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The Earliest Nuremberg Playbill
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The Earliest Nuremberg Playbill

“… either there is an error in the dating on the playbill … or it is a fake”.

Such was the judgment of R.A. Foakes, who, in describing seventeenth-century theatrical activities at the Nuremberg fencing-house, identifies the problem of a surviving advertisement for Die Liebes Süssigkeit verändert sich in Todes Bitterkeit (Love’s Sweetness Turned To Death’s Bitterness) (350n48). In 1863, when Austrian Franz Eduard Hysel published his account of the Nuremberg theatre from 1612 to 1863, he included a facsimile, stating that the playbill, dated Wednesday, the 21st of April, was probably from 1628 (29). That date became an established part of theatre history when Albert Cohn, in English Actors in Germany in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1865), filled in the narrative:

The actors who were dismissed from Torgau in 1627 may perhaps have gone the following year to Nuremberg, where we meet with English Comedians in 1628. In April they acted a piece entitled Die Liebes Süssigkeit verendert sich in Todes Bitterkeit (Love’s sweetness turned into Deaths bitterness). We learn this from a very curious broadside, a sort of play-bill, which is preserved in the town-library of Nuremberg. (xcvii-xcviii) (Figure 1) [End Page 141]

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Figure 1.

Die Liebes Süssigkeit Playbill Courtesy of Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg (Will VIII. 507a.2°)

Transcription: Zu wissen sey jederman dass allhier ankommen eine gantz newe Compagni Comoedianten / so niemals zuvor hier zu Land gesehen / mit einem sehr lustigen Pickelhering / welche täglich agirn werden / schöne Comoedien / Tragoedien / Pastorellen / (Schäffereyen) und Historien / vermengt mit lieblichen und lustigen interludien / und zwar heut Mitwochs den 21. Aprilis werden sie praesentirn eine sehr lustige Comoedi / genant.

Die Liebes Süssigkeit verändert sich in Todes Bitterkeit.

Nach der Comoedi soll præsentirt werden ein schön Ballet / und lächerliches Possenspiel. Die Liebhaber solcher Schauspiele wollen sich nach Mittags Glock 2. einstellen uffm Fechthauss / allda umb die bestimbte Zeit præcise soll angefangen werden.

Translation: Know all men, that a new Company of Comedians have arrived here, who have never been seen before in this country, with a right merry Clown, who will act every day fine Comedies, Tragedies, Pastorals, and Histories, intermixed with lovely and merry Interludes, and to-day Wednesday the 21st of April they will present a right merry Comedy, called

Love’s Sweetness turned into Death’s Bitterness.

After the Comedy will be presented a fine Ballet and laughable Droll.

The Lovers of such plays must make their appearance at the Fencing-house in the afternoon at 2 o’clock, where the play will begin at the appointed hour precisely. [Cohn’s translation, Plate II]

[End Page 142]

Cohn goes on to tell the story of a company of English players who appeared in Nuremberg in July 1628. Nuremberg was a desirable stopover for travelling players, for it had recently opened its new Fechthaus, or fencing-house, an arena that held some 3,000 spectators. The problem, which Karl Trautmann noticed as early as 1886, is that the Fechthaus did not open until June, two months after the company presenting Die Liebes Süssigkeit supposedly came to town (135). Yet the playbill states that the performance would be at the Fechthaus. Moreover, in 1628, 21 April was not a Wednesday. Yet the playbill states that the players will perform “heut Mitwoch den 21. Aprilis” (today Wednesday the 21st of April). Clearly, there is an error in the dating. That error, though, is not “an error in the dating on the playbill”, as Foakes suggests; rather, it is an error in the dating of the playbill, traceable to Hysel and Cohn.

One hundred twenty-five years after Hysel published the playbill, Hans-Joachim Kurz and Bärbel Rudin corrected the error, in effect rewriting the first chapter in the history of the theatrical playbill. Justifiably sceptical about the date, they began their research by examining an 1876 study by Johannes Scherr, which led to their discovery of a previously unpublished playbill that enabled a significant adjustment in the date. My own research began with Tiffany Stern’s...