Don Carlos, Infante of Spain

by Friedrich Schiller

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The play Don Carlos, Infante of Spain by Friedrich Schiller is a story of betrayal and royal tensions in the monarchy of Spain as Don Carlos is accused of trying to usurp his father's throne and take his wife.

For I know all too well that I'm betrayed here at This Court; one hundred eyes have been suborned to keep a watch on me. I know King Philip has sold his son.

Don Carlos, the son of King Philip, knows early on that his father is having him watched. Philip, having overthrown his own father, fears that Carlos will do the same to him. Carlos is under suspicion and he knows it, so he is very careful to take the right steps and avoid drawing much more attention to himself, although he does not like where his situation has ended up.

Admit it, Carlos. It's defiance, it is bitterness and pride that draws your wishes so wildly toward your mother . . . Bring it to your future kingdoms and feel, instead of pain of consciences, the transports of being god! Elisabeth was your first love. Your second love be Spain!

Queen Elisabeth, calling herself his mother (though in reality she is his stepmother and is in fact his former lover), knows that Carlos still deeply desires her. This is one of the reasons Philip fears Carlos, because he stole the woman he was courting to be his own wife. The Queen, knowing that this jeopardizes Carlos's life and future, begs him to cast off his love for her and devote himself to the kingdom, because she wants to protect him. She shows that she still cares for him by asking him to get rid of his love for her.

Save yourself, my Prince. The King is raging at you. Your freedom's threatened, or your life . . . Take flight!

The final scenes of the play show the King enacting vengeance on Don Carlos, and Don Carlos must flee for his life. He realizes that he is no longer safe in the country, and so plans to fly to Flanders for his safety. But, before leaving, he ensures Elisabeth that he will visit her once more. He goes to find her and tell her of his love for her before leaving once and for all at midnight. The Count Lerma brings him the news of his imminent attack, which spurs him into action to finally depart.

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