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From Satire to Silence: Hans Sachs’s Commentary on Civic Decline

Citation: Baker, Sharon (2018) From Satire to Silence: Hans Sachs’s Commentary on Civic Decline. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

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Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

ABSTRACT In this year devoted to celebrating Luther’s invitation to debate Indulgences in 1517, which led to the establishment of the Lutheran faith, it is timely to reassess the Fastnachtspiele of Hans Sachs, whose reputation varies from unskilled cobbler poet to ‘Verfechter der Reformation’. Previous research devoted to Hans Sachs and satire concentrates on his ability to produce amusing moral tales for the Carnival season, whereas this thesis searches for critical satire of contemporary political, religious and social issues within the chosen Fastnachtspiele. This is achieved by analysing the plays in the context of contemporary events, personalities and circumstances in Nuremberg during a turbulent period in the city’s history, when it faced internal religious conflict, invasion, declining influence as an imperial city and loss of wealth as an early industrial society. The results of the analysis suggest that Sachs’s Fastnachtspiele, which are celebrated for their didactic nature along with his religious Meistergesang and Reformation dialogues, contribute to a corpus of pro-Lutheran works which helped to shape Nuremberg’s Lutheran cultural memories and a cultural identity for its citizens. Scrutiny of Sachs’s personal library also informs us, contrary to his previous reputation, that Sachs was an educated and sophisticated author, who used classical literature and early German works on various subjects — history, politics and religion amongst others — not only as a basis for some of his plots, but also as a source for his desired type of critical satire, in order to write plays intended to reverse the decline he saw in Nuremberg. This thesis concludes that Sachs stopped writing Fastnachtspiele in December 1560 because of his personal quandary about his role as an author and because it had become dangerous to express his views on what he perceived as Nuremberg’s social, moral, political, economic and religious decline.

Creators: Baker, Sharon and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Institute of Modern Languages Research
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 22 May 2018 (completed)


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