Warren Hastings in the Drama of Lion Feuchtwanger and Bertolt Brecht: Contexts and Connections


A historical drama by two' twentieth century German playwrights on the British administration of Bengal by Warren Hastings in the late eighteenth century is rarely mentioned in anglophone historical and literary discourse on the British in India. Warren Hastings, Gouverneur von lndien, a play in four acts and a prologue by Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958), a rising Jewish dramatist and intellectual, was published and first performed in Munich in 1916 at the height of the First World War. Nearly ten years later Warren Hastings attracted the interest of a young frfend of Feuchtwanger, Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), then developing his own theories and talents as a man of the theater. Between them, they reworked the original play, which, in its revised form, was given its first performance in 1927 under the title Kalkutta, 4. Mai.1 Extensive literary evaluation and textual comparison of the two versions of the play already exist in German publications.2 These aspects are touched upon in this essay, but the approach here is primarily historical and historiographical. The intention is to examine Feuchtwanger and Brecht's treatment of Hastings as a protagonist in an important chapter of British imperial history, and also to consider the play in a broad historical context.

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