions of Anglo-German cultural relations; and it continued to resonate in both countries long after the actual season finished.

Underpinning research

Since its foundation in 2005, Queen Mary's Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations has pursued a joint agenda of academic research and institutional collaboration. A recurrent theme in this work is the German reception of Shakespeare. Among the articles most frequently downloaded from the Centre's journal Angermion is a paper (by John Guthrie, Cambridge) on Schiller and Shakespeare, originally delivered at the Centre's Anglo-German Poetologies colloquium in February 2009 (1). A paper by Rüdiger Singer on Goethe and Shakespeare featured in the Centre's conference on Anglo-German Mythologies (2010) and in the resulting volume (2). Angus Nicholls, the Centre's Deputy Director, contributed a further paper on the role played by Shakespeare's reception in the formation of a national German literature to the Poetologies colloquium; and Robert Gillett, Section leader for Cultural Transfers, gave a paper on Shakespeare and Ralf König to the AGS lead panel on Anglo-German Cultural Relations in 2007. Moreover, in his many publications on German literature, on English literature and on the relationship between the two, for which he was elected to the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung in Darmstadt in 2011 and awarded the Deutscher Sprachpreis in 2012, Rüdiger Görner repeatedly returns to the abiding influence of the British national poet on German authors (3).

Out of this interest arose the idea of making Goethe's writings on Shakespeare available in distinguished new English translations. Following notable collaborations with the Austrian Cultural Forum, the British Museum, the Goethe Institut, the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies (IGRS) and the German Embassy, this particular project attracted the interest of the Globe theatre. The Globe not only undertook the publication and distribution of the book, but also took it as the inspiration for a multi-faceted season of events in which the question of the affinity between Germanic Cultures and Bardic Britain was explored in markedly original and imaginative ways.

The specific inspiration for this season were two pieces of research by Rüdiger Görner: a series of reflections on Goethe's relationship with Shakespeare, which became the afterword to the new bilingual edition of the Goethe texts (4), and a lecture on the German Preoccupation with Shakespeare, delivered at the Globe Theatre on 21.10.2010 and published as part of a book on Anglo-German Cultural Relations submitted to the current REF (5).

The key findings of this research are that, far from being an isolated British phenomenon, Shakespeare helped found German national culture, and that the crucial German work on Shakespeare, be it translation, production, criticism or the aesthetic incorporation of him as productively unclassical, can and historically did revise and enrich the English perception of their national author. The purpose of the events at the Globe Theatre and the Goethe Institute was to prove this conclusion and to put it into practice.

References to the research

1. Rüdiger Görner (ed.): Angermion. Yearbook of the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations at Queen Mary, University of London, volume 4 (2012), pp. 1-75.

2. Rüdiger Görner and Angus Nicholls (eds.): In The Embrace of the Swan. Anglo-German Mythologies in Literature, the Visual Arts and Cultural Theory. New York: De Gruyter 2010, pp. 65- 86.


3. Rüdiger Görner: Schiller's Poetics of Freedom. Standpoint, November 2009.

4. Goethe on Shakespeare, Goethe über Shakespeare. A Parallel Edition of Goethe's writings on Shakespeare. With an Afterword by Rüdiger Goerner. London: Globe Education Hardbacks 2010.

5. Rüdiger Görner: Ein Märchen für alle Jahreszeiten. Shakespeare, eine deutsche Fixiertheit. In: R.G.: Dover im Harz. Studien zu British-Deutschen Kulturbeziehungen. Heidelberg: Winter 2012, pp. 121-14

6. Rüdiger Görner: A Tale for All Seasons. Reflections on the German Preoccupation with Shakespeare. London: Globe Education Occasional Papers, 2013.

Details of the impact

The process
Between 7 October and 18 November 2010, the Globe Theatre and the Goethe Institute in London, "inspired by", as Madeline Knights of the Globe put it in an e-mail, "and indebted to", Rüdiger Görner's research into Goethe's relationship with Shakespeare, and more broadly into the German preoccupation with him (4, 5, and 6 above) staged a season of lectures, performances, rehearsed readings and film showings under the overall title `Shakespeare is German'. This season, supported by the German Embassy and the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies (IGRS), entailed an exemplary collaboration between two of the major cultural institutions in London. It led to Globe Education devoting a whole season to the German Shakespeare, which involved distinguished scholars, actors, translators and directors from both Germany and the UK, and putting on staged readings of other English plays with German connections. At the same time, the Goethe Institute devoted a film season to some of the less obvious, but historically important, film adaptations of Shakespeare plays.

Preserving, conserving and presenting cultural heritage
As part of the season, the Globe Theatre put on staged readings of two very rare plays associated with Shakespeare and Germany: George Chapman's Alphonsus, Emperor of Germany, and Henry Glapthorne's Albertus Wallenstein, which helped to inspire Schiller. The Goethe Institute screened equally rare and culturally significant filmic versions of Shakespeare's plays, including The Jew of Mestri and Sven Gade's Hamlet. This is a text-book instance of exhuming, preserving, conserving, presenting and illuminating cultural heritage, since texts, both dramatic and filmic, that are part of Britain's heritage and have become an indispensable element in Germany's were dusted off and given a new lease of life.

Creating, inspiring and supporting new forms of artistic expression
The season also featured an evening of clips by and discussions with German artists and filmmakers Herbert Fritsch and Sabrina Zwach on their ongoing project to re-envision Hamlet for our times ( The season thus demonstrably supported new forms of artistic expression.

Enriching the lives, imaginations and sensibilities of individuals and groups
A total of 2,279 people attended the various events of the season, and many more will have had their attention drawn to the existence of texts of which they had previously been unaware (cf. e.g. In a significant but not easily quantified way, therefore, the lives, imaginations and sensibilities of very many individuals and groups were enriched by this project.

Influencing the form and content of associations between groups to illuminate cultural values
The collaboration between the Globe Education and the Goethe Institute marked a major new departure. Without Görner's research and his personal engagement, the two may never have realized the breadth and depth of the common ground between them.

An exemplary case of the embodiment of research in the wider cultural community
The whole season had the effect of embodying the conclusions of Professor Görner's research in publicly accessible events in two venues in the wider cultural community. And the fact that Görner's lecture has been adopted world-wide by the Goethe Institute (6) corroborates the project's exemplary importance.

Media resonance
Furthermore, many people have been led to rethink the cultural relationship between Britain and Germany as a result of this series of events. The season aroused considerable interest in the media of the two countries, including both high brow and less high brow national newspapers, popular and high cultural radio stations. It was also widely discussed in both languages on the radio and on the internet. From both the German gratification and the British tolerant surprise, it is evident that this media response is both symptomatic of, and helped to strengthen, a significant shift in mutual perceptions.

Evidence of impact
The audience figures cited above have been supplied by the Globe and the Goethe Institute.

The season featured as one of the `top stories' on the blog of the Deutsche Welle (, but was also reported on the bbc news ( and in the Guardian theatreblog ( It was listed in both The Stage and IndieLondon (; It was picked up by other Universities, such as Aston, by the AGS and by the BUFVC (;;
It was also drawn to the attention of teachers in two entries on the magazine inkpellet, and to expatriate Germans on Deutsche in London ( &;, and is included on the fan web site of Sebastian Koch (

Evidence of uptake of research is to be found in Patrick Spottiswoode's follow-up radio feature Shakespeare is German on BBC Radio 4 from December 2012 ( A lecture commissioned for the season was also repeated in Germany (;

Building on the impact
An indirect sequel to the project is the invitation to the Bremer Shakespeare company to take part in the Globe to Globe project as part of the Cultural Olympiad in May 2012. The inevitability of including German as one of the 37 languages represented was cemented by the Shakespeare is German project. The Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations has subsequently become involved in Global Shakespeare, run jointly by QMUL and the University of Warwick. And Karin Beier, Artistic Director of the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg has been invited to give the Centre's 2015 Angermion lecture.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Director of Education at the Globe Theatre.
  2. Business Development Manager at the Globe Theatre.
    Both can corroborate that the programming by the Globe was inspired by Görner's research.
  3. Project Coordinator for Film at the Goethe Institut. Corroborates the importance attached to the season at the Goethe Institut.
  4. Independent journalist and broadscaster. Corroborates the impact of the season on the media.

Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3, 13 October 2010: Germany's love of Shakespeare
10 minute feature broadcast at 9pm, examining the relationship between Shakespeare and Germany.

Deutsche Welle radio, 18 November 2010: The German side of Shakespeare
6 minute radio feature, including interview with Patrick Spottiswoode, broadcast at 12.30pm as part of the Arts on the Air programme.,,6237693,00.html

Evening Standard, 2 September 2010: Why Germans can't get enough of Wilhelm Shakespeare
250 word news article reporting on the season and highlighting Germany's love of Shakespeare. Includes a quote from Cord Meier-Klodt, head of culture and education at the German Embassy in London.

Berliner Zeitung 18 October 2010 Shakespeare Ist er doch ein Deutsche. 350 word article reporting on the season with generous quotations from Spottiswoode and a conclusion contrasting British generosity with German mean-spiritedness.,10810590,10749314.html

Die Welt, 18 October 2010: Eine gelungene Integration [An inspired integration]
1,200 word article looking at the history of the relationship between Shakespeare and Germany

PM Programme, BBC Radio 4, 7 October 2010: Shakespeare is German
4 minute radio feature, introduced live from the Globe and including pre-recorded interviews with Rüdiger Görner and Patrick Spottiswoode, plus audio of an education workshop with SET students.

Der Freitag, 11 October 2010: Shakespeare unser
735 word German language article examining the relationship between Shakespeare and Germany

LBC Radio Breakfast programme, 8 October 2010: Interview with Patrick Spottiswoode
Interview discussing issues raised by the season, broadcast live