Portrait Sketch

  1. It’s as if I saw him before me, the Prince of Homburg. He’s had
  2. period costume slapped on him and now appears to be piquing himself
  3. on the colors of this garb, that’s how vain a fellow he is. He’s also
  4. quite a talent, incidentally: he speaks well, and this gives him one
  5. more thing to pique himself on. He has tall, gleamingly polished
  6. boots on his firmly planted legs, and, good heavens, chivalric gloves
  7. on his hands, which not everyone has; a mere bourgeois, for example
  8. would not be wearing any such thing. Upon his head sits a wig,
  9. and his mustache is fabulously curly—this alone being enough to
  10. ensure artistic success. All he has to do now is stamp his soldierly leg
  11. on the ground in vexation to sweep away all malevolent critiques; he
  12. does so, and from this moment on this Monsieur Prince of Homburg
  13. is a divinely gifted artist. Moreover, he’s learned his lines by heart,
  14. which is utterly superfluous, and has made a note of the passages
  15. where his entire princely Homburgly nature is to shine through—an
  16. absolute lack of artistic unselfconsciousness. He doesn’t have to be
  17. able to do anything, in fact it’s even good if he can’t, as a true actor
  18. opposes learning—his abilities are inborn. After all, that’s what
  19. laudably separates this lofty profession from all other earthly professions:
  20. one simply stomps to the fore in one’s boots, rattles one’s dagger
  21. about, gesticulates, and reaps applause. It isn’t an ordinary person
  22. who can succeed in saying:
  23.        Balanced upon your sphere, oh most vast Fortune—
  24.        Such words cannot be spoken by a doctor, mechanic, journalist,
  25. bookbinder, or mountain climber, nor would such a person, as God
  26. is my witness, have any reason to utter them. The eyes of the Prince
  27. of Homburg roll frightfully within their sockets, he speaks these
  28. lines more with his rolling eyes than with his lips. He speaks these
  29. lines badly, by the way, which demonstrates that he is a good person,
  30. that he has a soul, a wife and child, that he has character, and it
  31. demonstrates as well—yes, this has only now struck me—that he has
  32. thought very, very deeply about his role. This Prince of Homburg
  33. displays an enchanting Arcadianism when the time comes for him
  34. to say:
  35.               Pah!—As a rogue would write it, not a prince.—
  36.               I’ll find some other turn of phrase.
  37.        He might possibly bellow these words. And now he expects
  38. applause, but he feels himself to be aristocratically exalted above the
  39. burgher whose applause he desires. Well, after all, he is an aristocrat,
  40. a landowner with property along the Rhine:
  41.               And there I’ll work at building and tearing down.
  42.        My goodness, he really does lose himself in the part he is playing.
  43. Talent is something possessed by the cobbler who measured him for
  44. those high-shafted boots, not by him, or in other words: Why, of
  45. course he has talent, but what does any of this mean to a burgher of
  46. simple birth?