BECK index

Lessing, Kant, Goethe and Schiller

by Sanderson Beck

Mendelssohn’s Jewish Enlightenment
Lessing and His Philosophy
Lessing’s Plays
Kant’s Moral Philosophy
Lichtenberg’s Aphorisms and Herder’s Ideas
Goethe’s Life to 1788 and Young Werther
Goethe’s Early Plays
Schiller’s Robbers and Fiesco
Schiller’s Intrigue and Love and Don Carlos

Mendelssohn’s Jewish Enlightenment

Spinoza’s Life and Early Work
Spinoza’s Ethics
Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

      Moses Mendelssohn was born on September 6, 1729 in Dessau. His father Mendel Dessau was a scribe of Torah scrolls. Moses suffered from a curved spine that gave him a hunchback. He read the Bible, theTalmud, and Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides, and he would later be called the “third Moses.” In addition to Hebrew he also learned Latin, Greek, English, and French. He moved to Berlin in 1743 and studied the Talmud with Rabbi David Fraenkel as well as mathematics, Latin, and the philosophies of Locke, Leibniz, and Christian Wolff. Mendelssohn was self-educated and never attended a university or an academic lecture. In 1750 he began tutoring the children of the silk manufacturer Isaac Bernhard who employed him as his bookkeeper in 1754.
      That year Mendelssohn met Gotthold Ephraim Lessing who urged him to translate Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality and helped him get his Philosophical Dialogues published anonymously in 1755, the year Mendelssohn wrote his “Letters on Sensations.” He attempted to reconcile the philosophies of Leibniz and Wolff with that of Spinoza. In 1763 his “Essay on Evidence in Metaphysical Science” won the prize in a literary contest sponsored by the Prussian Academy of Arts. He agreed with Locke, Shaftesbury, and Leibniz that eternal truths based on reason can be distinguished from temporal or historical truths based on facts. He contended that the first principles of ethics can be demonstrated with as much certainty as mathematical truths, and he agreed with Wolff’s quest for perfection.
      Mendelssohn analyzed the perception of beauty and developed a theory of mental faculties that included the feeling of approval. He argued that human perfection comes from “purified understanding, an honest heart, and a fine and tender feeling for true beauty or in the harmony between the lower and higher powers of the soul.”1 He also recommended “a wholesome enthusiasm for virtue,” and he considered natural liberty a large part of human happiness. Only a free person can achieve moral perfection. Struggle, sacrifice, and overcoming oneself lead to moral virtue. He believed in God’s justice, and the purpose of divine punishment is to benefit and educate.

He punishes or chastises the sinner for his own good.
In the divine economy any sinner’s punishment is rescinded
as soon as it is no longer needed as a remedial means
to put him on the road to eternal salvation.2

Mendelssohn held that religion must be voluntary and that liberty of conscience is essential. He argued that churches have no right to compel their members to believe or act in any particular way because human convictions cannot be coerced. He opposed the state trying to coerce beliefs. He included atheists among those who should benefit from tolerance even though he felt their opinions could do harm. He believed that censorship is more harmful than unrestricted liberty.
      Mendelssohn’s most popular work was Phaedo, or on the Immortality of the Soul, and he was called the “German Socrates.” He argued that death is not annihilation because being cannot be converted into nonbeing, and the goodness of God has given humans the idea that the soul is immortal. If the soul were mortal, then human reason would be only a dream. Assuming that the body’s death ends the person destroys belief in God and is offensive to reason. The soul is always pursuing truth, goodness, and beauty. Because every act of will has a cause or a motive shows that human freedom is autonomous and self-caused. Immortality of the soul gives hope that sinners can be perfected in a future life, and this enables wrongs to be corrected. The goodness of God creates divine justice and does not exclude souls from the bliss of eternal life. Human destiny is to perpetually become more perfect and attain eternal bliss. Virtue using reason enables one to depreciate the tangible and physical in order to appreciate the intangible and spiritual. Controlling our emotions rationally is stoicism. He asked what causes wars, rebellion, strife, and disunity among people if not the body and its insatiable appetites? When the soul leaves the body at death, it is less impeded in its progress toward wisdom. Thus true lovers of wisdom learn how to die by ignoring the senses in order to explore the soul, and the true philosopher welcomes death. Everything good, beautiful, and perfect comes from omnipotent God.
      Mendelssohn agreed with Moses ben Nahman (1194-1270) who opposed the theory of retributive justice and denied that the soul is destroyed and that punishment is everlasting. When asked which religion he thought would best teach the most perfect conduct, Mendelssohn replied that the most tolerant embraces all humanity with equal love; but nothing makes one more narrow-minded than a religion that excludes some people.
      In August 1769 the Swiss theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater had published his translation of Christian Evidences by Charles Bonnet with a letter of dedication to Moses Mendelssohn challenging him to refute publicly the “essential arguments” supporting the facts of Christianity that he found to be incorrect as “Socrates would have done if he had read the book.” In 1771 Lavater challenged Mendelssohn to refute Bonnet’s arguments or become a Christian. Mendelssohn did not like religious controversy and became ill. He noted that Jesus never asked to be worshipped as equal to the Father or as a person of the godhead nor did he want to abolish the religion of his fathers. Mendelssohn confirmed his Judaism and translated the Psalms into German in 1774. In 1775 he asked Lavater to help rescind a ban by two Swiss villages denying Jews the right to marry.
      In 1777 Dresden was going to expel hundreds of Jews, but Mendelssohn’s friend, who was a leading official in Saxony, got the edict withdrawn. That year Jews in Königsberg asked him to refute the charge that Jewish prayers in the Aleinu were anti-Christian, and Mendelssohn’s written argument led to the royal order being rescinded. The Chief Rabbi of Berlin asked him for a German summary of Jewish laws on marriage, wills, and inheritance for the Royal Ministry of Justice, and he wrote a new oath for the courts to replace the medieval Yiddish version he found offensive.
      Mendelssohn urged Jews to use German and Hebrew instead of Yiddish, and he participated in a project to translate the Torah into German and print it in Hebrew letters so that more Jews would learn from this sacred writing. In 1778 he wrote Healing Leaves (Alim Literufah) to promote subscriptions, and Genesis was published in 1780. He encouraged Naphtali Herz Wessely and others to start the Hebrew journal, The Gatherer (Ha-Meassef). Jews in Alsace appealed to Mendelssohn, and his friend Christian Wilhelm von Dohm wrote “On the Civil Improvement of the Jews” in 1781. However, Mendelssohn opposed the synagogue excommunicating members, and in his preface to his translation of Vindication of the Jews by Menasseh Ben Israel (1604-57) he repudiated that idea. He also believed that Jews were qualified for citizenship. Jews were blamed for not doing manual labor, and Mendelssohn wrote,

People continue to keep us away from every contact
with the arts and sciences
or from engaging in useful trades and occupations.
They bar all roads leading to increased usefulness and then
use our lack of culture to justify our continued oppression.
They tie our hands and then reproach us for not using them.3

In 1782 he wrote in a letter,

Let every man live in accordance
with his beliefs and convictions,
and love his neighbor as he loves himself.
To worship God and do good unto man
are the purpose and goal of our existence;
they represent our destiny in this life
and our hope for the next.
All else is insignificant.4

      In 1783 Mendelssohn published Jerusalem, or on Religious Power and Judaism on the relationship between religion and government, a work that was praised by Immanuel Kant. Although he believed that the state should govern by morals and persuasion, he felt that laws do not alter beliefs. Arbitrary punishments or rewards do not improve morals because fear and hope are no basis for truth. Only knowledge and reason can bring forth principles. Religion may assist the state and support civil happiness by convincing people of the truth and showing them the duties to people and to God and that transgression results in misery. He held that serving one’s country is true religion and that God commands justice and charity. Teaching these things is the duty of religion. Yet the state can institute compulsory laws to punish crime and reward virtue. Those people who commit injustice and fraud need to be corrected. Mendelssohn was one of the first to advocate separation of church and state. The state makes and enforces laws regarding behavior, but it cannot and should not try to control beliefs and ideas. The state is responsible for enforcing external peace and security. Religion should not try to use coercion but can help by teaching and comforting with love and benevolence. Civil society has compulsory power because of the social contract. Neither the state nor religion can make anyone think or believe certain things. The state should not try to make any immutable truth a law, though wise laws can regulate human conduct. He pleaded,

Let everyone who does not disturb public happiness,
who is obedient to the civil government,
who acts righteously toward you,
and toward his fellow-countrymen,
be allowed to speak as he thinks,
to pray to God after his own fashion,
or after that of his forefathers,
and to seek eternal salvation where he thinks he may find it.5

Mendelssohn believed that Judaism revealed laws and is concerned with actions more than beliefs. The eternal truths come from universal religion and reason. God is an eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient being who rewards souls in a future life according to their actions. Religions may claim miracles, but no miracle proves the truth of any religion if it cannot be verified by reason. He noted that Faustus Socinus (1539-1604) argued that God reveals laws but not metaphysical truths.
      Mendelssohn wrote letters to his oldest son and published them as Morning Hours or Lectures about God’s Existence in 1785. He argued that a Supreme Being is an a priori idea that precedes and transcends experience which enables us to understand what is real. God as the absolute and perfect being must exist, and this is confirmed by the lawful nature of the universe. He expressed his view that all the goods of this life are contemptible without God, providence, and immortality, and he felt pity for those who do not expect a future life and fall into despair. In his essay “The Soul” he agreed with Maimonides that acts which seem to be evil are in reality good when seen in the “totality of creation.” He became involved in the pantheist controversy regarding the views of Spinoza and Lessing. Mendelssohn wrote “To Lessing’s Friends,” and soon after mailing the manuscript he died on January 4, 1786.

Lessing and His Philosophy

      Consequences of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and other wars and the lack of a great city like Paris or London delayed German culture from developing a lively literature and theater. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and other Germans were beginning to dominate music with the exception of opera that was developed mostly by Italians. He presented his Brandenburg Concertos in 1721. J. S. Bach composed cantatas and the St. John Passion in 1724 and the St. Matthew Passion in 1727 in Leipzig. His Mass was presented at Dresden in 1733, but the Mass in B Minor was not performed during his lifetime. His Goldberg Variations for the harpsichord were published in 1741. During his life Bach was best known for his organ compositions, and he completed his Art of the Fugue in 1750.

      Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was born on January 22, 1729 at Kamenz in Saxony. His father was a Lutheran pastor, and his mother’s father was the pastor his father succeeded. His father knew several languages and probably taught his son French and English. He attended a Latin school at Kamenz and then in 1741 the Saxon State Gymnasium Saint Afra in Meissen where Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and French were studied. Worship, prayers, and Bible class took up 25 hours a week. He translated Euclid and enjoyed reading Theophrastus, Plautus, and Terence. On December 15, 1745 Lessing and other students witnessed from a height the fires in the battle of Kesselsdorf.
      In September 1746 Lessing entered the University of Leipzig. His parents persuaded him to study theology, but he preferred medicine, philosophy, and philology. In December 1748 Lessing moved to Berlin and worked as a journalist for the liberal Vossische Zeitung. He was influenced by the skepticism of Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Critical Dictionary. About 1749 he wrote the drama, The Free Spirit in which a clergyman debated a freethinker. In a letter to his father Lessing noted that many Christians accept the religion of their parents, and their conduct shows what kind of Christians they are. Then he wrote,

So long as I fail to see one of the chief precepts of Christianity,
love thine enemy, better observed,
so long shall I doubt whether these are really Christians
who give themselves out for such.6

Lessing believed that doing well is more important than belief. What makes the world peaceful and happy is not agreeing in beliefs but agreement in virtuous actions. He valued Socrates, who taught people to look within themselves, over Plato who dreamed and Aristotle who syllogized and filled the head leaving the heart empty.
      In 1750 Lessing met Voltaire in Berlin and became his translator. Voltaire tried to take advantage of Friedrich II’s article promising to redeem Saxon paper money called “tax-receipts” at full value by Saxony, but he prohibited their acceptance in Prussia. Voltaire became involved with the Jewish banker, Abraham Hirsch, who went to Dresden to purchase them with cash from Voltaire who then had the bills protested in Paris. In the quarrel Voltaire became the plaintiff, and Hirsch accused Voltaire of fraud. Voltaire lost a thousand thalers and the respect of Friedrich who satirized him in his comedy, Tantalus at Law. Lessing also suffered from that contempt but did not criticize Voltaire until many years had passed. Voltaire was later charged with a similar offense in Frankfurt. Lessing irritated Voltaire by borrowing his unpublished Age of Louis XIV even though he returned it. He translated some of Voltaire’s historical books into German in 1751.
      That year Lessing also edited the Berlin Journal. In December he went to Wittenberg where he studied Luther and the Reformation. He read the epigrams of Martial and developed his satirical style. He admired and defended Horace. He was recognized as a master of the liberal arts in April 1752 and returned to Berlin and wrote critical articles for a newspaper. That year he wrote the Vindication of Hieronymus Cardanus to defend him against the charge of atheism because he had not rejected other religions. Lessing believed that anything beyond knowing God and practicing virtue in Christianity is unnecessary. He noted how passion and revenge could degrade even the honest and saintly Luther. He was willing to examine philosophically not only Lutheranism but also Christianity as a whole. He began translating Calderon’s Life Is a Dream and novels by Cervantes and also French and English literary works. In 1753 Lessing wrote the short “Christianity of Reason” in which he concluded, “Act according to your individual perfections” because they make us moral beings who can follow a law. He believed that virtue is based on knowledge, and thus the primary ethical task is to develop clear understanding. For Lessing humans are created for action and not for speculation. Yet he believed in the pantheism that God is in everything; but he went beyond that to what was later called “panentheism” because he believed that everything is in the mind of God who also transcends creation as the Creator.
      Lessing published extractions from the Italian works of Giordano Bruno and Tommaso Campanella with his annotations. He became friends with Moses Mendelssohn, and Lessing’s The Jews, a witty romantic comedy, was published in 1754 to support Jewish civil rights. In his commentary he wrote that his purpose was “to show the foolishness and unjustness of the hatred and contempt with which we usually treat the Jews.”7 Lessing and Mendelssohn became life-long friends with the younger Christoph Friedrich Nicolai, a writer who was the first to criticize the literary rules expounded by Johann Christoph Gottsched. In 1755 Lessing and Mendelssohn collaborated on the essay “On Pope as a Metaphysician.” Lessing was influenced by Mendelssohn’s theory of feelings, and in 1756 he translated Hutcheson’s System of Moral Philosophy. In 1757 Nicolai and Mendelssohn began publishing the Library of Polite Letters and Liberal Arts. Lessing agreed with Spinoza’s philosophy and influenced Mendelssohn’s “Philosophical Letters.” In 1759 and 1760 the three Germans also collaborated on Letters on the Newest Literature which affected German journalism.
      In November 1760 Lessing arrived in Breslau and was hired by General von Tauentzien as his secretary during the Seven Years’ War. Without corruption Lessing lived on his salary and spent his money expanding his library. He studied the early Christian church, and about 1763 he wrote Concerning the Manner of the Propagation and Dissemination of the Christian Religion in which he explained how and why Christianity spread and what obstacles it had to overcome. Yet in his Thoughts on the Moravians he made it clear that he agreed with deists such as Matthew Tindal and Hermann Reimarus that the true worship of God needs no dogma and no ceremonies. Lessing returned to Berlin in May 1765, and by 1767 he had completed his masterpiece on German literature Laocoön and his play Minna von Barnhelm.
      Lessing’s Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry compares the arts of painting and sculpture to poetry and drama starting with the ancient Greek sculpture of Laocoön and his two sons. Lessing began by noting three things. The amateur realizes that painting and poetry present the appearance of something that is absent as a pleasing deception. The philosopher observes the beauty which produces the pleasure through forms, actions, and thoughts and its general rules. The critic evaluates the work by applying the rules discovered by the philosopher. Lessing found that new criticism asks each of the arts to do the work of the other. Thus poetry becomes more descriptive, and art more allegorical.
      The myth probably depicted in Sophocles’ lost tragedy is that Laocoön was a priest of Apollo who punished him by sending serpents to kill his two sons for his having violated a vow of celibacy by marrying. In Virgil’s Aeneid Laocoön is a Trojan priest who warns his country not to accept the large horse offered by the Greeks. In this version Poseidon sends the serpents who attack Laocoön and his sons, and that is depicted in the famous sculpture. Lessing noted the observation of Longinus that Homer raised his heroes above Nature; but they still suffer, and he lowered the gods to be more like humans. Lessing compared the suffering of Laocoön to the hero in Sophocles’Philoctetesand Heracles in Women of Trachis. They suffer too because, as Lessing noted, stoicism in not as theatrical as what arouses pity.
      Love motivates artists to produce beauty which became the ideal of Greek sculpture, but modern artists like to depict the ugly too to show their skill. The soul desires knowledge and thus seeks the truth, but the purpose of the arts is to stimulate pleasure. Thus for Lessing beauty is the first law of art, though moderns want to describe all of Nature. Aristotle noted that humans are curious. Painting and sculpture are silent, but Virgil’s Laocoön shrieks as does Philoctetes. The spectator admires the execution of artists, but the poet needs more invention. Painting and sculpture exist in space, but time is frozen. By depicting actions in time poetry and drama can better describe morality and its consequences. Some criticized Lessing for attacking the erudite art historian Winckelmann, but others commended Lessing for his integrity in both praising and criticizing Winckelmann. Lessing’s goal was to understand human nature, and dramatic art can greatly aid this.
      1778 Lessing wrote “Axioms” in response to an article by Pastor Goeze of Hamburg. Lessing’s main points are:

1. The Bible obviously contains more than what pertains to religion.
2. It is merely a hypothesis that the Bible must be equally infallible in this additional respect.
3. The letter is not the spirit, and the Bible is not religion.
4. Consequently objections to the letter, and to the Bible
need not also be objections to the spirit and to religion.
5. Religion also existed before there was a Bible.8

He also believed that religion is not true because of what the evangelists taught; but they taught it because it is true. Finally, the scriptures and traditions must be interpreted by the inner truth of religion.
      Lessing’s “Ernst and Falk Conversations for the Freemasons” was written in 1778 and 1780 and mentions that Basedow’s Philanthropic Educational Institute was supported by Freemasons. Falk assures Ernst that the true deeds of the Freemasons are secret because they believe that truths are better left unsaid. Falk asks Ernst to assume that the best form of government has been created and that all the people in the world are living under it. Ernst replies that one gigantic state would have to be divided into smaller states but that all could be governed by the same laws. Falk wishes that there will be men in every state who will not be bound by the prejudices of religions into which they had been born because they can recognize what is good and true. Also Falk hopes that in every state will be men who are not blinded by social difference so that those of high estate will reach out to those below, and a person of low estate may be raised up. Falk asks if the Freemasons could reduce those divisions and bring people closer together. Ernst envisions that Freemasons could voluntarily work to remedy the evils of the state. Falk assures him that the Order of the Freemasons accepts every worthy man regardless of nation, religion, or social standing. After these conversations Ernst becomes a Freemason. In the fifth conversation Falk says he heard a man who is fighting for America in Europe and that the Congress is founding the empire of the Freemasons there. Falk notes that the name “Freemason” was never heard nor printed before the beginning of the 18th century.
      In 1780 Lessing wrote “The Education of the Human Race” in 100 paragraphs which begins by declaring that education is revelation coming to the individual, and revelation is education for the human race. Education does not give a person anything which one could not learn oneself, but it does so in a quicker and easier way. Revelation likewise gives the human race what human reason can arrive at on its own. A strong proof of the immortality of the soul and a future life comes from the unequal distribution of material rewards in this life which does not depend on virtue and vice. Some have been persuaded that the pious must be happy and that those who are unhappy are bearing the penalty of wrongdoing which can be removed by abandoning the sin. Revelation can guide reason, and reason gives clarity to revelation. The human heart is capable of loving virtue for its eternally blessed consequences. Education is the goal of the human race as well as of the individual. Perfection comes when the individual does what is right because it is right and not because of rewards or punishments. The individual and the race travel the same path toward perfection. Lessing asks why should not every individual have been present in the world more than once so that one may acquire new knowledge and skills.
      Also in 1780 Lessing wrote the fragment, “The Religion of Christ” in which he distinguished the religion of Jesus the Christ from the Christian religion. He described the religion of Christ as what Jesus himself practiced and recognized which any human can share with him. The Christian religion claims that he was more than human, making him as the Christ an object of worship. Lessing did not believe that the same person could believe in both these religions. The religion of Christ is found in the Gospels, but he considered the Christian religion “so uncertain and ambiguous” that two individuals cannot agree on “a single passage.” In another fragment, “More than five senses are possible,” published by his brother Karl after Lessing’s death, he wrote,

This system of mine is surely
the oldest of all philosophical systems.
For it is in fact none other than the system
of the soul’s pre-existence and of metempsychosis,
which not only Pythagoras and Plato,
but the Egyptians and Chaldeans and Persians—in short,
all the wise men of the East—thought of before them.9

Lessing’s Plays

      Lessing would be the first to improve German theater. After meeting the famous actress, Friederike Caroline Neuber, who led a company, in 1747 Lessing wrote the one-act comedy Damon about friendship which Mylius published in a periodical. In 1748 Neuber produced his three-act comedy, The Young Scholar, which was a satire about the only kind of fool he knew from experience, and it was successful enough to be performed in Vienna and Hanover. The freethinker Adrast believes that all clergy are hypocrites, but the pious Theophan shows that he is honorable and tolerant so that Adrast can mend his views. This play pleased Lessing’s father. In Lessing’s The Misogynist a father shows his hatred of women by refusing to let his son Valerius marry beautiful Hilaria who disguises herself as her brother Lelio and charms the father. Lessing also wrote The Old Maid about silly women and The Treasure influenced by Plautus. His unfinished tragedy Henzi published in 1749 accurately portrayed Samuel Henzi who was beheaded for conspiracy by aristocrats at Bern in 1749. Lessing helped translate French plays by Marivaux and Reignard, and he became friends with the talented free-thinker, Christlieb Mylius, which threw his parents into despair. His father sardonically called him the “German Molière,” and the son liked the idea.                    
      Lessing liked English plays, and was influenced by George Lillo’s Merchant of London and by Richardson’s novel Clarissa. His tragedy Miss Sara Sampson opened in Frankfurt on July 10, 1755. He wrote in prose about family relations that people experienced, and this play brought him national recognition and was translated into French. Mellefont has squandered his property with rakes and loose women but falls in love with William Sampson’s daughter Sara and elopes with her, though after living ten years with a beautiful widow Mrs. Marwood he fears marriage. Marwood is jealous and angry because he put her daughter Arabella in a boarding school. She gets Arabella and helps Sampson pursue his daughter. Marwood tries to win back Mellefont and threatens him. He lets her see Sara disguised as his relative; but they fail to trick her, and she plots revenge. Marwood poisons Sara and escapes with Arabella. Mellefont in despair stabs himself and falls on Sara’s body.
      When Wieland’s tragedy about Lady Jane Grey was presented in 1759, Lessing exposed it as a plagiarism of Nicholas Rowe’s 1715 tragedy. In 1759 Lessing wrote the tragedy Philotas about a general who conspired against Alexander and was executed in 330 BC. He also took up the story of Dr. Faust; but his manuscript was lost while he was traveling in Italy.
      Lessing left Berlin in April 1767, joined the new Hamburg National Theater, and began writing his Hamburg Dramaturgy which challenged Aristotle’s dramatic unities of time, place, and action. The theater closed after two years along with the publishing company he had started with a friend. However, his romantic comedy, Minna von Barnhelm, opened on September 30, 1767 and became a very popular German comedy praised by Goethe.
      Major von Tellheim, discharged after the war in 1763, is suffering from financial problems and has been moved out of his room with his servant Just to make room for two women. He has exchanged rings with the beautiful and wealthy Minna von Barnhelm who is in love with him and has come to find him. Yet Tellheim has 500 louis-s-d’or he is keeping safe for someone, and his Sergeant-Major Paul Werner has 100 pistoles for him until he gets the pay he is owed. Also a widow wants to pay back a debt her husband owed him; but he does not want to rob the orphan of his schooling, and he tears up the note. Just shows the Major a list of all the bills and debts he has not paid. Tellheim dismisses Just because he cannot pay him, but the servant decides to stay with him because of Tellheim’s disabled arm from a wound.
      Sergeant Werner arrives and wants to go fight the Turks in Persia, and he gives Just 100 ducats for the Major. Minna in a negligée tells her servant Francisca why she loves Tellheim, but she complains that he only wrote her once since the peace. Tellheim has had Just pawn the ring Minna gave him with the landlord, and he shows the diamond ring to Minna who recognizes it. She learns that Tellheim is there, and she redeems the ring. Just tells Francisca that he and Tellheim are moving out. Minna wants to see him in her nightgown. He asks what she is looking for, and she says she has found what she wants. He affirms that he could not love another after her, but he says the unfortunate must not love. He admits he loves her, and she says she dreams he is her happiness. Yet he says he is wounded in honor, a cripple, and a beggar. She still wants him, but he is upset and goes out.
      Just gives Francesca a note to give to Minna. Werner shows Francisca the money that he has for the major who refuses to accept the cash. Werner has sold his farm and begs him to take it and pay it back when his claim is settled. Tellheim tells him that Minna is rich. Francisca returns the letter to Tellheim and says Minna did not read it, though he notices it was opened. Minna wants to see the town with him and hear his apology. Francisca notices that he probably slept outside last night. Minna and Francisca discuss what he wrote in the letter, and Minna devises a scheme to win him over by pretending she lost her fortune. She meets the gambler Lt. Riccaut and invests in his bank. Minna gives her ring to Francisca and gets from her the Major’s ring. Minna tells Tellheim that anticipating pleasure is a pleasure itself. He learns that her uncle Count von Bruchsall has arrived. She asks Tellheim what he wrote in the letter, and they debate the issues of money and honor. To her he seems healthy, not crippled. He feels she is laughing at him, but she says that laughter keeps one saner than anger. She says they can live on what her uncle is bringing her. She admits she read his letter and says his noble action of loaning money in the war was not a crime. He says it was called a bribe and that his honor was impugned. She replies that Providence always holds the honorable blameless. She is resolved to love him. He says she deserves a husband without reproach. She hands him the ring and ends the engagement and goes out.
      Francisca tells Tellheim that Minna sacrificed herself for him and lost her inheritance because the Count would not approve her marrying him. Tellheim asks Werner for the money. Werner says the Treasury is paying him back and gives him 100 gold louis and 100 ducats. Tellheim says he needs more so that he can wed Minna, and they both agree to serve in the army again. Tellheim asks for Minna’s pardon and tries to give back her ring; but she has the other ring. A courier brings a letter for Tellheim from Friedrich of Prussia ordering his repayment. Tellheim offers to serve Minna, but she urges him to serve his King also. She says that equality is the firm bond of love and stops him from tearing up the royal letter. Tellheim learns the rings were switched. Werner has 1,000 pistoles to give him, but Tellheim won’t take it. Finally Minna and Tellheim embrace, and she explains that she invented her disinheritance. They laugh at how they tormented each other, and she welcomes the Count as her father. Werner will not pick up his money, and Tellheim offers to be his treasurer. Francisca tells Sergeant Werner that she will be his wife. Thus the concerns of finances and honor have been worked out.

      In May 1770 Lessing became the ducal librarian at Wolfenbüttel. His tragedy Emilia Galotti modernized the plot of Virginia from Livy’s History of Rome and had its premiere in Brunswick on March 8, 1772. Prince Hettore Gonzaga of Guastalla declines to read a letter from Countess Orsina because he has tired of her. The painter Conti brings him a portrait of Orsina but also one of beautiful Emilia Galotti, and the Prince offers to pay him as much as he wants. The Prince tells his Chamberlain Marinelli that his heart has been sacrificed to his impending marriage to the Princess of Massa. Marinelli tells him that Count Appiani is going to wed Emilia Galotti today. The Prince is shocked and says he loves and adores her. The Prince tells an advisor that he is ready to sign a death sentence “with pleasure.”
      Emilia tells her mother Claudia how at church the Prince spoke of his love for her, and she fled pursued by him. Emilia wants to tell the Count, but her mother advises her against that. Count Appiani is planning to inform the Prince of his marriage. Marinelli arrives and tells Appiani that the Prince has ordered him to go on an urgent matter right away. Appiani declines and says he is not a slave. He insults Marinelli who demands satisfaction. Marinelli tells the Prince that Appiani declined the honor, but they scheduled the duel. Marinelli tells how a girl could be abducted, and the Prince asks for action. Marinelli says Emilia was seized. Angelo reports to Marinelli who pays him and learns that Appiani defended Emilia and was wounded and will die. Emilia asks Marinelli if her fiancé was shot, and she asks the Prince where her mother is. The Prince admits she has power over him. Claudia asks where her daughter is and says the Count died after saying Marinelli’s name in a bitter tone. She accuses him of being a procurer and hears Emilia calling her.
      Marinelli tells the Prince that the Count began the violence by killing one of the abductors. The Prince accepts that it was an accident; but he is afraid that people will blame him unless he renounces his interest in Emilia. Countess Orsina demands to see the Prince, but Marinelli says that he will not speak to her. The Prince is listening, and after her tirade he comes forward and tells her he is busy. When Marinelli mentions Appiani, the Countess realizes what is happening and suspects his bride is pretty. She believes Marinelli is part of it and screams that the Prince murdered Appiani. As she is leaving, she meets Odoardo Galotti who has come to see his wife and daughter Emilia. Orsina insists that Marinelli announce Odoardo, and she tells Odoardo that Appiani is dead and that his bride is worse than dead. She says the Prince spoke to Emilia at church and now has her at his pleasure; she gives a dagger to Odoardo. Claudia comes in and informs her husband that what Orsina said is true. Odoardo says that Emilia must not return to Guastalla but go with him. Marinelli tells him that the Prince will decide. Odoardo tells the Prince that Emilia will go into a convent. Marinelli explains that the witnesses must be detained separated from each other. Odoardo demands to see Emilia, and the Prince allows this. Odoardo tells her that the Count is dead. Odoardo takes out the dagger and says he wanted to stab the Prince. She asks for the dagger, but her father stops her from stabbing herself. She is going to use a hairpin, and he kills her with the dagger. The Prince comes in and takes the knife from Odoardo who surrenders to the law. The Prince admits that princes are human and asks why devils disguise themselves as friends. This tragedy portrays the corruption of princes and those who serve them while showing how others suffer because of that.
      Although Lessing’s Nathan the Wise written in blank verse was published in May 1779, the Church would not let the play be performed before his death on February 15, 1781. The first production was in Berlin in April 1783. The character of Nathan is a tribute to his friend, Moses Mendelssohn. Nathan the Wise takes place in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade (1189-92). The parable of the three rings is taken from Boccaccio’s tale of Melchizedek in his Decameron and the Gesta Romanorum.
      Nathan is a wealthy Jewish merchant who has just returned from Babylon with goods and is welcomed home by his adopted daughter Recha (Rachel). The Christian Daja tells Nathan that her companion Recha was rescued from his burning house by the Templar Conrad von Stauffen who was pardoned by Sultan Saladin because the young knight resembles his late brother Assad. The Friar tells the Templar that Philippe II of France wants him to spy on Saladin, but he refuses to do so. The Templar declines a reward for saving Recha who thinks of him as her guardian angel. Nathan befriends the Templar and offers to help him and replace his burnt mantle. The Templar falls in love with Recha. She does not agree with Daja for thinking she owns God.
      Saladin summons Nathan to ask him for a loan, but he would like to reform the laws and also wants to learn from his wisdom which is the true religion. Nathan tells the parable of the father who has inherited a magic ring which enables one to gain the love of God and people. He has two copies made so that he can give a ring to each of his three sons. Knowing which is the true ring is as difficult as deciding whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam is the true religion. A judge suggests that future generations will learn which is better. The Templar asks Nathan if he can marry Recha. Daja tells the Templar that Recha was born and baptized a Christian, and the Jerusalem Patriarch warns him that a Jew who changes the religion of a baptized Christian must be burned at the stake. Daja urges Nathan to give Recha to the Templar as his wife. The Templar goes to Saladin who advises him to be prudent and charitable. Saladin and his sister notice how much Conrad looks like their brother. Meanwhile Saladin has received a shipment of gold and offers to loan money to the merchant Nathan. The Friar reveals that years ago he brought Recha to Nathan and that her mother was a von Stauffen. Nathan explains that she means so much to him because Christians had killed his wife and seven sons in the massacre at Gath. Saladin approves the marriage, but Nathan shows the Sultan evidence that Conrad’s father was Assad who had married a Christian and converted. His sister was given to Nathan. The Templar and Recha embrace as brother and sister.

Kant’s Moral Philosophy

Leibniz and Ethics

      Immanuel Kant was born on April 22, 1724 at Königsberg in East Prussia and lived there all his life. His parents were pious and emphasized inward morality. He attended the Collegium Fridericianum from 1732 until 1740 when he entered the University of Königsberg where he studied physics, theology and philosophy under Martin Knutzen, a disciple of Wolff. After his father died in 1746, Kant worked for nine years as a family tutor. In 1755 he was authorized to lecture at the university on physics, mathematics, logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy, geography, and natural sciences. In 1770 Kant was appointed to the chair of logic and metaphysics at Königsberg. Kant found that two things filled his mind with increasing wonder and awe: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. His lectures were popular, and he followed a regular routine. His daily walks were so punctual that the people of Königsberg could set their watches by his regular appearance. The only time he was known to have missed his daily walk was when he became absorbed in reading Rousseau’s Emile.
      The lectures on ethics he gave from 1775 to 1780 were transcribed by or for students. He taught that the highest moral principle of morality is based on “goodness of the free will.” The second principle is discriminating between good and evil. Empirical philosophers base their ethics on education and government. Pragmatic motives consider that actions must be a means to happiness. Prudence requires good understanding, and morality depends on a good will. Already he was teaching the universalizing principle, saying,

If the intent of the action can without self-contradiction
be universalized, it is morally possible;
if it cannot be so universalized without contradicting itself,
it is morally impossible.10

This is his conclusion on the destiny of the human race:

The realization of the full destiny,
the highest possible perfection of human nature—
this is the kingdom of God on earth.
Justice and equity, the authority, not of governments,
but of conscience within us, will then rule the world.
This is the destined final end, the highest moral perfection
to which the human race can attain:
but the hope of it is still distant;
it will be many centuries before it can be realized.11

      After working on it for a decade, in 1781 Kant published his first great work, the Critique of Pure Reason. He noted that knowledge derives from sensory perception and cognition, and these are studied by aesthetics and logic, which he divided into analysis and synthesis. In his transcendental logic he analyzed how the mind itself structures our understanding of reality by the conceptual categories of quantity (unity, plurality, and totality), quality (reality, negation, and limitation), relation (substance and accident, cause and effect, and action and reaction), and modality (possibility, existence, and necessity). More books followed, and Kant is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of the age of enlightenment. He held that God, freedom, and immortality are transcendental ideas essential to the moral life.
      In December 1784 Kant published an essay on the question, “What is Enlightenment?” He suggested that it is what releases us from the influence of others caused by not being able to use one’s own understanding without being directed by another. Kant challenged us to dare to be wise by having courage to use your own reason. “Dare to know” had become the motto of the Enlightenment since the Society of the Friends of Truth adopted it in 1736. If one depends on a book for understanding, a pastor as one’s conscience, or a physician’s advice for one’s diet, then one does not trouble oneself. Kant argued that if freedom is granted, then enlightenment will follow. However, when guardians implant prejudices in people, they take vengeance on their cultivators or those who come after them. He declared that any contract which shuts off enlightenment is null and void even if imposed by powers, parliaments, or treaties. He concluded that free thinking works on the character of the people who gradually become capable of managing freedom. This influences the government which realizes that it prospers by treating people according to their dignity.
      Kant completed his Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals in September 1784, and it was published in Halle in April 1785. Kant distinguished material knowledge from formal which he called logic. Material or empirical knowledge is divided into the study of the laws of nature which is physics (science) and the understanding of freedom which is the theory of morals (ethics). The laws of ethics are determined by the free will of rational beings (humans) and have to do with what should happen but often does not. The goal of his search is to establish “the supreme principle of morality.” He began by asserting that the only thing that can be called good without qualification is “a good will,” and he argued that it is the indispensable condition of the worthiness to be happy. He considers reason a practical faculty that influences the will, and the purpose of reason is to guide the will toward the good, not merely as a good means but for the highest good of all. This understanding needs not only to be taught but to be brought to light.
      Kant demonstrated how to do this by using the concept of duty which includes good will. Action only from duty has true moral worth. Securing one’s own happiness is a part of duty but is not complete. Good actions from duty that resides in the will he called “practical love.” For Kant the moral value of such action does not depend on its effect but only on the principle of volition without regard to desires or material benefits. One should only act in a way that could be a universal law. Every other motive should give way to duty because it is good will. All moral concepts are based on reason, and only a rational being can act according to principles. Practical reason directs the will to actions that are good for all, and the good is distinguished from the pleasant. The one goal that all rational beings share is happiness. Kant referred to his ethical theory of acting in accordance with universal law as “the categorical imperative” of morality. He gave four examples that do not meet this standard, and they are suicide, making false promises, not developing one’s talents, and not aiding those in need of assistance. The second important principle of Kant’s ethics is that we should always treat other rational beings or persons as an end, not as a means as with a material thing. Since each person would like to be treated in this way, it follows that we each should treat others as ends. Thus the good will becomes the supreme legislator of universal laws.
      Although humans seem to be bound to laws by duty, Kant argued that one is only subject to one’s own universal legislation in accordance with one’s own free will. This principle he called “autonomy.” The rational person who acts according to the principle of universal law may judge one’s own actions by that which leads to a “realm of ends” which he explained is the “systematic union of different rational beings through common laws.”12 These laws determine ends by their universal validity. Thus the individual is a sovereign legislator and not subject to the will of any other. Whatever has a “market price” can be replaced by something else, and pleasures have an “affective price.” Yet that which is an end in itself is beyond the relative worth of a price and has the intrinsic value of dignity. Only human morality has dignity. Fidelity to truth and benevolence have intrinsic worth and are intentions as opposed to effects. Reason is needed to impose them on the will. The autonomous legislation which creates the worth of all has dignity and is unconditional. The unconditional good will that creates universal law cannot be bad nor can it come into conflict with itself. A world of rational beings is possible as a realm of ends when the legislation is for the good of all.
      Morality comes from the autonomous will and its universal lawgiving. The will that seeks law in the property of objects is heteronomy because the objects give the law to the will. When critical examination is lacking, then human reason can go astray. The desire for glory and dominion lead to terrible might and vengeance, and any ethics based on them is immoral. Free will is the causality that is independent, but irrational beings influenced by foreign causes must succumb to natural necessity. The autonomous free will creates universal laws that are good for all, and this morality is valid for all rational beings and results in real worth. Reason is the faculty that distinguishes an intelligent being. The intelligent person can use reason to act freely with good will morally while those who act on desires and inclinations seek happiness. All humans exist in the world of the senses; yet the idea of freedom enables one to live in the intelligible world and follow its universal laws. Those who consider themselves living in the world of sense conceive the volitions of the intelligible world as what they should do, and they submit to natural laws. Yet every rational being has the capability to use reason and the good will of the intelligible world and may act independently of desire and natural instincts. To do so one must act according to the maxims of freedom that treat everyone as an end instead of a means and which create universal laws for the good of all.
      Kant completed his Critique of Practical Reason in September 1787, and it was published in 1788. In this more comprehensive work he revised and extended his Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals with more detailed analysis. Practical reason proves its reality and concepts by facts. This faculty shows that transcendental freedom exists as an unconditioned cause of moral actions based on free choices. Kant also connected to freedom our ideas of God and immortality. We know freedom a priori because it is the condition which allows moral law. Without free choice there is no morality. God and the immortality of the soul are so transcendental that they are difficult to prove to the limited human mind. Yet the existence of a benevolent God and the eternal life of the soul enable us to work toward perfection by adhering to moral laws.
      Kant analyzed practical reason to find out how the free will is self-determined. He defined practical principles as propositions that contain a general determination of the will with practical rules. He argued that practical principles based on material desires are limited by self-love and private happiness and therefore are not practical laws. Every individual wishes to be happy, and desires aim at that goal. To discover universal practical laws Kant would have us form the will logically rather than by material concerns. His fundamental law of the pure practical reason is the maxim that wills what would be good as a principle of universal legislation. This gives humans the moral law based on the autonomous will, and he considered private happiness opposed to this principle. The prudence of self-love only advises, but the law of morality commands an obligation. He analyzed that the subjective material principles are externally education and civil constitutions and internally physical feelings and moral feelings while the objective material principles are perfection internally and the will of God externally. The subjective principles are experimental and are not universal, but the objective principles are based on reason.
      Kant noted that the concept of good and evil should not be determined before the moral law but only after it by the moral law. Actions can be judged as good or evil but not sensations or things. To achieve true moral worth the moral law should determine the will directly, and respect for this law demands duty and obligation. A similar command is to love God above everything and your neighbor as yourself. This is the most practical and universal love. The practical reason enables the transcendent to be applied as a cause for action.
      In the second book of the Critique of Practical Reason, which is his “Dialectic of Pure Practical Reason,” Kant works on defining the summum bonum as the supreme and perfect good, and he adds to freedom the postulates of immortality and the existence of God. He warns that seeking happiness does not necessarily produce virtue, but virtue does produce happiness. For Kant morality is the supreme good, and happiness is secondary as the consequence of the former. Realization of the perfect good takes a long time through infinite progress, and thus the immortality of the soul is what makes endless progress possible. The other necessary condition of a moral universe is the existence of God as the Supreme Being who creates the perfect good through intelligence and will. Thus it is morally necessary to assume the existence of God with supreme intelligence. Kant found in the Christian concept of the kingdom of God the universal laws of his categorical imperative. In religious terms holiness is being in harmony with the will of God. Kant explains his three postulates this way:

These postulates are those of immortality,
of freedom considered positively (as the causality of a being
insofar as it belongs to the intelligible world,)
and of the existence of God.
The first flows from the practically necessary condition of
a duration befitting the complete fulfillment of the moral law;
the second from the necessary presupposition of independence
from the sensible world, that is, the law of freedom;
the third from the necessity of the condition
for such an intelligible world to be the highest good,
through the presupposition of the highest independent good,
that is, of the existence of God.13

Kant’s moral principle implies there is a creator of the world, a Supreme Being with the highest perfection who is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and eternal.
      In his section on “Methodology” Kant suggests that the moral law demands obedience from duty. In his conclusion he reflects on the starry heavens above and the moral law within. The former contains worlds upon worlds and systems of systems while the latter involves understanding and infinitely elevates one’s worth as an intelligence. For Kant science leads to the true doctrine of practical wisdom which is not only what one ought to do but also what teachers should use to guide everyone on the road to wisdom. He ended this work by writing,

Philosophy must always continue to be
the guardian of this science;
and although the public does not take any interest
in its subtle investigations, it must take an interest
in the resulting doctrines,
which such an examination first puts in a clear light.14

Kant on Morals and Peace

Lichtenberg’s Aphorisms and Herder’s Ideas

      George Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-99) was brought up as a Pietist. He visited and admired the English and was influenced by Leibniz and Kant. He taught mathematics, physics, astronomy, and other sciences. In 1765 he began writing down his thoughts, and this private writing published after his death made him famous. Here are some highlights from his Aphorisms translated by R. J. Hollingdale.

I have seen that fervent ambition and mistrustfulness
always go together. (Notebook A:15)

What concerns me alone I only think,
what concerns my friends I tell them,
what can be of interest to only a limited public I write,
and what the world ought to know is printed. (B:52)

“Give strength to my good resolutions”
is a plea that could stand in the Lord’s Prayer. (C:13)

Every observer of human nature knows how hard it is
to narrate experiences in such a way that
no opinion or judgement interferes with the narration. (C:24)

Catholics do not bear in mind
that the beliefs of man also change
in the way their knowledge and history in general does.
To increase in the one and stand still in the other
is impossible to man.
Even truth needs to be clad in new garments
if it is to appeal to a new age. (C: 33)

If people should ever start to do only what is necessary millions would die of hunger. (C:54)

Once we know our weaknesses
they cease to do us any harm. (D:5)

We are only too inclined to believe that
if we possess a little talent work must come easily to us.
You must exert yourself, man,
if you want to do something great. (D:8)

The journalists have constructed for themselves
a little wooden chapel, which they also call
the Temple of Fame, in which they put up and take down
portraits all day long and make such a hammering
you can’t hear yourself speak. (D:20)

I can hardly believe it will ever be possible to prove that
we are the work of a supreme being
and not rather assembled together
for his own amusement by a very imperfect one. (D:68)

If we thought more for ourselves
we would have very many more bad books
and very many more good ones. (D:71)

Everything grows more refined and polished:
music was once noise, satire was lampoon,
and where we nowadays say, “Please excuse me,”
in the old days we cuffed his head. (D:83)

From love of fatherland they write stuff
that gets our dear fatherland laughed at. (E:30)

It is pity and fear that Aristotle saw
as the objective of tragedy, not pity and terror. (E:73)

The oracles have not so much ceased to speak,
rather men have ceased to listen to them. (F:46)

Doubt must be no more than vigilance,
otherwise it can become dangerous. (F:53)

Ideas too are a life and a world. (F:70)

To excuse one’s own failings as being only human nature is,
provided one has meant well,
every writer’s first duty to himself. (F:74)

All impartiality is artificial.
Man is always partial and is quite right to be.
Even impartiality is partial.
He was of the party of the impartial. (F:78)

A pure heart is an excellent thing,
and so is a clean shirt. (F:117)

The most successful tempters and thus the most dangerous
are the deluded deluders. (F:120)

The world offers us correction more often than consolation. (F:132)

It is necessary for a writer to go out into the world,
not so much to observe many situations
as to get into many situations himself. (F:152)

There are certainly few duties in the world as important as
promoting the continuation of the human race
and preserving ourselves,
for there are none to which we are drawn so strongly
as we are to these two. (F:256)

He who knows himself properly
can very soon learn to know all other men.
It is all reflection. (G:8)

I have always found that
so-called bad people gain in one’s estimation
when one gets to know them better,
and good people decline. (G:25)

A great genius will seldom make his discoveries
on paths frequented by others.
When he discovers things,
he usually also discovers the path to discovery. (G:31)

The plain style of writing is to be recommended if only because
no honest man takes elaborate pains over what he says.(G:33)

The human tendency to regard little things as important
has produced very many great things. (G:46)

We can do good in as many ways as we can sin,
in thought, word and deed. (H:6)

The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted.(H:7)

Once he has stolen his 100,000 thalers
a rogue can walk through the world an honest man. (H:27)

Is it not strange that the rulers of the human race
should be so much superior in rank to its teachers?
In this we see what a slavish animal man is. (H:29)

What am I? What shall I do? What can I believe and hope for?
Everything in philosophy can be reduced to this. (H:38)

      Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was born in East Prussia. In 1762 he entered the University of Königsberg and began studying under Kant and the Lutheran Johan Georg Hamann. In 1764 Herder became a clergyman and began teaching at Riga. He wrote literary criticism. In 1769 he traveled to Paris, and he met and influenced young Goethe at Strasbourg in 1770. He wrote about his journeys and began preaching in 1771 at Bückeburg. In 1772 Herder published his Treatise on the Origin of Language. He suggested that language unites feeling and reflection, and it liberates humans. In 1773 his cultural manifesto, On German Character and Art, stimulated the literary movement based on feeling which was later called Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) after the title of Maximilian Klinger’s play of 1776. In 1774 he wrote Another Philosophy of History Concerning the Development of Mankind to oppose historical rationalism. Philosophers can only foresee the future by understanding past development. He wrote about Homer, the Old Testament, Norse poetry, and Shakespeare, and he collected folk songs. In 1776 Herder moved to Weimar where Goethe helped him become the General Superintendent.
      From 1784 to 1791 Herder worked on his Ideas for a Philosophy of the History of Mankind. Herder noted the differences between humans and other animals. Humans walk erect, use hands skillfully, and developed reason, art, and language. He wrote,

Art is the most powerful weapon;
man is all art and in this sense
the very personification of organized defense.
To be sure, he lacks claws and teeth for attack;
but, then, he was designed to be a peaceable creature.
Man was not meant to be a cannibal.15

The human ear perceives melody and develops the purest form of symmetry and by the eye the most sublime geometry. The divine gift of speech arouses reasoning capacity uniting the perceptions of the senses. Humans have instincts, but they are repressed and controlled by the nerves and finer senses. Using reason and experience forms humans with ideas that organize their lives. He observed,

The result of the various combinations
of thoughts and perceptions constitutes the process
of distinguishing the true from the false,
the good from the bad, the beneficial from the harmful.16

More than any other terrestrial creature, humans become like gods and sovereigns of the earth. By standing up humans became free. Even when they abuse their freedom, they are still kings who can choose the worst and even be a beast. Yet a few noble-minded have devoted their lives to their country for years to confer welfare and peace on multitudes. He described how

Divinely inspired visionaries voluntarily submitted
to slander and persecution, poverty and want,
from a noble thirst for truth, freedom, and happiness,
cherishing the idea that they were promoting the highest boon
of which they were capable, for the benefit of their brethren.17

Herder reduced the human instincts of living to self-preservation and sympathy. The human sexual drive is not limited to seasons but depends on love from affection and is tempered by reason and voluntary control. Tender emotions express sympathy and empathy. The human species also has the most developed maternal love. Humans learned the guiding rules of justice, truth, and reciprocity:

Do not unto others what
you would not wish them to do unto you;
but what you expect others to do unto you,
do unto them too.18

Herder added decorum because “true beauty is nothing but the pleasing manifestation of such inner perfection” that comes from moral integrity. He believed that religion is the most exalted mark of humanity, and he found that philosophy begins and ends with religion. Humans naturally believe in more powerful invisible beings who can help or injure them. Thus God is given human qualities and humans divine characteristics. Although humans vary in different places and climates, Herder considered all mankind the same species.

Goethe’s Life to 1788 and Young Werther

      Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born on August 28, 1749 in Frankfurt. He later reported that he was born at midday during a full moon with Jupiter and Venus favorable. (They were in opposition in Pisces and Virgo.) His father was a lawyer and had purchased a fine library and a title as an Imperial Councilor. Johann’s only illustrated books were Orbis Pictus by Comenius, a folio Bible and Gottfried’s Chronicles with copper plates by Merian. He read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Fénélon’s Telemachus, and Robinson Crusoe. He loved and valued the Bible and believed that it gave him “moral culture.” During the war in 1759 a French officer was billeted in their home. His mother knew some Italian and decided to learn French. Johann would read Racine, Molière, and much of Corneille. His family acted Johann Elias Schlegel’s Canute, and he played the king. He believed that Schlegel’s Hermann showed how to handle national subjects. In 1763 Johann heard a concert by the 7-year-old Mozart, and his grandmother gave him a puppet theater. On April 3, 1764 he witnessed the coronation of Emperor Joseph II. One night he forgot his house-keys and had an adventure with a young woman he later called “Gretchen” in his autobiographical Truth and Poetry (Dichtung und Wahrheit). After Gretchen he transferred his affection to Annette whom he considered a “little saint.”
      In addition to Upper-German he learned Latin, French, Italian, some Greek and Hebrew, and enough English to write a poem in it at the age of sixteen. He also read Homer, Tasso, tales from the Arabian Nights, and Klopstock’s epic Messiah. In October 1765 Goethe began studying law at the University of Leipzig where Gottsched exerted his influence for classical French theatre. He studied drawing with Adam Friedrich Oeser, who had taught the art historian Winckelmann. Goethe was excited by the performance of Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm and discussed his plays and those of Wieland. He wrote that Lessing’s Laocoön transported him into “open fields of thought.” After suffering a lung hemorrhage in July 1768 he went home to Frankfurt to recover. He explored alchemy and read Nostradamus and Paracelsus, and he admired The Vicar of Wakefield. He began including the French and considered Montaigne, Amyot, Rabelais, and Marot his friends. He later wrote in Truth and Poetry,

The Christian religion was fluctuating between
its own historically positive base and a pure deism,
which, grounded on morality,
was in its turn to lay the foundation of ethics.19

      In March 1770 Goethe moved to Strasbourg to study law and was influenced by Herder’s On German Character and Art. Herder recommended the writing of Martin Luther and the work of Dürer and Hans Sachs. Goethe went around collecting folk songs for Herder. In 1771 he wrote his “May Song” which begins, “How gloriously nature shines for me!”20 In August at the University of Strasbourg he completed his Doctor juris and earned his Licentiate to practice law. From May to September 1772 Goethe worked with the imperial law court in Wetzlar. Then he returned to Frankfurt and wrote the biographical play, Götz von Berlichingen, that was successfully performed in 1773. Goethe’s first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, was published in 1774 and made him famous. That June he met the Swiss pastor Lavater who shared his mysticism and interest in physiognomy, and in July the two traveled with the educator Basedow on the Rhine. Goethe admired Lavater but found Basedow irritating because he went into tirades against the trinity and smoked tobacco constantly even though he was trying to raise money. In September he met visiting Klopstock and went with him to Darmstadt as Goethe wrote his ode “To Father Time.” In December during a visit to Frankfurt by Karl August, the Weimar heir, he formed a life-long friendship with the prince’s tutor, Karl Ludwig von Knebel. Goethe wrote the satire, Gods, Heroes and Wieland. Christoph Martin Wieland (1733-1813) had written the first coming-of-age novel and had translated 22 Shakespeare plays, but Goethe felt that his notes criticizing the bard were unfair. In April 1775 Goethe became engaged to Lili Schönemann; but he journeyed to Switzerland for three months, and he never married. Goethe had a thirst for all experience and wrote, “Call it Joy! Heart! Love! God! For me there is no naming of this. We can but feel it.”21 He believed that all things weave themselves into a whole.
      In 1775 Goethe was invited to the court of Weimar, and he became friends with the Dowager Duchess Anna Amalia who had been governing as regent since 1758. Wieland had been tutoring her son since 1772. In February 1776 Goethe helped Herder become the court chaplain. Goethe became attached to Charlotte von Stein who was the wife of the Duke’s equerry, and he wrote about 1,500 letters to her. Karl August in June appointed Goethe a legation councilor with a salary and a place on the Privy Council. He supervised the administration of mines and forests, and he went on diplomatic missions to German princes and to Friedrich II in Berlin. He was given a cottage by the River Ilm. He participated in the slave trade and helped arrange for mercenaries to fight for the British in the American War of Independence, though later in Truth and Poetry he praised the American founding fathers. In January 1778 a young lady who had been jilted by her fiancé drowned herself in the river with a copy of Werther in her pocket. Seven months earlier Goethe had lost his only living sibling, his sister Cornelia with whom he had been very close. In the fall of 1779 he went to Switzerland for four months and visited Lavater in Zürich, but he broke off relations with him by declaring that he was not a Christian. Goethe became a Freemason in 1780 and was inducted into the Weimar Order of Illuminati in February 1783. In 1782 his father died, and Goethe was ennobled and given a fine house on the Faurenplan. In 1784 he claimed that he had discovered the intermaxillary bone in the human skull.
      In September 1786 Goethe obtained a leave of absence to travel to Italy where he hoped to become a painter. He spent four months in Rome and then moved on to Naples and Sicily before going back to Rome where he and a young widow became lovers. He returned to Weimar in June 1788 and described his experiences in his Italian Journey. He had given up trying to be a painter and was working on his plays.

      Goethe wrote his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, in six weeks, completed it in March 1774, and published it later that year. The author addresses the reader by saying he gathered what he could of “poor Werther’s story” and urges them to make the book a friend if “you can find no closer one.” The novel appears to be a series of letters starting on May 4, 1771 by Werther mostly to his friend Wilhelm, but these change somewhat in Book Two. Werther reflects that humans would suffer less if they did not use imagination so much in recalling past sorrows. He does not want his books because his books are stormy, and he is lulled to sleep by Homer. He loves nature and is very emotional. A man can be happy with the sweet feeling of liberty as long as he can quit this prison. He does not like rules that restrain the genuine feeling of Nature. He meets the beautiful Charlotte S. who is engaged to a worthy man. Werther soon falls in love with her as he waltzes with her in his arms. He is delighted when she touches his hand and says, “Klopstock.” He calls on her as often as he can. He loves being with children and regrets that we treat them as inferiors. She chides him that he is too passionate in everything, and she warns that would destroy her. Wilhelm also advises him to be a man and get rid of his miserable passion. When Werther points an unloaded pistol at his head, Wilhelm is shocked that a man would shoot himself. Werther admits that his passions border on madness. He feels the universe is a devouring monster. His imagination sees only Charlotte, and he prays only to her.
      After her fiancé Albert returns, Werther sees her less often. He believes he cannot give her up nor can he hope to win her. Wilhelm gets him a position in the government, but he soon becomes bored. On January 20, 1772 Werther writes a letter to Charlotte, and he asks if Albert is with her. The next letters appear to be to his friends, and one speaks to Albert who now has married her. Werther bids farewell to them both. He writes that he resigned from the Court, and he visits his birthplace where he experiences unexpected feelings. Anyone can acquire knowledge, but his heart is all his own. He believes that she would be happier with him, though he admits that Albert loves her. He turns to his own translation of the Ossian poems. He wonders why he is happy only before or after he has reason. He writes that he cannot bear it any longer.
      In December the editor writes to the reader how sorrow had taken root in Werther’s soul, and his mind became deranged. He describes his visit to the home of Charlotte and Albert. He left a few more letters behind, and Werther says farewell to Wilhelm. The author describes what is happening with Charlotte and Werther and then presents the last letter he wrote to her that was found after his death saying that he must sacrifice himself for her. On his last visit to her she asks him to read aloud the Ossian songs he sent her. In them a daughter drowns herself. When Charlotte’s tears flow, he takes her hand and weeps bitterly. In despair he falls before her. They embrace, and he kisses her. She calls his name three times, and he lets go of her. She declares that he will never see her again, and she goes into a room and locks the door. He cries, “Adieu forever!” and goes home. In the morning he writes some more to her. The narrator describes Werther asking to borrow pistols and Charlotte’s feelings. Albert returns home, and he and his wife send the pistols to Werther. He receives them and writes some last words to Wilhelm, Albert, and that night to Charlotte, saying farewell at midnight as a shot is heard. His bloody body is found in the morning, and Emilia Galotti was open on his desk. At his burial no clergy attended.
      This extremely emotional novel stimulated a rash of suicides and heralded the storm-and-stress movement that would lead to the romantic era of literature.

Goethe’s Early Plays

      Goethe wrote and starred in a one-act pastoral comedy, The Lover’s Whim, in 1767-68 and played the moody Eridon opposite Amina who was based on his friend Anna Katharina Schönkopf. She was an innkeeper’s daughter and also was the basis for the character Sophie in his three-act comedy, Fellow Culprits, in 1768. Goethe sent her a poem to congratulate her on her wedding day in May 1770. This comedy of manners was influenced by Molière and Goldoni.
      Goethe based his historical drama, Götz von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand, on the autobiography of the military hero who fought in campaigns from 1498 to 1544 and died in 1562. The play was published in 1773, and the premiere in Berlin on April 12, 1774 was a triumphant success.Götz and his friend Franz von Sickingen (1481-1523) as teens had attended the Diet at Worms in 1495 when Emperor Maximilian announced that his subjects would be brought under the Roman law of his imperial courts. Götz was then a page but became a knight. He fought in the imperial army, and while serving Duke Albrecht IV of Bavaria in 1504, he lost some of his right arm in battle and was given an iron hand. In 1512 he began fighting against the Bishop of Bamberg. His attacks on merchant ships of Nuremberg got him declared an outlaw until he paid a fine in 1514. After capturing and ransoming Count Philip IV of Waldeck, Götz was again put under an imperial ban in 1518. The next year he fought for Duke Ulrich of Württemberg against the Swabian League, but after surrendering Möckmühl on the River Jaxt he was imprisoned. He was ransomed in 1522 and led rebels for four weeks in the Peasants’ War that began in 1525. The Swabian League imprisoned him from 1528 to 1530, and he had to swear he would not fight on horseback. However, Emperor Charles V hired him to do so against the Turks in 1542 and the French in 1544. He was over 80 when he died in 1562.
      Goethe’s play focuses mostly on events that occurred around 1519-20 but also shows Götz leading the peasants and then dying. Adelbert Weislingen is working for the Bishop of Bamberg against Götz. Brother Martin complains about his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as against Nature. Götz is married and has a son. Weislingen is captured, and Götz says he is loyal only to the Emperor. Weislingen falls in love with Götz’s sister Maria, and Götz approves their engagement and releases Weislingen. Götz declares war on Nuremberg. Weislingen asks for the bishop’s forgiveness. At the bishop’s court Adelheid von Walldorf gradually wins over Weislingen, and he kisses her. Weislingen advises Emperor Maximilian that he should go after Götz, Sickingen, and Selbitz, and the Emperor wants them captured but not harmed. Franz von Sickingen was a friend of Martin Luther and asks Götz for his sister’s hand. Götz learns that the Emperor has banned him. Lerse had fought against Götz but now comes to fight for him. Selbitz is wounded, but Götz, Georg, Lerse, and soldiers arrive to win the battle.
      Götz learns they are offered a truce. He wishes that men would keep what they have without destroying others to increase their prosperity. He is summoned before imperial councilors and is told he is pardoned if he takes an oath. Götz asks about his comrades but is told nothing. He refuses to take the oath that states he rebelled against the Emperor, but the only alternative is prison. Götz says he is “engaged in an honorable feud.” Sickingen has arrived with a force at the gate and rescues Götz who says not to harm the city. Sickingen advises him to forget the traitor Weislingen who has married Adelheid who says the next Emperor Charles will have “more majestic views.” Götz’s wife Elizabeth urges him to write his own account of his life. Lerse says that the peasants have started a rebellion in Swabia. Metzler and other soldiers delight in killing “wealthy sinners.” They ask Götz to lead them, but he declines unless they will “act like proper people.” Götz becomes upset because someone set fire to Miltenberg. He quarrels with Metzlar. Weislingen leads the pursuit of them. The leader of the gypsies helps Götz. Adelheid sends Franz to poison Weislingen. Lerse reports that Metzlar and others have been executed. Maria pleads with Weislingen for her brother’s life, but he dies of the poison. A secret tribunal condemns Adelheid for adultery and murder. Maria tells Elizabeth that her husband Sickingen is besieged. Elizabeth tells Götz that Georg was killed at Miltenberg, Götz says that Selbitz and the Emperor are dead, and then he dies too.

      In 1774 Goethe read aloud to his club Part IV of Pierre BeaumarchaisMemoires about his journey to Madrid for his sister Marie and then based his play Clavigo on this story by adding a tragic ending. Clavigo was produced that year and was popular enough to be played in various repertory theaters. Clavigo is the director of the royal archives and tells his friend Carlos that he deceived and deserted Marie Beaumarchais. Carlos asks why passions should be constant. Marie shares her sadness that he no longer loves her with her sister Sophie and Buenco. As a Frenchwoman she feels she should let him go and find someone else; but her brother says if she is blameless, then he will get vengeance. He and Saint George call on Clavigo. Beaumarchais tells him a story about a man who abandoned a girl after six years, and he says he has come to avenge his sister. Clavigo admits that Marie is a woman of great charm and virtue. Beaumarchais says he took advantage of her being in a foreign country without support. Clavigo concedes that he did not know she had such a brother but threatens him with a dagger. Beaumarchais insists that Clavigo make a declaration of what he did to her, but Clavigo asks for the chance to persuade her that he has a contrite heart. In the presence of servants Beaumarchais dictates the declaration that Clavigo writes.
      Later Clavigo tells Carlos that it was that or a duel, but he hopes for her forgiveness and wants to marry her. Sophie’s husband Guilbert tells Marie that if she refuses to marry Clavigo, he will challenge her brother. Marie tells Clavigo she has never stopped loving him, and he kisses her. Beaumarchais comes in, learns she forgave him, and tears up the declaration. Buenco says he hates Clavigo. Carlos tells Clavigo that he can get better women with more to offer, and he says Marie is short and sick with consumption. Clavigo feels miserable as Carlos continues to argue that he should abandon her again. Carlos says that Beaumarchais will go back to France, and Clavigo tells him not to mistreat him. Marie looks forward to marrying but feels unworthy of him. Beaumarchais comes in and says that Clavigo has gone on a journey. Her brother says she will be avenged. Marie feels weak and asks for a doctor. Her brother brings in the letter from Clavigo, and Marie learns she is betrayed again. Clavigo has accused Beaumarchais of a capital crime. Marie urges him to flee. Clavigo comes across Marie’s funeral and is confronted by her brother. Clavigo advises him to save himself and asks and is given forgiveness by the brother.

      Goethe wrote Stella in 1775, and it was printed in January 1776 in Berlin. Originally it was “a drama for lovers” in five short acts” and ended with the loving characters accepting each other even though it meant that both Stella and Cecilia are recognized by Fernando and each other as his wives. Because of the controversy over the bigamy Goethe revised the play in 1805 by giving it a melodramatic ending in which Stella is poisoned, and Fernando shoots himself. This tragedy was performed at Weimar in January 1806, though Goethe included the earlier ending in his collected works published in 1807. In 1816 and after the tragic version was included. Goethe later reflected that he could have written more plays like these and regretted that he did not do so.

      Goethe adapted the ancient drama Iphigenia in Tauris by Euripides without the chorus and masks. The heroine reflects his friendship with married Charlotte von Stein to whom he was writing letters almost every day starting in January 1776. His Iphigenia in Tauris opened in Weimar on April 6, 1779, and Goethe played Orestes. While in Rome in 1786 he completed a revised version that transformed the prose into blank verse. The author Thomas Mann considered this the greatest work of German literature.
      Iphigenia in Tauris takes place at the temple of Diana a few years after the Trojan War. Iphigenia is the priestess of Diana and has taken refuge there after her father was going to sacrifice her at Aulis before the war. Arkas brings word from King Thoas, who has allowed her to save aliens who would have been sacrificed, that he wants to marry her and would like to know more about her. She says the virgin goddess will protect her. Thoas arrives, and she prays for him and his people. He wants to take Iphigenia home as his bride. She doubts he would if he knew who she is. He says she has brought blessings under his protection, and he offers to help her go back home. If she is exiled, by law she belongs to him. She says she is descended from Tantalus who was cast out by Jove for pride and treachery. After his death his sons Thyestes and Atreus quarreled. Her father Agamemnon was the oldest son of Atreus and married Clytemnestra. He commanded the Greek army and ordered Iphigenia sacrificed for a wind at Aulis. Thoas tells her to go back. She believes she is superior in seeing his happiness. He says her heart is speaking, not the god; but she replies that gods speak through our hearts. People are blaming him for his son’s death, and they demand sacrifices. Two strangers were captured, and he is sending them to be sacrificed. He leaves, and she prays her hands will be free from blood.
      Iphigenia’s brother Orestes and his friend Pylades arrive at the shrine. Apollo has asked them to bring his sister Diana to Delphi. Orestes is hounded by Furies, and Pylades urges action. Iphigenia removes their chains and learns that the Greeks defeated Troy. Pylades tells her that Agamemnon was murdered by his wife and her lover Aegisthus. Orestes says that Clytemnestra was killed by her son, and he confesses who he is. Iphigenia says her destiny is linked with his and reveals who she is. Orestes asks her to sacrifice him and collapses, and she goes looking for Pylades. When they return, Orestes feels his curse lifting. Arkas comes and tells her to carry out the sacrifice, but she says it is not the gods’ will. Pylades tells her that Orestes has been cured. He asks her for time so that they can steal treasure and flee; but she will not betray Thoas who has been like a father to her. He says scruples hide her pride, but she replies, “I do not analyze, I merely feel. Unstained alone the heart approves itself.”22
      Thoas orders Arkas to summon Iphigenia and seize the two strangers. The king goes and asks why she has delayed the sacrifice. She says she follows the law that “all aliens are sacred,” that she is as free as any man, and that a noble man should value women’s words. She suggests that women have the right to be heroic, and she asks his help in glorifying the truth. She says the two men are her cured brother and Pylades and that Apollo sent them there to carry off Diana’s statue and her. She asks him to let her go and purify her family. Armed Orestes arrives and says they are betrayed, but she tells him not to profane the place with murder and that she has explained their plan. Thoas orders a truce, and Orestes accepts it. He hopes that “whole nations will translate their rulers’ action into sacred law.” (2048-9) Thoas still thinks arms are needed to decide. Orestes asks the king not to prevent her “from completing the consecration of her father’s house.” (2136-7) Thoas lets them go; she prays that the gods will reward him; and they part as friends.
      Goethe’s version of this romance shows his respect for women and the value of their having equal rights.

      Goethe worked on his tragedy Egmont over twelve years and completed it while in Italy in 1787. He based his play on two histories of Belgium, and the events portrayed occurred in Brussels in 1567 and 1568.
      The grocer Soest admires Egmont for his cheerfulness and freedom and for the good opinion he has of people. Others praise him for his heroic victories at St. Quentin and Gravelingen. The tailor Jetter wishes that Egmont had been appointed regent instead of Margaret of Parma, sister of King Felipe II, and he blames her for increasing the number of bishops from three to fourteen. The soldier Buyck says that Egmont has been a good governor of Flanders because he does not interfere. Soest says they will not let the Spaniards tyrannize over them., and Jetter notes that people are listening to new preachers from Germany. Jetter criticizes the effects of war and is glad the Spanish forces departed. Regent Margaret is concerned about the preachers and the vandalizing of cathedrals. Machiavelli urges her to tolerate new churches. She criticizes words of Egmont who wants their constitution protected. She feels he and Orange are against her and says the Order of the Golden Fleece gives him confidence. Clare is being courted by Brackenburg, but she is in love with Egmont. Brackenburg reports that riots have broken out in Flanders, and the Palace Guard is reinforced. People want to be governed by their own laws, and they rely on Egmont and Orange to maintain their freedom and privileges. Egmont urges those in Brussels to disperse and stay at home. Egmont’s secretary says they arrested six more people, and they are to be hanged like others. Egmont says he is supported by thousands of men. He and Orange discuss the Regent. Orange says that the Duke of Alba is coming with an army to replace the Regent and that he is murderous. Orange suggests they leave, but Egmont opposes retreat. Orange is more willing to spare himself while Egmont will stay.
      Egmont visits Clare in his Spanish uniform, and they discuss his visit with Margaret. They embrace. On the street people are concerned about the repressive laws and harsh penalties of the Duke of Alba. Margaret has left, and their privileges are lost. Orange is gone, but they are glad that Egmont still is there. Alba orders Egmont’s secretary arrested. Alba’s son Ferdinand says the patrols keep people from speaking except for Egmont. Alba has summoned Egmont and Orange and will not let them leave the palace. They get a letter that Orange is not coming. Egmont arrives and asks how he can serve the King. Egmont commends how Margaret quelled the insurgents and ended the rebellion. Alba doubts he can rely on their good will; but Egmont says that is the noblest of securities, and he suggests a general amnesty. Alba says he must fight for the dignity of religion, and no guilty man will have impunity. Egmont advises that terror is driving away the wealthy while the poor depend on their neighbors. Alba says the King demands help from the princes and governors. Egmont warns that religion is a screen to hide dangerous schemes. He believes the many should put their trust in the many rather than in one. He says Alba’s devices will not work because people may bear pressure but not oppression. They want to retain their old constitution and be governed by compatriots. Alba demands obedience and accuses Egmont of malice. Egmont leaves the quarrel unresolved but hopes they may serve the welfare of the country. Alba orders armed men to take Egmont’s sword, and they take him away.
      Clare fears that their freedom will end with Egmont’s death. In prison Egmont realizes that treacherous power is prevailing, but he hopes that Orange will lead his friends to rescue him. Brackenburg tells Clare that Egmont is still alive. She wants to die and laments that the present generation will not recover from this shame. She obtains poison from Brackenburg. Egmont learns that he was found guilty of high treason and is to be executed by sword at daybreak. Ferdinand visits him; he is sympathetic and regrets the part he had to play. Egmont suggests they escape, but Ferdinand says he tried everything. Egmont admits that he was warned, but he hopes that his blood may buy peace for his people. Ferdinand informs him that his secretary was beheaded for abetting treason. Egmont says farewell to Ferdinand and dreams he sees divine Liberty with Clare’s features. After he awakes, he is taken out to the sound of drumbeats.
      Schiller’s review published on September 20, 1788 was critical especially of the dream near the end. After they became better friends, Schiller collaborated on a revision that was more successful when produced in April 1796. In 1809 Beethoven gladly agreed to compose incidental music and the overture for Egmont with the original ending.

Goethe’s Torquato Tasso
Goethe’s Later Novels
Goethe’s Faust

Schiller’s Robbers and Fiesco

      Friedrich Schiller was born on November 10, 1759 in Marbach, Württemberg. His father Johann Kaspar Schiller was a military surgeon, and Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg (r. 1737-93) put him in charge of his gardens and plantations. The Duke had a history of violence, and he had children by eight women; but in 1770 he confirmed constitutional rights, paid his debts, and became a more benevolent despot promoting education. Pastor Moser had been imprisoned by the Duke for protesting the dissolution of the Württemberg Diet in 1759. He taught Latin and some Greek to Friedrich Schiller who studied the Bible and hoped to become a pastor himself. In 1767 he went to a Latin school; but in January 1773 he was sent to the “Solitude” school which was renamed the Ducal Military Academy and had no religion in the curriculum. In 1775 the school was moved to Stuttgart and began teaching medicine.
      Young Schiller was affected by Goethe’s emotional Werther novel and wrote a play about a student who committed suicide. He destroyed that play and a tragedy he wrote called Kosmus von Medici. He published his first poem in October 1776. In February 1780 Schiller played the title role in Goethe’s Clavigo and was severely criticized for over-acting by the author and others. Also in 1780 his dissertation, Essay on the Connection between the Physical and Spiritual Natures of Man, was published, and in December he was qualified as a physician. He was assigned as a medical officer for the regiment in Stuttgart.
      In the summer of 1784 Schiller wrote his “Ode to Joy” which was used by Beethoven in the climactic movement of his 9th symphony and has been adopted as the anthem of the European Union. Some of the original lines are:

Beggars are a prince’s brother,
Where your gentle wings abide….
Suffer on, courageous millions!
Suffer for a better world!...
Grief and want shall be reported,
So to cheer with gaiety.
Hate and vengeance be forgotten,
Pardon’d be our mortal foe,
Not a teardrop shall him dampen,
No repentance bring him low.23

Also that year Schiller read his “What Actual Effect can a Good Permanent Theater have?” to the Elector’s German Society in Mannheim. In 1802 he changed the title to “Theater Considered as a Moral Institution.” It begins,

Theater was born out of a universal,
irresistible attraction to the new and extraordinary,
a desire to feel oneself put into a state of passion.24

Schiller went on to say that theater harmonizes the human extremes of the bestial and intellectual with an aesthetic sense of the beautiful, nourishing the soul’s powers without overtaxing them and uniting the mind and heart in noble entertainment. Theater brings fantasy and history before the tribunal of justice to relive the shameful lives of criminals for the edification of later generations. Theater can have a more profound influence than either morality or laws. The soul swells with great emotions and resolves them for us to emulate. The theater’s mirror shows how vice is loathsome while virtue is lovely. Fools are exposed to ridicule that brings relief. Although laws and conscience can protect us, comedy brings refined discernment from the stage, revealing our weaknesses while sparing our sensibilities. Theater is a school of practical wisdom that can guide our lives to the secrets of the human soul. Drama reveals the traps that intrigues cause and exposes deception from its twisted labyrinths. Theater enlightens character and destiny, teaching us to face them with courage. We become involved in the troubles of others and are rewarded with momentary pains and purifying tears. Drama teaches us to be more just to victims and to judge with compassion.
      Schiller noted that humane toleration was becoming the spirit of his time, penetrating courtrooms and the hearts of rulers. In a theater the mighty can be portrayed with truth so that people can see what they are, providing a channel for the light of wisdom from the thoughtful to society. Schiller argued that education has the greatest importance for the future of the republic, and the stage can be used to correct the nation’s opinions about government. He wrote,

The stage is the institution where instruction and pleasure,
exertion and repose, culture and amusement are wed;
where no one power of the soul need strain against the others,
and no pleasure is enjoyed at the expense of the whole.25

      C. F. D. Schubart, the father of one of Schiller’s schoolmates, had been imprisoned by the Duke of Württemberg without a trial since 1776 for criticizing the sale of mercenaries to England to fight the Americans. Schiller adapted Schubart’s magazine article about two hostile brothers and moved the story to the Seven Years’ War in his play, The Robbers, which was published anonymously on May 6, 1781. The play was performed by the National Theater of Mannheim on January 13, 1782 and was a sensation.
      The old Count Maximilian von Moor is afraid that bad news about his oldest son Karl will kill him as his son Franz reads a letter from Karl who owes 40,000 ducats, robbed a banker’s daughter of her honor, and killed her fiancé in a duel. Franz says Karl was led astray by reading about Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Franz persuades his father not to help Karl anymore. Franz feels he was born ugly. He believes that force destroys force and that strength is the only law.
      At a tavern on the Saxony border Karl tells Spiegelberg that freedom, not law, makes a man great. He says with an army he could turn Germany into a republic. Spiegelberg would like to clear the Turks out of Asia, and he says that danger fortifies courage and that adversity increases strength. He gets into a fight with Schweitzer and suggests they put idle money into circulation by robbing the rich. Roller says they need Karl like a body needs a soul. Karl is willing to lead them against hyenas and vipers, and he agrees to be their captain. Many men swear loyalty to him until death.
      Franz tells his cousin Amalia that he loves her, but she loves Karl. Franz hopes that Karl will not return, and for that she despises him. Franz gives money to Hermann and tells him he will have Amalia, and Hermann says he will strangle Karl. The old Moor tells Amalia that he is dying. Hermann in a disguised voice says that Karl is wandering and seeking the death of a hero because he no longer has a father. Hermann says that as Karl was dying, he gave Hermann his sword to take to his father because his curse drove him into battle. The old Moor mourns in despair and wants to die.
      In a Bohemian forest the robbers hear that Roller was hanged; but he comes back and says that Karl helped him escape. They blew up the powder-magazine and killed 83 people. Schufterle says he threw a child into the fire, and Karl expels him. More robbers arrive and report that they are surrounded by thousands of Bohemian troops. A priest comes to the “dragon’s lair,” and he offers the 78 robbers amnesty if they will turn in Karl. Schweitzer tears up the pardon, and Karl says that none of them will be taken alive.
      Franz threatens to put Amalia in a convent, and she slaps him. He says he will have her as his mistress. She takes his sword and drives him away. Hermann comes in and says that Karl is alive. The robbers are camped near the Danube. They lost only Roller in the battle, and Schweitzer says they killed 300. Kosinsky joins them, saying he has no fear because he is not afraid of death. He inherited a large estate and was going to wed Amalia, but he was arrested for treason, tried, and banished. Karl tells the robbers he must go see Amalia. Karl pretends to be a count from Mecklenburg with Kosinsky as his groom. Amalia shows him family portraits, and Karl identifies his father’s. He asks about his portrait, and she says he is the Count now; but she goes out weeping. Franz accuses the servant Daniel of poisoning his wine. Franz wants Daniel to kill the Count. Daniel says he hopes to die with a clear conscience, but Franz believes that is nonsense. Franz threatens to torture him, and Daniel says he will do it tomorrow. Daniel recognizes a scar on the Count’s hand and realizes he is Karl, who confirms it and asks about Amalia. In a garden Karl learns that Amalia loves him and would sacrifice for him.
      Schweitzer says that Karl forbade them to rob, and Spiegelberg quarrels with him. Spiegelberg tells Ratzmann to support him; he refuses, and Schweitzer stabs Spiegelberg to death. Karl and Kosinsky return, and Karl plays his lute and sings. He throws his pistol away. Hermann arrives and tells Karl that all is betrayed. They hear a voice from a ruined castle, break in, and find the emaciated old Moor who says he was buried by mistake and later was brought bread and water, though he had been left to die. Karl fires a pistol to summon the robbers, and he curses his brother’s blood. Karl tells the men to bring him Franz alive and whole. Franz tells Daniel to make sure the servants are armed. He describes strange fantasies he does not believe which say there is only one truth and one virtue and that works will be judged with anger. Franz doubts there is an Avenger beyond the stars. Pastor Moser arrives and preaches to him that all-seeing God needs no justification from a villain. He tells Franz that his philosophy of despair will end at death when he realizes he has been deceived. Franz tells him to go to hell and asks what is the greatest sin. Moser says the two greatest are parricide and fratricide, and Franz collapses in fear.
      A servant reports that Amalia has fled, and the Count has disappeared. Daniel warns them that fiery horsemen are arriving. Franz orders all the prisoners freed and the goods of the poor restored so that they will pray for him. He asks Daniel to kill him, but he refuses and runs away. Franz hangs himself with a golden cord. Sitting on a stone, the old Moor asks Karl to forgive him, and he does. His father blesses him, “Be happy, according as you are merciful.”26 Amalia is reunited with her uncle, and she promises to be Karl’s forever. Karl tries to escape and rushes at the robbers with his sword. The old Moor dies. Karl says that love is a torment for him. Amalia embraces him, and he asks if she knows who he is. The robbers remind him of his oath not to forsake them, and they want to take Amalia into the band; but she wishes only for death and asks the robbers to kill her. Karl kills her himself and says he slaughtered an angel for them. He lays down his blood-stained weapon and declares that such men like him “would destroy the whole moral order of creation.”27 He says that he will give himself up to the law so that he can die for justice of his own free will. Finally he plans to let a poor laborer with eleven children have the reward for his capture.

      The Duke of Württemberg was so offended by The Robbers that he ordered Schiller not to produce another play without his permission. Schiller refused, and after making trips to Mannheim he was imprisoned from June 28 to July 12, 1782. In September he and his friend Andreas Streicher fled from Stuttgart to Mannheim.
      Schiller wrote The Conspiracy of Fiesco in Genoa based on Robertson’s History of Charles V and La Conjuration du Comte Jean-Louis de Fiesque by Cardinal de Retz. He tried to give a reading of the play, but because of his Swabian accent he was stopped in the second act. The producer Meyer read it and called it a masterpiece, though the National Theatre in Mannheim director Baron Heribert von Dalberg demanded revisions.Count Giovanni Luigi de’ Fieschi at the age of 23 led the revolt against 80-year-old Doge Andrea Doria on January 2, 1547. The Doge’s nephew Gianettino Doria was killed in the uprising, and two days later the Doge had Fieschi and Verrina executed.
      The Conspiracy of Fiesco in Genoa opened at Bonn on July 20, 1783. In the play Gianettino Doria rapes Verrina’s daughter Bertha, and the republican Verrina puts a veil over her head until the ravisher is dead. He and Fiesco plot against the Doria family. Fiesco neglects his wife Leonore and flirts with Countess Julia Doria but then tells her that he is going to murder her family. He enlists the support of the Moor Muley Hassan. Fiesco allows himself to be captured and is tortured. He sacrifices the idea of a republic for his ambition and proclaims himself duke. During the street-fighting he sees the Moor setting fires and has him hanged for arson. Leonore has dressed as a man, and Fiesco accidentally kills his wife. Verrina resents Fiesco for having become a despotic duke and pushes him off a gangplank while they are boarding a galley, causing Fiesco to drown. After Andreas Doria returns, Verrina supports him.

Schiller’s Intrigue and Love and Don Carlos

      On September 1, 1783 Schiller became the house-dramatist for the theater at Mannheim for one year. On January 10, 1784 he was informed that he had been elected to the German Society of the Palatinate which had been founded in 1775 to advance good taste and the use of the German language. His new play he called Luise Miller, a bourgeois tragedy was only moderately successful at its first performance on January 11, 1784. The title was changed to Intrigue and Love (Kabale und Liebe) when it was published on March 28. More successful premieres were in Frankfort on April 13 and two days later at the National Theater in Mannheim. The play seems to be set at the present time in Stuttgart where Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg is clearly a target of its satire. The duke never appears on stage, but his power is shown by President von Walter. Karl Eugen is criticized for his taxation, confiscation of property, imprisoning people, and scandals with mistresses and lavish entertainments such as expensive fireworks. In the play Lady Milford appears to represent the mistress Franziska von Hohenheim and also the political Mlle. von Graevenitz. The play combined comedy with tragedy and had many extras with violence portrayed on stage.
      In Intrigue and Love the President’s secretary Wurm calls on the musician Miller and asks to marry his 16-year-old daughter Luise. Her father would let her decide, but her mother wants her to wed a noble instead. The duke is going to marry, and so Lady Milford is expected to marry the President’s son Ferdinand. This information is given to the foppish Chamberlain von Kalb to spread it around. A valet brings a casket of jewels to Lady Milford; but when she learns that they were bought with money from the sale of soldiers to the British to fight the Americans, she orders them sold to help the poor. The President calls on the Millers and interrogates Luise as if she were a whore, but Ferdinand defends her. Miller orders the President to leave and is threatened by him. Ferdinand stands up to his father with his sword.
      In the third act Wurm admits that “force always embitters fanatics but never converts them.” The President has the Millers arrested, and Wurm dictates a love letter for Luisa to write to Kalb. Ferdinand challenges Kalb to a duel, and Kalb confesses. Lady Milford summons Luise who then renounces Ferdinand. Lady Milford asks Kalb to take her insulting letter of goodbye to the duke. Ferdinand meets with Luise and her father and secretly puts poison in lemonade she makes. Her father leaves to take a message to the President, and Ferdinand persuades her to drink the lemonade with him. She explains the deceptive letter. The President, arriving with Wurm and officers, asks his son to forgive him and denounces Wurm for causing unhappiness. Wurm threatens to expose the President’s secrets. Dying Ferdinand asks his father for forgiveness. This play is popular and was adapted in Verdi’s opera Luisa Miller in 1849.

      In December 1784 Schiller read aloud his first act of Don Carlos for Duke Carl Augustus of Weimar who gave him a pension and made him a Weimar councilor. He based this long drama in blank verse on the 1778 German translation of Robert Watson’s History of the Reign of Philip II and the Abbé César Vichard de Saint-Réal’s romance novel from 1672. Schiller’s first effort was in 6,282 lines, but his final version was cut to 5,370 lines in 1805.
      Don Carlos is set in the spring of 1568 and begins in a royal garden at Aranjuez. Crown Prince Carlos tells the royal confessor Domingo that his birth murdered his mother, and now his stepmother Elizabeth of Valois is causing him to lose his father’s love. He was engaged to marry her and in love with her when his father decided to marry her himself. Carlos knows that his father has spies reporting to him. The Marquis of Posa arrives from Brussels and tells Carlos that Spain’s Philip is suppressing a heroic people in Flanders, and the King is sending the Duke of Alba to punish them. Carlos confides in his eternal friend that he loves the Queen. Carlos gets a chance to see Elizabeth, who tells him to flee. He says if she were regent in Flanders, she could stop Alba’s massacre. She admits she loves no longer and accepts her fate, and she urges him to take Spain as his second love and rule in the future. Philip rules an empire; but his wife makes him feel mortal, and he is worried about Carlos. The Prince tells Posa that he will save Flanders, but Posa says Alba was appointed governor. Carlos and Posa confirm their mutual devotion.
      At Madrid in the royal palace Carlos asks Philip why he is banished from his heart. The King says he is alone. Carlos says he loves him and asks to lead the army in the Netherlands because Alba is not humane. Philip does not trust his son’s lust for power and insists Carlos stay there and be nursed by physicians. Carlos argues with Alba, and they fight with swords; but the Queen intervenes, and Carlos forgives him. Carlos visits the private apartment of the Princess of Eboli; she loves him but in a long scene discovers that he loves someone else. She gives Carlos the King’s letter asking her to be his mistress. Eboli shares her secret with Domingo and Alba, and the two men plot against Carlos and the Queen. In a Carthusian monastery Carlos meets with Posa and shows him the King’s letter to Princess Eboli, proving that the Queen is free; but Posa tears up the letter. Posa warns against this dangerous passion, but he agrees that Carlos shall see Elizabeth.
      After a sleepless night Philip II confers about Carlos and the Queen with the Count of Lerma, then with the Duke of Alba, and after that with Domingo. The Duke of Feria tells the King how the Marquis of Posa uncovered a conspiracy in Catalonia. Philip meets with Posa who declines to serve him because he loves all mankind. He complains that the King devalues human dignity by making them his instruments. He predicts that gentler ages will supplant him with milder wisdom that cares for the welfare of citizens. He warns that thousands have already fled from his lands. People will burst their bonds and demand their consecrated rights. He urges Philip to let happiness flow from his horn of plenty as minds are ripening. He can create a new world by allowing freedom of thought. When people realize their worth, then “freedom’s proud and lofty virtues thrive.”28 The King warns him to avoid his Inquisition. Posa cares more about the people than himself, and he refuses to let the King bribe him. Philip trusts Posa to speak to his wife and son and says he can be admitted unannounced.
      Posa meets Queen Elizabeth and tells her, “Whoever would be of use to human beings must try first to make himself the equal of them.”29 He advises her that Carlos must not stay there but go secretly to Brussels where the Flemish people will welcome him. He wants her to persuade him, and she agrees to help. Posa gives Carlos a note from the Queen, and he feels love making his soul greater and is glad to obey. The Queen asks Philip for justice, and his little daughter finds a medallion of Carlos on the floor. Elizabeth admits that she cherishes Carlos because he had been dearest to her. Philip gets angry and roughs up the child. While leaving, the Queen collapses and bleeds, and she is sent home. As Alba and Domingo close in, Posa comes in and gives the King the Prince’s letter case. Philip reads one written by the Princess Eboli. Posa says that the Queen suggested that Carlos go to Flanders, and he urges the King to detain his son. Philip writes the order and hands it to Posa.
      Lerma tells Carlos about this, and the Prince is afraid he lost his friend. He intends to warn the Queen. Alba warns her that some of the Prince’s important papers are missing. Carlos asks the Princess Eboli to help him see his “mother.” Posa rushes in with officers and has Carlos arrested. Posa threatens Eboli but lets her go. She goes to the Queen with the news and blames herself for taking the letters to the King. The Queen tells Posa he is playing a risky game, and he admits that he has lost for himself so that the Prince can escape tonight and create a newer state. He says the deadly insect of reason is vaunted as superior but that idealism is the daughter of heaven. He asks her to love Carlos always, and she promises. Alba believes that Posa has both the son and father held captive, and he learns of a letter to William of Orange in Brussels. Feria says it is treason. The Princess Eboli comes in and says the King is deceived.
      Posa visits Carlos who is in despair. Posa returns some of his letters. Alba comes in and says Carlos is free, but the Prince wants the King to come and remove him. Posa says he is free and saved. Posa explains that he became his enemy in order to serve him for a greater purpose. He asks for pardon. Posa made himself look guilty so that Carlos could flee to Flanders; but his letter to William was stolen. Carlos says he will plead for Posa. A shot is heard, and Posa is killed. Philip embraces his son, but Carlos pushes him away and seizes the King’s sword. He says Posa died for him, and they murdered him. He hands over the sword and says Philip is his king.
      Carlos is told how he can sneak into the Queen’s room by dressing as the ghost of his grandfather Charles V, and Lerma gives him weapons. Lerma says that Philip forced his father (Charles V) to abdicate, and he fears Carlos may do that to him. Alba explains there is a conspiracy to liberate the Netherlands from Spanish rule. Alba reports to the King about the apparition going to the Queen. The 90-year-old Cardinal Grand Inquisitor hears Philip’s confession, instructs him, and approves the execution of his son. Carlos returns letters to the Queen and says he is leaving Spain. The King comes in, and the Queen faints. Carlos takes her in his arms, and Philip tells the Grand Inquisitor that he did his part and that now the Inquisitor must do his.
      Schiller’s Don Carlo has been adapted into an opera by five different composers, most notably by Verdi in 1867 and 1884.

      In October 1788 Schiller published the first volume of his History of the Decline of the United Netherlands by the Spanish Government which covered from 1560 to 1567. In the introduction he wrote,

Great and encouraging is the reflection that there is a resource
left us against the arrogant usurpations of despotic power;
that its best-contrived plans against the liberty of mankind
may be frustrated; that resolute opposition
can weaken even the outstretched arm of tyranny;
and that heroic perseverance
can eventually exhaust its fearful resources.30

Although Schiller’s review of Goethe’s Egmont had been critical, in December 1788 Goethe nominated him to be a professor of history at the University of Jena. In January 1789 Schiller wrote a more favorable article on Goethe’s Iphigenia in Tauris, but they would not become close friends until 1794.

Schiller on Aesthetics and Ethics
Schiller’s Wallenstein and Mary Stuart
Schiller’s Maid of Orleans and Wilhelm Tell


1. Quoted in Moses Mendelssohn and the Enlightenment by Allan Arkush, p. 105.
2. Selections from His Writings by Moses Mendelssohn,tr. Eva Jospe, 117.
3. Ibid., quoted in the Introduction by Alfred Jospe, p. 13.
4. Ibid., p. 147
5. Jerusalem by Moses Mendelssohn tr. M. Samuels, p. 173.
6. Quoted in Lessing and the Enlightenment by Henry E. Allison, p. 51.
7. “Concerning the Comedy The Jews” by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in Nathan the Wise, Minna von Barnhelm, and Other Plays and Writings ed. Peter Demetz, p. 167.
8. Philosophical and Theological Writings by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing tr. H. B. Nisbet, 123-9.
9. Ibid., p. 182.
10. Lectures on Ethics by Immanuel Kant tr. Louis Infield, p. 44.
11. Ibid., p. 253.
12. Foundations of the Metaphysic of Morals, Second Section 436 by Immanuel Kant, tr. Lewis White Beck, p. 63.
13. Critique of Practical Reason 5:132 by Immanuel Kant in Practical Philosophy, tr. Mary J. Gregor, p. 246.
14. Ibid. 5:163, tr. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, p. 361.
15. On Social and Political Culture by J. G. Herder, tr. F. M. Bernard, p. 262.
16. Ibid., p. 262.
17. Ibid., p. 267.
18. Ibid., p. 270.
19. The Autobiography of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe tr. John Oxenford, p. 362.
20. Quoted in The Life of Goethe: A Critical Biography by John R. Williams, p. 60.
21. Quoted in Goethe: The History of a Man 1749-1832 by Emil Ludwig, tr. Ethel Colburn Mayne, p. 88.
22. Iphigenia in Tauris 1650-2 tr. Charles E. Passage in Goethe’s Plays, p. 463.
23. Friedrich Schiller Poet of Freedom, p. 308, 310, “Ode to Joy” tr. William Wertz, Jr.
24. “Theater Considered as a Moral Institution” by Friedrich Schiller, tr. John Sigerson and John Chambliss in Friedrich Schiller Poet of Freedom, p. 211
25. Ibid., p. 218.
26. The Robbers by Friedrich Schiller, tr. F. J. Lamport, p. 153.
27. Ibid., p. 159.
28. Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller, tr. Charles E. Passage, line 3249.
29. Ibid., lines 3390-3392.
30. The History of the Revolt of the Netherlands by Friedrich Schiller, p. 8.

Copyright © 2017 by Sanderson Beck

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Britain of Georges I-III 1714-88
Wesley, Hume, Johnson, Smith & Pope
British Novels and Plays 1715-88
France of Louis XV and XVI
Montesquieu, Voltaire & Rousseau
French Literature and Theatre 1715-88
Spain, Portugal & Italy 1715-88
Austrian Empire and German States 1715-88
Lessing, Kant, Goethe and Schiller
Netherlands and Scandinavia 1715-88
Poland-Lithuania and Russia 1715-88
Summary and Evaluating Europe 1715-88


Chronology of Europe 1716-1830
World Chronology 1715-1817

BECK index