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Schiller the Dramatist

Schiller the Dramatist: A Study of Gesture in the Plays

John Guthrie
Volume: 39
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 225
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  • Book Info
    Schiller the Dramatist
    Book Description:

    Many aspects of the works of Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) have attracted attention. His work as a philosopher and pioneering thinker in poetics and aesthetics and as a historian have recently been the focus of much attention. But Schiller's dramas have

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-750-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    John Guthrie
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The term “gesture” in the title of this book calls for some explanation. In some disciplines in which gesture is studied, such as anthropology, social psychology, and linguistics, the term is used with a more precise if also somewhat narrower meaning than in literary criticism and theater studies. A leading scholar in the burgeoning field of gesture studies, Adam Kendon, defines gesture as a “label for actions that have features of manifest deliberate expressiveness.”¹ Gesture is seen as part of a system of signs that human beings consciously use to communicate, and this system is influenced by a number of...

  6. 1: Schiller’s Gestures: Origins and Contexts
    (pp. 13-46)

    There is no simple answer to the question of where Schiller’s striking use of gesture comes from. When he came to write drama at the end of the 1770s, the Sturm und Drang had already had its heyday. But Schiller adopts many features of the Sturm und Drang style of drama, particularly with regard to gesture, and blends them with others that have their roots in his own more specific situation and interests. This style very rapidly became Schiller’s own. Although he stopped writing plays for a period of ten years and, when he began writing again, wrote in a...

  7. The Early Plays

    • 2: An Experiment in Theater: Die Räuber
      (pp. 49-71)

      Die Räuber made its author famous overnight. Though the first production tampered with the contemporary setting, projecting the action back into the sixteenth century, and made a number of other changes to the version Schiller wrote,¹ the effect in the theater was overwhelming. The often-quoted eyewitness report of the premiere tells how the performance physically affected the audience.

      Das Theater glich einem Irrenhause, rollende Augen, geballte Fäuste, stampfende Füße, heisere Aufschreie im Zuschauerraum. Fremde Menschen fielen einander schluchzend in die Arme, Frauen wankten, einer Ohnmacht nahe, zur Türe. Es war eine allgemeine Auflösung wie im Chaos, aus dessen Nebeln eine...

    • 3: Playing at Politics: Die Verschwörung des Fiesko zu Genua
      (pp. 72-84)

      In his medical dissertation of 1780 Schiller refers to the Genoese Count Fiesko, linking him with Catilina as a highly sensual being.¹ Schiller was also familiar with scenes from Abel’s drama Die grausame Tugend, published in the Wirttembergisches Repertorium der Litteratur (Würtemburg Repertory of Literature) in March 1782. This had no direct connection with Fiesko’s story, but it does have significance for Schiller’s treatment of it.² Abel’s drama portrays how Timoleon’s brother Timophanes murders some of the citizens of Corinthia and assumes power. Timoleon begs him to renounce power, but he refuses, and Timoleon visits him with two friends, Aeschylus...

    • 4: Violence and Silence in Domestic Tragedy: Kabale und Liebe
      (pp. 85-98)

      Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love) was performed to a Frankfurt audience then to one in Mannheim in the spring of 1784. Schiller had assisted at rehearsals for the Mannheim production, which was met with acclaim.¹ But the play was also the target of severe criticism, notably from Karl Philipp Moritz,² who attacked, among other things, Schiller’s language. It was taken off the stage at Mannheim and censored in Stuttgart and Vienna. Nevertheless, it soon established itself firmly in the repertoire, becoming relatively popular in the later half of the nineteenth century and even more so in the twentieth. In...

  8. Transition to the Classical Style

    • 5: “The Court Watches and Listens”: Gesture in Don Karlos
      (pp. 101-114)

      Don Karlos had its premiere in Hamburg on 27 August 1787, with Friedrich Ludwig Schröder as Philipp. The production received some highly favorable reviews. The role of Philipp was given greater prominence through cuts to other roles. The significance of gesture is brought out in a review of the first production by Johann Friedrich Schink.¹

      Noch eh er sprach, erkannte jeder den Gebieter über sechs Königreiche, den spanischen Herrscher, in der ganzen Glorie der Grandezza seiner Nation, aber edel gehalten, ohne Repräsentation. Da stand der fürchterliche Mensch, der . . . nichts als König und alle Teilnahme und Anhänglichkeit von...

    • 6: “Erweitert jetzt ist des Theaters Enge”: Action, Space, and Gesture in the Wallenstein Trilogy
      (pp. 115-130)

      The premiere of Wallensteins Lager (Wallenstein’s Camp) took place on 12 October 1798 to celebrate the opening of the newly renovated theater in Weimar. Goethe as director had been indefatigable in rehearsal and reported to Schiller at every stage. Schiller required changes up to the last moment.¹ He came to Weimar to assist with the rehearsals for Die Piccolomini (The Piccolomini),² which was premiered the following January, while the third part of the trilogy, Wallensteins Tod (Wallenstein’s Death), was premiered with success in March. Other productions soon followed in Berlin, Leipzig, and Hamburg.³ Goethe was keen to use the resources...

  9. Gesture in the Later Plays

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 131-134)

      Schiller’s later plays are often grouped together under the heading of Weimar Classicism. This useful label can sometimes mislead. It has led to inaccurate criticism that his dramas are poetically and formally exemplary but verbally and rhetorically overladen, sententious, distant from reality, undramatic, and bloodless, and pay little attention to stagecraft and gesture.¹ The body has disappeared,² it is said, Schiller having lost something of the drive and energy of his early plays, and their subversive content is supposedly replaced by politically reactionary views expressed in neoclassical style. J. G. Robertson writes that from Don Karlos onward Schiller forgot “all...

    • 7: “Meine Maria wird keine weiche Stimmung erregen”: The Two Faces of Classicism in Maria Stuart
      (pp. 135-148)

      The writing of Wallenstein had cost Schiller much effort. It had been a struggle to adopt a new style and create a new type of drama, but the production of the play in Weimar had proved a triumph. The writing of Maria Stuart was less demanding and gave Schiller more immediate satisfaction,¹ even though it was interrupted by illness and by his move to Weimar — which would lead to Goethe engaging Schiller for theater projects (a production of Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris (Iphigenia on Tauris) and a translation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth). The original idea for a play on the Scottish...

    • 8: “Nicht meiner Rede, deinen Augen glaube!”: Perspective in Die Jungfrau von Orleans
      (pp. 149-164)

      Within weeks of the first performance of Maria Stuart in Weimar, Schiller turned to another historical subject, Joan of Arc, completing his next play in mid-April of the following year. While writing the play he wavered between great enthusiasm and agony over the problems he had created for himself.¹ This had much to do with the way he believed the play would work in the theater. Both the first production of the play in Leipzig, premiered on 19 September 1801, and the production in Weimar in March 1804 met with acclaim. They were followed by enthusiastically received (though heavily censored)...

    • 9: Chaos in Classicism: Die Braut von Messina oder die feindlichen Brüder. Ein Trauerspiel mit Chören
      (pp. 165-177)

      With his next play, Die Braut von Messina (subtitled Brothers at War), Schiller was attempting to work within the newly established tradition of the formal style of acting that had been evolving in Weimar under Goethe’s directorship. There was a relationship of mutual fructification between Goethe’s writing of his Regeln für Schauspieler (Rules for Actors) and productions of the play. It was to be a “classical” play, a first attempt at tragedy in the strict form in the style of the Greeks, as Schiller wrote in a letter to Humboldt of 17 February 1803.¹ One senses that this was conceived...

    • 10: Wilhelm Tell: The Triumph of Ambivalence
      (pp. 178-188)

      Schiller had hoped that Wilhelm Tell, which was to be his last completed play, would be produced on the Berlin stage by Iffland, who had urged him to write plays that appealed to the theater-going public.¹ He was confident that it would have an effect in the theater and was even prepared to write it in prose to help it achieve that.² Because of delays created by Iffland’s worries about the play’s political content and certain dramaturgical questions, it had its first performance in Weimar on 17 March 1804, where however, it proved too long for the audience, forcing Schiller...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 189-190)

    At the beginning of this study I emphasized that the provenance of gestures in Schiller’s plays was more complex and revealing than is normally assumed. We saw how Schiller’s gestures could be traced to a number of different sources: his experience of life and the performing arts at the Karlsschule, his reading, especially of dramatic literature and the Bible, and his medical studies, including his interest in physiology and psychology. These factors combined with an imaginative world in which the impulse to theatrical representation was very strong. For although Schiller wrote literary drama throughout his career with an eye to...

  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 191-206)
  12. Index
    (pp. 207-213)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 214-214)