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Translator’s Note

Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe, a title usually rendered in English as Love and Intrigue, presents a text that is “low” style: in prose, highly colloquial, sometimes to the point of slang, and strongly marked by class distinction. Translation of such a text proceeds, necessarily, largely by ear and instinct. Spoken language, which is ephemeral, leaves a blank that must be filled by words in current usage, the old forms having vanished. I cannot claim to have escaped anachronism; my best hope is to have avoided jarring anachronism that injures the illusion of an action that took place more than two hundred years ago.

German texts set in previous centuries, especially comedy, enjoy the advantage of four forms of direct address: second- and third-person, singular and plural. These many forms create social distinctions, convey nuances of hierarchy, and color expressions of contempt and deference in ways that do not survive in English. Thus Wurm’s abjectness and malice, read in the original, plumb new depths of squalor. And his retribution at the end of the play acquires new pungency and a satisfying ring of social justice when he turns on his ennobled master, who has always addressed him, with proper condescension, as “Er,” and whom he has addressed, deferentially, as “Sie,” and the two men square off on a common level of reciprocated contempt, addressing each other as “du.” These small carriers of meaning are lost in translation.

Here again, as in translating Don Carlos,1 I have pruned certain exuberances of the original—restatements that do no work, flights of fancy that know no end, interjections that break an effective flow of expression—in the interest of good rhetoric and good argument. My object here again is to gain felicity and persuasion at no expense of meaning.

This translation, like the others in the series of Schiller’s major plays, which Open Book Publishers makes freely available to a wide readership,2 is intended for young people in college-level instruction and for the general reader. The endnotes undertake to ease the reader’s way through an old text by situating the play in its period and remarking on its structure.

I gratefully acknowledge my debt to Gerhard Kluge, editor of the edition Deutsche Klassiker, Frankfurt am Main, 1989, the text on which my translation is based, whose commentary gave me valuable guidance in preparing the endnotes. My debt to Roger Paulin grows with each new volume of the series. The present text has been greatly strengthened by his fine ear, his command of both languages, and his learning. Alessandra Tosi presided over it all with vigilance and resourcefulness. Christoph Kimmich, once again, provided me with everything I needed.


1 Don Carlos Infante of Spain: A Dramatic Poem by Friedrich Schiller. Translated by Flora Kimmich (Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2018), https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0134; https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/711

2 See https://www.openbookpublishers.com/section/40/1