(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After three days spent heading a cavalry charge in pursuit of the Swedes, Prince Frederick Arthur of Homburg has returned to Fehrbellin. Exhausted and battle-weary, the prince falls into a dreamlike sleep, weaving a laurel wreath as he half dozes. The elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William, is informed by Count Hohenzollern of the prince’s strange condition, and the elector, the electress, and their niece, Princess Natalie, arrive in the garden where the prince is sleeping. The elector takes the wreath from the prince, entwines it in his neck chain, and gives it to Natalie. They back away as the somnambulistic prince follows, murmuring incoherently, and as they retreat inside, the prince snatches a glove from Natalie’s hand. When the prince awakes, he tells Count Hohenzollern about the occurrence, which he thinks was a dream. Hohenzollern reproves him for his romantic fantasies and urges him to make ready for the coming battle with the Swedes.

The field marshal of Brandenburg dictates the orders of battle to his officers, but the prince, who is to play an important role in the battle, is absorbed in his own thoughts. Hoping to remember from whom he obtained the glove he has found in his possession, he wears it in his collar. The electress and Natalie are present, and plans are being formed to send them to a place of safety. As the field marshal reaches the section of the orders that pertains to the prince, Natalie, preparing to depart, suddenly realizes that she has but one glove. The prince, who loves Natalie, quickly becomes aware that he holds the missing glove. In order to be sure it is hers, he drops it on the floor in front of him to see if Natalie will claim it. When she does, the prince, in a fit of ecstasy, fails to hear his battle orders clearly, though his mission is to be a key one.

The battlefield of Fehrbellin resounds with cannon, and the elector’s forces are sure of victory. As the rout of the Swedes becomes apparent, the prince precipitately gives orders to advance. His colleagues make an effort to dissuade him from this impetuous action, and they insist that he hear the order of battle again, for he is supposed to remain in his position until a particular signal is given. However, the prince rebukes Kottwitz, an elderly colonel, for lack of fervor, and Kottwitz, rather than appear unpatriotic, joins the prince in the...

(The entire section is 969 words.)