Citing Austria’s psychology

Karl Kraus[1]
Translated by Peter Winslow




The first, most beautiful, and least known of Shakespeare’s histories, King John, has not been staged at the Burgtheater for decades.[2] In this work, Austria plays an episodic, but notable role in the personage of the “Duke of Austria.” At Berlin’s Royal Theater, King John, with the majestic Matkowsky playing the Bastard, is a repertoire piece staged with almost no abridgement. The strongest impetus—artistic, political, and censorious/pathological—would be offered by coming to understand what form the scenes cited here have taken in the Directors’ Register of the Wiener Hofbühne. The divining sight of the greatest creator of worlds and dramas has captured the historical experience of several centuries in just a few incidental lines. No historian could have more accurately memorialized that lethargic pride of the bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube; that disposition, which wrangled the everlasting page of glory, that “the-peace-party-triumphs-at-the-Wiener-Hof” page; and that pious cowardice, which will sacrifice valor itself for the pope, than has been done in these three acts of King John, which—reduced here to the quintessential knowledge of the Austrian quiddity—appear to have been pieced together into a historical farce (I have identified omissions within a verse or a scene by using endnotes; omissions of and changes from scenes by using dashes).[3] Austria calls to war, negotiates peace by marriage, and again calls to war as soon as a cardinal engages in disputations with the reconciled parties on the purpose and holiness of breaking an oath. Shakespeare saw all of this and really knew no more than that Bohemia is a country with a coast.[4] Who dared doubt that he knew Austria’s psychology better than its geography?




AUSTRIA Upon thy cheek lay I this zealous kiss,
As seal to this indenture of my love:
That to my home I will no more return,[5]
Even till that England, hedg’d in with the main,
That water-walled bulwark, still secure
And confident from foreign purposes,
Even till that utmost corner of the west
Salute thee for her king; till then, fair boy,
Will I not think of home, but follow arms.


CONSTANCE O, take his mother’s thanks, a widow’s thanks,
Till your strong hand shall help to give him strength
to make a more requital to your love!


AUSTRIA The peace of heaven is theirs that lift their swords
In such a just and charitable war.[6]
For courage mounteth with occasion:
Let them be welcome then; we are prepar’d.[7]


BASTARD You are the hare of whom the proverb goes,
Whose valor plucks dead lions by the beard.
I’ll smoke your skin-coat, and I catch you right;
Sirrah, look to’t; i’faith I will, i’faith.


BLANCHE O, well did he become that lion’s robe
that did disrobe the lion of that robe!


BASTARD It lies as sightly on the back of him
As great Alcides’ shoes upon an ass:
But, ass, I’ll take that burthen from your back,
Or lay on that shall make your shoulders crack.[8]
[To Austria] Sirrah, were I at home,
At your den, sirrah, with your lioness,
I would set an ox-head to your lion’s hide,
And make a monster of you.


AUSTRIA Peace! no more.


BASTARD O, tremble: for you hear the lion roar![9]


— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


KING PHILIP It likes us well; young princes, close your hands.


AUSTRIA And your lips too; for I am well assur’d
That I did so when I was first assur’d.[10]


— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


CONSTANCE Gone to be married! gone to swear a peace![11]
France friend with England, what becomes of me?[12]
I will instruct my sorrows to be proud,
For grief is proud an’t makes his owner stoop.
To me and to the state of my great grief
Let kings assemble; for my grief’s so great
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up: here I and sorrows sit;
Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it[13]


AUSTRIA Lady Constance, peace!


CONSTANCE War! war! no peace! peace is to me a war.
O Limoges! O Austria! thou dost shame
That bloody spoil: thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward!
Thou little valiant, great in villainy!
Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!
Thou fortune’s champion, that dost never fight
But when her humorous ladyship is by
To teach thee safety! thou art perjur’d too,
And sooth’st up greatness. What a fool art thou,
A ramping fool, to brag, and stamp, and swear
Upon my party! Thou cold-blooded slave,
Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side,
Been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend
Upon thy stars, thy fortune and thy strength,
And dost thou now fall over to my foes?
Thou wear a lion’s hide! doff it for shame,
And hang a calve’s-skin on those recreant limbs.


AUSTRIA O, that a man should speak those words to me!


BASTARD And hang a calve’s-skin on those recreant limbs.[14]


PANDULPH Hail you anointed deputies of heaven!
To thee, King John, my holy errand is.
I Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal,
And from Pope Innocent the legate here,
Do in his name religiously demand
Why thou against the church, our holy mother,
So wilfully does spurn;[15]


KING JOHN What earthly name to interrogatories
Can taste the free breath of a sacred king?
Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name
So slight, unworthy and ridiculous,
To charge me to answer, as the pope.
Tell him this tale; and from the mouth of England
Add thus much more[16]
Though you and all the kings of Christendom
Are led so grossly by this meddling priest
Dreading the curse that money may buy out;
And by the merit of vild gold, dross, dust,
Purchase corrupted pardon of a man,
Who in that sale sells pardon of himself;
Though you and all the rest so grossly led
This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish
Yet I alone, alone do me oppose
Against the pope, and count his friends my foes.


PANDULPH Then, by the lawful power that I have
Thou shalt stand curs’d and excommunicate:
And blessed shall he be that doth revolt
From his allegiance to an heretic;
And meritorious shall that hand be call’d,
Canonized and worshipp’d as a saint,
That takes away be any secret course
Thy hateful life.[17]
Phillip of France, on peril of a curse,
Let go the hand of that arch-heretic;
And raise the power of France upon his head,
Unless he do submit himself to Rome.[18]


AUSTRIA King Philip, listen to the cardinal.


BASTARD And hang a calve’s-skin on his recreant limbs.


AUSTRIA Well, ruffian, I must pocket up these wrongs, Because—


BASTARD Your breeches best may carry them.[19]


KING JOHN The king is mov’d, and answers not to this.[20]


AUSTRIA Do so, King Philip; hang no more in doubt.


BASTARD Hang nothing but a calve’s-skin, most sweet lout.


KING PHILIP I am perplex’d, and know not what to say[21]
Good reverend father, make my person yours,
And tell me how you would bestow yourself.
This royal hand and mine are newly knit,
And the conjunction of our inward souls—
Married in league, coupled and link’d together
With all religious strength of sacred vows;[22]
And shall these hands, so lately purg’d of blood,
So newly join’d in love, so strong in both,
Unyoke this seizure and this kind regreet?
Play fast and loose with faith? so jest with heaven,[23]
I may disjoin my hand, but not my faith.


PANDULPH So mak’st thou faith an enemy to faith,
And like a civil war set’st oath to oath,
Thy tongue against thy tongue. O, let thy vow
First made to heaven, first be to heaven perfom’d,
That is, to be the champion of our church.
What since thou swor’st is sworn against thyself,
For that which thou hast sworn to do amiss
Is not amiss when it is truly done,
And being not done, where doing tends to ill,
The truth is then most done not doing it:
The better act of purpose mistook
Is to mistake again, though indirect,
Yet indirection thereby grows direct[24]
It is religion that doth make vows kept,
But thou hast sworn against religion:
By what thou swear’st against the thing thou swear’st,
And mak’st an oath the surety for thy truth!
Against an oath the truth thou art unsure
To swear — swears only not to be forsworn! —
Else what a mockery should it be to swear?
But thou dost swear only to be forsworn,
And most forsworn, to keep what thou dost swear.
Therefore thy later vows against thy first
Is in thyself rebellion to thyself
And better conquest never canst thou make
Than arm thy constant and thy nobler parts
Against these giddy loose suggestions:
Upon which better part our prayers come in,
If thou vouchsafe them. But if not, then know
The peril of our curses light on thee
So heavy as thou shalt not shake them off,
But in despair die under their black weight.


AUSTRIA Rebellion, flat rebellion!


BASTARD Will’t not be?
Will not a calve’s-skin stop that mouth of thine?[25]


— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


3.2 Alarums, excursions. Enter the Bastard, with Austria’s head.[26]





[1] Kraus provides Shakespeare, and not himself, as the author of this piece, and Shakespeare is the author of the words cited by Kraus. What appears here as the opening paragraph is a footnote in Kraus’s original text. But the selection from King John cited by Kraus would, it seems to me, make little sense without the directions of meaning given by Kraus’s title and the context of fin-de-siècle Vienna. Kraus seems to acknowledge as much when he makes explicit that he is using Shakespeare’s words as a demonstration of Shakespeare’s foresight—embodied in a “few incidental lines” summarizing the “experience of several centuries” (see “Morality and criminal justice” for a related claim by Kraus). This piece therefore constitutes, in a very definite sense of the word, a work by Kraus and not by Shakespeare; turning this footnote into the opening paragraph of this translation is intended to reflect this fact and serves, in conjunction with the separation into sections I and II, as an editorial liberty designed to remedy the issue that footnotes are a problem here at a bit of pitch; there are simply no printed pages to put footnotes on.
[2] “The first […] of Shakespeare’s histories, King John […]” refers to the chronology of the subject matter of Shakespeare’s histories and not to the chronology of Shakespeare’s histories themselves.
[3] The German in this parenthetical reads as follows: “Die Weglassungen innerhalb einer Stelle oder einer Szene habe ich durch Punkte, Ausfall und Wechsel von Szenen durch Gedankenstriche bezeichnet” (I have identified omissions within a verse or a scene by using ellipses; omissions of and changes from scenes by using dashes). The above translation exchanges “ellipses” for “endnotes,” as endnotes (i) play the same role that the ellipses did for Kraus and (ii) comply with a bit of pitch’s editorial practice of accurate citation; they were, for these two reasons, the better translation of the ellipses than ellipses themselves would have been.
[4] See The Winter’s Tale 3.3, line numbers 1-2.
[5] King John 2.1, line numbers 19-21.
[6] King John 2.1, line numbers 26-36.
[7] King John 2.1, line numbers 82-83.
[8] King John 2.1, line numbers 137-146.
[9] King John 2.1, line numbers 290-294.
[10] King John 2.1, line numbers 533-535.
[11] King John 2.2, line number 1.
[12] King John 2.2, line number 34.
[13] King John 2.2, line numbers 67-74.
[14] King John 3.1, line numbers 38-59.
[15] King John 3.1, line numbers 62-68.
[16] King John 3.1, line numbers 73-79.
[17] King John 3.1, line numbers 88-105.
[18] King John 3.1, line numbers 117-120.
[19] King John 3.1, line numbers 124-127.
[20] King John 3.1, line number 143.
[21] King John 3.1, line numbers 145-147.
[22] King John 3.1, line numbers 150-155.
[23] King John 3.1, line numbers 165-168.
[24] King John 3.1, line numbers 188-202.
[25] King John 3.1, line numbers 205-225.
[26] King John, stage directions, introducing 3.2.



Works cited


Kraus, K. “Zur Psychologie Österreichs.” Die Fackel, No. 209. (1906): 1-7. Print. (source text)

Shakespeare, W. King John. Ed. Honigmann, E.A.J. The Arden Shakespeare Complete Works. Revised Edition. Ed. Proudfoot, R., Thompson, A., and Kastan, D.S.,  London: The Arden Shakespeare, 2011: 603-632. Print.

———The Winter’s Tale. Ed. Pafford, J.H.P., London: The Arden Shakespeare Complete Works. Revised Edition. Ed. Proudfoot, R., Thompson, A., and Kastan, D.S., 2011: 1279-1312. Print.