Monday, July 25, 2005

Famous Germans - Friedrich von Schiller

Germany celebrates the 200th year of Friedrich Schiller's death. A short introduction in his honour.

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (November 10, 1759 – May 9, 1805), usually known as Friedrich Schiller, was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist.

He was born in Marbach, Württemberg (located in Southern Germany's Stuttgart Region), the son of the military doctor, J. C. Schiller. His childhood and youth were spent in relative poverty, although he attended both village and Latin schools, and coming to the attention of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg, entered the Karlsschule Stuttgart (an elite military academy founded by Duke Karl Eugen) in 1773, where he eventually studied medicine.

While at the arduous school, he read Rousseau and Goethe and discussed Classical ideals with his classmates. At school, he wrote his first play, The Robbers, about a group of naïve revolutionaries and their tragic failure.
In 1780 he obtained a post as regimental doctor in Stuttgart.

Following the performance of "Die Räuber" (The Robbers) in Mannheim in 1781 he was arrested and forbidden to publish any further works. He fled Stuttgart in 1783 coming via Leipzig and Dresden to Weimar in 1787. In 1789 he was appointed professor of History and Philosophy in Jena, where he wrote only historical works. He returned to Weimar in 1799, where Goethe convinced him to return to playwriting. He and Goethe founded the Weimar Theater which became the leading theater in Germany, leading to a dramatic renaissance. He remained in Weimar, Saxe-Weimar until his death at 45 from tuberculosis.

He has written a lot of famous plays, such as:
  • The Robbers (Die Räuber)
  • Intrigue and Love (Kabale und Liebe)
  • Don Carlos
  • Wallenstein
  • Maid of Orleans
  • Mary Stuart (Maria Stuart)
  • William Tell (Wilhelm Tell)
Some of his poems are world famous:
You can visit the official homepage of the Schiller-year 2005 here. It was created of the Deutsche Schillergesellschaft e.V.
You can participate at a Schiller blog there as well.

There a still a lot of things to discover about Friedrich Schiller. I hope I will have my share this year, too. My reading list during the vacation in Sylt will contain something of his work.

I will close with a quotation of William Tell. In this work we find his reference to a "band of brothers". Here we find the idea of the "band of brothers" expanded not merely to a small group of men fighting together, but all men of the nation fighting for freedom. Nowadays this could be seen as fighting against terrorism as well:

By this fair light which greeteth us, before
Those other nations, that, beneath us far,
In noisome cities pent, draw painful breath,
Swear we the oath of our confederacy!
A band of brothers true we swear to be,
Never to part in danger or in death! [They repeat his words with three fingers raised.]
We swear we will be free as were our sires,
And sooner die than live in slavery! [All repeat as before.]
We swear, to put our trust in God Most High,
And not to quail before the might of man!


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