An Essay Toward a History of Shakespeare in Norway

Martin Brown Ruud
An Essay Toward a History of
Shakespeare in Norway

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Title: An Essay Toward a History of Shakespeare in Norway
Author: Martin Brown Ruud
Release Date: August 2, 2005 [EBook #16416]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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The University of Chicago

A Dissertation
Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Literature
in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of
Germanics and English by

Reprint from Scandinavian Studies and Notes Urbana, Illinois 1917

The Collegiate Press George Banta Publishing Company Menasha,
* * * * *
I have attempted in this study to trace the history of Shakespearean
translations, Shakespearean criticism, and the performances of
Shakespeare's plays in Norway. I have not attempted to investigate
Shakespeare's influence on Norwegian literature. To do so would not,
perhaps, be entirely fruitless, but it would constitute a different kind of
The investigation was made possible by a fellowship from the
University of Chicago and a scholarship from the
American-Scandinavian Foundation, and I am glad to express my
gratitude to these bodies for the opportunities given to me of study in
the Scandinavian countries. I am indebted for special help and
encouragement to Dr. C.N. Gould and Professor J.M. Manly, of the
University of Chicago, and to the authorities of the University library in
Kristiania for their unfailing courtesy. To my wife, who has worked
with me throughout, my obligations are greater than I can express.
It is my plan to follow this monograph with a second on the history of

Shakespeare in Denmark.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. September, 1916.
Shakespeare Translations In Norway
In the years following 1750, there was gathered in the city of
Trondhjem a remarkable group of men: Nils Krog Bredal, composer of
the first Danish opera, John Gunnerus, theologian and biologist,
Gerhart Schøning, rector of the Cathedral School and author of an
elaborate history of the fatherland, and Peter Suhm, whose 14,047
pages on the history of Denmark testify to a learning, an industry, and a
generous devotion to scholarship which few have rivalled. Bredal was
mayor (Borgermester), Gunnerus was bishop, Schøning was rector, and
Suhm was for the moment merely the husband of a rich and
unsympathetic wife. But they were united in their interest in serious
studies, and in 1760, the last three--somewhat before Bredal's
arrival--founded "Videnskabsselkabet i Trondhjem." A few years later
the society received its charter as "Det Kongelige Videnskabsselskab."
A little provincial scientific body! Of what moment is it? But in those
days it was of moment. Norway was then and long afterwards the
political and intellectual dependency of Denmark. For three hundred
years she had been governed more or less effectively from Copenhagen,
and for two hundred years Danish had supplanted Norwegian as the
language of church and state, of trade, and of higher social intercourse.
The country had no university; Norwegians were compelled to go to
Copenhagen for their degrees and there loaf about in the anterooms of
ministers waiting for preferment. Videnskabsselskabet was the first
tangible evidence of awakened national life, and we are not surprised to
find that it was in this circle that the demand for a separate Norwegian
university was first authoritatively presented. Again, a little group of

periodicals sprang up in which were discussed, learnedly and
pedantically, to be sure, but with keen intelligence, the questions that
were interesting the great world outside. It is dreary business ploughing
through these solemn, badly printed octavos and quartos. Of a sudden,
however, one comes upon the first, and for thirty-six years the only
Norwegian translation of Shakespeare.
We find it in Trondhjems Allehaande for October 23, 1782--the third
and last volume. The translator has hit upon Antony's funeral oration
and introduces it with a short note:[1] "The following is taken from the
famous English play Julius Caesar and may be regarded as a
masterpiece. When Julius Caesar was killed, Antonius secured
permission from Brutus and the other conspirators to speak at his
funeral. The people, whose minds were full of the prosperity to come,
were satisfied with Caesar's murder and regarded the murderers as
benefactors. Antonius spoke so as to turn their minds from
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