Don Carlos, Infante of Spain

by Friedrich Schiller

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307

Friedrich Schiller's historical drama Don Carlos, Infante of Spain is a play about the soon-to-be ostracized son of King Philip II of Spain. The play is a massive piece of work, consisting of many parts and a myriad of characters. What makes this work so extravagant is its complexity and volume.

Schiller's writing is very lofty, as he uses elevated phrasing and dialect to ensure the audience is always aware they are dealing with the royalty and the clergy. Its linguistic style hearkens back to Shakespearean works, particularly with the fatalistic romantic imagery used between Queen Elisabeth and Don Carlos. Often, there are offers from one to "throw themselves" at the other's feet, or something similar, either in passion or in pleading. The clergy are frequently present as well, acting as expositors and outside observers to the internal family drama unfolding around them, which once again connects it deeply with Shakespeare and works of his time period.

An interesting decision by Schiller is to maintain a high level of historical credibility in this work. While there is some obvious liberty in terms of the plot and some of the characters' motivations, perhaps even painting some characters in a much more generous light than is realistic (the prince, Don Carlos, seems to have few flaws save for a temper and a love for Queen Elisabeth), it maintains a thread of historicity. This would seem to be largely an attempt to dramatize actual events, much like modern docu-dramas do.

Schiller presents a compelling historical drama with all the fantastical, lofty qualities of Shakespearean drama in this piece, weaving together very intricate and detailed plot lines, a large ensemble of characters, and complex motivations to create a vivid story that is as entertaining as it is informative. His command of language and imagery greatly improves the experience of the play.

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