The Prince of Homburg

by Heinrich von Kleist

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The titular character of Heinrich von Kleist's 1810 play is Prince Friedrich Arthur von Homburg, a Prussian professional soldier and an officer for the Elector, his uncle. He is accused of insubordination by the Elector of Brandenburg because of his actions in prematurely engaging the enemy at the The Battle of Fehrbellin in 1675.

The narrator of the play is Count Heinrich von Hohenzollern, a friend and companion of Friedrich Arthur and a member of the Elector's entourage. When the prince is pardoned at the end of the play, it is he who tells the Prince, once Natalie has crowned him with a ceremonial laurel wreath.

The Elector (Kurfürst) of Brandenburg is Friedrich Wilhelm, and he has a consort, or wife, the Electress (Kurfürstin). The Elector orders the court martial of Prince Friedrich Arthur von Homburg which results in a death sentence. He maintains that his nephew has been insubordinate for not carrying out his orders and that he must answer for that.

Prinzessin (Princess) Natalie von Oranien is the niece of the Elector of Brandenburg, Friedrich Wilhelm. She and her cousin, Friedrich Arthur, are newly in love, though she is engaged to the King of Sweden. The Prince was distracted by Natalie, and this is why he did not pay close enough attention to his orders not to initiate the battle his troops ended up winning. Natalie works to have the Prince's death sentence repealed.

Feldmarschall Dörfling (field marshal), is the commander of the dragoon regiment to which Friedrich Arthur belongs.

Colonel Kottwitz is a colonel of the Princess of Orange's regiment. He supports the pardon of the Prince because he focuses on the victory to which the Prince led the troops.

Lesser characters in the play include various officers in the infantry, including Hennings and Graf Truchß, both colonels, and a cavalry officer, Rittmesiter von der Golz. All are of the opinion that the Prince should be pardoned.

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