Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)Alle Kunst ist der Freude gewidmet

All art is dedicated to joy

Schiller is widely regarded as Germany’s greatest dramatist. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him ‘this convulser of the heart’. Schiller's gripping dramas are rooted in a profound understanding of history and politics; as T. J. Reed puts it, history ‘was the ballast his creativity needed’ (see below, Reed 1991, p. 93). Schiller wrote his first play Die Räuber; The Robbers, between 1777 and 1780 while still at school, and published it at his own expense in 1781. It caused a sensation when first performed at Mannheim in 1782. From 1789 he was a professor of history at the University of Jena. He married Charlotte von Lengefeld in 1790. His later plays benefit from his knowledge of history and from his critical engagement with the philosophy of Kant. In 1787 Schiller read Kant's essay Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht; Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784). Later, Schiller studied Kant's thought intensively between 1793 and 1795. Schiller and Goethe became friends in 1794. In 1797 they published the Xenien, satirical epigrams which were jointly written. They remained friends until Schiller's death.

According to Walter Benjamin in his essay on Goethe (see Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp 1991, vol. II.2, p. 715), Schiller’s dramas centre on the problem of the state: Schiller’s early plays explore the relation between the state and the individual, whereas his mature plays consider the relation between political leaders and the state.

Schiller’s plays include:

Die Räuber; The Robbers (1781)

Die Verschwörung des Fiesco zu Genua; Fiesco’s Conspiracy at Genoa (1783), English translation here

Kabale und Liebe; Intrigue and Love; Luise Miller (1784)

Don Carlos (1787)

Wallenstein (1799)

Maria Stuart (1801)

Die Jungfrau von Orleans; The Maid of Orleans (1801)

Die Braut von Messina; The Bride of Messina (1803)

Wilhelm Tell (1804)

Schiller was a prolific and talented poet.

His works of prose fiction include:

Der Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre; The Criminal of Lost Honour (1786/1792)

Der Geisterseher; The Ghost-Seer (1787-79)

Schiller’s philosophical works include:

Die Schaubühne als eine moralische Anstalt betrachtet; The Theatre Considered as a Moral Institution (1784)

Was heisst und zu welchem Ende studiert man Universalgeschichte?; What is and to what end does one study universal history? (1789)

Kallias, oder Über die Schönheit; Kallias, or On Beauty (written 1793)

Über Anmut und Würde; On Grace and Dignity (1793)

Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen; On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795)

Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung; On Naive and Sentimental Poetry (1795-96)

Über das Erhabene; On the Sublime (1801)

Schiller also wrote a history of the independence of the Netherlands and a history of the Thirty Years' War (1618-48).

Please click on the above links for further information.

Further Reading

Matthew Bell, ‘The Revenge Of The ‘Untere Seelenvermögen’ in Schiller’s Plays’, German Life and Letters 52:2 (1999), 197-210

John Guthrie, Schiller the Dramatist: A Study of Gesture in the Plays (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2009)

Jeffrey High, Nicholas Martin, Norbert Oellers (eds.), Who Is This Schiller Now? Essays on His Reception and Significance (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2011)

Paul E. Kerry (ed.), Friedrich Schiller: Playwright, Poet, Philosopher, Historian (Oxford and Bern: Peter Lang, 2007)

Elisabeth Krimmer, The Representation of War in German Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), Chapter 3 on Schiller

F. J. Lamport, German Classical Drama: Theatre, humanity and nation 1750-1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Nicholas Martin (ed.), Schiller: National Poet – Poet of Nations (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006)

Steven D. Martinson, Harmonious Tensions: The Writings of Friedrich Schiller (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1996)

Steven D. Martinson (ed.), A Companion to the Works of Friedrich Schiller (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2005)

Publications of the English Goethe Society 75:1 (2006) [special issue on Schiller]

T. J. Reed, The Classical Centre: Goethe and Weimar 1775-1832 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986)

T. J. Reed, Schiller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991)

Lesley Sharpe, Schiller and the Historical Character: Presentation and interpretation in the historiographical works and in the historical dramas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982)

Lesley Sharpe, Friedrich Schiller: Drama, Thought and Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

Lesley Sharpe, ‘Gender and Genre: Schiller’s Drama and Aesthetics’, in From Goethe to Gide: Feminism, Aesthetics and the French and German Literary Canon 1770-1936, ed. by Mary Orr and Lesley Sharpe (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2005), pp. 34-48

Lesley Sharpe, A National Repertoire: Schiller, Iffland and the German Stage (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2007)

Further Reading in German

Peter-André Alt, Schiller. Leben – Werk – Zeit, 2 vols (Munich: Beck, 2000)

Michael Hofmann, Schiller. Epoche – Werk – Wirkung (Munich: Beck, 2003)

Matthias Luserke-Jaqui (ed.), Schiller-Handbuch. Leben – Werk – Wirkung (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2005)

Web Links

The Schiller Institute in Washington, DC

German Schiller Society, based at the German Literary Archive (DLA) in Marbach