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||Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)|
Leading German 18th-century dramatist, poet, and literary theorist. Schiller's mature plays examine the inward freedom of the soul; his first play The Robbers (1781) was a landmark in German theatrical history and spoke of the ideas of liberty. According to Schiller, a play is not a means to enjoyment; it is the very thing enjoyed. Aesthetic education is necessary, he argued, not only for the proper balance of the individual soul, but for the harmonious development of society.
Leis auf den Zehen kommt's geschlichen
Friedrich Schiller was born in Marbach, Württemberg, of Lutheran parents. His father, Johannes Kaspar Schiller, was an officer and surgeon. Elisabeth Dorothea, Schiller's mother, was a pious, serious-minded woman. The Duke Karl Eugen (Charles II), who had control over his subjects' children, ordered Schiller attend the military academy instead of studying theology. In 1773 he left home and spent miserable years under strict discipline, which only strengthened his longing for freedom. Female relations were forbidden entirely and the dormitory was kept lit even at night to keep the students from masturbating under the blankets. The Duke himself controlled the school, and had the pupils to compose flattering speeches to him. "I see before me the father of my parents," wrote also Schiller, "whose gifts I cannot recompense. I see him, and he takes my breath away." Schiller studied first law and entered then the newly created medical department. In 1780 he was dismissed from the academy after writing a controversial essay on religion, On Relation Between Man's Animal and Spiritual Nature. At the age of 21, he was forced to join his father's regiment.
Despite his father's efforts, Schiller continued to write. His first drama, Die Räuber, was printed at his own expense in 1781, and performed next year in Mannheim. The play about a Karl Moor, the leader of a band of robbers, who has rejected his the values of his father, gained with its revolutionary appeal immediate success among students. "The theatre was like a madhouse-rolling eyes, clenched fists, hoarse cries in the auditorium," wrote an eye-witness. "Strangers fell sobbing into each other's arms, women on the point of fainting staggered towards the exit. There was a universal commotion as in chaos, out of the musts of which a new creation bursts forth." The playwright himself was nearly arrested for neglecting his military duties in Stuttgart, where he was a regimental doctor. Romantic writers in England, especially Samuel Taylor Coleridge, admired The Robbers and greeted with enthusiasm its theme of liberty. In a letter Coleridge wrote: "Who is this Schiller? This Convulser of the Heart?" However, Coleridge's translation of Schiller's Wallenstein (1796-99) from 1800 was so savagely attacked that he did not want to touch to Goethe's Faust.
The theme of the conflict between a father and son continued in Don Carlos (1787), in which the eldest son of Philip II of Spain is torn between love and court intrigues. This time the forces of reaction win, although the movement of history is on the side of the representatives of the new way of thinking. Verdi's famous opera from 1867 drew on the play. Schiller's writings inspired also Brahms, d'Indy, Lalo, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann, Richard Strauss, and Tchaikovsky. Schiller's best-known poem, 'An die Freude', (Ode to Joy), was later set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven in the choral movement of his Ninth Symphony.
When the duke pressured Schiller for his 'Sturm und Drang' writings, he fled to Württemberg. In 1783 he was given a post of theater-poet at the Mannheim theater, but he lost it in 1784. During this period Charlotte von Kalb, a married woman, inspired his work; she was portrayed in Don Carlos as Elizabeth of Valois. Unsatisfied with his play, produced in 1787, Schiller completed no dramatic work for thirteen years. Schiller's wandering years ended in 1789.
Between the years 1787 and 1792 Schiller lived in Weimar and Jena. He wrote almost exclusively on historical subjects, among others about the Thirty Years War (1791-93). In Weimar he assisted Goethe in the direction of the Court Theater by adapting many plays for the stage, including Goethe's Egmont and Iphigenia in Tauris, Jean Racine's Phaedra, and Shakespeare's Macbeth. The first part of a History of the Revolt of the United Netherlands from Spanish Rule (1788) did not only secure Schiller a Chair of History at the University of Jena, but stimulated the German historiography. When giving his inaugural lecture, the university turned out to be too small for the occasion, and Schiller marched with the enthusiastic crowd, shouting "freedom", to the town hall. In 1793 he met Friedrich Hölderlin, and helped the younger poet to obtain his first post as a tutor. Schiller also published some of Hölderlin's poems and fragment of his novel Hyperion (1797-99).
In 1790 Schiller married Charlotte von Lengefeldt-a deep blow to Charlotte von Kalb, from which she never recovered. With Charlotte he had four children. Because of pneumonia and pleurisy, Schiller was forced to give up in 1791 his professional duties; he remained an invalid until his death. He wrote in the 1790s philosophical poems and studies about philosophy and aesthetics under the influence of Kant's Critique of Judgement.
Goethe observed in 1827, that "the idea of freedom dominates all Schiller's work... in his youth it was physical, in his later years idea freedom that concerned him." Although Schiller first greeted the French Revolution with enthusiasm, he then became horrified by the wave of violence and planned to write a book or pamphlet in defence of the king. When he was made an honorary citizen of the French Republic by the Jacobines, he rejected the homage. "These two weeks past," he wrote in a letter in February 1793, "I can read no more French papers, so disgusted am I with these wretched executioners." Schiller died in Weimar on May 9, 1805, at the age of 46. His last drama, Demetrius (1815), was left unfinished.
Joy, thou spark from Heav'n immortal,
Schiller's dramatic trilogy Wallenstein depicted the tumultuous period of the Thirty Years War. Before the work was completed, parts of it were performed in Weimar. Maria Stuart (1800) was about Queen Elizabeth I of England and the last days of Mary Queen of Scots, when she was held captive in the Castle of Fothernghay. Wilhelm Tell (1803), based on chronicles of the Swiss liberation movement, was dedicated as a New Year's Gift to the World. It tells about the famous hero, a mountain man who fought for freedom and became the embodiment of courage. "The mountain cannot frighten one who was born on it," Tell says to his countrymen. Schiller's idealism in Die Jungfrau von Orleans (1801) was parodied in Bertolt Brecht's Die Heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe (1932, St. Joan of the Stockyards).
Meeting with Goethe in July 1794 led to renewal of Schiller's creative talents. He encouraged Goethe to return to his Faust and Goethe contributed his journal Die Horen from 1795 to 1797. Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen (1795, On the Aesthetic Education of Man) was written in the aftermath of the French regicide and Reign of Terror. Schiller states that aesthetic matters are fundamental for the harmonious development of both society and the individual. In the society, where people are just parts in a larger machine, individuals are unable to develop fully. Freedom can occur only through education. The key to education is the experience of beauty. But "with stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain." Nietzsche twisted this aphorism into another form: "Against boredom even the gods themselves struggle in vain." Schiller's advice to an artist was "live with your century; but do not be its creature."
In another major theoretical essay, Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung (1794-95, On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry), Schiller explorers the contrasts between the "naive" and "sentimental" modes, enlarging his study into analysis of nature and culture, feeling and though, the finite and the infinite. Modern poets will never regain the immediate and unconscious-the naive-relationship to nature. Poets, he argued "will either be nature, or they will seek lost nature." Introspective by nature, Schiller considered himself "sentimental" or reflective writer, when his friend Goethe was an archetype of the "naive" genius. On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry was highly influential and its ideas have been developed by such thinkers as Hegel, C.G. Jung, Herbert Read, and Herbert Marcuse. Thomas Mann called the work "the greatest of German essays."
Poems and ballads: An die Freude (Ode to Joy); Das Ideal und das Leben (Life and the Ideal); Der Spaziergang (The Walk); Die Macht des Gesanges (The Power of Song); Der Handschuh (The Glove); Der Taucher (The Diver)
For further reading: The Life of Friedrich Sciller by T. Carlyle (1825); Das Drama Scillers by W. Spengler (1932); Schiller by William Witte (1949); Schiller's Writings on Aesthetics by S.S. Kerry (1961); Friedrich Schiller by Emil Stariger (1967); Schiller: Zeitgenosse aller Epochen, ed. by N. Oellers (1970-76); Schillers Rhetorik by Gert Uding (1971); Friedrich Schiller by John Simon (1981); The Classical Center: Goethe and Weimar by T.J. Reed (1986); Schiller to Derrida by Juliet Sychrava (1989); Friedrich Schiller: Drama, Thought and Politics by Lesley Sharpe (1991); The Development of German Aesthetic Theory from Kant to Schiller by Patrick T. Murray (1994); Dialectic of Love: Platonism in Schiller's Aesthetics by David Vaughan Pugh (1997); Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller by C. Thomas (2001) - Suom.: Suomeksi Schilleriltä on julkaistu mm. Laulu kellosta, suom. August Ahlqvist, Salome, (suom. Helmi Krohn), Valitut teokset, runoja kokoelmissa Runon pursi ja Tuhat laulujen vuotta. Schillerin teoksia on kääntänyt 1800-luvulla mm. Pietari Hannikainen, ensimmäisen julkisesti esitetyn suomenkielisen näytelmän tekijä.