On Gottfried Keller's A Village Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare Adaptation in General


  • Balz Engler University of Basel, Switzerland


The article suggests a re-thinking of how adaptation should be discussed, using the example of Gottfried Keller's tale A Village Romeo and Juliet, one of the great works of European literature, which is commonly considered to be an adaptation of Shakespeare's play. After discussing it as such the article shows, on the basis of Keller's own statements, that the relationship between the tale and Shakespeare's play is more complex. Both Shakespeare and Keller draw on a shared myth, and their versions are items in a long and rich tradition that does not necessarily progress in a linear fashion and does not include only literary texts but all kinds of artifacts.

Author Biography

Balz Engler, University of Basel, Switzerland

Balz Engler is Professor Emeritus of English Literature. He has published a critical edition of Shakespeare's Othello (1976), which includes a German prose translation of the play. He has written books on Shakespeare translation (Rudolf Alexander Schröders Uebersetzungen von Shakespeares Dramen, 1974), on the relationship between poetic texts and their modes of communicating (Reading and Listening: The Modes of Communicating Poetry and their Influence on the Texts, 1982), and on literature as performance and its cultural implications (Poetry and Community, 1990). He has edited nine collections of essays, among them one on community drama (Das Festspiel, with Georg Kreis, 1988), on European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline, two volumes (with Renate Haas, 2000 and 2008), and on Shifting the Scene: Shakespeare in European Culture (with Ladina Bezzola Lambert, 2004). He served on the boards of the European Society for the Study of English (1991-2003), the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft (1993-2011) and the board of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (1998-2007) which made him an honorary member in 2015. His website (offering full bibliographical references) is at http://www.BalzEngler.ch.