THE NEXT SIX LETTERS REGARDING
Posa felt quite rightly how much was taken from his friend when he made the King privy to his ruling ideas and when he even attempted to win the King over to his cause. Precisely since he (might have) felt that those ruling ideas had been the actual tie that bound them together in friendship, he could not feel otherwise than that the Marquis had broken that tie in the very moment in which he profaned those ideas before the King. Carlos did not know that but Posa knew that this philosophy and these blueprints for the future were the sanctuary of their friendship and the ruling idea due to which Carlos owned his heart; and precisely since he (the Marquis) knew that and took as a given in his heart that this might not have been unknown to Carlos--how could he dare to confess to him that he had betrayed their sanctuary? To confess to him what had happened between him and the King would have meant as much to him in his mind as to announce to him that there was a time in which he meant nothing to him, anymore. Had Carlos' future entitlement to the Throne, had the King's son, no part in this friendship, this coincidence could not have harmed the nature of their friendship. It was delicacy, it was compassion that Posa, the citizen of the world, withheld from the future monarch the expectations that he (might have) set in the present one; Posa, Carlos' friend, on the other hand, could not have acted more wrongly against it.
The reasons, however, that Posa mentions to himself as well as to his friend as to why he refrained from opening up to him, an act which became the source of all subsequent confusions and complications, are of a quite different kind. Act IV, Scene 6:
"The King trusted the vessel into which
he poured his holy secret. What would
indiscretion have accomplished, while
my silence did not make you suffer?
What whould it have spared you from? --
Why show to him who is asleep, the
thunder cloud that is hovering over his head?"
And in the third scene of Act V:
"Yet I, filled with ill-fated misgivings
of futile anxiousness and vain pride to end
this daring venture without you, hide from
our friendship my dangerous secret."
Everyone, however, who has looked deeply enough into the hearts of men, will clearly see that the Marquis only tried to deceive himself with the above-noted reasons (which, in themselves, are far too weak to motivate such an important step), since he does not dare to admit to himself the real reasons for his actions. A far more truthful account of his actual frame of mind at that time is given in another passage, out of which it becomes clear that there were moments in which he debated with himself if he should not even simply sacrifice his friend. "It was up to me", he says to the Queen,
"To usher in a new
morning over this kingdom.
The King gave me his heart. He called
me his son. I carried his seal,
and his Albas were no more" etc.
"Yet I give
the King up. In this dry soil,
no roses can come to bloom. Those were
only futile games of childish reasoning,
ashamedly rejected by the mature man.
I was to devour the coming, hopeful spring,
in order to hope for a dim ray of sunlight
on cold northern shores? To soften the
last lashing out of an aging tyrant, while
hoping to bring about the great liberation
of the century? Cursed fame! I want no
part of it! Europe's fate ripens in my great
friend. To him I entrust Spain. Woe me,
woe me and him, if I should regret it!
If I had chosen the worse? If I had
misunderstood the great hint of providence
that wanted me, not him on this Throne." --
Thus he did make a choice, and in order to choose, he had to consider the alternative as a possibility. From all of this one can see that the interest of the friendship stands back behind a higher idea, and that it receives its directions only from it. No-one in the entire play has been able to better judge this than Phillip himself, of whom it could be most expected. Into the mouth of this King who knew men so well I put my apology and my own opinion of the hero of this play, and with his words I want to conclude this particular investigation."And for whom did he sacrifice himself?<
For the boy, my son? Never!
I do not believe it. A Posa does not die
for a boy. Friendship's poor flame does
not warm Posa's heart. It beat for
all of mankind. His passion was the
world, with all its future generations."
Why this entire investigation, you ask? Whatever the scenario may have been, whether it was an involuntary inclination of the heart, a harmony of characters, mutually useful interaction on each part, or outer circumstances and free choice that tied this relationship together, its effects will remain the same, and nothing will change in the plot of the play. So why go to all this trouble to tear the reader out of his initial misconception that might have been much more pleasant to him than the truth? What would become of the state of beautiful relationships and their attractiveness to us if we were always to look deeply into every human soul and to literally watch such a relationship develop? Should it not suffice that everything that the Marquis Posa loves is present in the Prince and represented by him or at least accessible only through him and that Posa inseparably combines this accidental, conditional interest which he only lends to his friend, with the very nature of this friendship and that everything he feels for him is expressed in his personal inclination. We then enjoy the sheer beauty of the painting of this friendship as a simple moral element, unconcerned about the possibility of how many parts the philosopher may dissect it into.
What if, however, the explanation of this difference was important to the entire play? If the ultimate purpose of Posa's striving moves beyond the Prince, the latter is only this important to him as a tool in the realization of a higher purpose, if this friendship provides to him the satisfaction of another urge than merely that of friendship, then the play's scope can not be confined to it, then the ultimate purpose of the play must be identical with the Marquis' ultimate purpose. The great fate of an entire state, the happiness of mankind for many generations, which are the goals of all of the Marquis' striving, as we have seen, can not very well be an episode in a plot that focuses on the outcome of a love story. If we have misunderstood each other with respect to Posa's friendship, I am afraid that we might also have misunderstood each other regarding the ultimate purpose of the tragedy. Let me show it to you from this new perspective; perhaps some discrepancies that you have complained about will be cleared up from this new viewpoint.
And what would, then, be the so-called ultimate purpose of this play if it is not love and if it never could be friendship? The first three acts deal with the first and the last two acts with the second but neither of these furnish the ultimate purpose. Friendship sacrifices itself, and love is sacrificed, but neither the former nor the latter is the purpose for which they are sacrificed respectively. Hence, there must exist a third entity that is separate from friendship and love for which both have worked and for which both have been sacrificed and if the play is to have a unifying purpose, where else could it lie, but in the third entity?
Dear friend, I invite you to recall a certain discussion that sprung up between us and that delighted our phantasies in the most lovely dreams in which our minds love to revel in, namely that of the darling subject of our century, that of spreading purer, gentler humanity, that of the highest possible state of personal freedom in a flourishing, functioning state, in short, that of the most perfect state of mankind, as it is attainable, considering mankind's nature and its strengths. At that time, we closed the subject with our romantic desire that it may please fate which has already worked greater miracles to pour our desires, our dreams and our convictions in all their liveliness into the first-born son of a future ruler of ** or *** in this or that hempisphere and then reawaken them in him, in the next Julian circle*. What was merely a playful subject in a serious discussion should, I thought, be elevated to the dignity of seriousness and truth in a tragedy. What is not possible to phantasy? What is a poet not allowed to write? Our discussion was long forgotten when I made the acquaintance of the Prince of Spain, and soon I realized that this intelligent young man may very well have been the one who could have realized our dreams. Thought and done! I found everything I needed, as if I had a genie working for me: the desire for liberty battling with despotism, the shackles of superstition loosened, thousand-year-old prejudices shattered, a nation that wants to reclaim its human rights, republican virtues applied, brighter outlooks in circulation, minds moving forward, emotions elevated by their enthusiasm for great ideas and now, to complete this perfect constellation, a beautifully developed mind of a young man who is heir to the throne, having emerged from pressure and suffering without blemishes. We recognized that this royal son had to have been unhappy in order for us to realize our ideals through him.
"Be a human
being on Phillip's throne! You also have
come to know suffering "
He ought not to have been taken out of sensuality's and happiness' laps, art ought not yet to have laid a hand on his refinement, and the world of his time ought not yet have impressed its stamp on him. How should, however, an 18th-century prince, the son of Phillip II, a pupil of the monks whose barely awakening reasoning was watched by such strict and keen-eyed guardians, have come to embrace such a liberal philosophy? You see, even that was provided for. In the most crucial years of his intellectual development in which the human mind blossoms, in which ideals are embraced and in which one's moral conscience fully develops, fate presented him with a gift, a friend who was an intelligent, warm-hearted young man who received his education, what keeps me from assuming that?, under very fortunate circumstances, and who was guided towards this enlightened philosophy by a reclusive wise man. Thus, this benign philosophy that the Prince wants to implement during his future reign was a brain child of their friendship. This philosophy wears the enticing garments of youth, all of poetry's grace; with light and warmth it is planted into his heart, it is the first blossom of his mind, it is his first love. The Marquis is very interested in keeping its youthful charm alive, to keep the spark in him burning, to see it enduring in him as a passion, since only passion will (later) help him to overcome the difficulties that he will be faced with when he wants to implement it. "Tell him", he asks the Queen:"that he should pay heed
to the dreams of his youth, that he should
not open his heart to the deadly influence of
that notorious notion of 'better judgment',
that he should not get confused when wisdom
will refine his enthusiasm; I have already
told him so "
Between the two friends thus grew the plan to bring about that state of happiness that is attainable to mankind, and this enthusiastic plan and how it comes into conflict with passion, is the ultimate purpose of this drama. It thus deals with presenting a future ruler who would realize the highest possible state of happiness for his people that could be attained during his era or does not deal with forming this future ruler since this should already have happened and could not very well have been made the subject of such a work of art (as this drama), neither should it show this ruler in action, since this would by far go beyond the boundaries of a tragedy.
The intention was to present this prince, to move him towards a frame of mind in which he would (later) realize these plans, and to increase the subjective possibility of their realization to a very high degree of likelihood, regardless of whether or not luck and chance would actually bring their realization about.
I want to explain the above in more detail. The young man whom we have selected for this extraordinary effect should already have overcome desires that could be dangerous to such an undertaking; like the ancient Roman he should have held his hands over a flame in order to convince us that he will be man enough to triumph over pain and suffering; he had to go through the fire of a terrible tribulation and to prove himself worthy. Only then, when we have seen him successfully wrestling with an internal enemy can we trust him to overcome outer obstacles that he will be faced with in the implementation of his daring reforms. Only then when we have seen him putting up resistance against temptation during his sensual years of youthful passion, can we be entirely sure that those temptations will pose no further danger to the mature man. And what passion could evoke this more than the strongest of all, love?
All passions except this one that could become a danger to his higher purpose for which I singled him out, have already been removed out of his heart or have never dwelt in it. At a corrupted, immoral court, he had received the purity of his innocence; not his Love, neither striving nor principles, solely his moral instincts have preserved him in this state."Lust's arrow broke at this chest,
long before Elisabeth reigned here."
Towards Princess Eboli, who often acts to his detriment out of passion and cunning, he displays a kind of innocence that comes quite close to simplemindedness; many who read this scene would have understood the Princess much sooner. It was my intention to equip his nature with a kind of purity that can not be conquered by any seduction attempt. The kiss that he gives to Princess Eboli was the first kiss of his life, and it was certainly a virtuous kiss! Yet, also a finer kind of seduction fails in the face of his better love. This love alone is what he has to deal with, and virtue will own him completely once he will have succeeded in conquering it; and this is what this play deals with. Now you will understand why the Prince has been presented thus and in no other manner, why I have allowed that the noble beauty of his character is troubled by so much intensity, so much passionate heat, much in the same way as pure, clear water can be muddied. A soft, well-meaning heart, enthusiasm for the great and the beautiful, delicacy, courage, steadfastness, unselfish generosity are the qualities he was to have, beautiful and bright outlooks were what he was to have, but he was not to be a wise man. The great man of the future was to be latently present in him but a fiery passion was not to allow him to have developed into this man, yet. Everything that makes an excellent ruler, everything that would justify the expectations of his friend and the hopes of a world that was waiting for him, everything that must come together in order for him to realize his ideal of his future state was to be present in his character, but it should not be developed, yet, not yet separated from passion, not yet turned into gold. This was, in fact, the crucial issue, to bring him closer to the degree of perfection that he is still lacking; a more refined, accomplished character in the Prince would have made writing this play unnecessary for me. You will also understand why the characters of Phillip and those around him who were of a like mind would have had to have so much leeway for their actions--it would have been an inexcusable mistake to present these characters as automatons who were to merely help along in the entanglements and in the unraveling of a love story and why spiritual, political and domestic despotism was allowed to reign so freely.
However, since it was my actual aim to virtually let the future creator of mankind's happiness emerge out of the play, it was very appropriate to set the creator of misery next to him and to elevate even higher the beauty of the former by a complete, terrible painting of despotism. We see the despotic monarch on his sad throne, see him starving in the midst of his treasures, we hear out of his own mouth that he is alone amongst all of his millions of subjects, that the furies of suspicion haunt him in his sleep, that his creatures give him melted gold instead of a refreshing drink; we follow him into his lonely suite; there, we see the ruler of half of the world beg for one human being and see him then, when fate grants him this wish, like a madman, destroy this gift of which he was no longer worthy. We see him, unknowingly, working into the hands of the lowest passions of his slaves; we are eye witnesses as they are preparing the string from which he who imagines that he is the sole cause of his own actions guide him like a puppet. We see him, before whom many tremble in the farthest reaches of the earth, reporting dutifully to a despotic priest in the most humiliating manner and see him receiving an embarrassing rebuke for a minor transgression from that priest. We see him fighting against nature and mankind that he can not entirely conquer, too proud to recognize its power, too weak to withdraw from it; having fled all its distractions but being haunted by its horrors and by its failings, having left behind his own species, in order to evoke our compassion, as a hybrid between creature and creator. We despise this greatness, but we mourn over his lack of understanding, since we even see traces of humanity in this aberration that make him one of us, since he has become so miserable due to the rest of humanity. The more this terrible painting repels us, the more we will be attracted by the image of benign humanity as it is represented by Carlos, his friend and the Queen.
Now, dear friend, reconsider the play from this point of view. What you thought to be too much will appear much less in this unity; what we have come to understand can now be seen in all of its components. I could spin this new thread even further; it should suffice, however, that I provided some hints to you of which there can be obtained the best information in the play itself.
It is possible that one would need more time to reflect on the main idea of this play as can be accorded to it in such a written explanation and the way a reader is likely to skim through it; the purpose, however, toward which the artist has worked, should be evident at the end of the play. That with which the tragedy ends is what it must have dealt with, and now let us hear how Carlos took leave of his Queen:
" I have lain in a long, heavy dream. I loved.
Now, I am awake. Forgotten
be the past. Finally, I realize, there
are higher goals than owning you.
Here are your letters back.
Destroy mine. Do not fear any more
passion from me. It is over.
A purer fire has refined my soul.
I will set a tombstone for it as it has
never been set for a King Above its
ashes blooms a paradise!"
Queen: "This is how I saw you!
That was the great meaning of his death."
I am neither an Illuminate* nor a Mason*, but if both brotherhoods have one moral purpose in common, and if this purpose is the most important aspect (of the organizations), this purpose must be at least closely related to that which Marquis Posa set himself. What the former want to achieve through a secret affiliation of several members who live in various places, the latter wants to achieve quicker and more completely through a single subject, namely through a Prince who is heir to the most important throne in the world and who will be able to bring this goal about from his elevated position. He endows the single subject with the kind of rich, noble frame of mind out of which such benevolent action will flow as a necessary consequence. For many, this subject would appear too abstract and serious for a drama and if they expected nothing but the painting of a passion, I would certainly have disappointed them; however, I found this not quite unworthy of an attempt: "To show truths that should be the most sacred to everyone who means well for his species and which were up to now in the sole possession of science, in the realm of art, to give them a soul with warmth and light and to plant them into the hearts of men as lively motivations in their powerful struggle with their own passions." If the genius of tragedy took revenge on me for this transgression, a few not quite unimportant ideas that are contained in the play are, nevertheless, not lost for the earnest seeker who will perhaps not be unpleasantly surprised to be reminded of remarks he might remember from his Montesqieu* and he will see them applied and confirmed in a tragedy.
Before I say farewell to our friend Posa forever, just a few more words on his peculiar behavior towards the Prince and on his death. It appears that many criticize on him that he purports to hold freedom in such high esteem and constantly talks about it, on the hone hand, while, on the other hand, displaying a very despotic behavior towards his friend, that he is guiding him to have him follow him blindly, like a dependent and that by that very act he brings about his doom. On the basis of what reasoning, you ask, can it be excused that Marquis de Posa, instead of informing him openly about his relationship with the King, instead of reasonably discussing with him the necessary steps towards their common goal, thereby making him a co-conspirator in his plan and preventing all hasty, rash decisions to which the Prince might be otherwise led by his suspicions, fear and unreflected reactions and which ultimately was really led; that he (Posa), instead of taking this natural and straightforward route, risks the utmost danger, that he rather risks those consequences that could so easily be averted, and that he then, when he really has to face those consequences, tries to avert them by a solution that can also end unhappily, namely the arrest of the prince? He knew the heart of his teachable young friend well. Very recently, the poet had him furnish forceful proof to what degree he knew it. Two words could have saved him from using this desperate measure. Why does he resort to intrigue where a straightforward course of action would have led to the goal much faster and safer?
The deliverate and erroneous behavior of the Maltese brought about all subsequent situations and ultimately also his self-sacrifice, readers and critics, somewhat hastily, presupposed that the poet let himself be carried away by the unimportant advantage of assassinating the inner truth of this character and to twist the natural course of the plot. Since this was the easiest and most readily available explanation for the behavior of the Maltese, one did not look for any further explanations as to his character in this context; for it would mean to ask too much of a critic to reserve his judgment, since that might shed an unfavorable light on the writer. However, I believe to have earned this right to their reserving their final judgment, since on more than one occasion in the play, it becomes evident that the author set aside the easier solution in favor of the truth.
Undoubtedly! The character of the Marquis would have gained much in beauty and purity, had he always acted in a straightforward manner and had he always remained above the dishonorable means of intrigue. I also admit that this character moved me, but that what I considered to be the truth moved me even more. I hold true 'that love for a real object and love for an ideal have to have different effects to that degree to which they are different in their very natures- -that the most unselfish, pure and noble man, in realizing his ideal of virtue and happiness of mankind, will be liable to act as deliberately in using individuals as the most selfish, despotic man, since he also molds his actions according to an inner ideal and will be in conflict with the freedom of others, just as much as he whose ultimate goal is his very own self-interest in doing so.' True greatness of the mind often leads to not any less instances of violations of other's freedom than egotism and despotism, for it acts for the action's sake and not for the sake of a singular object. For the very reason that it always works with the whole idea in mind, the minor interests of the individual vanishes all-too-easily in this broad perspective. Virtue acts nobly for the sake of the principle, enthusiasm for the sake of its ideal, love for the sake of its object. From the first category we would wish to choose our law makers, judges, and kings, from the second our heroes, but only from the third category would we choose our friends. We revere the first category, admire the second, but we love the third. Carlos has found reason to regret that he disregarded this difference in choosing a great man as his bosom friend.
"What interest should you have in the Queen?
Do You love the Queen? Should your stern
virtue share the petty sorrows of my love?
Oh, nothing is condemnable here
but my ignorant blindness to this day,
not to have recognized that you are as
great as your are tender."
To work silently, without any assistance, in silent greatness, that is the aim of the Marquis. Silently, as providence watches a sleeper, he wants to untie the knots of his friend's fate, wants to save him, like a Godhead , and by that very silence he ruins him. That he looked up too much towards the heights of his lofty ideals and not enough on his friend down below, turned into their common doom. Carlos failed since his friend could not be satisfied by saving him in a simple, common manner.
And here, it appears to me, I am confronted by a not unpeculiar experience from the moral world that will not be unfamiliar to anyone who has taken some time to look around or to watch his own emotions. It is this: that moral motives that have been derived from an ideal of perfection, do not dwell naturally in the human heart and that they, from the very fact that they were artificially implanted into it, do not always work beneficently, but are, due to human error, liable to be abused terribly. In his moral conduct, man should be governed by practical laws and not by artificial brain children of reason. Alone for the reason that each of the moral ideals or artificial thought patterns is never more than an idea, that, as all other ideas, is shaped by the limited viewpoint of the individual who shares that idea and can, therefore, not be applied generally due to each human 'idea purveyor's' limited viewpoint; that alone, I say, should render them extremely dangerous instruments in the hands of men; even far more dangerous than that will it be when those ideas in the minds of humans are combined with passions that can be found in their hearts; I mean despotism, self-importance and pride that can immediately take hold of such ideas and inseparably mingle with them. Tell me, my friend, to choose but one example what founder of an order, what order itself that, in their purest ideals and most noble motivations, have kept themselves free from violence, from the spirit of secrecy and from despotism, in the realization of their aims? Has not the realization of a moral purpose, be it ever so free from any impure motives, insofar as that purpose considers itself as a self-sufficient entity that wants to strive for its fulfillment in purity as it has presented itself to them, been unawares carried away and infringed on the freedom of others, on the rights of others, rights that they have always held as sacred, in setting those rights aside while exercising the most deliberate despotism, without having changed its purpose, without having forsaken their motives or suffered in any way themselves. I explain this phenomenon from the need of the limited reasoning that is at work here in wanting to use shortcuts to simplify its task, and to transform in their minds individuals that distract or confuse them, into general concepts, out of our general inclination to a need for power or to a string to set everything aside that narrows our playing field. For this very reason, I chose an entirely well-meaning character who stood above all selfish motives, I endowed him with the greatest respect for the rights of others, I even made the attainment of freedom for mankind his purpose, and I believe that I am not in contradiction with general experience when I let him, on his way towards his high aim, go astray in using despotism to realize it. It was my plan to have him fall into this traps that is set for all those who walk in his path. How much would it have cost me to deliver him safely out of all dangers so that the reader who grew fond of him would fully enjoy the beauty of his other qualities; if I had not considered it a far higher gain to prove human nature by his example and to thereby confirm an experience that is all-too-often not heeded. I think that one does not remove onself without and dangers from natural, practical considerations in order to lift oneself up into the general abstractions, that man much easier follows the intuition of his heart or the readily available individual considerations of right or wrong than to submit himself to the command of ideas of reason that he has artificially created, for nothing leads to the good that is not natural.
All that remains to be said are a few words with respect to his sacrifice, since it was criticized that he deliberately rushed into a violent death which he could have avoided. Why could he not have fled just like his friend? Was he being watched more closely than the latter? Did his friendship with Carlos not make it his duty to save himself for him? Moreover, would he not have been of much more help to him alive than he possibly could by sacrificing his life, even if everything would have gone according to his plans? Could he not have done that? — Of course, he could have! What would the calmly watching audience not have done better, and how much wiser and smarter would they have been in handling everything in order to survive! Pity, though, that the Marquis could neither enjoy such happy cold-bloodedness nor ample time for deliberation that would have been required for such a level-headed consideration of all aspects of his situation. However, you will say, the forced and far-fetched solution to which he resorted in order to sacrifice himself could not have offered itself to him easily and freely and in the first moment; why could he not just as well have taken the time he needed to think his situation through in order to come up with a reasonable rescue plan, or why did he not rather resort to the possibility that lay right before him and that even the most short-sighted reader could see?
If he did not mean to die for dying's sake, or (as one of my critics has put it): if he did not want to die to become a martyr, it is hard to understand how the means for his demise that he chose offered themselves to him more readily than the far more natural means by which he could have saved himself.
The solution is this: First of all, this objection is based on the false and herein already refuted premise that the Marquis died only for his friend, which can no longer be held true after it has been proven that he did not live for him, and that this friendship was based on quite a different premise. Thus, he can very well not die to save the Prince; for that probably quite different and less dangerous solutions than death would have become apparent to him — "he dies in order to do and give everything a human being can do and give for his ideal that he had planted in the Prince's soul and that was the most precious ideal to him, in order to demonstrate to the Prince in the most impressive manner that he is capable of how strongly he believed in the truth and beauty of his ideals and plans and how important their realization was to him"; he dies for them in the way several great men have died for a truth that they wanted many people to heed and believe in: to show by their example that these truths are worth suffering everything for them. When the law maker of Sparta had completed his task and when the Oracle of Delphi had announced that the Republic would continue to prosper as long as it would honor the laws of Lykurgus*, the latter summoned the people of Sparta and requested that they take an oath to leave the new constitution intact for at least as long until he would return from a journey that he was about to go on. Once they had sworn a solemn oath, Lykurgus left the territory of Sparta, and from that moment on, he stopped to eat and the Republic waited for his return in vain. Before his death he also explicitly stipulated that even his ashes should be strewn into the sea so that not one atom of himself could be returned to Sparta, and that even superficially, his fellow citizens would have no reason to consider themselves relieved from the oath they had taken. Could Lykurgus seriously believe that he could bind the Lakedemonian people to their oath by this hair-splitting scheme and to protect his constitution with such a ploy? Is it even conceivable that such a wise man could have sacrificed his life for such a contrived scheme that would be so important to his fatherland? However, it appears to me that it was worthy of him to give his life to leave an un-extinguishable impression in the hearts of his Spartans through the greatness and extraordinary character of his death and to ennoble his life's work by turning its creator into an object of admiration and of moving sentiments.
Furthermore, as one can easily see, it was not important here how necessary, how natural and how useful this act actually was but how he who chose this option saw it, and how easy or difficult his choice was for him. Thus, the outward situation and its factors are far less crucial here than the emotional state of he who made that choice. If the ideas and concepts that led the Marquis to make this choice were familiar to him and if they offered themselves to him in a spontaneous manner for his heroic resolution, then his choice was neither forced nor contrived or far-fetched; if these ideas were even dwelling foremost in his soul and if those that would have shown him an easier way out stood in their shadow, then the choice he made was necessary; if those ideas that would have hindered him to make this choice and that would have caused many others to fight against the option he actually chose, had little power over him, then the execution of his choice could not have cost him that much. And that is what we have to investigate now.
First: Under what circumstances did he come to his decision? — In the most difficult situation in which a man could find himself, in which fear, doubt, dissatisfaction with himself, pain and despair raged in his soul. Fear: he sees his friend about to reveal a secret his life depends on to a person whom he recognizes as his friend's most terrible enemy; doubt: he does not know if the secret has been revealed or not. If the Princess knows it, then he has to act against her as an accessory; if she does not know it, yet, the slightest word can turn him into a traitor and into the murderer of his friend; dissatisfaction with himself: Through his silence, he alone has driven the Prince to this rash act; pain and despair: he sees his friend lost, and he sees all of his hopes that he had set in his friend lost in his doom.
"Forsaken by the only one, you throw yourself
into the arms of the Eboli; oh, unfortunate!,
into your devil's arms, for it was she who
betrayed you. I see you hurrying towards
her. A terrible fear takes hold of my heart.
I follow you. Too late. You lie at her feet.
The secret has already left your lips. For
you, there is no hope left; Everything turns
into black night before my eyes!
In the wide realm of nature! "
In this very moment in which such diverging emotions rage through his soul, he is supposed to come up with a rescue plan for his friend. — What will it be? He has lost his ability for calm judgment and with it his control over all matters which he could only have retained in calm consideration. He is no longer master over his own thoughts; he is thus subjected to those ideas that are most natural and most readily available to his thinking.
And of what nature are those ideas? Who has not discovered in the context of Posa's life as it unfolded in this play before our eyes, that his entire phantasy is filled with romantic greatness, that the heroes of Plutarch dwell in his soul and that of two choices, always the heroic one offers itself to him first? Did not his previous dialogue with the King show us what and how much this man was capable of risking for that which he held as true, beautiful and excellent? What is, then, more natural than that the dissatisfaction he feels with himself lets him choose solutions that cost him something, that he considers it only just that his friend should be saved at his own expense, since it was his misjudgment that led his friend into danger? In this you have to consider that he can not rush enough to tear himself out of this position of suffering, to once again freely enjoy his own nature and to retain control over his emotions. A mind such as his, you must admit, will seek for solutions within himself, not outside of himself; and if the merely smart man would have made it his first task to ponder from all sides the situation in which he found himself until he could detect an advantage somewhere, thus, to the contrary, it is quite in the character of the heroic enthusiast to shorten his path by some extraordinary act and to instantly ennoble himself and thus regain his self-esteem. Thus one could explain the Marquis' resolution quasi as a heroic palliative through which he seeks to tear himself out of his momentary numbness and despair, the most terrible state for such a mind. Add to this that, from his early boyhood on, from the day when Carlos voluntarily suffered a painful punishment in his stead, Posa's soul was troubled by the desire to return this gracious deed, a desire that pained him in the form of an unpaid debt and which added weight to his other considerations for his ultimate choice. That this memory was actually still alive in him is shown in a scene in which it inadvertently escapes him. Carlos insists that he should flee before the consequences of his daring act would become reality. "Was I also this conscientious, Carlos", he replies, "when you, as a boy, bled for me?" The Queen, moved by his pain, even accuses him that he has already pondered this solution for some time;
"You threw yourself into this act that you call
noble. Do not deny it. I know you, you have
long hungered for it!"
Finally, I do not want to acquit the Marquis of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm and fanaticism touch each other very closely, the line between them is so fine that he can easily cross it in a state of passionate heat. And the Marquis has only a few moments to make his choice! The emotional state in which he made this decision was also the state in which he took the irrevocable step to its execution. He does not have the chance to once more reflect on his decision in a different emotional state before he carries it out; who knows if he had not chosen otherwise? Such a different emotional state was, for example, that in which he stood before the Queen, "O!", he exclaims, "life is still so beautiful!" But he makes this discovery too late. He shrouds himself into the greatness of his deed so that he does not have to feel remorse for it.