Friedrich Schiller Biography


(History of the World: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
0111201578-Schiller.jpg Friedrich Schiller (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Schiller’s main contribution to German literature was in the field of drama, especially historical drama. In philosophy, his contributions were mainly in the areas of ethics and aesthetics. Belonging to the school of German classicism, he was one of the leading contributors to German Idealism in literature and philosophy.

Early Life

Born at Marbach in Württemberg, the son of an army surgeon, Friedrich Schiller went to school in Ludwigsburg, the residence of the Dukes of Württemberg. Though Schiller wanted to become a Protestant minister, his father was ordered by Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg to send his son to the Hohe Karlsschule, the newly established military academy, located near Ludwigsburg. At this academy, young men at an early age were prepared for the civil and military service of the state of Württemberg. Schiller studied first law and then medicine from 1773 until 1780. He was graduated with a degree in medicine and became regimental surgeon of a regiment stationed in Stuttgart. During his time at the academy, Schiller wrote poetry and his first drama, Die Räuber ( The Robbers, 1792), written in 1777-1780 and published in 1781. This play is rightly regarded as the most representative drama of his Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) period. When Schiller attended the first performance of his play at the Mannheim National Theater in 1782 without leave of absence from his regiment in Stuttgart, he was reprimanded by Karl Eugen, his commander in chief, and forbidden to engage in any further writing with the exception of medical treatises. Rebelling against this punishment and the strict discipline of military life, Schiller deserted in 1782 and fled to Mannheim, where his first drama had been performed with great success, in order to pursue a career as a dramatist. For almost a year, the fugitive stayed in hiding in the small village of Bauerbach in Thuringia. In 1783, Schiller was appointed Theaterdichter (stage dramatist) of the Mannheim National Theater. During his stay in Mannheim, both his dramas Die Verschwörung des Fiesko zu Genua (1783; Fiesco: Or, The Genoese Conspiracy, 1796) and Kabale und Liebe (1784; Cabal and Love, 1795) were performed on the Mannheim stage. His drama Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (1787; Don Carlos, Infante of Spain, 1798) remained a fragment during those years. In 1784, however, his contract in Mannheim was not renewed, so Schiller followed an invitation from his friend Christian Gottfried Körner to come to Leipzig and later to Dresden.

In 1787, Schiller went to Weimar, which had become the intellectual center of Germany, where he met Johann Gottfried Herder and Christoph Martin Wieland, while Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was in Italy. During the next year, Schiller stayed in the towns of Volksstädt and Rudolstadt, where he met Charlotte von Lengefeld, his future wife. During this time, he began his career as a historian and philosopher, concentrating in his philosophical studies on the major works of Immanuel Kant. These philosophical and historical preoccupations mark Schiller’s transition from his Sturm und Drang subjectivity to the objective idealism of his classical period. His dramatic production came almost to a standstill during this time.

Life’s Work

On the basis of his Geschichte des Abfalls der vereinigten Niederlande von der spanischen Regierung (1788; The History of the Defection of the United Netherlands from the Spanish Empire, 1844), Schiller was appointed professor of history at the University of Jena in 1789 upon the recommendation of Goethe. He was married to Charlotte von Lengefeld in 1790. After a serious illness in 1791, from which he never completely recovered and which led to his early death in 1805, Schiller visited Körner in Dresden and his homeland, Württemberg, in 1793. His friendship with Goethe, which began in 1794, led to a working relationship that became the basis of German classicism. Although their relationship was not without tensions, it proved to be stimulating and rewarding for both writers and gave direction to the course and development of German literature for the next ten years. Schiller continued to live in Jena until 1799. His correspondence with Goethe records their literary activities and their opinions and projections for the future of German and European culture. From 1795 to 1797, Schiller edited Die Horen, a literary journal, to which Goethe contributed a number of his...

(The entire section is 1882 words.)

Friedrich Schiller Biography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

In his play The Robbers (Die Räuber) Schiller, then a cadet at the prestigious ducal academy in Stuttgart, created Karl Moor, a young German nobleman who turned rebel to combat the injustices and tyranny of his brother, the Duke, and social ills. For this radicalism the French National Assembly awarded Schiller honorary citizenship in 1792, after Schiller himself had been made a nobleman and begun to distance himself from revolutionary politics. Because The Robbers could not be staged in Stuttgart, it opened in the somewhat more liberal city of Mannheim, only seventy miles away. Such differences in censorship were typical of Germany in those times.

Throughout the eighteenth century German censorship varied in extent and degree in each of the more than one hundred independent principalities, city states, and territories. Although The Robbers could be staged in Mannheim, Schiller had to make significant changes stipulated by the stage director and the Roman Catholic court. He removed offensive language and changed a treacherous “clergyman” into a “city councilor.” Moreover, the stage director shifted the contemporary setting of the play to the Middle Ages in order to obscure the play’s contemporary political allusions. Censorship of Schiller focused on “good taste” in language, conventional morality, church dogma, and overt political ramifications. Interestingly, censors distinguished sharply between...

(The entire section is 539 words.)

Friedrich Schiller Biography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The early years of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller were deeply imprinted with the tyranny of two fathers. Johann Kaspar Schiller, barber-surgeon, military officer, and later, Royal Head Forester, ruled his family with an iron hand. Duke Karl Eugen, founder of a military academy for promising young men, considered himself the father of the talented boys he chose to attend the school. After two invitations, Johann Schiller no longer had any choice about sending his son, who had wanted to become a pastor, to the duke’s academy.

The academy was strict in a sense of the word no longer meaningful today. Every moment of the day was organized. No boy had any time to himself, not even on the compulsory “pleasure” strolls. Army officers maintained discipline. Duke Karl had a discriminating eye for talented men; many of the teachers he brought to his new school were gifted. Professor Abel, for example, who taught Latin and Greek, expounded principles of the Enlightenment, particularly a quest for the ideal not dependent on religious conviction.

The duke’s academy was unusual for its time because it admitted both Protestant and Catholic boys. The atmosphere of religious tolerance, when combined with the secular idealism of the Enlightenment, tended to dilute the students’ religious convictions, including Schiller’s. Young Schiller was Professor Abel’s finest student of Latin and Greek. He learned French partly to communicate with some of his fellow students from the French-speaking section of the Duchy of Württemberg. Soon, as the reputation of the school grew, boys began to appear from northern German areas, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and even from England.

Young Schiller studied law, but it was the duke’s choice, not his, and after a few years, illness began making serious inroads into his accomplishments. As a result he was allowed to study medicine, including surgery. Anatomy classes never bothered Schiller, and it is possible that he escaped rigorous supervision because the military watchdogs were less vigilant in the dissection room. He was not permitted to visit his family more than one or two days a year. These ties were cut early; by age twelve, he was already at the academy.

By age twenty, Schiller had written one dissertation, which had been turned down as too speculative and theoretical, had seen himself relegated to another year at the academy to write another research paper, and had finished a manuscript of his first play,...

(The entire section is 1020 words.)

Friedrich Schiller Biography

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

The early life of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was shaped by two powerful influences: the Swabian Pietism of his origins, and the “benevolent” despotism of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg. After serving as a lieutenant in Bavarian, French, and Swabian regiments, Schiller’s father was rewarded with an appointment as superintendent of the duke’s gardens and plantations. While Schiller’s parents had planned for him to enter the ministry, those intentions were frustrated when the duke insisted that he be enrolled in a military academy at Stuttgart in 1773. After a brief and inconclusive period of legal studies at the academy, Schiller left the institution to become a medical officer in Karl Eugen’s army. His...

(The entire section is 783 words.)

Friedrich Schiller Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)
ph_0111201578-Schiller.jpg Friedrich Schiller Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Poet and playwright Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (SHIHL-ur) was born on November 10, 1759, in Marbach, Württemberg (now in Germany). His father was Johannes Kaspar Schiller, a captain, surgeon, and royal forester under Duke Charles Eugene of Württemberg. His mother, Elisabeth Dorothea Kodweiss, was a stout-minded, religious woman who had a strong influence on Schiller’s early years. He had five sisters.

Schiller began his education at the age of seven, when he was enrolled in a Latin school at Ludwigsburg to be groomed for the clergy. During his time there, it was discovered that he had a great intellectual gift. When Schiller was thirteen, the duke of Württemberg ordered him to attend his military...

(The entire section is 753 words.)

Friedrich Schiller Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Friedrich Schiller looms like a colossus on the German stage. He dominates the literary history of his period. A writer of strong convictions, he took the subject of humankind as his theme. Liberal idealism is at the foundation of Schiller’s work. It permeates his politics, philosophy, historical works, aesthetic writings, poetry, and plays. Schiller ranks today as Germany’s leading playwright and poet-philosopher. He has become a part of the nation’s cultural heritage. One cannot find a city or town in Germany that does not have a street, square, or statue in his honor. Rarely has any literary figure ever made such an impact on his or her country.

(The entire section is 111 words.)

Friedrich Schiller Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (SHIHL-ur), born on November 10, 1759, at Marbach, Germany, was the son of an officer in the army of the duke of Württemberg. His parents intended that Johann should enter the ministry of the Lutheran church, and to this end they sent him to the Latin school at Ludwigsburg, then the ducal residence. Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg, in common with other semi-independent German princelings, had delusions of grandeur, and he tried to imitate the “grand style” of the Bourbons by making his court into a kind of Bavarian Versailles. He lived lavishly, if crudely, ruling largely through sycophants and irresponsible adventurers. At Ludwigsburg young Schiller saw much of the ways of the world and...

(The entire section is 1103 words.)