Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 June 2006
Max Reinhardt's theatre is an intriguing example of the social function of commodification in the late nineteenth century; while critics praised him as the leading figure of a renewed theatre, they also blamed him for a merely decorative style. Notwithstanding the fact that economic success was a substantial precondition of Reinhardt's theatre, Reinhardt's style was highly eclectic and determined by a visual or pictorial order rather than by literary concepts. But this theatre not only followed an aesthetic programme, it also answered to a major change in German society: the process of urbanization which produced a new community of urban dwellers which had to be integrated in the role models of society. The paradoxical reception of Reinhardt thus is not only a matter of taste but rather the hallmark of bourgeois theatre in a period of transition, rearticulating the cultural legacy by commodifying it for a new audience.