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Puss in Boots


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Gianfrancesco Straparola (c. 1490—1557)

fairy tales

Giambattista Basile (1566—1632)

Charles Perrault (1628—1703) French writer

 

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A: Ludwig Tieck Pf: 1844, Berlin Pb: 1797 Tr: 1914 G: Fairy tale in 3 acts, with interludes, prologue, and epilogue; German prose S: Royal court and environs, indeterminate period C: 35m, 2f, animals, extrasMembers of the audience complain about the play, but the Author pleads for a fair hearing. The youngest of three sons, Gottlieb, inherits only a tomcat Hinze, who, to Gottlieb's surprise, can not only speak but also promises to win his master fame and fortune. Equipped with new boots, Hinze sets out for the royal palace, where the Princess has rejected all her suitors. Hinze catches a rabbit, which he gives to the King as a present from the ‘Count of Carabas’. When at a banquet the rabbit is brought burned to the King, he rages tragically, causing the audience to erupt in fury. The Author calms everyone by staging a dance with animals. The learned Leander and the royal Fool Hanswurst hold a debate about the merits of Tieck's Puss in Boots, including the depiction of the audience. When the ‘Count of Carabas’ sends the King two partridges, the King takes his daughter to visit his benefactor. As the King's carriage approaches, Gottlieb jumps in the water, pretending his clothes are stolen, which the King replaces with his own. Hinze rushes ahead to the palace of the neighbouring Tyrant, who can become any animal he chooses. Persuading him to turn into a mouse, Hinze kills him. Gottlieb, after passing through fire and water, is now fit to rule and to wed the Princess. The apologetic Author hoped that his audience would become like children to enjoy his play.

A: Ludwig Tieck Pf: 1844, Berlin Pb: 1797 Tr: 1914 G: Fairy tale in 3 acts, with interludes, prologue, and epilogue; German prose S: Royal court and environs, indeterminate period C: 35m, 2f, animals, extras

This is a classic example of ‘Romantic irony’, the yearning to return to the innocent perceptions of childhood and the simultaneous recognition that this is impossible. The result is a witty and complex retelling of a favourite fairy tale, peppered with contemporary references, including the fire and water of Mozart's Magic Flute. Metatheatrical elements (the audience discussing the play, the actors and Author pleading to be allowed to finish, the debate about the merits of the piece) all anticipate Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt and pieces like Handke's Offending the Audience by well over a century.

Subjects: Children's Literature Studies.


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