The Wards

Date(s) - 28/03/2018
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Scottish Storytelling Centre

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The Wards

A play by August Wilhelm Iffland

Translated by Walter Scott

Adapted by Laura Witz

Directed by Caitlin Skinner


7pm, Wednesday 28 March, 2018, Netherbow Theatre, Scottish Storytelling Centre

One evening in Edinburgh in 1797, three friends meet to read through a German play together. Barely having a word of German between them, it is fortunate that a young advocate has spent the last few years learning German and just translated a German play. Even more fortunate, of course, that he has kindly agreed to lend to them his translation for their amusement and education. Far from experiencing new levels of scandal and horror as expected, however, the friends find something strangely familiar in this apparently foreign culture…

Join us as we eavesdrop on a reading of The Wards, a play written by August Wilhelm Iffland in 1784, and translated from the German by the young Walter Scott in 1796. Scott’s translation was undertaken at a time when he was – in his own words, at least – ‘German-mad’ and a ‘Germanized brat’, and despite the fame of its translator, this translation has never before been published or performed.

In this, its very first airing since Scott presumably read it to or with certain friends in the last years of the 1790s, the text of Scott’s translation is placed in its historical context with some new writing by playwright and adapter Laura Witz, based on the research of Dr Michael Wood (University of Edinburgh). Through this, we witness how a play full of deception, high-wrought emotions, and with an unlikely ending came to affect its Scottish readers, including Scott, and what place it had in a post-Enlightenment Edinburgh in which learning European languages was becoming ever more fashionable…

The performance will take the form of a ‘rehearsed reading’, directed by Caitlin Skinner and will last roughly one and a quarter hours. It will be followed by a Q&A, featuring Prof. Penny Fielding (University of Edinburgh), Dr Robert P. Irvine (University of Edinburgh), Laura Witz, and Dr Michael Wood.

It will be followed by a free wine reception in the Storytelling Court.

 This event is free, but ticketed. Tickets can be obtained by visiting:

This event is kindly supported by the British Academy and the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh.