Die Spanier in Peru oder Rollas Tod

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Die Spanier in Peru oder Rollas Tod ("The Spanish in Peru, or The death of Rolla") is a German tragedy in five acts by August von Kotzebue (1761-1819)[1].

The original text

Described as "Ein romantisches Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen", the play was first performed in 1795 and published Leipzig, 1796.)

It was a sequel to his earlier five act play Die Sonnenjungfrau ("The Sunmaiden" in English, "Die Sonnenmaagd" in Dutch), the play which first featured Kotzebue's hero Rolla. (First performed in the Liebhabertheater at Reval on 19 December, 1789 and published in Leipzig in 1791.

Translations and adaptations

It has been translated many times and into many languages.

Into English

There are a number of English translations of the play, two appearing in the 1790s, alongside an adaptation by Sheridan. The titles also vary considerably, according to the translator. E.g. The Spaniards in Peru; or, The death of Rolla (by Anne Plumtre, performed and published 1799?*), Pizarro in Peru, or, The death of Rolla (by William Dunlap, published 1800, , or in later editions as Pizarro, or The Death of Rolla.

The most famous English version of the play though, and a huge commercial success for the adaptor and the Drury Lane Theatre, is Pizarro ("A tragedy in five acts"), a melodramatic adaptation by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)[2], performed at the Drury Lane theatre with an all-star cast in 1799, and published under the title in the same year, seeing 15 editions by 1800. Thje second most popular English play of the 18th century, according to Julie A. Carlson, the play is almost forgotten today and the text is seen as an embarrassment for the mature Sheridan.

Into Dutch

Translated into Dutch as De Spanjaarden in Peru, of De Dood van Rolla by J S van Esveldt Holtrop. Alternately also written De Spanjarden in Peru, of De Dood van Rolla and published in Amsterdam by J. Doll in 1796. Sometimes the play only called De Dood van Rolla,

F.C.L. Bosman (1928: p. 276) cites a newspaper article in which the Cape Town producer C.E. Boniface seeks to buy play texts for production, including one he lists as Ubaldo, of De Dood van Rolla by August von Kotzbue and translated by J S van Esveldt Holtrop. However this is surely a misreading, and what is clearly meant is that Boniface was seeking a text for either Ubaldo (1808) or for De Dood van Rolla (1796) - two totally unrelated plays by Von Kotzebue, both translated into Dutch by J S van Esveldt Holtrop.

Performance history in South Africa

1829: Performed in Cape Town in English as Pizarro, or The Death of Rolla (though credited to Sheridan) by H. Booth (who played "Rolla") and local amateurs on 10 November, with as an afterpiece Black-Eyed Susan (Jerrold).

1835: Performed on 16 May as Pizarro in the Kaapsche Liefhebbery Theater ("The Cape Amateur Theatre") by the Dutch amateur company Vlyt en Kunst, most probably in Dutch, (though Bosman lists only the English title in his Index.) The accompanying piece is Jérome Pointu by Beaunoir - wrongly attributed to "D'Orvigny" (="Dorvigny") by the company (see Bosman, 1928:p333), for some reason.

1835: Repeated on 13 June as Pizarro in the Kaapsche Liefhebbery Theater ("The Cape Amateur Theatre") by the Dutch amateur company Vlyt en Kunst, again most probably in Dutch. The accompanying piece is Warren's Blacking, 30 Strand (a Dutch version of The P.L., or, 30 Strand!, translated from the English by "an Amateur")




Facsimile version of the text of Die Sonnenjungfrau[3]

Facsimile version of the text of De Spanjaarden in Peru [4]

John Philip Kemble promptbooks, Volume 1, The Folger facsimiles[5]

Facsimile version of the text of Pizarro by Sheridan (9th edition), Google Books[6]


F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [7]: pp. 209, 210, 214, 333-4, 374, 425

Julie A. Carlson. 1996. "Trying Sheridan's Pizarro" in Texas Studies in Literature and Language (Vol. 38, No. 3/4: Romantic Performances): pp. 359-378.[8]

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