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SCHILLER IN 1786

The story 'Verbrecher aus Infamie' is considered to have had its roots in an actual incident that Schiller's 'Karlsschule' teacher Abel related. Abel's father had to arrest the innkeeper Friedrich Schramm who was wanted for murder. Parts of Schiller's foreword to this story read as follows:

"In the entire history of man, no chapter is more instructive to heart and mind than the chronicles of his aberrations. In the commission of every major crime, a relatively large force had to be in motion. While the secret activities of our urges usually remain hidden, they come the fore all the more prominently, loudly and colossally in man's state of the passionate heat of violence. The more astute researcher of man's motivations who knows how much one can actually count on the mechanism of free choice in our actions and how far it is allowed to draw analogical conclusions, will transfer some of this experience over into his psychological theories and will apply it to his moral guidelines" (Goethe und seine Zeit 144).

With respect to his historical studies, Schiller wrote the following to Koerner on April 15th, 1786:

"Day by day, history becomes dearer and dearer to me. This week, I read a history of the Thirty-Year-War, and my head is still warm from it. That the epoch of the greatest national misfortune was also the epoch of the emergence of human strength! How many great men have emerged out of this darkness! I wish that I had done nothing but read history for ten years. I believe that I would have turned out quite differently! Do you think that I can still catch up on that?"

Before we invite you to read the dialogue between Marquis de Posa and King Phillip II of Spain which Schiller wrote in the summer of 1786, we should provide you with an overview of the tragedy's plot, leading up to that dialogue, and away from it to its ending:

For the topic, Schiller drew on the work of Abbe Saint-Real, 'Histoire de Dom Carlos' that von Dalberg had pointed out to him. Without their further reflecting on the real meaning of this tragedy, to its audience and to Schiller's critics, it appeared to them to depict King Phillip II of Spain's son Carlos' love for his stepmother, Queen Elizabeth, and to describe how the King's suspicions to that respect, that have been aroused by Carlos' confessor Domingo and the King's confidante Duke Alba's planting enough doubts in his mind, turn to certainty after Princess Eboli, a lady of the court who is, herself, in love with Carlos and chided by him, shares Phillip's bed and whispers those 'certainties' into his ears. At a crucial point in the play, the King, while he is crushed by his suspicions and ready to turn to an outsider for help, his dialogue with Marquis de Posa offers him the chance to appoint this young man as his confidant in searching for further evidence. While de Posa appears to be assisting his friend Carlos in freeing himself from his passion by actually using it to the advantage of his cause of the liberation of Flanders, and while Carlos struggles along with him in that process, all those efforts are ultimately in vain. Posa appears to be sacrificing himself for his friend, in order to save him in the 'last minute'. However, when a transformed Carlos who no longer passionately yearns for Elizabeth but one who wants to go to Flanders to free this nation from his father's iron grip, takes leave from the Queen, their meeting is broken up by King Phillip who hands Carlos over to his inquisition. Much later (in the year 1788), we will be able to have Schiller himself tell us, in his own words, what he actually meant to present in this tragedy.

One final word before you leap into this dialogue: Consider for yourself how much of Schiller's personal experiences with h i s monarch might be reflected in it, as well...



TO THE 'MARQUIS POSA' DIALOGUE!

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