Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Although best known for his lyric and epic poetry, which comprises six of the eighteen volumes of the critical edition of his works published in 1979, Mihály Vörösmarty was also an important dramatist during the formative years of the Hungarian theater. His Romantic historical dramas are seldom performed today, but they still present enjoyable reading for students of the period. On the other hand, his Csongor és Tünde (pr. 1830; Csongor and Tünde), a fairy play having strong philosophical overtones and bearing the influence of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595-1596), is regularly staged and has been translated into several languages. In order to nurture the fledgling Hungarian National Theater, Vörösmarty ably translated the classics: His Hungarian renderings of Shakespeare’s King Lear (1605) in 1856 and Julius Caesar (1599-1600) in 1848 are unsurpassed to this day.

Through his theoretical and critical writings, Vörösmarty was influential in defining the aesthetic issues of his times and in encouraging the emerging trends of Romanticism and populism. As an editor or associate of several of the period’s most important journals, he introduced and encouraged the talents of young artists, including the twenty-one-year-old Sándor Petőfi, thus greatly enriching the literature of Hungary. He also authored and compiled a number of dictionaries, grammars, and handbooks for the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His extensive correspondence provides invaluable documentation of the period’s political and cultural life.