The Prince of Homburg

by Heinrich von Kleist

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Prince of Homburg by Heinrich von Kleist is a play that details a war between Germany and Sweden. Prince Frederick Arthur of Homburg is a military leader who has just returned from a battle and is preparing to go into another one. While he is taking a brief respite in Fehrbellin, he begins to act strangely; he weaves a laurel wreath which the elector takes from him, and he snatches one of Natalie's gloves.

The next battle does not go well for the prince. When the battle orders were given, he was distracted by Natalie, whom he is in love with. Because of this, he gives the wrong orders to his men and they do not perform their duties properly. The elector is thought to be dead, though it turns out that he survived. The elector sees that the prince failed to follow orders and he sentences him to death.

The prince is allowed to see the electress, and he makes his case to her. She agrees with him and decides to help Natalie plea for the prince's life. A hearing happens, where the blame is passed around, but ultimately the elector relents, giving the prince an opportunity to make his case if he believes his punishment to be unjust. However, the prince has come to see that he was at fault in the battle so he turns down the offer. He is eventually brought before the elector where, though he is prepared to accept his sentence and die, he does plead his case. Here, he finds out that one of the terms of peace is that Natalie will be married to a Swedish lord. The prince begs the elector to reconsider. The elector relents, destroys the death warrant, orders the troops back to the battlefield, and the prince is seen as a hero.

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