He ranked Don Quixote, along with Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gulliver’s Travels, among the great works of world literature. “Each of them is a grandiose idea unto itself,” he said. In Robinson Crusoe he perceived “the development of the entire history of mankind”. Don Quixote captured “ingeniously” the end of an era. He was especially impressed by Gustave Doré’s depictions of Cervantes’s delusion-plagued hero.
He also owned the collected works of William Shakespeare, published in German translation in 1925 by Georg Müller as part of a series intended to make great literature available to the general public. Volume six includes As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida. The entire set is bound in hand-tooled Moroccan leather, with a gold-embossed eagle, flanked by his initials, on the spine.
Hitler considered Shakespeare superior to Goethe and Schiller. While Shakespeare had fuelled his imagination on the protean forces of the emerging British empire, these two Teutonic playwright-poets squandered their talent on stories of midlife crises and sibling rivalries. Why was it, he wondered, the German Enlightenment produced Nathan the Wise, the story of the rabbi who reconciles Christians, Muslims and Jews, while it had been left to Shakespeare to give the world The Merchant of Venice and Shylock?
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