Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 140
George Joachim Göschen in Leipzig published most of Friedrich Schiller’s early work, including the early plays and the Historischer Kalender für Damen (1790, 1791), which included many of Schiller’s essays and was his only best-seller during his lifetime. After Don Carlos, Infante of Spain, Schiller’s plays were published by Johann Friedrich Cotta in Tübingen. Schiller’s poems, reviews, and short stories appeared in literary journals such as the Musenalmanach (edited by Schiller), Die Horen (edited by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Schiller in Weimar), Die Thalia, and Merkur. Schiller’s letters, published posthumously, not only are an indispensable key to the philosophical and historical background of his works, but also are autobiographical documents evocative of the man Schiller, his daily life, and his great gift for friendship. Schiller’s collected works are available in several editions.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 459
Friedrich Schiller’s audience might not have been ready to make the transition from the wildly emotional Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of his first play, The Robbers, to the more philosophical and idealistic fervor of subsequent plays, but Schiller won them over with his ever more complex dramas. Schiller’s work spans two literary periods, Sturm und Drang and classicism, and it paves the way for a third, Romanticism. At the same time, his work clearly has ties to the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on the perfectibility of humankind. In Schiller’s work, German idealism attained its highest form. The lonely poet who wrote from his sickbed, however, never lost sight of the wishes of his audience. After his plays had accustomed later generations to his system of thought, Schiller became for them a poet of the people. He was acclaimed particularly by the middle class of the nineteenth century, which did not appear to notice the radical quality of freedom demanded by Schiller.
Schiller threw himself into his sources and settings, mostly historical, in order to demonstrate their true range and potential—what they might have been. His plays, showing his dialectical consciousness, express the struggle between reality and the ideal. His heroes are larger than life, their struggles overshadowing their time. The fiery younger generation was his first audience, but his idealism determined the intellectual horizon of the era. The romanticists turned away from Schiller’s political idealism to pursue mysticism and the indefinable, but even among them, Friedrich Hölderlin and Novalis were profoundly influenced by Schiller. The German drama was dominated by Schiller’s plays for almost a century, until the advent of naturalism. Then the theater of expressionism rediscovered the revolutionary passion and the power of Schiller’s tragic pathos. Georg Kaiser and Bertolt Brecht, among others, brought Schiller’s influence to bear on twentieth century drama.
Schiller equated the concept of patriotism with such ideals as truth, beauty, nobility, love, freedom, and immortality. He bound all these ideals with a religious sense of duty, as in his latter dramas, in which history appears as the fulfillment of a divine plan. Schiller was a subject of several absolute monarchs in a time of democratic and republican revolutions and reactionary wars and upheavals. He created, for the Germany that did not yet exist, a model of the political tragedy. In it the hero is seen not only as an energetic but also as a suffering human being, living out a metaphysical tragedy, a conflict between ideals and fate.
Schiller gave German literature basic concepts of structure, both of the art of tragedy and of aesthetics. The history of tragedy to the present day has been, to a...
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- Critical Essays