Wallenstein is a huge historical drama spread over three parts. Schiller began the work in 1796, and it was first drama written after his ten-year period of historical and philosophical writing. It covers an equally huge piece of history, the Thirty Years’ War, which was fought throughout central Europe from 1618 until 1648. The war was fought between the Catholic forces of the Hapsburgs’ Holy Roman Empire, headed at first by Emperor Ferdinand II of Austria, and the various Protestant states of Germany, Sweden, and France. Schiller had studied the period closely and had written a three-volume history of the conflict, Geschichte des dreissigjährigen Krieges (1791-1793; History of the Thirty Years War, 1799). A later German playwright, Berthold Brecht, used the same historical period in Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (pr. 1941, pb. 1949; Mother Courage and Her Children, 1941), although Brecht chose to write from the peasants’ point of view.
Schiller takes as his hero Count Albrecht Wenzel von Wallenstein (1583-1634), a Bohemian Protestant who had converted to Catholicism. (Bohemia is now the western province of the Czech Republic.) In Wallenstein’s youth, the Protestant Czech rulers had been replaced by German-speaking Catholics and incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire again as an Austrian possession. Wallenstein, therefore, has a foot in both camps. Historically, Wallenstein gained power and...
(The entire section is 489 words.)