August Wilhelm Schlegel

* 08.09.1767 in Hannover; ✝ 12.05.1845 in Bonn

Philologist, Translator, Poet, Literary Critic, Literary Theoretician



August Wilhelm Schlegel, the son of an Evangelical-Lutheran pastor, went on from a first-class school education to study theology and thereafter philology at the University of Göttingen. He spent the years between 1791 and 1795 as a family tutor in Amsterdam. But he was also active in the literary sphere during this period, writing numerous critiques and reviews, for Friedrich von Schiller’s Horen, among others.

In 1795 he settled in Jena, where he was Professor of Philosophy from 1798 onwards. There formed around him a literary circle (among them his wife Caroline, his brother Friedrich and sister-in-law Dorothea, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Ludwig Tieck and Novalis), which was to become the centre of the early Romantic movement in Germany. It was from this circle that the periodical Athenäum emerged, the movement’s chief literary vehicle, which he edited along with his brother. Between 1801 and 1804 he lived in Berlin, where he gave a series of lectures entitled ‘Regarding Fine Arts and Literature’, which presented Classical literature, that of mediaeval Germany and Provence, and that of the modern Romance languages, as equally worthy of veneration.

After the failure of his marriage to Caroline, he journeyed for some years through the whole of Europe and Russia, winning great acclaim in Vienna in particular with his ‘Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature’, drawn from his translations of Shakespeare and Calderon. In 1818 he was summoned to Bonn to be Professor of Literature. There Schlegel focused more specifically on philology, and he is reputed to be one of the founding fathers of comparative linguistics. But this was not the only subject he pursued with lasting success, for his translations of Shakespeare’s plays, appearing between 1797 and 1810, are still regarded as the standard German versions. Though his own literary works largely proved unsuccessful, his services to German literature as translator from several languages are beyond dispute. 



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Citation and Licence

Schlegel, August Wilhelm, in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: (Accessed on 26.09.2023)

This text is published under the following licence: CC BY-ND 3.0 DE. Digitzed media reproduced with the permission of the library of Birmingham.

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