Schiller's dialogue between Marquis de Posa
and King Philip of Spain
From his play 'Don Carlos', Scene 10, Act 3


The King and Marquis de Posa
The latter advances towards the king and,
on noticing him, kneels down on one
knee, rises and remains standing before
him, without any sign of being perturbed).

King (looks at him in a surprised manner).
You spoke to me before, then?

Marquis No.

You did my crown a service. Why
do you evade my gratitude? My mind
is crowded with the images of men.
Omniscient is only One. You were
entitled to seek the King out.
Why did you not do so?

It has been two days, Sire, since I
Have returned to the kingdom.

I am not inclined to remain beholden
to my servants.--
Ask a favor of me.

I enjoy the laws.

This right even the murderer has.

How much more the good citizen!--
Sire, I am content.

King (to himself)
Ample self-confidence and courage,
By God!
But that was to be expected.--Proud
I want the Spaniard. It is much to my
liking, even if the cup runs over at
times--You left my service,
I hear?

For a better man, I withdrew.

This I regret. When such heads
collide, how greatly must my
state suffer--Perhaps
You feared to miss a position that is
worthy of your talents.

Oh, no, I am sure that the skillful
and experienced judge in the gifts
of men, knowing his subject well,
would only have had to take one
look at me to see what use I can be
to him, what not. I feel humbly
grateful for the honor that Your
Royal Majesty bestows on me with
his favorable opinion, Yet--(he hesitates)

You hesitate?

I am--I must admit, Sire, not readily
prepared to express in terms of a
subject of yours that which I had
contemplated as a citizen of the world.--
For then, Sire, when I left the service
of the Crown forever, I did not
consider it necessary to explain my
reasons for this step to the Crown.

Your reasons are that vague?
Are you afraid of a risk in explaining

Should I gain enough time to
explain, Sire, only my life might be
at stake. The truth, I fear, shall not
come out if You refuse me a hearing.
Between Your disfavor and Your
contempt I have to choose--If I have
a choice I would rather part from Your
eyes as a traitor than as fool.

King (with anticipation)

I cannot be the servant of a prince.
(The king looks at him with surprise).
Sire-- I do not want to betray the buyer, Sire--
if you consider obtaining my services,
You only want of me my action. You
only want my arm and my courage in
battle, only my mind in counsel. Not
my actions but the approval they would
find before the throne would be the
purpose of my actions. To me, however,
virtue has a value of its own. This
happiness, that the monarch would
plant with my hands, I would create it
myself, and joy would be to me
and my own choice, what should only be
my duty. And is this Your opinion? Can
You tolerate other creators in your act of
creation? And I am to lower myself to be
the chisel, where I could be the artist?--
I love mankind, and in monarchies I may
only love myself.

This fire is admirable. You want to
do good. In what manner You
do this can mean as much
to the patriot as to the wise man.
Select the position in my kingdoms,
which will entitle you to follow this
noble urge.

I can find none.


What Your Majesty would spread by
my hand--would it mean man's
happiness?--Is it the same happiness,
that my pure love would desire for man?
--Confronted with this happiness, Your
Majesty would tremble--No! A new
happiness it is that the crown's politics
created, that which it is still able to
grant, and with which it will plant new
motivations in the hearts of men that
can be satisfied with this happiness.
The crown will spread happiness in
coins that stand for a truth it can bear.
All other molds are discarded
that no longer fit its coins.
But what may satisfy the Crown--can
that satisfy me? Should my brotherly
love lend itself to work to my brother's
disadvantage? Would I know him
happy unless he'd be allowed to think?
You cannot count on me, Sire, to spread
Your kind of happiness that fits Your
mold. I must refuse to work to fit this
mold.--I cannot be the servant of a prince.

King (rather fast)
You are a protestant.

Marquis (After some hesitation)
Your faith, Sire, is also mine.
(After a pause) I am being misunder-
stood. That was what I feared.
You see the veil drawn from the
mysteries of majesty by my hand. Who
can assure You that I still consider
holy that which has ceased to frighten
me? I am dangerous, because I
have harbored thoughts beyond my
reach.--My King, I am not dangerous.
My wishes are buried here (laying his
hand on his chest). The blind rage
of innovation, that only increases
the burden of the chains it can not
entirely break, will never heat my
blood. This century is not ready
for my ideals. I live as one
of the citizens who are yet to come.
Can a painting disturb Your
peace? Your breath can
annihilate it.

Am I the first to know you
from this side?

From this side--yes.

(rises, walks a few steps and stops
facing the Marquis--to himself)
This tone is at least something new!
Flattery runs itself dead.
It is demeaning to a man of intellect
to emulate it. Why not try the opposite
for a change? There is happiness in
surprise--If you put it that way,
well, so I will change my outlook on
those I take into service--
The strong mind--

I can hear, Sire, how little You
value human dignity, how you
only see flattery for Yourself in
the speech of a free man, and
I think I know who gave you authority
for this. It was men themselves who
forced you to it. They themselves
have renounced their own nobility,
have willingly lowered themselves
to that level. Frightened, they flee
from the ghost of their own inner
greatness, make themselves comfort-
able in their own poverty, embellish
their chains with cowardly wisdom,
and it is considered a virtue to
carry them with dignity. This is how
You found the world. This is how
Your great father found it. How could
You honor man, in this distorted image?

I find some truth in these words.

Pity, though, that You, in taking
man from the hand of the Creator,
and, in transforming him into Your
creation, and in giving Yourself to this
newly-molded creature as his God, you
overlooked one fact. You Yourself
remained a Man--A man from the
Creator's hand, You continued to
suffer as a mortal, continued to
desire, You need sympathy--and to a
God one can only bring sacrifices,
tremble before him, pray to him!
A regrettable exchange! An unfortunate
perversion of nature!--Since You
drag man down to play your tune,
who is keeping in harmony with You?

(By God, he is touching my soul!)

But to You this sacrifice means nothing.
It separates You from all, makes You
Your own species--for this price You are
a God--and it would be terrible, if that
was not so--if for this price--for the
crushed happiness of millions, You had
not gained a thing; if the freedom that
You destroyed would be the only thing
that would motivate Your desires?
I ask to be dismissed, Sire. I am
being carried away by my topic.
My heart is full--the urge is too
powerful to remain before the Only one
who I want to reveal myself about it to.

(Count Lerma enters and quietly
addresses a few words to the king.
The king asks him to leave and
remains in his former position).

(To the Marquis, after Lerma
has left).
Finish what you have to say!

(after some silence)
I feel, Sire, the entire meaning--

Is conveyed? You still had
more to tell me.

Not long ago I came from
Flanders and Brabant--such rich and
prospering provinces! A strong, a
great people--and also a good people
--and to be the father of this people!
That, I thought, must be divine!--
When I stumbled onto burnt human
bones--(here he falls silent, his eyes rest
On the king who is trying to face him,
but who ends up staring at the floor,
embarrassed and concerned).
You are right. You have to. That You
are capable of doing what You realize
that You have to do has filled me with
shuddering admiration. But, pity,
that the victim, drenched in his own
blood, does not lend himself to intone
hymns of praise to the genius of his
slaughterer! That only humans,
not higher beings--write world history!--
Milder centuries will replace Philip's;
they will bring benign wisdom.
The citizens' happiness will then be
reconciled with the greatness of
princes, the prudent state will spare
his children, and necessity will be

When, do You think, would these
humane centuries arise, had I
trembled in awe of this century's
curse? Look around in my Spain.
Here, there is flourishing my subjects'
happiness in unclouded peace;
And this peace I wish upon the Flemings.

Marquis (fast)
The peace of a churchyard? And
You hope to end what You began?,
Hope to stem Christianity's present
transformation, to stem the all-
pervading spring-tide that is
rejuvenating the face of the world?
You alone in all of Europe want to
throw yourself into the spokes of
the wheel that, unstoppably, runs
the course of world's fate? You
will not! Already thousands have fled
Your realms, glad and poor.
The citizen whom You lost to the
new faith was Your noblest one. With
open arms, Elizabeth is receiving the
refugees, and thanks to our country's
skills, Britain flourishes. Abandoned
by the industrious new Christians,
Grenada lies barren, and Europe
watches with glee as her enemy
is bleeding from her self-inflicted
(The king is moved; the Marquis
notices this and moves a few steps
You want to plant for eternity, and
You sow death? Such a forced
creation will not survive its maker.
You have built for ingratitude--fought
in vain the fight against nature,
Sacrificed in vain a great royal life
for destructive plans. Man is more
than you considered him to be.
He will awaken from his long sleep
and he will demand the return of
his holy right. He will cast your name
into the same heap into which he cast
that of a Nero and a Busiris, and that
pains me, for You were good.

Who has given You assurance of that?

Marquis (with fervor)
Yes, by the Almighty! Yes, yes, I repeat:
Return to us what You took from us.
Spread again among us, graciously, as
it behooves the strong, human happiness,
let great minds abound in Your realm.
Return to us what You took from us.
Become a king of millions of kings.
(He approaches him boldly,
directing firm and fiery looks at him).

Oh, could just the eloquence of all
the thousands who share this hour
be on my lips, to transform the
spark I feel in these eyes into a
flame!--Give up the unnatural idolatry
that is destroying us. Become for
us an example of the eternal and
the true. Never--never has a
mortal ever possessed so much,
to use it divinely. All kings of
Europe worship Spain. Lead
the kings of Europe. One
stroke of the pen by this hand.
and newly created will be the
world. Grant us freedom of
thought--(Throwing himself at the
king's feet).

(surprised, not facing the
Marquis, but then again looking
at him)
Peculiar enthusiast!
Rise, however, I--

Look around in His splendid nature!
On freedom it is based--and how
abundant it is through freedom!
He, the great Creator, throws
the worm into a dew drop and lets,
even in the dead caverns of decay,
run free will its course--Your creation,
how narrow and barren! The rustling
of a leaf frightens the Lord of
Christendom--You must be
trembling in sight of every virtue.
He--not wishing to disturb freedom's
splendid design--He rather lets
the terrible effects of evil rage in
His universe, Him, the artist, one
does not become aware of,
modestly, He is cloaking himself
in eternal laws; Those the free
thinker can see, but not Him. Why
a God?, he says, the world is
enough unto itself. And no
Christian's devotion has praised
Him more than the blasphemy
of the free thinker.

And do You propose to
reconstruct this sublime
precedent in the mortality
of my realms?

You, You can do it.
Who else? Dedicate Your
reign to the happiness of
Your people, the reign
which, for too long a time
has squandered its
greatness. Restore
humanity's lost dignity.
The citizen shall once again
become what he once was,
the purpose of the crown--
no duty shall bind him but
his brother's equally sacred
rights. Then, when man
is given back to himself,
re-awakened to his dignity,
freedom's noble, proud
virtues will flourish--then,
Sire, when You have turned
Your own kingdom into the
happiest realm on earth, then
it will be Your duty to conquer
the world.

King (after a long silence)
I let you finish your speech--
different, I understand, the
world presents itself to Your
mind than to the average man--
and I do not wish to subject You
to a standard of judgment alien
to this. I am the first one to whom
You have revealed Your innermost
thoughts. I believe it, because I
know it. For the sake of this
restraint of Yours to keep such
opinions to yourself, opinions,
expressed with such fervor, to me--
for the sake of this humble wisdom,
young man, I shall forget that I ever
heard them, and how I heard them.
Rise! I want to refute the young man
who has spoken in haste, as an old
man and not as a king. I shall do
this because I want to--even poison
itself can, I think, ripen into something
better in good-natured individuals--
However, flee my inquisition. I should
be very sorry--

Indeed? Should You?

King (taking a long look at him)
I have never seen such a man.--
No! No, Marquis! This is too much.
I do not wish to be Nero. I do not
wish to be him--do not wish to be
Nero against You. Not all happiness
shall die under me. You should be
allowed to continue under my very
eyes, to be a man.

Marquis (fast)
And my fellow citizens, Sire?--No, not
for my sake am I concerned, not
My cause did I want to plead.
And what about Your subjects, Sire?

Presupposing that you know so well
how I will be judged by posterity,
those future generations shall learn
from Your example how I treated
a human being, once I found one.

Oh, the most just of kings should
not at once turn into the most unjust.
--In Your Flanders there live thousands
who are better than I--only You--
may I freely confess it, great King?--
You, under the influence of this
softer image, You see freedom,
perhaps, for the first time.

King (with softened sternness)
No more of this subject, young man--
I know that you will come to think of
it otherwise once You come to know
man as I know him.--However, I would
rather not have seen You for the last
time. How shall I arrange it to make
You beholden?

Let me be as I am. What use
would I be to You, sire, should
You also bribe me?

This pride, I cannot bear it!
From this day on, You shall be
in my service--no protest! I shall
have it so.

(After a pause) But how? What did I seek?
Was it not truth that I desired?
And here I find even more--You have
found me out on my throne, Marquis.
Did you not also find me out in
my house?

(While the Marquis seems to be
considering matters)

I understand You--Even if I would be
the unhappiest of fathers, could I not,
at least, be happy as a husband?

When a promising son, when the
possession of the loveliest of wives
would entitle a man to the right
Sire, to call himself thus, Sire, You would
be the happiest of men through both.

King (with grave expression)
No, I am not! And that I am not
I have never felt more than now--
(With a look of grief directed at the

The prince thinks noble and good
thoughts. I have never found him

I, however, have found him so.
What he has taken from me,
no crown can replace it--Such
A virtuous queen!

Who can dare it, Sire?

The world! Blasphemy! I myself!
Here are testimonies that undisputedly
condemn her; there are still more that
let me fear the worst--Yet, Marquis,
it is difficult, very difficult for me to
believe one thing. Who is accusing
Her? Should she--she have sunken
so low to dishonor herself, how much,
all the more, should I feel inclined to
believe that the Eboli is slanderous?
Does not the priest hate my son and
her? And do I not know that Alba
Is thinking of revenge? My wife is worth
more to me than all of them.

Sire, and yet there still dwells in the
wife's soul that which is unblemished
by all appearances, and which defies
all blasphemy--it is called a woman's

Yes! That is what I also think. So low,
as the queen is accused of having sunk,
that is quite serious. As easily as they
want to convince me, I can not cut loose
the bonds of honor. You know man,
Marquis. A man like You is what I have
missed for a long time. You are good and
cheerful and still you know man, as well.
This is why I have chosen You.

Marquis (surprised and in awe)
Me, Sire?

You stood before your King and asked
nothing for yourself, nothing. This is
new to me. You shall be just. Passion
will not cloud your perception. Get
close to my son, find out the
Queen's frame of mind. I will send an
authorization that you should speak to
her in private. And now, leave!
(He pulls a bell string.)

Can I do so with one hope fulfilled?--
Then this day will be the most beautiful
day of my life.

King (holds his hand for the Marquis
This day is also not a complete loss in

(The Marquis rises and leaves. Count
Lerma enters).
The knight will be received unannounced
in future.