Schillers Strategic Studies:
Winning the Cause for Mankind
by Helga Zepp-LaRouche
Helga Zepp-LaRouche gave this presentation to a LaRouche Youth Movement cadre school in Reston, Va., on Feb. 22. It has been slightly abridged, and subheads have been added.
I want to tell you what we're doing with the Schiller work in Germany, because as you may have noticed, we have the 200th Anniversary of the death of Friedrich Schiller this May. And, for reasons which definitely have to do with the fact that the Schiller Instituteeven before this organizationwe put on our newspaper, about 25 years ago, Now Comes the Schiller Time! (Nun kommt die Schillerzeit!) There was, for all this period, nobody who seriously was campaigning for the ideas of Friedrich Schiller of the German Classsics, except us. And now, the social-economic-political crisis in Germany is so undeniable: You have 9 million unemployed! Thats a lot of unemployed. Thats 3 million more than during the time when Hitler came to power. German industry is just collapsing, all of a sudden. But, people also realize that Germany used to be a pearl. Made in Germany was world-top, in terms of products. Its now, not so top anymore.
There are these PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment] studies. These were studies comparing the quality of education among the different OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries. And Germany, which used to be the land of the people of poets and thinkers; where most of the inventions were made; where most of the best scientists came from. Well, it now has plunged. I think Germany is nowI'm not entirely sure, but its somewhere like place 18 of the OECD countries. So, there is the general perception that the country is in complete turmoil, and that all the institutions, which were taken as guaranteed, in the postwar period, are disintegrating.
Its sort of like Social Security privatization in the United Statesyou have the equivalent there of thatwhich is called Hartz IV. Which is, again, the attempt to put those people, who are long-term unemployed, into poverty, expropriate them, and then degrade them by supervising them, to a degree which means, you have people watching your bedroom, what you have under the mattress....
So, people have a profound sense that the country is disintegrating. And, entirely due to our influence, a little while ago, they decided to pick up our ideas and take a page from the Schiller Institute. They all of a sudden discovered that Alexander von Humboldt was the last universal genius. They republished the Cosmos works, and they made a huge campaign about Alexander von Humboldt and his works.
The Schiller Year
Then came the Schiller Year. And all of a sudden you had the Spiegel cover storythis is like a Time magazine cover storywith a beautiful painting of Schiller, with red hair. He didn't exactly have red hair, but it said the revolutionary-idealist-spirt, Schiller. Then they had an article in Spiegel magazine, which is notorious for lying in every sentencenormally. I meanthey cannot help it. But, they had a relatively truthful article about the ideas of Schiller. Now, you have, in like all universities, they have 50 programs, performances, recitations and contests. The German Ministry of Culture has put out a competition for all the school classes. Whoever performs the best play of Schiller will have some prize. You'll have secondary and third prizes, and so forth. You have each radioeach has 70, 80 programs about Schiller....
Why did I, 25 years ago, push this Schiller thing, saying: Now Comes the Schiller Time? Because it is my deepest conviction that Schiller, for the German people, is the most important remedy for their problems. That there was never a higher political-cultural level in Germany, than during the time of Schiller....
It is my conviction that, with all the bad things which have happened in German history in the meantime: the Congress of Vienna, where first of all, Napoleon; the Restoration; the First World War; the Second World War; the re-education by the Congress of Cultural Freedom and the Frankfurt School, trying to uproot the connection of the German people to this tradition, to their rootsthat this has to be reconnected.
The German people have to be reconnected with Schiller! I think that that is an absolutely important cultural ingredient, without which it will not work. Because if you have a people cut off their roots; if you have a people cut off from their best tradition, they cannot have a good identity. And, therefore, this is not just an academic exercise that we are engaging in, but its actually an effort to really use the fact that people, right now, are approaching one of these periods which Lyn [LaRouche] quoted from Percy Shelley, where people are willing to receive profound concepts about man and nature. Because they are in such turmoil, that they are looking for something, which is actually: How can I figure out how the world really functions?
So therefore, what we have done to get the Schiller work a little bit more sped up in Germany, I said to the youth in the different German locals (as you know we have people now in Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, and the Ruhr campaign), I said, Well, look, why don't you write down the 20 worst axioms which you find in your organizing every day. Like: Man is no better than a beast. Man is evil by nature. You can't do anything about things anyways. All these things that you meet in the streets, make a list of the 20 worst ones, and then use the work of Schiller to, basically smash these axioms. So, this is really an axiom busting program.
And, now, different people are working on different aspects. For example, one person is looking at Wilhelm Tell; another one is looking at the Aesthetical Letters; another one is looking at The Artists, and so forth. And then, the idea is that people come to a level of performance, where they present whatever Schiller quotes, or Schiller scenes which will be performed, in a beautiful way. Which means it has to be spoken very well. It has to be presented very well. It cannot be a mannerism. It cannot mix the unpurified personality of the speaker, with the pure ideas of Schiller. Schiller was very emphatic that things should not be performed in a way, which is mixing your own personality in an uncorrect way, in the great work. So, it has to be beautiful.
But then, it should also be very direct. That people, speak about: What does Schiller and Classical art mean for their own life in the LaRouche Youth Movement? So, people are working on that....
Now, I want to look at a couple of concepts of Schiller, which I think are extremely important. Because of the brevity of the time I had to prepare this, due to my general circumstances, I will not do justice to these subjects today. It doesn't matter, so that you get at least a first glimpse of it.
Let me first speak about Wilhelm Tell. Wilhelm Tell was the play which Schiller completed in 1804. It was the last play he finished. And it is so powerful that every time it is performed, even if performances nowadays are weak, and have the usual flaws of our time, it is unbelievable. When you read the totality of Schillers plays, what becomes very apparent is that he had an insight into the oligarchs. He had an insight into the methods of the Venetians, into the way how the enemy is operating through intrigues, confusion, manipulation: what tyranny is.
If you look at Schillers own view of youth, its also clear where he got it from. Because he was basically kidnapped by the Duke of Wurtemberg to be in the Military Academy, the Karlschule. He saw what the degeneracy of court life was: Where the princes and their court-followers would go for hunts; they would hunt through the fields at the time of the harvest. Destroy the harvest, not compensate the peasants. They would rape people. They would be completely disgusting. So, a lot of what Schiller works through in these different plays is really taken from his own experience. And, Wilhelm Tell was such a powerful play, that the Nazis, when they, on the one side wanted to absorb Schiller and use him for their own purposes; they wanted to, obviously, manipulate the population with Beethoven and Classical music, by understanding that, if they would take that Classical culture away from the German people, that they could not really handle it. But, then at a certain point, William Tell was forbidden on the stage, because the Nazi leadership, probably, correctly feared that people would study this and see it on the stage, that the idea would be instilled in somebody for the murder of the tyrant. Because this is what the play, among other things, is about: regicide.
Now, if you look at the play William Tell, again, as Schiller always did, Schiller would do an enormous amount of prepratory work, like in this case, he got all the maps from Switzerland, even though he never travelled there, because as you know, Schiller had had severe illnesses from a very early stage of his life. Intestinal problems, catarrhs, all kinds of things, and many times he was about to die. And only through the absolute, unbelievable will-power, he then worked on some other play or some other writings and so forth. But, this essentially prevented him from travelling to all of the places which he situated his dramas in. So, before he wrote William Tell he got maps of the Vierwaldstaetter Lake, the beautiful lake, where the famous Rütli scene takes place, and he painted most of these maps of Switzerland on his wall. He had gigantic maps on the table, and he studied again the historical example of Tell.
Now Schiller demanded always, that in his dramas, the first scene should be the pregnant moment, as he called it. This you can see in all of his dramas: that he requires that in the Classical drama, the first scene already encapsulates all the development of the later drama. And, this unfolds, and comes later at the high point of the drama, comes the punctum saliens, the jumping point, where all that is lawfully put on the stage in the first scene, then takes a certain development, like in the thorough composition in music, exhausting what is in this first scene. Then it comes to the point of decision where the main actor, the main hero on the stage, again has it in his hands to go this way or that way, and decide whether the drama ends as a tragedy or not. And then it must come to a necessary end.
So, in this case, the first scene of William Tell, is at the Vierwaldstaettersee Lake [Lake Lucerne], and starts off with a very idyllic picture of the shepherds; of the people singing about the sheep herds; about the beauty of the Alps, and all is very, very idyllic. Then, all of a sudden, a man comes, Baumgarten, and he says, Look, I'm running for my life. I just killed one of the rulers of the next county. Please help me to get over the lake, because the horse riders are coming already behind me. Quickly, quickly save me!
The reason why Baumgarten had killed the Duke in the other canton, was because this guy had just tried to rape his wife at home, and so he killed him with an axe. And then was fleeing, and he was telling them the story as he came.
And then they say, Oh, you killed him! Oh! Oh! Tell us the story. And they get all worked up. And then, eventually Baumgarten says, Look, while I keep talking here, they're coming closer. They're coming closer. And soon they will have me. So, please help me.
Eventually, the following dialogue occurs.
The Essential Deed'
Kuoni: Quick, Ferrymanconvey this man across. (It begins to thunder.)
Ruodi: It can't be done, The violent storm is now approaching. You must wait.
Baumgarten: Oh, Holy God! I cannot wait. The least delay is death
Kuoni (to the fisherman): Set out with God, one must assist his neighbor. The like can happen to each one of us. (Roaring and thundering)
Fuodi: The Fölhn (which is the name of this specific wind which comes down from the Alps, the Fölhn is loose, see how the waters rise, I cannot steer against the storm and waves.
Baumgarten (embraces his knees): So help you God, as you now pity me
Werni: His lifes at stake, have mercy Ferryman.
Kuoni: Hes a father, and hath wife and children! (Repeated peals of thunder.)
Ruodi: So, what? I have a life as well to lose, have wife and child at home, like he Look how it surges, how it heaves and whirlpools, draw, and all the water arouses from the depths. I would be glad to save this worthy man, yet its impossible, you see yourself.
Baumgarten (still on his knees): So must I fall into the tyrants hands, the shore of rescue now so near to sight!Lies yonder! I can reach it with mine eyes, My voices sound can make its way across, here is the boat, that would convey me thence, and must I lie here, helpless and forlorn!
And so forth. Then Tell comes, Wilhelm Tell, who is one of the farmers there, and he says,
and then he realizes that these other people are too cowardly to help him [Baumgarten], and then Tell says,
Tell: Look, what is the problem?
Tell: In the name of God then! Give the boat to me, I will attempt it, with my feeble strength.
Kuoni: Ha, valiant Tell!
Werner: That is the hunters way!
Baumgarten: You are my savior and mine angel, Tell!
Tell: I'll save you from the power of the Governor, from the peril of storm another must give aid. Yet better is't, you fall into Gods hands, than into mens! Compatriot, console my wife, if something human falls to me, I've done, but what I could not leave undone.
So, from the standpoint of Schillers play, the scene contains all of the elements which later are developed, namely: that there is the oligarchical power which steps on the rights of the ordinary people, kills them; rapes them; tortures them, and, that there is a lot of upheaval. But it takes Wilhelm Tell, an individual, not an extraordinary person, just a person who is very moral, indeed acts.
So, now, the drama continues: The population endures a lot, but then, in the blinding of the Melchtals father: Because he did something very minor, he was blinded; his eyesight was taken. At that point people have the feeling that this is now getting too much. There is a limit to what they can take.
And three men, representing three different cantons, hold their hands in an alliance for the liberation of the country [the Rütli Oath] (see box). At that point, Wilhelm Tell is not part of this, because he mainly remains private, and still believes that peace is possible for the peaceful. That then is precisely when this man, who thinks all the time that he does not have to be political, that there is no other way out, because of an extraordinary rape of human nature, something which has happened which has thrown him into a tremendous inner upheaval, then, therefore, he decides to act.
And then, it is Tell who commits the essential deed which triggers the upheaval of the entire Swiss people.
Now, you all know, most of you know what that is. Theres Gessler, who is the governor of the Hapsburg Empire in Switzerland, who has put a hat on the stick, the hat of the Emperor, and demands that everyone who passes by makes a bow in front of this hat on the stick as a sign of complete submission to the tyranny.
Now, obviously Tell eventually refuses that, and as a punishment, Gessler demands that Tell puts an apple on the head of his son, and since hes a very famous archer, he wants him to shoot an apple from his sons head. So, he has to shoot, and obviously, this is unbelievable. What happens if he doesn't hit? He could kill his son. And, then he has two arrows, and after the successful shot, Gessler asked him, what would you have done with the second arrow? And Tell said, I would have killed you. And, then naturally, Gessler puts him in jail, and only after a while he can escape.
Now, then before that, actually there is the famous scene between Gertrud and Stauffacher, who are a couple. I want you now to read this, because when you have, in the organizing the problem that people say, But I have to take care of my family! I cannot act politically because I have my own concerns.
In the first case, of the first scene I was reading to you, Ruodi, the Ferryman, has this same view. I can not help you over the lake, because I have a family, too. Listen to this thunder. I cannot take the risk.
Gertrud and Stauffacher
Gertrud: So grave, my friend? No longer do I know thee.
For many days in silence I observe,
How gloomy spirits furrow in thy brow.
Upon thine heart a silent grief is weighing,
Confide in me, I am thy faithful wife,
And I demand my half of thy sorrow.
What can oppress thine heart, tell it to me.
Thine industry is blest, thy fortunes bloom,
Full are the garns, and now the herd of oxen,
The breed of horses sleek and fully fed
Is safely from the mountain brought back home
To winter in their comfortable stalls.
Here stands thy house, rich, like a noblemans,
From beauteous timber is it newly built
And fit together with the standard gauge,
From many windows shines it pleasant, bright,
With colored coats of arms is it adorned,
And proverbs sage, the which the wanderer
Delaying reads and at their meaning wonders.
Stauffacher: The house stands well constructed and well joined,
But ahthe ground, on which we built it rocks.
Gertrud: My Werner, tell me, what thou meanst by that?
Stauffacher: Of late I sat as now beneath this linden,
With joy reflecting on whats fairly done,
When came from Kussnacht, from his citadel,
The Governor riding with his mercenaries.
Before this house he halted in surprise,
Though I rose quickly, and submissively,
As is becoming, I approached the Lord,
Who represents the Emperors judicial
Power in the land. To whom belongs this house?
He asked maliciously, for well he knew't.
But thinking quickly thus I answered him:
This house, Lord Governor, is my Lords the Emperors
And yours and mine in fiefthen he replies:
I'm regent in the land in the Emperors stead
And will not, that the farmers house be built
With his own hand, and he thus freely live,
As if he were the master in the land.
I shall make bold, to hinder you in this.
This saying rode he thence defiantly.
But I remained behind with doleful soul,
Considering the evil mans remarks.
Gertrud: My dearest Lord and husband! Wouldst thou take
An honest word of counsel from thy wife?
I boast to be the noble Ibergs daughter,
A much-experienced man. We sister sat,
There spinning wool, throughout the lengthy nights,
When round our father leaders of the people
Convened themselves, and there the parchments read
Of ancient emp'rors, and the countrys weal
Considered in judicious conversation.
Heedful I heard there many prudent words,
What intellectuals think, what good men wish,
And silently I've kept them in my heart.
So listen to me then and heed my speech,
For what thee pressed, behold, I long have known.
The Governor resents thee, would thee harm,
Because thou art a hindrance to him, that
The men of Schwyz will not subject themselves
To the upstart princes house, but true and firm
Adhere unto the realm, just as their worthy
Forefathers have resolved and have performed.
Is it not so, Werner? Tell me, if I lie!
Stauffacher: So is it, that is Gesslers grudge against me.
Gertrud: He envies thee, since thou dost dwell in bliss,
A free man on thine own inheritance,
For he hath none. From Emperor and realm
Thou holdst this house in fief, thou mayst it show,
So well as any prince displays his land,
For over thee thou recognize no lord
Except the highest in all Christendom
He merely is his houses younger son,
Naught calls he his except his knightly cloak,
He therefore sees each honest mans good fortune
With squinting eyes of poisonous disfavor,
Thee hath he long ago destruction sworn
As yet thou art uninjuredWilt thou wait,
Until he wreaks his evil will on thee?
The smart man thinks ahead.
Stauffacher: Whats to be done!
Gertrud: (steps nearer)
So hear what I advise! Thou knowst, how here
In Schwyz all honest men do now complain
About this Governors greed and tyranny.
So have no doubt, that they there yonder too
In Unterwalden and in Uri land
Are weary of oppression and the yoke
For just as Gessler here, there yonder o'er
The lake the Landenberger is as brazen
There comes no fishing boat across to us,
Which doth not tell of some new mischief and
Beginning-violence from the governors.
Therefore it would be wise, if some of you,
Of sound intent, did quietly confer,
How we might free ourselves of this oppression,
So know I well, that God would not desert you
And would be gracious to a righteous cause
Dost thou not have a friend in Uri, speak,
To whom thou mayst thine heart sincerely open?
Stauffacher: I know of many men of courage there
And men of high repute and eminence,
Who are my trusted friends and confidants. (He stands up.)
Wire, what a storm of dangerous ideas
Awakst thou in my quiet breast! My innermost
Thou bringst from me into the light of day,
And what I secretly forbade myself
To think, thou boldly speakst with easy tongue.
Hast thou considered well, what thou advisest?
The savage discord and the clang of arms
Thou callest forth into this peaceful vale
Dared we, a feeble folk of herdsmen, go
To battle with the master of the world?
Tis only for some pretext, that they wait,
In order to unleash on this poor land
Their savage hordes of military might,
Therein to govern with the victors rights
And neath the show of righteous punishment
To extirpate our ancient freedoms charter.
Gertrud: You too are men, know how to wield your axe,
And God gives help unto courageous men!
Stauffacher: Oh wife! A fearful raging scourge is war,
It strikes at once the shepherd and his herd.
Gertrud: One must endure, whatever heaven sends,
Inequity endures no noble heart.
Stauffacher: This house delights thee, that we newly built,
But war, the monster, burns it to the ground.
Gertrud: Thought I my heart to tempral goods enslaved,
I'd throw the torch with mine own hand thereto.
Stauffacher: Thou dost believe in human kind! But war
Spares not the tender infant in its cradle.
Gertrud: The innocent in heaven have a friend!
Look forward, Werner, not behind thee now!
Stauffacher: We men can perish bravely sword in hand,
And yet what destiny will fall to you?
Gertrud: The final choice is left e'en to the weakest,
A spring from yonder bridge doth make me free.
Stauffacher: (falls into her arms)
Who presses such a heart unto his bosom,
He joyfully can fight for hearth and home,
And fears he not the hosts of any king
To Uri shall I post without delay,
There lives a friend of mine, Lord Walter Furst,
Who thinks the same as I about these times.
There too I find the noble Banneret
Of Attinghausalthough of lofty stock
He loves the people, honors ancient customs.
With both of these I shall confer, how one
May bravely fight against the countrys foes
Farewelland while I am away, bear thou
With prudent sense the regiment othhouse
To the pilgrim, wandering to the House of God,
To the pious monk, collecting for his cloister,
Give richly and dispatch him well cared for.
Stauffachers house is not concealed. It stands
Out by the public way, a welcome roof
For all the wanderers, who take this road.
Now, here you have it. This is Schillers idea of a potent woman. And, as you can see, it is this woman, who tells her husband to start to resist. And, here you have a typical example of a heroic woman, who is taking care of the Common Good first, and then, her family life, second. And, I think this is very important for women in general. Not only in general, but, also, the LaRouche Youth Movement and the role of women in politics. Because in America the role of women, normally, is not exactly elevated. The role of women, or the image of women, in the U.S. is much worse than in Europe. Because if you are a girl in the United States, you have to be attractive. You have to be skinny. You have to go on hunger-starvation diets, and you have to have at least, bulimia, three times in your life, to win your spurs. Basically, women are trained to be popular, sex objects.
It is really important to have a potent idea of womanhood, which can be in a positive sense. All of Schillers women are like that. If you look at Joan of Arc; if you look at Queen Elisabeth in Don Carlos; or Gertrud here, you always have this.
So, I think its a very important idea, because women, unfortunately, are many times the retarding element. You organize somebody and they are already enthusiastic to do something. Then, they talk to their wife, and the whole thing falls apart. I think you have noticed that this happens.
Tells Solemn Oath
To come back to this shooting scene of the apple: after which Tell decides that he has to get rid of the tyrant, because when later he goes home and his wife is completely upset, when she hears that he was risking the very life of his son, by doing this. Even so, he was very sure of his arm; he knew that he would be precise. But, when Tell makes a decision to kill this person, all by himself, then, Schiller writes in the play, the famous monologue, which is very moving, without which the whole piece does not really function.
There was a big debate when the play was written, and all the actors said, Oh, no, we must make it shorter. This is too long. Lets take out this monologue, and Schiller was absolutely emphatic to say that, without that particular self-reflection, where Tell, shortly before he commits the murder, is thinking out loud what motivates him, the whole play would not function. I want you to read this. But try to read it a little bit more slowly and more passionately.
Tell (enters with his crossbow):
He needs must come along this hollow lane,
There is no other way to KüssnachtHere
I'll do itThe opportunity is good.
I'm hidden from him by yon elder bush,
And down from there my shaft can reach to him,
The narrowness of the way prevents pursuit.
Now settle thine account with Heaven, Governor,
Thou must be gone, thy time hath run its course.
I lived a quiet, harmless lifeMy shaft
Was only aimed at forest animals,
My thoughts were absolutely free of murder
Thou hast aroused me from my peaceful state,
Into a seething dragons poison hast
Thou turned the milk of good disposition,
Thou hast accustomed me to monstrous things
Who took aim at the head of his own child,
Can just as well strike at the heart of the foe.
My wretched children, in their innocence,
My faithful wife must I protect before
Thy fury, GovernorSince, when I last drew
My bowstringwhen my hand was quivering
When thou with gruesome devilish delight
Madst me, take aim at the head of mine own child
When I writhed begging helplessly before thee,
'Twas then I took within my inner self
A fearful solemn oath, which only God
Did hear, that my next arrows foremost target
Would be thine heartThat which I pledged myself
Amid the hellish torment of that moment,
Is a most sacred debt, which I will pay.
Thou art my lord, my Emperors Governor,
And yet the Emperor would have neer allowed,
What thouHe sent thee here unto this land,
To render justicesternly, for hes wroth
Yet not, to practice each atrocity
With murderous joy and with impunity,
There lives a God, to punish and avenge.
Come thou here forth, thou bringer of bitter pain,
My precious jewel now, my highest treasure
A target I will give thee, that til now
Hath been impenetrable to pious prayers
And yet to thee it shall not give resistance
And thou, my trusted bowstring, that so oft
Hath served me faithfully I th joys of play,
Desert me not in this dread earnestness.
Only be firm this once, my faithful cord,
Which hath so oft bewinged my bitter shaft
Escaped it just now feebly from my hand,
I do not have a second one to send.
(Travelers pass over the stage.)
Upon this bench of stone I'll sit me down,
Afforded for the travellers brief repose
For here there is no homeEach presses past
The other hastily and distantly,
And questions not about his painHere goes
The apprehensive merchant and the lightly
Attired pilgrimthe attentive monk,
The somber robber and the cheerful player,
The driver with his heavy laden horse,
Who comes here from the distant lands of men,
For every road leads to the end of the world.
Each one of them goes forth upon his way
Concerned with his affairsand mine is murder!
Before when father travelled forth, dear children,
There was a joy, when he came back again,
For ne'er returned he, less he brought you something,
Was it a beauteous Alpine flower, was
It an unusual bird or ammonite,
Such as the traveller finds upon the hills
Now, he pursues another venery,
By the savage path he sits with thoughts of murder,
The life of the foe it is, for which he waits.
And yet he thinks alone of you, dear children,
Even nowto fend for you, your lovely innocence
To shield before the vengeance of the tyrant,
He now intends to bend his bow to murder!
I wait upon a noble beastLet not
The hunter be discouraged, days on end
To roam about amid the winters harshness,
To make the daring leap from rock to rock,
To climb the jagged slippery mountain walls,
To which his limbs are glued by his own blood,
In order to hunt down the wretched chamois.
A far more precious prize is here at stake,
The heart o th deadly foe, who would destroy me.
(Cheerful music is heard from a distance, then comes nearer )
Through my entire life have I employed
The bowbeen practiced in the rules of archery,
I've often hit the target in the black
And many beauteous prizes I've brought home
From joyous shootingBut today I mean
To make the master shot and win the best
Within the whole circumference of the mountains.
Well, here you have the exact opposite. Hes doing this for his children, and obviously, this is what Schiller contrasts: that salvation of an entire people occurs through the deed of one man. So, the deed of one great individual, but, that deed, nevertheless, serves the whole. Now, in all of Schillers plays, including in the William Tell, this only functions because Schiller assumes that there is such a thing as natural law, a divine order which unites the individual with the people, in a totality.
Schiller, in all of his works and also, in his theoretical writings, emphasizes again and again, the importance of the deed. The most beautiful ideas mean nothing without the deed, he says, being shaken by the greatest historical developments and revolutions, and enthusiasm for great ideas, this remains fruitless, if we don't act. And, act in the place where we are, and become serious about these ideas.
Now, this is again, a very important point because, don't you confront this the whole time in the organizing, where people say: You have great ideas, but where is the deed?? Which is the entire point of Schillers work. Schiller, obviously wrote this in 1804, which was the period when Napoleon was just raving through Europe, bringing war over Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and obviously the question of tyranny and foreign occupation was not an academic question. So, when Schiller wrote this play, from the standpoint of the right of the Swiss to fight the upheaval, to make an upheaval against the Austrian occupation, this had a very direct political significance for the situation with Napoleon. And it took only a few years, until the Prussian reformers, after the Battle of Jena and Auerstadt, where Prussia was divided into two halves, that allowed the Prussian court to call in the reformers to do the kind of reforms, including abolishing slavery, abolishing serfdom, and so forth. So, it was actually a very direct appeal by Schiller to do that.
In a certain sense, if you think about the political situation today, I think that every work, from the William Tell play, especially if you read it as a totality, is so absolutely actual, that it is, indeed, a source of inspiration for political action. I'm not saying that we should have the murder of the tyrant, but I'm saying that the right to rebel, the right to resist, is being strengthened by the people being exposed to these Classical writings.
The Demetrius Fragment
It has been, for a very long time, my view, that Schiller was the best psychologist ever, because he has an insight into the inner workings of the soul. And, about the time that he was dying, which was the beginning of 1805, he had started to write another play, which unfortunately, remains a fragment. But the monologue of one of the main heroines in the play Demetrius was lying on his desk. That was the last thing he did before he died. In a certain sense, he wanted to make with that play, an even more powerful play than William Tell, Wallenstein, or Don Carlos, before. And, I'm sure that it would have had the potential to be exactly that.
Now, the Demetrius fragment takes place in Russia and in Poland, at the time when Boris Godunov had assumed the throne, and the son of the previous Tsar had been murdered. Demetrius was groomed as an heir to the throne, and he, at a certain point, is in the Parliament in Poland in Gneizno, and because all of a sudden, an object is found, that he could only have had from his birth, he becomes convinced that he is the son of the Tsar, the previous Tsar, who was murdered some years ago, and in a sublime naivete, he believes he is the real Tsar of Russia. He has to go to Russia to establish his legitimacy to the Russian government.
There is a major scene in the beginning, which is already sketched out, where Demetrius, because he is so convinced that he is the real Tsar, wins over the hearts of people. And there is only one person, the Vicar of St. Petersburg, who recognizes that this whole thing is an intrigue, by certain Polish nobles, against the present Tsar. Later, at the height of his life and successes, Demetrius learns that the document and the object which supposedly proved his birthright, were falsifications, and that he, only through the instrument of the intrigue against the present Tsar, was becoming the Tsar.
At that point he has to decide whether he remedies this, and says, Look, I'm sorry. I was a victim of an intrigue; or, if he continues to pretend to be the real Tsar.
In the beginning, he has no ambition or hunger for power, which prevents him from saying the truth, but he then becomes convinced that he cannot give up, because too many people have connected their fate with him. He, truly feels responsibility for the Empire of Russia at that point. He says: These great people believe in me. Should I throw them into misfortune, into anarchy and take their faith away?
So, he continues on this path, but he is, from that moment, internally a broken man. He says: you have put a hole into the heart of my life. You have stolen the belief in myself. Courage and Hope, you are gone!
Basically what happens is, that a certain person, whom Schiller calls in the play, Mr. X, tells Demetrius the true origin of his birth: that he is the child of a servant, who got mixed up with the murdered son of the Tsar, and that hes really just a nobody. All of a sudden, he, who was convinced that he would go and save Russiait turns out that this was all based on an illusion, a lie, and in reality, he was only the puppet of an intrigue. But, then with that knowledge, he has to enter Moscow, and to meet the Tsarina, whom he just, until recently thought was his real mother, and who has to acknowledge that she recognizes him as the son. And he internally knows already, that she is not his mother, but he goes through the act of pretending that this be so.
And, Schiller writes in all his different notes, because these are all still sketches, at this moment, this moment is one of the greatest tragic situations, and if it is presented in the right way, it cannot fail to have the biggest effect.
Now, the Tsarina Marfa accepts him as her son. She has her own motives, because she has been put in exile by the present Tsar. Shes had to suffer a lot of injustices. Shes living in the wilderness of Russia, and she sees now, by accepting the person whom she knows is not her son, to come back into power and take revenge. So, she uses him.
But then, after this acknowledgement by his supposed mother, Demetrius goes on to Moscow. On the surface, nothing is there to really hamper this, but internally, there is a tremendous change of his character, a transformation. Because, now he thinks of himself as a cheat, and his previous self-confidence is replaced by mistrust and violence. And, later, when Marfa is asked to recognize him the second time as her son, she refuses. And, that decides his political demise.
Now, what is the subject of this play? Demetrius started to bring the legitimacy of power to the Russian Empire, and to bring about an order of justice, in which the ruler and the people are united under supranational treaty. And, here you have, again, this idea of natural law. For example, one line which he has written is: Und über jedem Hause, jedem Thron, schwebt der Vertrag, wie eines Cherubs wache. (Over each house, over each throne, there is the treaty, as if the cherubs, the archangels would be watching.)
The idea of the angels watching presupposes a just God, but out of what consists the legitimacy of Demetrius? For the victory of justice, he needs the power of a foreign army, and so, the son of Russia, nevertheless, comes as a foreign conqueror.
Now, for Schiller, the question of legitimacy of power was a very important one. When is a government legitimate? And, as you know, we have presently a government in the United States, where the legitimacy is not, exactly, a guaranteed question. So, when is a government legitimate? This is a very important question about all of Schillers work.
Schiller says, the unbroken, pure belief in a mission, even if its based on an irrational potency, even if it is a delusion, is legitimate. Now, obviously, as long as Demetrius believes that he is the Tsar, hes convincing. Hes carrying on the mission. But in the moment, and then, the Russians also believe him, but, in the moment when the person tells him that hes a normal person, a gigantic change occurs, and he, in the fragment, reacts with great silence.
In a similar way, Joanna, Joan of Arc, reacts with silence when her father says, You did all this liberation of France, only by witchcraft. And, then Joanna could say, Look I just saved the King of France. I just saved France. Be quiet. I have a mission from God, and everything would have been just fine. But, because she had this nagging doubt in her bosom, that she was somewhat deviating from her mission, which came from the fact that she broke her oath not to fall for the love an earthly man, Lionel, the last remaining British commander, that she feels guilty. So, when her father accuses her, shes silent.
And, then people fall over her, and they say, you're no good. Then the whole drama develops. But, it is this inner doubt which causes her to be quiet, in the same way Demetrius is quiet. And, then he assassinates the person X, as the only witness who can blow his secret. And, now, by doing that, by killing the one person who is knowledgeable about this situation, he gets involved in tragic guilt. And, this murder, according to Schiller, is already an act of Nemesis, because this person X was the real murderer of the real Demetrius. So, in the moment he tries to use this knowledge, Nemesis strikes, and he is murdered by the false Demetrius.
At that point, however, when Demetrius loads real guilt on himself, he falls apart internally, and he becomes a tyrant, an enemy of mankind. And he cannot return to his innocent state. He becomes tyrannical, because he has a bad conscience. And he starts to become paranoid, because he doubts himself and, therefore, he doesn't believe anybody else anymore. And now, theres blood and murder on his soul. Schiller says, Now, and he writes his own comments on how he continues to drag out this character, he says, Now, that hes started to morally go down, he must become more interesting, because you cannot lose the audience by saying, now hes such a bad guy. You have to make sure the audience feels the violence of the circumstances, the pathetic of the situation. Not in the sense of pathetic, the word we use today, but pathos: that one has to be in a turmoil, and tremble for him, and fear for him.
At that point, given the fact that this was a Classical play, a play written in the Classical period of Schiller, as I mentioned already, in the beginning, the young Schiller said: Oh, Man is greater than his destiny. All you need is the heroic will, and you always change the situation. And, the more Schiller did his historical studies, and developed his aesthetical laws, more and more, he came to the conclusion, that real life and real tragedy are much more complex, because, sometimes you are confronted with such enormous circumstances that are bigger than the individual. There is accident, something arbitrary, that nobody had planned. There are large and historic processes which sometimes just happen. This is the period where Schiller says, this is the moment where the individual has to be great, when destiny is smashing him.
So, Schiller, more and more comes to this question of traumatic circumstances. This is an example, where Demetrius, indeed, is thrown into a situation, ripped out of circumstances, because he did not choose to have, all of a sudden, that object, that would have proved that he was the son of the Tsar. That was also an arbitrary event in the intrigue, so to speak. And, then he gets into a condition of guilt and crime, and now, is in the grip of powers and influences, he does not entirely control.
What this play, more than any other, was supposed to be about was the question of Nemesis. That there is a higher law of vengeance, like in the ancient tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and so forth. That there is such a power, a real goddess of justice, that acts, a moral power in history.
Now, I think it is tremendously worthwhile to look at these questions, because that is exactly what Schiller wrote to study: How does a great character, how does a person on the stage of history, how do you deal with these things? Because these are not things which don't happen in real life. These are, actually all of Schillers plays are strategic studies of how to actually win the cause for mankind.
Now, in this same period, as I said, Schiller not only worked on these plays, but he wrote poems. He wrote aesthetical writings. He tried to develop universal, lasting laws of aesthetics, together with Goethe. And, he really was a true Artist. I want to basically encourage you to take Schillers standard, because he, Schiller, as you may have read in the poem The Artists, demanded nothing less than that the Artist, both the person who writes dramas, who writes poems, who writes other things, but, also, the person who performs it: When you act, you cannot just go on the stage and be your normal self, because at that moment you are doing Art. And, Schiller demands that the Artist purify himself before he dares to move the audience to the highest nobility of mankind. And, he was very rigorous. He didn't like dilettantism.
For example, he had a pupil when he was a history professor at Jena, a painter, who gave him some of his paintings. He liked the fact that he got these paintings because they were a gift of love to him, but he said, One still sees hes a dilettante. He plays too much with Art. And he hesitated to go on the painful road of perfection. He doesn't not lack imagination or Empfindung, feeling, inside, but thats not good enough. Schiller regarded this as the basic demand for the Artist.
Now, when he had to flee from Wurtemburg, and he had the generous help of his friends from Saxony, especially his friendship with [Christian Gottfried] Körner, but, also the two sisters and [Lektor] Huber, he at that point, with his friends made a mutual promise that they would renew the noble competition for the highest goal. And, he wrote, it was a silent handshake to remain faithful to the decision of the moment. To inspire each other, to encourage and challenge each other. To not stop until the limit is reached, where human greatness and potentialities end. That was the basis of their friendship. I think this is also a model.
What is friendship, other than encouraging, and challenging and giving the help and support to achieve the best, and vice versa? That must be the relationship among you guys. That you have a solemn oath, a solemn commitment to make sure that the other one is, indeed, fulfilling their best potential.
In another writing, The Critique of Burgers Poems, he lays out more specifically what is the demand of the Artist. He says: All the Artist can give us is his individuality. And, this must be worthy to be presented to the world and to posterity. Individuality has to be ennobled as much as possible. This is its first task.
Schiller, in that same writing, also, demands that an artist can only be worthy to be called an Artist, when he has an absolutely scientific knowledge about the effect of what he does on the audience. We cannot just go on the stage and, somehow, people are moved or not moved. Some laugh. Some cry. Others sleep. No! If you are an Artist, you have to have a scientific effect on what you do with the poetry, with the great Art on the minds of the people. And, he says, the way you accomplish that, is by, indeed, purifying yourself to express the ideal man, before you even start. You have to bein the moment you compose, you write, you performyou have to be an ideal human being.
Now, thats not a little challenge. That means you really have to think: What does that mean? If you are, at least for the moment when you perform or write, you have to be different than usual. You have to be more noble. You have to be elevated. You have to be sublime. You have to be a beautiful soul in that moment, at least.
And then, the subject that you deal with has to be a universal subject. In otherwords, when you say, pudding, pudding has a different meaning for everybody. So, its not a universal subject, because its subject to taste and all kinds of things. But, if you talk about Truth, Friendship, or other ideas which are universal to all human beings, then, this is a potential subject for poetry.
Then Schiller, also, demanded, when the question of genius came up, he said the most important thing is industriousness, because, that is not only what provides the means of life, but it also gives its soul value. This is the same answer Lyn gave me, when I asked him where his genius comes from. He said, its industriousness. I'm working hard, and thats since many decades. So, if you want to know how to get at these things, its a lot of work.
As I said, Schiller was working throughout his life, but especially in the ten years of collaboration with Goethe, on the aesthetical laws that would be eternal. Obviously, this goes completely against the taste of the timethe Zeitgeist, popular opinionthat a law of Art could be eternal, and that something which had been worked out 200 years ago, should be valid for Art and artistic questions today. Art is not pop art. Art is not graffiti. Art is none of these things. As a matter of fact, from Schillers standpoint, only those things which fulfill these [aesthetical] criteria can be called Art. He says, the laws of Art are not located in the change and reforms of an arbitrary, and often totally degenerated taste of time, but in the necessary and eternal of human nature, in the fundamental laws of life itself.
Obviously, this all occurred in the controversy with [Immanuel] Kant, because Kant had written the Critiques. In the Critique of Judgment, Kant says taste is arbitrary. You can have Reason, thats okay, for everybody, but taste and artisitic questions is completely different for everybody. They are subject to opinion. Schiller got extremely infuriated, and if you read books about Schiller, some of them say that Schiller was a Kantian. Now, nothing is more wronge and more stupid than that!
Because by the same token, you can say Lyn is a Marxist, or Lyn is a free-market economy follower, simply because he attacks what are the flaws of Karl Marx, what are the flaws in the free-market economy. Naturally, you have to pick the subject they are talking about, but you have to refute it. You have to destroy it, and put it on a different level. And thats exactly what Schiller did with the aesthetical question, and he said, if you have the appearance of Nature, a very beautiful occurrence in Nature, why does the mind find that beautiful? Well, because the mind discovers an affinity of the perfection you find in Nature, with its own workings. And, this affinity consists of the fact that both Nature and Mind are determined entirely by themselves.
Now, this is also, extremely important: The inner-directedness, the inner-self-subsisting force, which Schiller, who was called the Poet of Freedom, because he did not like any force, even on morality. Which is why he rejected Kants categorical imperative, when Kant said, You have to do your duty. You should not do to others what you don't want others to do to you. Schiller completely abhorred this, and said, This is not for the beautiful soul, who lead a much higher standard.
And, therefore, Schiller said, the inner decision to do what is necessary with passion: This is Freedom! This is Freedom and Necessity! Passion and duty must be the same thing!
And, that is beautiful!
In the same way, what is inner-directed, what comes to its true nature, its true inner laws, is beautiful in Art. Its the Beautiful in poetry and drama in general. So, Beauty, he differentiates. On the one side, you have architectural beauty. Theres nothing wrong with that. You have beautiful people, who have just good looks, but he says this does not mean anything, its not their contribution. They're just born this way, but that doesn't mean a thing. And then he says: That form of beauty where you see the work of the mind involved, that he calls Grace. And, that is, obviously, a much higher form of Beauty.
Now, I just wanted to open the discussion to ask, to encourage you to ask me about my any question you may have about Schiller, because, its like with Beethoven. I'm absolutely convinced that, from the standpoint of Classical music, there has been nobody else as great as Beethoven, especially if you look at the Ninth Symphony or the Late String Quartets: that has reached a degree of mastery which is unmatched. And, as much as I love Schubert and some others, you know, I think Beethoven is simply the greatest from that standpoint, and I would absolutely, emphatically say that, also, about Schiller. There has been, in my view, and I don't want to enter now the Shakespeare-Schiller debate, who is the better. I'll just leave it to that. I think Schiller has the advantage that he is younger to us, that hes simply a couple of centuries later. But, I want to leave it at what his friend Körner wrote to him when he was still in Mannheim as a refugee. Körner said: Whatever the great Shakespeare has not exhausted, from the standpoint of the great issues of history and characters, is left for the brush of Schiller.
I think that the works of Schiller are so powerfulI think they do more for the moral improvement of people, than anything else I know. But, obviously, we have to, eventually, make a new Renaissance. And that means that we have to write new plays. That is a very big challenge. As I probably told you already once, I have been thinking about what subjects would Schiller take today? Now, here is the problem. We are on the stage of history. Lyn is the greatest single determining factor. How would you compose a tragedy or drama which would be bigger than real life? Because thats what Schiller demanded the play must be. So, given the fact that I'm always confronted with Lyn, I haven't come up with something bigger than Lyn, yet. So, I'm a little bit blocked on this matter.
But, eventually we will have to do new plays, because, as you probably have realized through the drama work, you can put across the most powerful philosophical, historical, political ideas much better when they is in the form of a great play, than if you simply write about it or speak about it. And, that is naturally a challenge, but, its like with Beethoven. You cannot do what the modernists did: to throw polyphonic composition out the window, to go to 12-tone music or atonal music.
You have to go through the most advanced one, which is, that if any of you aspire to become a new playwright, a new poet, I don't think you can really do it without going through the Greek tragedians, to go through Shakespeare, and to go through Schiller. And that requires that you read and study all of his plays.