Writers are readers, and readers have a world-wide selection of great authors to choose from. Simply to name a few, we have Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner here in America. England has Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton. In France there is Hugo and Dumas, while in Russia they have Tolstoy and Chekhov. Spain gave us Cervantes and Italy provided Dante. And Germany has, … well, who has Germany given us?
Most German writers that are known are philosophers. Still, Germany has provided some of the greatest fiction writers to ever come about. But for some reason, they never seem to be listed amongst the greatest. This and my next two posts will review some of my favorite works by Germans. These men were contemporaries and good friends, and leaders in the German neo-Classical literary movement, also known as the Weimar school.
Friedrich Schiller was a poet and a playwright, as well as an essayist regarding matters or art. His plays are masterpieces, earning the reputation as the German Shakespeare.
- The Robbers – Two brothers separated, one becomes a royal and the other a highwayman. It demonstrates the sin of class warfare and the despotism of the monarchy.
- Intrigue & Love – This play was the basis for the Verdi opera, Lisa Miller. An aristocrat wishes to marry a music teacher’s daughter, but politics and petty scheming create disaster.
- Don Carlos – This is my personal favorite of Schiller, and it also is the basis for a Verdi opera. What begins as a love triangle ends as a loyalty triangle.
- The Wallenstein trilogy – These three plays tell of the cruelty of a commander during the Thirty Years war.
- The Maid of Orleans – As some of you may have guessed, this is the story about Joan of Arc.
- The Bride of Messina – This may be the play that caused Schiller the most trouble. It is set in ancient Sicily and demonstrates the clash of old paganism with the emerging Christian expansion.
- William Tell – Everyone has heard the name and knows about the apple, but few know the story. It is a revolutionary tale again demonstrating the moral emptiness of the medieval monarchies of Europe.
As I mentioned earlier, Schiller was also a poet. I will allow you the room to study these on your own. It’s worth noting that the poem that served as the basis for Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy,” his Ninth Symphony, comes from a Schiller poem. Schiller also wrote some of the more interesting and influential essays on art, and are worth reading. In particular, his twenty-seven “Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man” are must reads in my opinion by any true Aesthete.
Put some of these on your reading list for 2016, but make room for Goethe. He’s coming up in Part II. Leave a Comment if you have read Schiller before and what your reactions were to his writings.