March 14, 2017
Vischer’s Shakespeare studies not only provide valuable insights into the bard’s plays, they also advance the type of positivist approach later practised by Bradley and others. This study focuses on Hamlet , the play most prominent in nineteenth-century German Shakespeare criticism. Two aspects are of particular interest: (1) Vischer’s nationalist approach, placing Shakespeare solely into a Northern European, Germanic environment. (2) Vischer’s primary concern with character studies. By removing Hamlet from the idealised pedestal on which the Romantics had placed him, Hamlet is no longer seen as the philosopher prince, tormented by moral scruples, but as caught in a net of adverse circumstances which he has to overcome in order to fulfil his father’s command. Vischer thereby liberates Shakespeare criticism from the constraints of domestic tragedy and its bourgeois morality.