BECK index

German Idealists and Romantics 1789-1830

by Sanderson Beck

Kant on Morals and Peace
Fichte’s Political Idealism
Fröbel and Herbart on Education
Hegel’s Dialectical Idealism
Schiller on Aesthetics and Ethics
Schiller’s Wallenstein and Mary Stuart
Schiller’s Maid of Orleans and Wilhelm Tell
Kleist’s Plays
Goethe’s Torquato Tasso
Goethe’s Later Novels
Goethe’s Faust

Kant on Morals and Peace

      In 1783 Immanuel Kant published Religion within the Limits of Pure Reason. He argued that morality does not need religion because the virtue of the practical reason is sufficient for a person to recognize one’s duty. He criticized organized religions because of their rituals, superstitions, and hierarchical structures. To avoid the censors he published this book through the University of Jena, but after the second edition in 1784 the censors discovered the book and got King Friedrich Wilhelm III to restrict Kant from writing or speaking about religion for the rest of his life.
      In 1797 in the first part of his Metaphysics of Morals translated as The Science of Right Kant discussed the right of nations and international law and also the universal right of mankind. Ethically people ought to be treated as ends in themselves and not mechanically as a means to some end. Therefore the ruler has no right to treat his people as objects for some warlike purpose. The people do not owe a duty to the sovereign; in Kant’s view rather the sovereign has a duty to the people.

As such they must give their free consent,
through their representatives,
not only to the carrying on of war generally,
but to every separate declaration of war;
and it is only under this limiting condition that the state
has a right to demand their services
in undertakings so full of danger.1

      Kant defined three rights of peace: neutrality, guarantee, and alliance. Neutrality is the right to remain at peace when a war is nearby. Guarantee is “the right to have peace secured so that it may continue when it has been concluded.”2 Alliance is the right of federation, that states may defend themselves in common against attack. However, there is no right of alliance for external aggression or internal aggrandizement.
      Kant applied the categorical imperative to the relations of states and rejected any action or policy which would make peace among the nations impossible. He pointed out that nations, like individuals, must enter into a legal state, in this case, a union of states, which is the only way to establish peace and the public right of nations. Thus a permanent congress of nations must eventually become practical so that differences may be settled by means of a civil process instead of by barbarous war. Kant based the right to a universal peaceful union of all nations on the juridical principle of legal justice rather than on the moral ideal of the philanthropic or ethical principles. Because all people originally share the soil of the Earth, they have a right to associate with each other. Even though perpetual peace may not be real yet, Kant emphasized that we must work to realize it as our duty. He concluded,

The universal and lasting establishment of peace
constitutes not merely a part,
but the whole final purpose and end of the science of right
as viewed within the limits of reason.3

      In his “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” in 1784 Kant had stated that Nature forces people to a cosmopolitan solution, making a league of nations the inevitable result of social evolution. Until then humans must suffer the cruelty of conflicts. The answer lies in a moral order, which can only be brought about through education. This enlightenment requires a commitment of heart to the good that is clearly understood. He lamented that rulers spend little money on public education because they spend it paying for past and future wars. He predicted that the ever-growing war debt (which was new in his time) would eventually make war impractical economically. He foresaw that this and the value of interstate commerce would prepare the way eventually for an international government even though there had never been one in world history. Looking toward the goal of world citizenship, he suggested that the philosophical historian ought to note how various nations and governments have contributed to this goal.
      Kant felt that war is the greatest obstacle to morality and that the preparation for war is the greatest evil; therefore we must renounce war. “The morally practical reason utters within us its irrevocable veto: There shall be no war.”4 Yet without a cosmopolitan constitution and the wisdom to submit ourselves voluntarily to its constraint, war is inevitable. The obstacles of ambition, love of power, and avarice, particularly of those in authority, stand in the way. Again education must foster the building of character in accordance with moral principles. The full realization of our destiny, the sovereignty of God on Earth, ultimately depends not on governments but on justice and conscience within us.
      Kant’s major work on peace entitled Perpetual Peace was published in 1795. That year in the separate treaty of Basel, Prussia ceded France territory west of the Rhine so that it could partition Poland with Russia and Austria. Kant was so indignant at this that he wrote Perpetual Peace as a just treaty that could be signed by nations. He stated six preliminary propositions for a perpetual peace among states:

1. No treaty of peace shall be held valid
   in which there is tacitly reserved matter for a future war.
2. No independent states, large or small,
   shall come under the dominion of another state
   by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or donation.
3. Standing armies shall in time be totally abolished.
4. National debts shall not be contracted
   with a view to the external friction of states.
5. No state shall by force interfere with
   the constitution or government of another state.
6. No state shall, during war, permit such acts of hostility
   which would make mutual confidence
   in the subsequent peace impossible:
   such are the employment of assassins,
   poisoners, breach of capitulation,
   and incitement to treason in the opposing state.5

He added that a state has no right to wage a punitive war because just punishment must come from a superior authority and not an equal.
      In introducing the three definitive articles, Kant observed that the state of nature tends toward conflict and war; therefore peace must be actively established and maintained by a civil state. Civil constitutions are of three levels: the law of persons, the law of nations, and the law of world citizenship.
      The first definitive article states, “The civil constitution of every state should be republican.”6 By this Kant meant that the laws must be applied to everyone universally and fairly—in other words, government by law, not by favored men. Thus the principles of freedom, common legislation, and equality must pertain. He hoped that requiring the citizens’ consent to declare war would prevent its devastation because it is usually the people, not the ruler, who sacrifice and suffer. By “republican” Kant meant representative of the people, but not necessarily democracy, which he considered more likely to be despotic than representative government by one (autocracy) or a few (aristocracy). In a pure democracy it is not possible to separate the execute power from the legislative function.
      The second definitive article states, “The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states.”7 This constitution establishes the rights of states through a league of nations. Kant noted that Grotius, Pufendorf, Vattel, and many other irritating comforters have been cited to justify war, but their code cannot have legal force. Victory in war goes to the stronger, but it does not settle what is right. At its conclusion a peace treaty ends that war, but to end all wars forever there must be a league of peace. The more republics associate with each other, the more practical a federation becomes. In the federation a supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power may be established to reconcile the differences between nations peaceably. But if nations do not acknowledge these supreme powers, then how can they safeguard their rights? He noted that using unilateral maxims through force leads to “perpetual peace in the vast grave that swallows both the atrocities and their perpetrators.”8 Therefore states must give up their savage (lawless) freedom in order to find a greater freedom and security within the constraints of public law.
      The third definitive article states, “The law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality.”9 Everyone has the right not to be treated as an enemy when arriving in another land. How prophetic Kant was when he wrote, “The narrower or wider community of the peoples of the earth has developed so far that a violation of rights in one place is felt throughout the world.”10 Thus he did not consider a law of world citizenship high-flown nor exaggerated but rather indispensable for human rights and perpetual peace.
      For Kant the guarantee for perpetual peace is the design and process of world history which we call “providence.” People have spread throughout the Earth and have been forced to develop lawful relations with each other. States were formed for defense against violations, and people have been forced to be good for the sake of others by laws to keep the peace. Although differences of language and religion may have kept states separate, competition nevertheless maintains an equilibrium; commerce has made peace far preferable to war.
      Kant argued that politics must eventually be moral because the moral laws are eternal and transcendent of political stratagems. Like Bentham, Kant emphasized that justice must be public and open to scrutiny. He reasoned that political maxims must be able to be public in order to be legitimate; those which need publicity in order to succeed are both right and politically advantageous because they must be in accord with the public’s universal good. Therefore it is our duty to promote publicly those policies which lead to the universal good of lasting peace.
      Kant published On Pedagogy in 1803. In regard to morality he emphasized teaching children to think so that they can apply moral maxims to their conduct. This is preferable to discipline, and he warned against inflicting punishment with anger. The child’s character should be formed to be truthful and sociable.

Fichte’s Political Idealism

      Johann Gottlieb Fichte is considered a founder of ethical and transcendental idealism. He was born on 19 May 1762 in rural Saxony. His father was from a family of serfs but became a linen weaver to support his wife and eight children. Baron Freiherr von Militz paid for Fichte to go to the prestigious Pforta School 1774-80. In 1780 he began studying theology at the University of Jena seminary. He transferred to Leipzig University in 1781; but his financial support ended in 1784, and he did not complete his degree. He worked as a tutor in Zurich, and in 1790 he moved back to Leipzig and began studying the works of Kant. He went to Konigsberg in 1791 and attended Kant’s lectures. Fichte also tutored in Danzig (Gdansk). In 1792 Kant helped Fichte publish anonymously his first book, Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation. People thought that Kant wrote it; but he explained that he did not, and he praised Fichte’s work which made him known.
      In 1793 Fichte married in Zurich, and he published the radical works, Reclamation of the Freedom of Thought from the Princes of Europe and Contributions toward Correcting the Public’s Judgment of the French Revolution, defending the Revolution which many had abandoned. The next year he was hired by the University of Jena and published Foundations of the Science of Knowledge (Wissenschaftslehre) based on his philosophy lectures.
      Fichte began writing Foundations of Natural Right and published it in two parts in March 1796 and March 1797. His main principal of what is right is that each person should limit one’s freedom so that others can be free also. He accepted the original rights expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. He found freedom in self-consciousness and used reason to discover the principles of right. His first theorem is, “A finite rational being cannot posit itself without ascribing a free efficacy to itself.”11 His second theorem is that this rational being cannot ascribe this freedom to oneself without ascribing it to others. The third theorem is that such beings may also stand in a right relation to each other.
      Fichte recognized republicanism in the French Revolution as sovereignty which comes from the popular will that allows the governed a role in governing. He emphasized the reality of freedom more than the goal of happiness because he rejected the paternalism of princes who claimed they were acting for the happiness of society. The ability to reason creates the choice to exercise free will. Because humans have reason and a physical body they can act intelligently in the natural world. Humans form relationships with each other, and reason enables us to work for right or good relations.
      A community is a collection of free beings with reciprocal relationships. A just state will respect and protect the original rights of individuals. The state makes laws and can use some coercion to prevent individuals from violating the rights of others. Fichte recognized the social contract developed by Rousseau in his concept of unification which enables the individual to become a part of an organic whole. He also recognized a social spirit in society that transcends private interests. Fichte used “police” in its Greek political meaning as a way the state enforces its principles of justice that may include public health and assisting the poor as well as protection and law enforcement. He explained that one can only conceive of oneself as free if one recognizes the freedom of others. From this comes the understanding of reciprocity and equality as guiding ideals. Thus economic justice becomes an important part of his political philosophy, and to eliminate poverty the state may redistribute wealth. Like Rousseau he recognized that economic deprivation restricts personal freedom. Thus he argued that everyone has the right to subsistence for self-preservation. In his first appendix on family right he wrote, “It is a universal moral duty of every morally good human being to spread morality beyond himself and to promote it everywhere.”12
      In 1798 Fichte published his Systems of Ethical Theory. He explained moral activity as the free commitment of the will to ideal devotion. Duty is a challenge and the will of the true self. He affirmed that if one should, then one can. Evil comes from rejecting or denying the moral will or from the laziness that leads to cowardice. These two vices lead to falseness and lying. He believed that one owes to every person frankness and truthfulness.
      Also in 1798 Fichte published On the Ground of Our Belief in a Divine World-Order. He believed in divine providence and that moral actions always have good results while evil actions do not. Because of his statement that the “living and operative moral order is God,” he was accused of atheism, and in 1799 he was dismissed from Jena University. In 1800 he moved to Berlin and published The Vocation of Man. In that meditative work he examined himself so that he would know. Yet he could not explain how the power of nature produces thought. In his inward consciousness he found independence. He recommended faith and the inward voice to open spiritual vision to a better world where one may be united with an infinite will.
      Fichte lectured on the Characteristics of the Present Age, which he considered the third of five epochs of civilization. The first stage is unreflective conduct, and the second is a minority imposing their authority on the masses. His contemporary phase he described as lawless defying of laws. He prophesied that the fourth epoch would be the gradual recognition and adopting of the rational policies of the enlightenment. Fichte’s fifth and final epoch is the spiritual fulfillment of a humane society. He criticized the romantics Novalis, Tieck, and the Schlegel brothers.
      In 1805 Fichte was given a chair at Erlangen University where he lectured On the Nature of the Scholar. The following winter at Berlin he taught and published The Way to the Blessed Life or The Doctrine of Religion, suggesting that the knowledge and love of God are the purpose of life because God is all.
      When Napoleon’s army invaded Prussia, Fichte left Berlin; but he returned in 1807 and in the winter he delivered his Addresses to the German Nation with practical suggestions for national recovery. He urged cultivating philanthropic devotion to guide university education. In his second address he advocated a new system of national education. He explained that humans can will only what they love which is the only infallible motive of the will for all actions. This must replace selfish love. He wrote,

We must set up and establish in the hearts of all those whom
we wish to reckon among our nation that other kind of love,
which is concerned directly with the good,
simply as such and for its own sake.13

He suggested that the direct revelation of God is love which is “the only real world.” Fichte recommended the educational methods of Pestalozzi as the remedy. He encouraged love of the “Fatherland,” but he also wrote,

To you has fallen the greater destiny,
to found the empire of the spirit and of reason,
and completely to annihilate
the rule of brute physical force in the world.
If you do this, then you are worthy of your descent from us.14

      After Wilhelm Humboldt founded the University of Berlin named after himself in 1810, Fichte was appointed dean of philosophy. He also served as rector in 1811-12. His wife volunteered to nurse the sick and caught typhus. Fichte contracted the disease from her and died on 29 January 1814.

Fröbel and Herbart on Education

      Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852) was born in Thuringia, and his mother died nine months later. His father was a Lutheran pastor who became busy building a church, and in 1792 Friedrich was allowed to live with his kind maternal uncle who trusted him. In 1799 he went to the University at Jena to study mathematics and botany. While in the university prison for unpaid debts he read the Zendavesta. He was also influenced by the pantheistic philosophy of Schelling that united mind and nature. He liked the peaceful life of plants and perceived unity in diversity. His father died in 1802. Fröbel worked as a surveyor until 1805 when he began teaching at a secondary school in Frankfurt. In 1806 he began tutoring three sons of a noble, and he lived with them from 1808 to 1810 at Pestalozzi’s school in Yverdon where he combined teaching with learning.
      After teaching at a boarding school in Berlin he joined the army fighting against Napoleon’s armies in 1813. In 1816 Fröbel founded the German General Education Institute at Griesheim in Thuringia, and the next year he moved it to Keilhau. He married in 1818 but had no children. He began publishing pamphlets in 1820, and in 1826 he published his magnum opus, The Education of Man. In 1837 he founded the Play and Activity Institute, and in 1840 he invented the kindergarten for pre-school children, saying, “Come, let us live for our children.” He loved children, and his educational play materials were called “Froebel’s Gifts.”
      Fröbel devoted his life to improving education for children in harmony with physical and mental development. He recognized the divine spirit in all growing things and applied German transcendentalism to education. He worked to discover the laws that could make teaching scientific. He valued childhood for its own sake, not just as a preparation for being an adult. He warned that adults have no right to feel superior to children, and he advised that they should not interfere with the natural conditions of childhood. His child-centered education is based on understanding individual differences. In understanding the divine nature of the universe he held that humans need senses and feelings educated as well as reason. Like Pestalozzi he found a “living soul-unity” between parents and children, and he derived his principles from the oneness of life. Thus education should be cooperative rather than competitive.
      The harmony of diversity can be found in play just as Schiller in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man noted that art is a sublime form of play. For the child play combines attention, relaxation, purpose, independence, and freedom. Play for the child is as important as work is for adults. Fröbel observed that early experiences in childhood shape the development of personality, and he argued that the kindergarten could help redeem humanity.
      Fröbel began The Education of Man by discussing the Divine Unity that lives and reigns as eternal law. Then he wrote,

Education consists in leading man, as a thinking,
intelligent being, growing into self-consciousness,
to a pure and unsullied, conscious and free representation
of the inner law of Divine Unity,
and in teaching him ways and means thereto.15

The true science of life is the knowledge of life in its totality by an intelligent being, and from this comes the science of education. The highest human aim is to be wise. Education can unfold the divine essence and raise a person to the acceptance of the divine principle that lives inside. Education should lead and guide humans to a clear understanding of themselves and to inner peace with nature and unity with God. Individuality is found in humanity, diversity in nature, and unity in God. The child, boy, and man should be at each stage what is needed for that stage. Fröbel urged the cultivation of religion, industry, and temperance. He considered play the highest phase of child development because it is the self-active representation of the inner life. He urged parents to learn from their children and live with them in peace and joy, and these will help them to grow wise.

      Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) was born in Oldenburg in northwest Germany, and as a fragile child he was taught by his mother for his first twelve years. Then he attended a gymnasium school for six years before going on to the University of Jena where he studied philosophy under Fichte for three years. Herbart became a tutor for three years in the Swiss canton of Bern where he visited Pestalozzi. Next Herbart studied Greek and mathematics at Bremen for three more years. In 1801 he went to the University of Göttingen where he earned a doctoral degree and began teaching pedagogy. In 1806 he wrote Science of Education, and in 1809 he became the chairman of philosophy at the University of Königsberg. He started a seminary of pedagogy and taught there until 1833.
      In 1816 Herbart published his Textbook in Psychology which became the basis for his comprehensive theories on learning and teaching. He observed that much learning is forgotten; but he deduced that this knowledge remains in the subconscious mind because it can be revived. He concluded that consciousness is conditioned by all learning. Sigmund Freud acknowledged that his theory of the unconscious was influenced by the ideas of Herbart.
      For Herbart the duty of a teacher is to preserve the natural vigor of the pupils, though they need to learn how to control their natural exuberance and obey. He noted that children have a tendency to lie in order not to offend their parents and teachers. Therefore they need to develop confidential communication among themselves and with adults. Children should be invited to be free and confident. He explained that humans are motivated in four ways. Occupation includes work and recreation. Disposition covers love, approval, and social intercourse and their opposites. The third is family relationships, and the fourth is service whether it be paid, compulsory, or honorary. People need to learn the ethical ideals of inner freedom, perfection, good will, justice, and compensation. Education should promote courage and an open mind rather than ambition. Herbart believed that interest in mental activity could become so great that play will seem trifling. Children should be encouraged to have many interests and to cultivate different abilities.
      Good instruction appeals to what interests the students and teaches them to use analysis and synthesis to understand facts and ideas while using descriptive instruction to develop associations. He believed that the ultimate goal is to develop moral character, and he argued that the more advanced the civilization is the more important it becomes for liberal education to shape the affections so that the individual can better serve that culture. Interest makes the student susceptible and open to outside impressions while being able to integrate them into a harmonious whole. In his time he noted the differences between the German Gymnasium, the French Lycée, and the English Public School. He suggested that instruction pay attention to cultural epochs because he believed that individual development follows the progress of the human race.
      Herbart explained that instruction should proceed through the stages of clarity, association, system, and method. First the new ideas or facts must be presented clearly. Then they are associated with other concepts. The purpose of system is to connect the ideas in the total context of the lesson. With method the student is encouraged to apply the new learning in the future. Herbart taught that ethics is based on transcendent values, and he also emphasized the importance of esthetic values such as good taste, tact, and appreciation of beauty. At the end of Science of Education he described the ideal person as follows:

An active and mature man will not be subject to
a tempestuous fate that urges him on to an unknown goal,
unaware whether he is driving or being driven.
On each level of life
he will attempt to attain serenity and reason.
He will aim to attune his soul to accord with his environment,
and from his vision of the Absolute
he will derive his faith in the ultimate victory of the good.
He will strive to acquire a harmony of mind
that will allow him to move freely, but prudently,
between the finite and the infinite,
between the transient and the permanent.
By noble participation in the joys and griefs of human life
he will be led to a fuller appreciation
of the pure light of the spirit,
and his deeds will reflect the elation of his soul.

Hegel’s Dialectical Idealism

      Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born at Stuttgart on 27 August 1770. At the age of three he attended a German school and then a Latin school in 1775. His mother helped him learn Latin, and he went to the Gymnasium school in Stuttgart in 1780. His mother died when he was 13. He read widely in the classics, translating the Manual (Encheiridion) by Epictetus in 1786 and studying Aristotle's Ethics in 1788. That year Wilhelm graduated from the Gymnasium and went to Tubingen University where he earned an M.A. in Philosophy in 1790. For a while he shared an apartment with the younger Schelling and the poet Hölderlin, and they were excited by the French Revolution. In 1793 Hegel passed the theology exam and moved to Bern to work as a tutor. In addition to the classics he was also influenced by Gibbon, Montesquieu, Lessing, Rousseau, and Kant. In Goethe’s Iphigenia Hegel found a goddess who trusted the truth in herself and the human heart. He wrote about folk religion, and in 1795 he wrote The Life of Jesus and The Positivity of the Christian Religion. He hoped to reconcile the teachings of Jesus with the ethics of Kant.
      In 1797 Hegel went to Frankfurt to tutor as arranged by Hölderlin who was having an illicit love affair and would later have a mental breakdown. Hegel suffered from depression and worked hard studying Greek philosophy and modern history and politics. He came to believe that the law is fulfilled by the love of God and that a community of such believers can be the kingdom of God. Love unites the divine and human. He was inspired by the idea of the Holy Spirit, and he wrote The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate in 1799. That year his father died, and he inherited a small fortune.
      Schelling had become a professor at the University of Jena in 1798. In 1801 Hegel moved to Jena, and he published The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s Systems of Philosophy. He defended his Latin dissertation On Planetary Orbits on his 21st birthday and became a university teacher. In 1802 Hegel and Schelling founded the Critical Journal of Philosophy; but it ended when Schelling left Jena in 1803. In February 1805 Hegel became a professor, and Goethe helped him get a stipend in July. Hegel’s last lecture there on 18 September 1806 was on his Phenomenology. After the battle of Jena in October he fled and went to Heidelberg in January 1807. In February he moved to Bamberg where he edited the Bamberger News and published 750 copies of his Phenomenology of Mind (Spirit); but it was not reprinted until after his death.
      In his Phenomenology of Spirit (Phänomenologie des Geistes) Hegel explained his views on how human experience is a continuous development of mental stages and that the life of consciousness is a whole formed from all experiences, and he suggested that self-consciousness of Spirit is the supreme reality and the final consummation of the progress of experience. He wrote in the Preface,

The spirit that, so developed, knows itself as spirit is science.
Science is actuality of the spirit and the realm
that the spirit builds for itself in its own element.16

The underlying reality of the Spirit is infinite which he described this way:

This bare and simple infinity, or the absolute notion,
may be called the ultimate nature of life, the soul of the world,
the universal life-blood, which courses everywhere,
and whose flow is neither disturbed nor checked
by any obstructing distinction,
but is itself every distinction that arises,
as well as that into which all distinctions are dissolved.17

      Hegel got the idea of dialectic from Fichte who used it to explain the process of thought and history. The first idea is the thesis which is challenged or contradicted by the antithesis. Then through the process of dialectic (which goes all the way back to Socrates) the two are modified into a higher or more complex synthesis which then becomes the thesis and so on.
      He found the freedom of self-consciousness in the Stoic philosophy. Self-consciousness can use reason to transform a negative attitude into a positive one of idealism that brings about independence. He wrote that idealism expresses the principle of reason which is “the conscious certainty of being all reality” that is infinite.
      Hegel emphasized his concept of sittlichkeit which means the ethical life or order which he considered “the absolute spiritual unity.” Individuals can surrender or sacrifice their individuality to virtue because they are conscious that this universal substance is their soul. He discussed the ethical maxims “Everyone ought to speak the truth” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He began the large part on “Spirit” this way:

Reason is spirit, when its certainty of being all reality
has been raised to the level of truth,
and reason is consciously aware of itself as its own world,
and of the world as itself.18

He considered the living ethical world the true spirit. He described the family as a natural ethical community as is the justice of government. Because the ethical is an absolute power, it “cannot endure any perversion of its content.” Spirit calls to every consciousness to be rational for yourselves because that is what you are essentially in yourselves.
      In 1808 Hegel went to Nuremberg and worked as a rector of a gymnasium school until 1816. In 1811 he married a woman 21 years younger than himself. They were happy, and his two sons went into history and theology. In 1817 his 10-year-old natural son Ludwig, whose mother had died, joined their household.
      Hegel published his Science of Logic in 1812 and added a third volume in 1816. The next year he was given a full professorship at Heidelberg University, and he explained his ideas in the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline. He described how the Absolute Spirit comes to know itself as spirit by thinking, through nature, and as finite spirits expressing themselves in self-discovery, history, art, religion, and philosophy. He suggested that pure being is nothing even though they seem to be opposites. They are united by becoming, which is and is not at the same time. He considered nature as the external opposite of the inner spirit. Nature is finite and exists in space and time. Human nature rises to self-consciousness and develops rationality. The human mind is subconscious as well as conscious and has a rational will. Through society and history humans come to know themselves as spirits that are one with God, the absolute truth. In 1818 Hegel was offered professorships at Berlin and Erlangen, and he chose Berlin where he taught for the rest of his life.
      In 1821 Hegel published his Philosophy of Right in which he began by discussing right and wrong in regard to property and contracts. In regard to coercion and crime he noted, “Only the will which allows itself to be coerced can in any way be coerced.”19 In the second part on morality he discussed the importance of responsibility, intention, the good, and conscience. He wrote, “True conscience is the disposition to will what is absolutely good”20 based on fixed principles. The third part on the ethical life focuses on family relationships and the education of children, the needs and laws of civil society with its administration of justice and law enforcement, and the state with its constitution and relation to international law.
      In 1827 he went to Paris and also visited Goethe at Weimar. Hegel lectured in Berlin on aesthetics, philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, and the history of philosophy. After his death from cholera in November 1831 these were published from 1832 to 1840. He had disciples called Hegelians, and his philosophy has been influential and often debated. In his Philosophy of History he analyzed the civilizations of Asia, Greece, Rome, and later Europe as the “German World.” Near the end he concluded that the history of the world is the development of the idea of freedom. He believed that wars would gradually disappear as humanity progresses.

Schiller on Aesthetics and Ethics

      After publishing his History of the Revolt in the United Netherlands Against Spain in October 1788, at the age of 29 Friedrich Schiller became a professor of history and philosophy at the University of Jena. Hundreds of students marched in the streets to get him a larger hall for his inaugural lecture which he gave in the crowded and larger auditorium on 26-27 May 1789. In November he published the lecture as “What is Universal History, and why do we study it?” Near the beginning he said that the field of history includes the entire moral world and all the conditions that humanity has experienced from shifting opinions with folly and wisdom, and history must give account of everything that mankind has taken and given. In August he had compared the militaristic oligarchy of the Spartans founded by Lycurgus to the democratic reforms implemented by Solon in Athens.
      His new position enabled Schiller to marry Charlotte von Lengefeld on 22 February 1790. On 15 April he wrote in a letter of his concern that war would spread throughout Germany. In January 1791 he became seriously ill from a fever, chest pain, and gastric disorders. In May asthma made breathing difficult, and he coughed up blood. He nearly died and never fully recovered. On 10 December he received word that two Danish nobles would grant him a thousand thalers a year for three years. He was working hard on his History of the Thirty Years War in Germany, which was published in 1791-93 and then on his History of the French Troubles which preceded the Reign of Henri IV, which covered the reigns of François II, Charles IX, and Henri III up to the massacre on St. Bartholomew’s day in 1572 and included the first five volumes of Sully’s Memoirs.
      In 1792 Schiller began studying Kant’s philosophy. In the next seven years he would write essays mostly on aesthetics and philosophical poems that included “The Ideal and Life,” “Dignity of Women,” “Ceres’ Lament,” and “The Song of the Bell.” Schiller wanted to go beyond Kant’s rationalistic concepts of duty by looking for ways to integrate ethics with aesthetics.
      In July 1793 he published On Grace and Dignity in the second issue of New Thalia. He looked to Greek mythology to help understand the relationship between beauty and grace. He wrote that a beautiful soul has such moral sentiment that the emotions of a person do not require the guidance of the will because they will not go against its own decisions. Thus the beautiful soul not only does moral deeds, but also the entire character is moral. He found grace more in women because their bodies contribute suppleness to receive impressions and put them into play while the character has the harmony of moral feelings. He defined grace as “the expression of a beautiful soul,” and dignity as “the expression of a noble disposition of mind.” He wrote, “Mastery of instinct by moral force is freedom of mind, and dignity is its epiphany.”21 He suggested that the highest degree of grace is enchanting while the highest dignity is majesty. Kant found no relation between beauty and science, but Schiller in “Of the Aesthetic Estimation of Magnitude” perceived a coherence between beauty and mathematical science.
      Schiller and his family moved back to Jena in May 1794, and he persuaded Johann Friedrich Cotta to publish a literary magazine called Die Horen (The Hours) that he could edit. He enlisted 26 reputable writers including the philosophers Herder, Fichte, and Fritz Jacobi, the jurist C. G. Körner, Humboldt, and Goethe. Schiller had talked with Goethe after a meeting of the Scientific Society in Jena, and he moved to Weimar in September. In the first issue in January 1795 he began publishing his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man.
      In these 27 Letters Schiller expressed his view that humans are improving and moving from a state of nature with instincts and needs toward a moral state of freedom and reason. In the past humans lived like lower animals who were driven by their instincts and appetites that emphasized the value of survival alone. Even when social groups formed, the primitive politics of brute force was prevalent. Yet humans developed the capacity to reason and discover principles they could use as guides for a better life. In his time he diagnosed that the lower classes were prone to selfishness, superstition, and violence while the cultivated class was egotistic, decadent, and perverse. The use of tools and technology led Schiller to suggest that specialization dehumanized people as tools of the social order. The sudden awakening of hopes in France had major problems because the citizens were not yet educated and disciplined for a freer life based on reason and moral principles. The French people were not yet prepared for a better government, and the basic instincts of feeding, fighting, fleeing, and fornicating often won the struggle against reason.
      Schiller believed that rational morality was not enough if it tried to ignore the physical senses. What he recommended is a balance between the two that can be achieved through aesthetic education so that the two sides of human nature could cooperate and live in harmony. Thus he encouraged free play, appreciation of beauty, and practice of the fine arts as well as games and sports. Art imitates life in creating a semblance of the world that is not false because the mind understands it is not real. People are influenced by the arts, and then life imitates art. The understanding gained from the lessons learned ennobles human character. The sense drives create emotions, and they can be expressed in play and the arts. The human mind discovers the laws of science and principles with the ideals of truth, justice, and duty. Play involves wholeness and simultaneity for the body and the spirit. Play is a human activity without the drives or motives of need and profit. Art and play are valuable for themselves through the appreciation of beauty and aesthetic freedom. Behavior is improved by the development of manners and grace. Humans adorn and decorate their lives for more subtle pleasures.
      If people’s animal and rational drives are put into an adversary relationship, the result can be violence and exploitation. Schiller asked if humans can use philosophical inquiry to challenge present conditions and work on using art to construct “true political freedom.” He called art the daughter of freedom which is guided by the mind rather than physical needs and desires. He suggested that beauty can lead people to freedom. The cultured person is a friend of Nature and honors freedom. Imagination can lead us to a better life. Schiller believed that developing the human capacity for feeling was the urgent need of his time because it improves insight. When the unity of ideas embraces all phenomena we transcend time and move from being an individual to humanity, and then the choice of all hearts is represented by our actions. Reason sets up beauty and justice as the ideals of art and morality. In the 25th Letter Schiller wrote,

Spirit cannot be injured by anything
except that which robs it of its freedom,
and man gives evidence of his freedom
precisely by giving form to that which is formless.22

      Schiller published his essays “On the Naïve” and “On the Sentimental” in the last two issues of The Hours in 1795 and his “Conclusion on the Treatise on Naïve and Sentimental Poetry Together with some Observations Concerning a Characteristic Difference Among Men” in the first issue of 1796. He described the naïve poets, such as Shakespeare and Goethe, as being influenced by nature and following a realistic philosophy of adapting to life as it is. The sentimental poet like himself uses reason with a concern for moral principles and adopts an idealistic philosophy that strives to improve the world. He also used these concepts in his essays “On Suffering” and “On the Sublime.” The latter work considers human freedom the most essential quality.
      In “The Moral Utility of Aesthetic Manners” in 1796 Schiller attributed to taste the merit of contributing to moral progress, though he realized that good taste alone does not make an action moral. Yet taste is favorable to the conduct of morality. In moral action there can be conflict between the good and the agreeable, between reason and desire. The force of sensuous instincts may overcome the moral faculty of the will, and this is a source of human faults. Yet taste demands moderation and dignity because it has a horror of what is violent and likes ease and harmony.

Schiller’s Wallenstein and Mary Stuart

      In 1797 Schiller began writing a series of plays on the last days of Wallenstein during the middle of the Thirty Years War. Schiller condensed the events in the winter of 1633-34 to the last four days of Wallenstein’s life that ended on 25 February. They were presented at Goethe’s theater in Weimar with the one-act Wallenstein’s Camp premiering on 12 October 1798 followed by the five-act The Piccolominis on 30 January 1799 and the five-act Wallenstein’s Death on 20 April. Cotta published the Wallenstein Trilogy in June 1800, and the 4,000 copies soon were sold.
      In Wallenstein’s Camp after a prolog peasants and soldiers talk about the war and army life which offers opportunity and excitement. They are Bohemians fighting in Bohemia after sixteen years of war. The soldiers fear the commander-in-chief Wallenstein who has been paying them with his own money and leading them to victories without following the orders of the Emperor Ferdinand II. A suttlerwoman complains that her business has declined fatally, and she wants to collect some money. A sergeant notes that speech is free; but actions are mute, and obedience is blind. A soldier says that the Duke of Friedland (Wallenstein) has hired a devil from the depths of hell. A Capuchin friar arrives and preaches that they are violating the commandments against taking the Lord’s name in vain and stealing. He says that as long as the Emperor lets Friedland have power, the land will not be free of war. The soldiers defend their commander. They have become Wallensteiners and will refuse to leave their commander for the Emperor. A cuirassier complains that the sword has driven out justice. A soldier urges them to stand together as one, and the soldiers sing. A dragoon notes that freedom has vanished from the land, leaving only masters and slaves, and deceit and treachery are in command. Finally the soldiers agree to put their lives at stake so that they can win.
      In The Piccolominis the Emperor Ferdinand II has sent his war commissioner Questenberg to the headquarters at Pilsen in Bohemia to order Lt. General Octavio Piccolomini to arrest Wallenstein, but he learns that the generals Illo, Terzky, and Buttler will obey Commander Wallenstein rather than the Emperor. Octavio’s son, Col. Max Piccolomini, arrives with the Wallenstein women, and the father soon realizes that Max has fallen in love with Wallenstein’s daughter Thekla who was in a convent. (Max and Thekla are fictional characters.) Max blames Questenberg and those in Vienna and defends Wallenstein saying,

You stir up trouble for the Duke, you hinder
His every step, heap him with a slander,—why?
Because he values Europe’s welfare more
Than certain paltry hides of land which may
Be gained or lost for Austria;—you term him
Seditious and God knows what more besides
Because he spares the Saxons and attempts
To foster confidence among our foes
Which is the only way to peace when all
Is said and done, for if war does not bring
Its own conclusion, then whence shall peace come?23

      Wallenstein confers with his wife, and her brother Terzky brings in Thekla. Before the generals Wallenstein debates Questenberg and admits he has been driven to rebel against the Emperor. Questenberg says that he went into winter quarters and burdens imperial lands. Wallenstein replies that the troops have gone a year without pay after he supported them himself, and now he is being deposed. Questenberg says that the Emperor has ordered Col. Suys into Bavaria which undermined Wallenstein’s command.
      Count Terzky warns Wallenstein that several generals are avoiding the conference, and he advises the commander to march against Vienna. Wallenstein orders Illo and Terzky to get the generals’ signatures on a pledge of support for him. Thekla does not trust the generals and warns Max. Wallenstein announces that he will resign, and after dinner the clause mentioning their oath to the Emperor is removed. The fearful generals sign the document, but Max refuses to sign. Illo is drunk and exposes the trick falsifying the document.
      In act 5 Octavio warns Max that Wallenstein is plotting treason by joining his army with the enemy Swedes and Saxons so that he can keep Bohemia for himself; but Max is loyal to the commander, criticizes his father, and says he will not obey the Emperor. Octavio warns of civil war and says he is spying for the Emperor who has ordered him to kill Wallenstein and has appointed him commander. A courier arrives and says proof has been found that Wallenstein is plotting treason. Max says he will tell Wallenstein what he has learned. Max warns that the powerful man will pull down the world during his own destruction.
      Schiller begins Wallenstein’s Death with the commander consulting his astrologer Seni who advises him to act because of a favorable conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and Mars. (At that time Jupiter was in opposition to Saturn, square Mars and trine Venus.) However, Count Terzky brings him bad news that his messenger to the Swedes was captured by imperial troops with his secret documents. Wallenstein realizes he must move quickly, and he negotiates with the Swedish envoy Wrangel who asks him to cede Prague to Sweden to show that he has his generals’ support. Wallenstein shows him the signed loyalty oath. General Illo and Terzky with his wife persuade him to accept the offer. Wallenstein refuses to let Max Piccolomini marry his daughter Thekla.
      Max wants to support Wallenstein but not by betraying the Emperor. Max’s father Octavio Piccolomini persuades the generals to oppose Wallenstein’s treason, and he wins over the Irish General Buttler by showing why Wallenstein refused to promote him. Buttler is allowed to stay with Wallenstein in Pilsen. All the officers except Illo and Terzky have deserted the commander, and the Prague garrison refused to surrender.
      Wallenstein goes to Eger on the German frontier while Buttler plots to murder him and the officers loyal to him. News arrives that Max led his men against the advancing Swedes and was killed. That night Wallenstein retires, and Buttler and his men break in and assassinate him with swords. Octavio arrives with an army and criticizes Buttler for killing Wallenstein without orders. Buttler and his men are seeking gain and head for Vienna. Countess Terzky has taken poison and walks off to die. News arrives that the Emperor has made Octavio a prince.

      Schiller’s tragedy Mary Stuart opened on 14 June 1800 at the Weimar Theater and was well received, and the story was used for Donizetti’s opera in 1835. Once again Schiller condensed the story into the last few days of her life in February 1587. The Protestant Queen Elizabeth has kept her cousin Mary Queen of Scots imprisoned for 19 years because she is concerned that Catholics might try to make her Queen of England. Schiller altered the facts to enhance his dramatic purposes, suggesting that the queens portrayed should be under thirty years of age. He created the character Mortimer to represent aspects of Anthony Babington who was executed for conspiring to help Mary escape. Mortimer has become a Catholic and tells Mary that she is to be executed. William Cecil, Baron of Burleigh, makes the formal announcement of Mary’s fate, and she defends herself, admitting that she had committed crimes, but not against Elizabeth.
      In the second act Elizabeth at court pretends that she loves the Duc d’Anjou to the French deputies hoping for a diplomatic marriage. She sends them away and asks Burleigh about Mary, and he advises immediate execution. George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, pleads for Mary and says a woman is a fragile creature, but Elizabeth replies, “Woman is not weak. There are strong souls among the sex.—I will not tolerate talk of that sex’s weakness in my presence.” Burleigh opposes an interview, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, says Elizabeth must decide. She talks with Mortimer alone and hopes he will kill Mary. Mortimer gives Leicester a letter from Mary, and Leicester confesses that he loves her. (This romance is fictional.) Leicester suggests that Elizabeth meet Mary by chance.
      Although no historical evidence indicates that Elizabeth and Mary ever met to talk, Schiller invents a dramatic discussion in which Mary offers to renounce her claim to the throne of England which she never did. Elizabeth warns Mary that no one will want to marry her because she kills her suitors and husbands. Mary admits she was seduced by power and says Elizabeth’s mother was unchaste. Mortimer goes to Mary and embraces her, startling the audience. Rumors fly that Elizabeth was killed; then comes a report that the plot failed. Mortimer flees.
      In act 4 Elizabeth expels the French ambassador for attempting regicide. Burleigh suspects Leicester who saves himself by having Mortimer arrested for treason. Mortimer stabs himself and invokes “Holy Mary” as he dies. Now Leicester urges Elizabeth to execute Mary, and she puts him and Burleigh in charge of the punishment. Elizabeth gives William Davison a signed document without instructions, which is historically accurate. In the last act Mary says goodbye to her friends and is dressed regally for her demise. At last she will be free from prison. She confesses that she hated Elizabeth, loved Leicester, was guilty of her husband Darnley’s murder and adultery with Bothwell but not of plotting against Elizabeth. She believes her death will atone for guilt because she is not guilty of the charge. In the final scene Elizabeth banishes Burleigh and has Davison put in the Tower. Shrewsbury resigns, and Leicester leaves for France, leaving Elizabeth alone.

Schiller’s Maid of Orleans and Wilhelm Tell

      Schiller’s romantic tragedy, The Maid of Orleans, premiered at Leipzig on 18 September 1801 and then in Berlin, but it did not open at Weimar until 23 April 1803. Printed as a book in October 1801, the popular play was very successful for generations. Schiller followed most of the history of Jeanne d’Arc but radically changed the ending with poetic license.
      In the prolog her father Thibaut believes the 17-year-old Joan has been influenced by the evil spirit in the local Druid Tree. Raimond is in love with Joan, and Bertrand lets her have the military helmet he found. Joan believes she is inspired to lead the French army to defeat the English siege of Orleans, and she will have the dauphin Charles crowned at Rheims. She feels that God will guide her if she avoids the love of a man.
      In the first act Joan goes to the court at Chinon and not only identifies King Charles not sitting on the throne but also describes his prayers. She speaks of her divine mission, and Charles gives her command of the army at Orleans. In act 2 Joan leads the army that drives the English forces away from Orleans. Montgomery surrenders to her; but she believes it is her duty to make him fight, and she kills him. Next she persuades the Duke of Burgundy to change sides and fight for France.
      In the third act the generals Dunois and La Hire propose marriage to Joan, but she refuses to profane her holy mission and warns them of the dangers they face. King Charles makes her a noble woman. On the battlefield she meets a black knight who warns her to avoid battles until Charles is crowned at Rheims. She draws her sword, but he stops her and disappears into the ground. Joan believes he was a phantom from hell. The English knight Lionel challenges her to combat, and she defeats him but suddenly feels desire for him and does not kill him. Instead she asks him to kill her, but he refuses and takes her sword as a token of love.
      In act 4 Joan’s mood has changed, and she reluctantly joins the coronation parade at Rheims. Her father denounces her as led astray by bad spirits and challenges her to swear that she is pure. Influenced by this, King Charles banishes her. Like Schiller’s Mary Stuart, she submits to unjust punishment because she believes it expiates her guilt for past sin.
      In the final act Joan wanders in the forest with Raimond and is called a witch. The English with the renegade French Queen Isabeau capture Joan. Lionel visits her in prison and begs her to marry him. She overcomes her previous love for him and refuses. Raimond reports what happened to the French, and Charles changes his mind and attacks the castle to try to free her. The French are being defeated; but she prays for help, breaks free, overpowers a guard, and leads the French to victory but is mortally wounded. Joan sees a heavenly vision and believes she is ascending in eternal joy. She drops a flag from her hand, and King Charles orders her body covered with flags.
      Schiller has portrayed Joan as a morally sublime person because she overcame the temptation to go against moral law. Although Joan was a French heroine, because she fought against an invading army, Napoleon banned the play after his victories in 1805.

      Influenced by two tragedies Schiller saw as a young man about two brothers in conflict over a woman, he drew the incest theme from the Greek tragedy of Oedipus and used a chorus of the soldiers under the princely brothers in the city of Messina on Sicily in the medieval period. He called this tragedy The Bride of Messina, or the Two Hostile Brothers which premiered at Weimar on 19 March 1803. The seeds of the family curse derive from an earlier king raping Isabella after she chose to marry his son. He becomes king after his father’s death, and Isabella gives birth to the twins Manuel and Cesar. This king has learned from a Moor that if Isabella has a daughter, she will cause the death of his sons. She consults a Christian monk and has her daughter Beatrice put in a convent. The two brothers develop a bitter rivalry, and both secretly fall in love with Beatrice without knowing she is their sister. She marries Manuel. Without knowing she married his brother, Cesar kills Manuel. Then he discovers that he murdered his brother, and in guilt he commits suicide. The chorus concludes that life is not the highest possession and that the worst evil is guilt.

      Goethe had visited Switzerland and in 1797 considered writing an epic poem about the legend of Wilhelm Tell, but he gave up the project. Schiller studied Swiss history and culture and in August 1803 began working on the play which opened in Weimar on 17 March 1804. Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell is one of the most popular plays ever, and in its first century it had an average of 232 performances per year.
      The legend of a soldier having to shoot an apple off his son’s head goes back to the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus about 1200. He wrote that King Harold Bluetooth (r. 958-85) forced Toko to shoot the apple off his son’s head, and Toko had two more arrows for the king in case he missed. Wilhelm Tell does not appear in extant literature until about 1400, though the historian Aegidius Tschudi (1505-72) collected the legends and passed them off as history happening from 28 October to 20 November in 1307, though modern historians have found no evidence of a Swiss uprising that year. Nonetheless Schiller’s play captured the imagination and the current feelings for a democratic revolution led by Swiss cantons. His play takes place in the forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden which surround Lake Lucerne and formed a league in 1291. The Austrian Emperor Albrecht (r. 1298-1308) reimposed Austrian taxes and administration. The league formed a federal union in 1315 and agreed to peace with Duke Leopold in 1318 that lasted until the end of the century.
      In the first act men see a storm on Lake Lucerne when bloody Konrad Baumgarten of Unterwalden arrives and says he killed the tyrannical Governor Wolfenshiessen with an ax for trying to rape his wife. Baumgarten is fleeing from pursuing soldiers, but the ferryman Kuoni refuses to take him across the lake during the storm. The master helmsman Wilhelm Tell shows up and offers to take him across. As they are leaving, the soldiers arrive and in frustration kill the peasants’ sheep and burn their homes. Werner Stauffacher at Steinen in Schwyz tells his wife Gertrude that he is in conflict with the Austrian Regent over the ownership of his house, and Tell brings Baumgarten there for refuge. The governor Hermann Gessler has ordered a pole erected in the public square at Altorf to which every man passing by has to bow or face death. Tell and Stauffacher arrive and see a hat placed on the pole and discuss what to do. Walter Fürst from Uri and Arnold of Melchtal from Unterwalden meet, and Stauffacher brings them the news. They agree to meet with ten men from each canton.
      The Baron of Attinghausen persuades his nephew Ulrich von Rudenz to join the people against the King’s tyranny. Melchtal and Baumgarten have gathered armed men in a meadow, and they are joined by Stauffacher and then Fürst. They vote 20-12 to postpone the rebellion until Christmas. They debate whether to use force to regain their ancient rights, and they hope to unite their brotherhood without violence. They do not trust the aristocrats to help them and agree to meet in the forest at Rütli on 7 November.
      In act 3 Wilhelm Tell with his crossbow takes his son Walter to Altorf. The Baron’s heir Rudenz loves Berta; but she refuses to wed him because he has abandoned his people. She is heir to large estates and does not believe the Emperor will let her marry him. She persuades Rudenz to support Swiss liberty. Tell at Altorf refuses to bow before the hat on the pole in respect for the Emperor. The imperial officer Hardheart arrests him, and a crowd gathers. Governor Gessler arrives with his retinue and orders Tell to shoot an apple off his son’s head at 80 paces and be beheaded if he misses. The famous archer accomplishes the challenge with his cross-bow. Gessler asks why he has a second arrow in his belt, and Tell replies that it was for Gessler in case he hit his son. Gessler orders Tell chained and taken to a dungeon, but on the ship in a storm Tell is needed to save the boat and escapes. The Baron dies, and Rudenz agrees to join the rebel leaders. Tell ambushes Gessler on a road and shoots an arrow through his heart. He makes himself known to take responsibility for his action.
      In act 5 the armed revolt is successful without further bloodshed, and the fortress at Uri is torn down. Duke Johannes of Swabia has murdered his uncle, Emperor Albrecht, for cheating him out of his inheritance, and disguised as a monk he comes to Tell’s cottage. Tell urges Johannes to expiate his crime by going on a pilgrimage to Rome. In the final scene the Swiss people with the confederates celebrate their liberation outside Tell’s home. Berta extends her hand to a free man from a free woman, and Rudenz frees all the bonded peasants on his land.
      Schiller was working on a play about young Dmitry who overthrew the brief reign of Russia’s Tsar Fyodor II in June 1605; but Dmitry’s reign lasted less than a year before he was killed by boyars. Madame de Staël had visited Schiller in December 1803, and he influenced her book on German culture. Schiller suffered from a long illness and died on 9 May 1805, probably of tuberculosis.

Kleist’s Plays

      Heinrich von Kleist was born on 18 October 1777 in Frankfurt. His father was a captain in the Prussian army and died in 1788. Heinrich was sent to Berlin and was educated by a clergyman. He loved music and played the clarinet well. In 1792 he joined a regiment in Potsdam, and he fought in the Rhineland 1793-95 and gained a commission in 1797, but he resigned from the military in March 1799. Kleist studied physics, mathematics, history, and Latin at the University of Frankfurt for a while. He favored the French Revolution and traveled in Germany, Switzerland, and France. Influenced by Rousseau he tried to live a simple life among the Swiss. He volunteered to fight for the French against the English but was rejected and sent back to Germany.
      His tragedy The Schroffenstein Family was performed anonymously in 1803, but he abandoned his tragedy about Robert Guiscard, and only a fragment remains. After a mental crisis in Mainz he got a position in the Prussian civil service in 1804 for two years. The French suspected he was a spy, and in January 1807 they imprisoned him for six months. Then he went to Dresden and with Adam Müller during 1808 edited the twelve issues of the journal Phoebus modeled after Schiller’s The Hours. Phoebus published some of Kleist’s plays and stories. In an epigram in November he asked if women should not get education.
      In 1809 Kleist went to Austria to fight against Napoleon, but after witnessing the Austrian defeat at Wagram in July he suffered another breakdown in Prague. He lost a pension after Queen Luise of Prussia died in July 1810. That year his romantic play, Käthchen of Heilbronn, played in Vienna. In the essay “On Reflection” he suggested that deliberation is more effective after an action because at the moment of decision it suppresses power which comes from magnificent feeling; but reflection afterward makes purpose known so that errors can be avoided in the future.
      He returned to Berlin and edited the successful daily newspaper, the Berliner Abendblätter from 1 October 1810 to 30 March 1811 until government censorship forced them to shut down. His collected stories were printed in two volumes in 1810 and 1811. He applied for the civil service and the army but was rejected. He completed The Prince of Homburg in September 1811. His friend Madame Henriette Vogl was suffering from an incurable condition and wanted to die. On 22 November 1811 they drank much wine, rum, and coffee, at her request Kleist shot her and then himself. Her husband found the corpses.
      Kleist never witnessed a performance of his plays. He wrote his comedy The Broken Jug between 1803 and 1806. In March 1808 Goethe produced it at Weimar; but it failed, and the two men parted company. The play was later considered a masterpiece of dramatic comedy, and it is still performed. The Dutch Judge Adam is suffering from a head wound and has a club foot (which indicates he may be a devil). He desires Eve who is engaged to Ruprecht, and her mother Frau Marthe Rull is suing Ruprecht for having broken her beautiful pitcher during a fight in Eve’s room. The High Court Judge Walter has come to inspect Adam’s court. Bald Adam presides without his wig and tries to explain his gashed cheek and bad foot. Ruprecht testifies that Eve is a slut because he found her at night with another man. He says he broke down the door, grabbed a door-handle, and hit the intruder in the head, breaking the jug; but the intruder escaped by a window. Eve refuses to name the intruder. Ruprecht’s aunt Brigitte testifies that she found a wig on the trellis outside the window and saw footprints in the snow showing a club foot going from Eve’s house to the courtroom. Adam rules that irrelevant and tries to sentence Ruprecht, but Walter takes control of the case. Then Eve confesses that Adam tried to seduce her by blackmailing her with the threat to draft Ruprecht into the army and send him to the East Indies. The court clerk Licht is ambitious and reveals that the draft document is forged. Eve and Ruprecht are reconciled and kiss, and Adam flees outside. Walter sends Licht to retrieve Adam who is suspended and to be replaced by Licht. Marthe asks about her jug, and Walter says she can take her case to the High Court. This satire exposed the corruption of the courts.
      Kleist adapted Molière’s comedy Amphitryon which had been based on a play by Plautus. Jupiter takes the form of the general Amphitryon so that he can make love to Alcmene while Hermes replaces her servant Sosia. The real Amphitryon asks the god to give him a great son, and Jupiter says his son will be Hercules. Kleist wrote Amphitryon in 1805-06, and it was published in 1807.
      Kleist published his Penthesilea in 1808, but Goethe declined to produce the wild tragedy. Set at Troy the Amazons are allied with the Trojans against the Greeks. Their Queen Penthesilea ignores the Amazonian tradition of occasionally accepting an opportune man’s love in order to procreate children. Instead she seeks out the heroic Achilles and leads a surprise attack that surrounds him, but he escapes. Penthesilea’s friend Prothoe has fallen in love with a Greek prisoner, and the women quarrel. Achilles challenges Penthesilea and defeats her in combat. When she regains consciousness, he pretends that she overcame him. She confesses her love for him but soon realizes that she is his captive. She prepares for another battle and plans to take him home for their hymeneal feast, but he challenges her to a duel. She doubts she can defeat him and calls upon the Furies to aid her, and they attack him. Her arrow penetrates his neck, and she bites him, saying that kissing often turns into biting. Kleist reverses the myth by having Penthesilea kill Achilles instead of him slaying her. When she recovers from her madness, she realizes what she has done. She renounces the Amazonian laws and kills herself with a dagger.
      Kleist completed his last play The Prince of Homburg by the summer of 1811, but it was not performed until 1821, ten years after his death. The story centers around the battle of Fehrbellin when the Prussians defeated the Swedes on 18 June 1675, a date celebrated by Germans until 1914. In a park Prince Friedrich II of Hesse-Homburg daydreams about military glory in the imminent battle. His friend Count Hohenzollern brings the Brandenburg Elector Friedrich Wilhelm there, and they observe Homburg with a laurel wreath. The Elector puts a gold chain around the wreath which he gives to his niece Princess Natalia. Homburg gets up and tries to grab the wreath but gets only one of her gloves. The next day when he learns it is Natalia’s glove during the war council, Homburg is distracted, preventing him from understanding the battle plan. The Elector warns him he had been disobedient in previous actions. During the fighting he declines to wait for his signal to attack, and he persuades Count Kottwitz to support his cavalry assault. This prevents a definite victory. Homburg believes his troops have won the battle and joins Natalie and the Electress. They hear that the Elector was killed, but it turns out it was another man on his white horse.
      During the celebration in Berlin the Elector orders Homburg arrested, and a military court sentences him to death. Natalia is to marry Swedish royalty to improve the alliance. Homburg pleads with the Electress to spare his life. Natalia asks the Elector to pardon him, and she summons her regiment to support him. Natalia brings the Elector’s letter of pardon; but when Homburg reads it, he decides the sentence is just and declines the clemency. Kottwitz and Hohenzollern defend Homburg who says that triumphing over the inner enemy is more important. He is led to the field of execution blindfolded. Natalia crowns him with a laurel wreath. Homburg is cheered, and the Elector tears up the death warrant.


      Born Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg on 2 May 1772 in the Harz mountains, he chose the name “Novalis” meaning “from the clearing.” His pious father was in the Herrnhuter Church, and Georg went to a Lutheran school in Eisleben before attending the universities of Jena (where he heard Schiller’s lectures), Leipzig, and Wittenberg. He studied geology, mathematics, chemistry, biology, history, and philosophy, and he worked in the mining industry. In 1795 he became engaged to twelve-year-old Sophie von Kühn, but she became ill and died in March 1797. In his Hymns to the Night (1800) Novalis described a mystical experience he had at her grave. His novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen contained “Klingsohr’s Fairy Tale.” The father of the family is the Mind, the mother the Heart, and the child is Eros. In his essay “Christendom or Europe” he described history moving from the Age of Faith to the Age of Reason and then to a third age that would harmonize the two for human happiness. Novalis died of tuberculosis in March 1801. His “Aphorisms” include the following:

Imagination represents the afterlife
either on high or in the depths or in metempsychosis.
We dream of journeys through the universe,
but is the universe not within us?
We do not realize the profundities of our spirits.
Inward is the direction of the mystic path. (1)

Without total self-understanding
no one will ever really learn to understand others. (8)

Where children are, there is the Golden Age. (20)

If the spirit sanctifies, every real book is a Bible. (23)

From his “Miscellaneous Fragments” come these:

Anyone seeking God will find Him everywhere.
Nothing is more accessible to the mind than the infinite. (9-10)

Who has declared the Bible completed?
Should the Bible not be still in the process of growth? (12)

There is only one temple in the world
and that is the human body.
Nothing is more sacred than that noble form. (14)

Dreams are extremely important for the psychologist—
and for the historian of the human races.
Dreams contributed very much to the culture
and development of mankind.
Hence, rightly, the former great respect for dreams. (19)

A character is a fully developed will. (20)24

In his last Hymn Novalis wrote,

The system of morality must become the system of nature.

Morality, properly understood, is man’s actual medium of life.
It is essentially identical with fear of God.
Our pure ethical will is the will of God. (III, 662, 684)25

Goethe’s Torquato Tasso

      After reviving his spirit by living in Italy for two years Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the fall of 1788 returned to his work at Weimar as Minister of State and Privy Councilor to Karl-August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar. That year Goethe had begun living with 23-year-old Christiane Vulpius, and their only son to survive infancy was born on 25 December 1789; they did not marry until 1806. He had met Schiller in September 1788, and Goethe helped him get a low-paid position at the University of Jena in 1789. Goethe visited Venice in the spring of 1790 and wrote Venetian Epigrams.
      In February 1790 Goethe published his collected works in eight volumes with his completed tragedy Torquato Tasso as volume 6, but the play was not performed until February 1807 at Weimar. Written in blank verse, Goethe’s Torquato Tasso portrays the Italian poet Tasso who was most appreciated at this time for his epic poem Jerusalem Liberated about the First Crusade, which he has just completed for Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara. The tragedy is set in spring about 1577 at Alfonso’s pleasure palace Belriguardo with his sister, Princess Leonore d’Este, Leonore Sanvitale (Countess of Scandiano), Ferrara’s Secretary of State Antonio Montecatino, and the manic-depressive (bipolar) poet Tasso. His relationship to the Princess Leonore reflects Goethe’s platonic relationship with Frau von Stein, though he dedicated a poem to her in which he suggested that he had been her brother or husband in a former life. Tasso’s love for the Princess was a fiction created by Giovanni Battista Manso in his biography of Tasso. Goethe also used the 1785 biography of Tasso by Abbate Pierantonio Serassi that described his problems with the Inquisition.
      In a garden Princess Leonore crowns a bust of Vergil, and the Countess Leonore so honors a statue of Ariosto. They appreciate Ferrara which fostered Petrarch and Ariosto. Duke Alfonso comes in looking for Tasso, wishing he would finish his poem. The Duke suggests that friends not spare Tasso needed criticism, and he has been patient with his paranoia such as claiming his room was burglarized. Tasso arrives with his new book and presents it to Alfonso who is pleased. Tasso is glad to be living there. Alfonso has his sister take the wreath from the head of Vergil’s statue and crown the kneeling Tasso who hopes his life will be eternal progress toward heroism. Yet he feels shame compared to the men he wrote about. Antonio enters and hopes to end his quarrel with Tasso.
      Tasso tells the Princess that he feels confusing conflict in himself, but one glance from her cures his mania. She encourages him to get along with her brother. She thinks the golden age should allow what is befitting, and she suggests that women could rule better with morality than men who strive for freedom but are violent. Tasso is left alone and then welcomes Antonio offering reconciliation. Antonio says, “Man knows himself through man alone, and only life can teach him what he is.”26 Their discussion becomes an argument, and Tasso asks if truth has been banished from the palace where the free mind is imprisoned. Antonio is offended and defends princely rule. The quarrel heats up, and Tasso draws his sword; but Duke Alfonso comes in to calm the situation, and Antonio reluctantly accepts his judgment that Tasso is to stay in his room under his own guard. Tasso goes. Alfonso advises Antonio that when grown men quarrel, the one more prudent should be held responsible. He tells Antonio to restore Tasso’s liberty, and Antonio obeys his master.
      The Princess and Leonore discuss how they might help Tasso. Antonio tells Leonore that one is on guard with strangers but one’s passions are more free with friends. He argues that Tasso treasures only his laurel wreath and “women’s favor.” Leonore counters that Antonio depends on his Prince’s confidence which gives him fame and self-assurance. She says he knows how to take care of himself and others, but Tasso lacks many things that women can give him. She believes he harms himself and no others, but Antonio says his passion hurts people. Yet he says he will try to reconcile with him if Tasso will follow his advice.
      Leonore goes to see Tasso in his room where he is being punished for his offense. Tasso says he recognizes only the master who feeds him. Yet he observes that a selfish spirit envies. He believes the Duke has become his foe to be hated. She wonders how he can remain at his court, but she assures him that the Princess and her brother trust him. Leonore advises him to go away to Florence where she and her husband will take care of him. He asks how the Princess feels toward him, and Leonore says that she excuses him. Tasso is left alone and believes they are deceivers. He decides to leave. Antonio comes in and acting for the Prince says that Tasso is no longer captive, asking him to accept forgiveness. Tasso gives in, and Antonio offers to help him. Tasso asks for his liberty so that he can go to Rome to revise his book; but Antonio urges him to stay, and he doubts that Alfonso will release him. Tasso says that Gonzaga has a court that will receive him in Rome. Antonio predicts that it will go badly with him in Rome, but he will ask the Prince. Tasso does not trust Antonio, and he fears that the Princess has abandoned him.
      Alfonso tells Antonio he will let Tasso go to Rome, though he does not trust the Medici Gonzaga. Alfonso asks Antonio to forgive Tasso and says foes test our valor while friends test our patience. Antonio blames Tasso for his intemperate life as one who disobeys his doctor’s treatments. Alfonso wishes Tasso well on his journey and will write letters to his friends in Rome. Tasso asks for his manuscript. Alfonso says he will have a copy made, but Tasso wants it right away. Tasso says his life is writing and meditating. Alfonso says farewell. The Princess comes in and asks if Tasso will stay for a while. He is in a hurry to go, and she warns him he is not yet free to go. Tasso says he will disguise himself as a poor pilgrim. He asks her to plead his cause and suggests that he could live with her in one of the Prince’s castles. She sees no remedy and says she must give him up. He asks what he can do to get the Prince’s forgiveness. She says he must trust them as friends. He feels passion and offers himself to her. This frightens her, but he asks her to take him entirely and embraces her. She pushes him aside and hurries away. Leonore is approaching and asks what happened. Alfonso says Tasso has lost his mind and orders him held. Tasso feels imprisoned and tortured as a sacrificial victim. Antonio says he goes to extremes. Tasso feels despair and surrenders as a captive. Antonio advises him to be strong and not give in to himself. Tasso says he is nothing because he was stolen from himself and lost her.
      Goethe’s Tasso tragedy portrays the conflicts of a sensitive poet in an era when poets often had to please a powerful aristocrat to achieve success. The historical Tasso confessed his religious doubts to the Inquisition, and Duke Alfonso was concerned that he might jeopardize his Calvinist court and so treated him as if he were mad by imprisoning him for seven years.

Goethe’s Later Novels

      Goethe directed the Court Theater in Weimar from 1791 to 1817. Karl August was given a command under the Duke of Brunswick in the Prussian army, and Goethe went with him on the campaign against the French in August 1792. He observed the surprising French victory at Valmy on 20 September and later famously commented, “From here and now begins a new epoch in world history, and you can say you were there.” By December he was back in Weimar. In 1794 he helped the philosopher Fichte get a chair at Jena; but he was blamed by some when Fichte was dismissed in 1799.
      Although Schiller was more idealistic and Goethe more realistic, they both admired the culture of the ancient Athenians and became close friends in 1794. In the 1790s many intellectual leaders visited Goethe including the Humboldt brothers, poets Hölderlin and Novalis, writers Jean Paul Richter and Tieck, philosophers Schelling and Hegel, novelist Sophie von La Roche, physicist Ritter, geologist Werner, and his former mentor Herder. In 1797 Goethe visited Switzerland for the third time. He wrote ballads and translated Cellini’s autobiography.
      Goethe published The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister in four volumes in 1795 and 1796. Young Wilhelm is in love with the theater and the actress Mariana. He was going to elope with her, but he mistakenly thinks he discovered that she has a lover. This disappointment causes him to renounce poetry and drama to please his burgher father. He works traveling to collect debts for his father’s business and to increase its trade. In his travels he has adventures and becomes friends with pretty Philina and Laertes. While watching acrobats perform, Wilhelm is upset how they are treating the girl Mignon, and he rescues her. She dotes on him.
      Eventually he is persuaded to loan money to the theater company led by the Melinas. Wilhelm flirts with the countess and is surprised in the count’s bedroom in his clothes, but the count thinks he is his doppelgänger (double). When he forcibly embraces the countess, she dismisses him. In the next town the robbers take the company’s possessions. Wilhelm is injured and wakes up in Philina’s lap. While recovering he stays with a pastor with Mignon who was also wounded. The actors go into the country, but Philina stays to nurse them.
      Wilhelm wants to act and calls on his friend Serlo who is an actor-manager, who gives him the lead in Hamlet. He spends time with Serlo’s unhappy sister Aurelia who had been abandoned with the child Felix by a noble lover. Wilhelm learns that his father died, and he is baffled by the player of the ghost in Hamlet. One night there is a fire, and Felix is sent away with an old harpist. While Wilhelm is fighting the fire, Mignon tells him that the harpist is trying to kill Felix in the basement. Wilhelm manages to get a clergyman to take care of the old man. Wilhelm and Mignon became the guardians of Felix.
      Aurelia tells Wilhelm about her failed love affair and gives him a letter to take to the noble Lothario. At his castle Wilhelm recognizes him as the brother of the countess. Lothario initiates him into a secret society for intellectuals seeking to improve the world. He learns that the old harpist is a former priest who had a child by a relative. On a mission Wilhelm learns that Felix is his son by Mariana who died of grief from losing Wilhelm. He meets Lothario’s sister Natalia. She is the woman he calls an “Amazon” who saved his life in the forest. Mignon dies, and he learns that she was the daughter of an Italian priest, the harpist who went insane because he believed his beloved was his sister. The mother had died in a convent, and traveling players stole the child Mignon. Wilhelm marries Natalie, and he believes that by his experiences he has learned how to appreciate both art and life. In this book Goethe intended to show among other things how guilt is punished on earth. He also paraphrased Hippocrates, writing, “Art is long, life short; judgment difficult, opportunity transient.”
      Goethe’s sequel Wilhelm Meister’s Travels was not published until 1821 with a much revised edition printed in 1829. Wilhelm has renounced desires and travels with his son Felix. They have adventures with various people and discuss geology, astronomy, and other things. Felix suffers from unrequited love but survives.

      Goethe’s novel Elective Affinities, published in 1809, is more relevant to modern society, showing the conflicts between the morality of marriage with the natural desires of sexual attraction. Edward is wealthy and married but falls in love with Charlotte. She likes him too but is also married. After their spouses die, they marry each other. Her daughter Luciana is put in a school, and Charlotte lives with Edward on his country estate. Edward gets a letter from the Captain and invites his friend to stay in his mansion. Charlotte agrees to let him come and work on the estate. Edward enjoys working with the Captain and moves to another wing of the castle to be near him. Charlotte’s dear friend died, and she takes on her daughter Ottilie, who is at school with Luciana, as her protegée. After discussing the elective affinities of chemical elements, Edward and Charlotte agree to let Ottilie come to live there too.
      Edward and Ottilie are attracted to each other and play duets. They spend much time together, leaving Charlotte and the Captain with each other. She becomes more interested in the Captain and tolerates her husband’s attentions to Ottilie. One day while boating Charlotte and the Captain kiss but decide to stay on a moral path. However, Edward and Ottilie give in to their passion for each other. They are visited by a baron and his mistress, a countess, and Edward shows them their rooms. He spends that night with his wife Charlotte, and they make love; but he is thinking of Ottilie while Charlotte imagines the Captain. While celebrating Ottilie’s birthday Charlotte becomes upset at Edward’s behavior and wants Ottilie to go back to school or live with someone else. In anger Edward leaves the castle on the day the Captain leaves for his promotion. Charlotte discovers she is pregnant and turns to the amateur marriage-counselor Mittler, but Edward refuses to give up Ottilie.
      As a war has begun, Edward volunteers and fights with honor, hoping he will have Ottilie if he survives. Two other men become interested in Ottilie at the castle, but she longs for Edward. When Charlotte’s child is christened, the baby mysteriously appears to resemble Ottilie and the Captain. Edward comes back and tells the Captain he will divorce Charlotte so that he can marry Ottilie, and the Captain can wed Charlotte. Edward returns to the castle; but Ottilie becomes so upset that she drops Charlotte’s baby from a boat. The baby drowns, and the Captain is horrified to see that the corpse looks like him. Ottilie goes to an inn, but Edward persuades her to return to the castle. They try to resume their relationships, but Ottilie speaks little and starves herself to death. Edward then eats little, drinks wine, and dies, and his body is buried in the grave next to Ottilie’s. In this novel Goethe wrote that what married people owe to each other is incalculable because it is an infinite debt which can only be fulfilled through all eternity.

      Goethe was affected by the deaths of Herder in 1803 and Schiller in 1805. After Napoleon’s victories Weimar was taken into the Rhine Confederation and had to pay heavy reparations to maintain its sovereignty. Goethe had praised Bonaparte for leading France out of anarchy; but he could foresee his fall and Germany’s liberation. He was proud to be admitted into the Legion d’Honneur in 1808. Late in life Goethe told his friend Eckermann that Napoleon “had trampled underfoot the lives and happiness of millions.” Goethe did not like Kleist’s Penthesilea, and Kleist blamed him for his adaptation distorting the comedy, The Broken Jug.
      In 1811 Goethe began a series of autobiographical writings with his From my Life: Poetry and Truth (Dichtung und Wahrheit) and descriptions of his journeys. He spent much time working on his theory of colors but was unable to refute the optics of Newton. Some of the romantics who visited him were the poets Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano as well as Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm who wrote the famous fair tales. In 1827 Goethe began his essay “On World Literature” with the bold statement, “National literature is no longer of importance; it is the time for world literature, and all must aid in bringing it about.”

Goethe’s Faust

      Goethe worked on his magnum opus, Faust, from the early 1770s until 1831. He published Faust Part One in 1808 and the much longer Faust Part Two in 1828-29 and with his final revisions posthumously in 1832. The poetry is rhymed until Act 4 in Part Two when Faust and Helen begin speaking in blank verse. In the Prelude the Poet says,

Find me that nook of heaven’s stillness, heady
With blossom of the poet’s pure delight,
Where for the heart both love and friendship flourish,
With godly hands create its bliss and nourish.27

The Director wants above all a sufficient plot, and a Merry Person encourages them. The Prologue in Heaven begins with the archangels Raphael recognizing the power of the Sun, the Earth, and the tempest. Mephistopheles speaks to the Lord who asks if he knows Faust. The demon replies that the doctor is deeply troubled, and he wants to bet the Lord that He will lose him. The Lord does not forbid it if the demon can estrange his spirit because Man ever errs while he strives. The Lord does not hate this negative spirit he considers least onerous.
      In his Gothic chamber at night Faust feels he is no wiser even with his master and doctor degrees. He does not presume that he has knowledge nor that he can teach college men. Thus he resorts to magic by spirit to bring secrets to light. He asks nearby spirits to give him answers and says,

Am I a god? I feel such light in me!
Within these tracings pure and whole
There lies creative Nature open to my soul.
At last I comprehend the sage’s plea:
“The world of spirits is not barred.” (439-43)

He summons the Spirit of the Earth and feels his powers rising higher. He pronounces a sign, and the spirit appears and speaks to him. Faust says he feels close to him, but the spirit vanishes. His attendant Wagner heard something and wants to learn from Faust. On Easter Faust hears a chorus of angels, but he does not believe in miracles. Outside the city gates Faust and Wagner mix with students and peasants, and Faust notes their freedom. In his study Faust notices a black dog, and he summons the spirits of the four elements. Mephistopheles appears dressed like a student. Faust calls him Lord of Flies, corrupters, and liars. The demon says he is part of the force that would always do evil and always does good, a spirit which eternally denies. Faust asks if they could make a compact, and the demon says he will render what is promised as long as he can practice his arts. Faust curses belief, visions of glory after death, pride of ownership, Mammon, the grape, lovers’ thrall, faith, hope, and patience. Mephistopheles offers to be his servant and squire and asks for equal worth. He will give Faust arts which no man has seen. They agree to a pact and a wager. He signs his name with a drop of blood.
      After Faust leaves, the demon says he will drag him through dissipation. Mephistopheles shows Faust merry company at a tavern. The demon manifests wine that burns, and he is called a sorcerer. Then he and Faust disappear. In a witch’s kitchen the demon enables Faust to see a beautiful woman.
      On a street Faust sees pretty Margarete, but she denies that she is fair or a lady. Faust tells his partner that he wants to enjoy her that night; but the demon says that she had nothing to confess, and so he has no hold on her. While she is away, Mephistopheles takes Faust to her room which he likes. The demon puts a box of jewels in her cabinet that she discovers; but he tells Faust that she showed them to her mother who let a priest have them. The demon puts an ebony casket in her room with more gems, and Margarete shows them to her neighbor Marthe who advises her to keep them secret. The demon visits them and tells Marthe that her husband died. He urges Margarete to get married or take a lover.
      Margarete falls in love with Faust, but she hates the man with him. In her chamber she warns Faust that they may wake her mother, but he suggests that she put a drug in her drink. After a while she realizes that she has been led into sin. She discovers she is pregnant and is now called “Gretchen.” Her brother Valentine, who is a soldier, comes to her door and gets into a sword fight with Mephistopheles who mortally wounds him. Valentine blames his sister for renouncing honor, and he dies. Gretchen goes to the cathedral where she finds an evil spirit and the choir. In the mountains there is a long scene of witches and revelry called “Walpurgis Night.” There Faust and Mephistopheles encounter strange characters and attend the wedding of Oberon and Titania.
      On a dreary day Faust is in misery and despair because Gretchen has been imprisoned and is to be executed. He insists that his demon save her or take him there so that he can free her. Mephistopheles agrees to lead him there and help him by distracting the jailers. Faust calls to Gretchen in the dungeon, and her chains fall off. She asks him to kiss her, and she embraces him. She confesses that she killed her mother and drowned her child. She dreads fleeing like a beggar with a sinner’s conscience. Faust says he will stay with her, but she tells him to run and save his child. Finally, Mephistopheles says she is condemned, but a voice from above says, “Redeemed.” The voice also calls, “Heinrich” (Faust).
      Faust Part 2 begins with the spirit Ariel singing of spring and asking the fairies to help the unlucky man by removing his remorse and cleansing his soul. Faust appears revived and greets the sunrise. The Emperor assembles his advisors. Mephistopheles kneels and asks a series of riddles. The Chancellor describes the commonwealth with its feverish evils. The Quartermaster says that half the Earth’s dominion has been forfeited. The Treasurer warns that they cannot trust their allies because they cannot afford to subsidize them. The Marshal notes that every day they go deeper in debt. Mephistopheles says they need cash and suggests they can get gold underground because man has gifts of Nature and Mind; but the Chancellor replies that Nature is sin, and the Mind is Satan. They consult the astrologer who advises that those who hope for wonders must follow a divine path. The Emperor proclaims the carnival before Ash Wednesday, and much celebration and entertainment follows. Hope optimistically concludes,

Like an ever-welcome guest
We feel certain of our ground:
We are confident the best,
Must be somewhere to be found. (5437-40)

Plutus, the god of wealth, warns that soon will occur a “gruesome riot,” but he advises that the art of magic will protect them from harmful spirits. The Chancellor announces that there is wealth to redeem the paper money, but the Emperor senses a gross fraud. Mephistopheles recommends the Greek goddesses, the mothers. In the Hall of Chivalry they put on a play the astrologer calls “The Rape of Helena;” but an explosion interrupts the action, knocking Faust unconscious as the spirits disappear.
      In act 2 Faust is in bed in the Gothic Chamber, and his assistant Wagner has created an artificial Homunculus that learns. The former student, who has earned a bachelor’s degree, comes in and implies he is taking over from those who are too old. In the laboratory Wagner demonstrates his Homunculus by engaging it in conversation, and they work on healing Faust. In the Classical Walpurgis Night the Greek gods and other creatures appear. Faust wakes up there and seeks Helena. On the Lower Peneios he finds some nymphs, and Chiron takes him to meet the sybil Manto who guides him into the underworld. Mephistopheles goes after the monstrous Lamiae and disguises himself as a grey witch. The Homunculus asks to join the philosophers Thales and Anaxagoras, hoping to become more human, and they meet up with the legendary Nereus. Proteus helps Homunculus to change.
      The third act was published separately in 1827 as Helena: The Classical-romantic Phantasmagoria Interlude to Faust. The ugly Phorcyas warns Helena that Menelaus may sacrifice her. Faust is seeking the ideal of beauty in the form of Helena, who was stolen from her husband Menelaus by Paris and taken to Troy, triggering the long Trojan War about the 13th-century BC. Faust describes four destructive periods in the history of Greek culture. Following this war the Dorians invaded Mycenaean Greece that resulted in a dark age prior to the golden age of classical Greek culture. The second destruction followed the Roman conquest of Greece and was by the Germanic Goths in the early centuries of the Christian era. The third invasion of Greece was by the French Normans during the Crusades, and the fourth was the Greek rebellion against the Ottoman Empire of the Turks in the 1820s. Faust lives out a romance with Helena and a victory over the army of Menelaus; but Helena disappears into Hades. The act ends with Mephistopheles revealing that he was disguised as Phorcyas.
      Act 4 begins with Faust climbing in high mountains, and in the clouds he sees the female forms of Juno, Leda, and Helena. Mephistopheles appears and tells him that he is in hell, but to Faust this is Nature. The demon offers him a metropolis, but Faust sees that as pebbles and rebels. Faust mentions Sardanapalus, the hero of a play that Byron dedicated to Goethe. The demon knows the history of a hundred thousand years. They discuss the faults of civilization and inspect the troops in the valley. The Emperor has camped in the foothills and confers with his commander of the army. A scout reports that a rival emperor has arisen. Faust arrives in armor with three strong men, and he persuades the Emperor to accept their aid against his rival. Mephistopheles reports that the enemy is retreating, but the Emperor sees ill omens. The rival emperor’s tent is corrupted by Grab-swag and Rapacious. The Emperor with four princes claims the enemy is defeated, and he makes his Arch-Marshal the Arch-Chamberlain. The Archbishop is the Arch-Chancellor and warns the Emperor that he is in league with Satan’s power.
      In the final act the elderly peasant couple, Baucis and Philemon, welcome a wayfarer. In a palace Faust is now an old man with a lofty title he considers impure. Mephistopheles comes in with the three strong men. Faust is worried, and the demon tells him how they removed the elderly couple by killing them. At midnight the crones Want, Debt, Care, and Need gather. Faust sees three leave, but Care remains to taunt him. He orders her to leave. She breathes on his eyes, making him blind. Yet he still perceives the inner light. At the outer court of the palace Faust joins Mephistopheles and the evil spirits of the dead. Faust makes his final speech saying,

Wisdom’s last verdict goes to say:
He only earns both freedom and existence
Who must reconquer them each day. (1574-6)
Then he collapses and dies. Mephistopheles prepares to take his soul away. A chorus of angels throws rose petals as blossoms of blessings, but they burn the devils. The devils retreat from the angels who urge with loving flames the self-damned toward the Light and the blessing of the All-Unity. Mephistopheles curses them but sees Faust’s soul ascending. Anchorites are living in mountain gorges and teach unbaptized children who are blessed and join the angels. Women from the Gospel stories and the penitent Gretchen appear, and the mystical chorus ends the play with the words “Woman Eternal draws us on high.” (12,110-1)
      In 1829 Goethe published his Maxims and Reflections which includes:

I believe in God—this is a fine, praiseworthy thing to say.
But to acknowledge God wherever
and however he manifests himself,
that in truth is heavenly bliss on earth.

The true is Godlike; we do not see it itself;
we guess at it through its manifestations.


1. The Science of Right 55 by Immanuel Kant, tr. W. Hastie.
2. Ibid., 69.
3. Ibid., Conclusion.
4. Ibid.
5. Perpetual Peace 343-346 by Immanuel Kant, tr. Lewis White Beck in On History, p. 85-89.
6. Ibid., 349, p. 93.
7. Ibid., 354, p. 98.
8. Ibid., 357, p. 101.
9. Ibid., 357, p. 102.
10. Ibid., 360, p. 105.
11. Foundations of Natural Right by J. G. Fichte, tr. Michael Baur, p. 18.
12. Ibid., p. 310.
13. Addresses to the German Nation by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, tr. R. F. Jones et al, p. 19.
14. Ibid., p. 225.
15. The Education of Man by Friedrich Froebel, tr. W. N. Hailmann, p. 2.
16. Hegel: Reinterpretation, Texts, and Commentary, tr. Walter Kaufmann, p. 396.
17. The Phenomenology of Mind by G. W. F. Hegel, tr. J. B. Baillie, p. 208.
18. Ibid., p. 457.
19, Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 91 tr. T. M. Knox, p. 66.
20. Ibid. 137, p. 90.
21. Friedrich Schiller: Poet of Freedom, p. 374.
22. On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a series of letters by Friedrich Schiller, tr. Elizabeth M. Wilkinson and L. A. Willoughby, p. 185.
23. Wallenstein: A Historical Drama in Three Parts by Friedrich von Schiller, tr. Charles E. Passage, p. 62.
24. Quotes from Hymns to the Night and Other Selected Writings by Novalis, tr. Charles E. Passage, p. 66-72
25. Quoted in Novalis by John Neubauer, p. 158.
26. Torquato Tasso lines 1242-3 tr. Charles E. Passage.
27. Faust lines 63-66, tr. Walter Arndt.

Copyright © 2018 by Sanderson Beck

EUROPE & REVOLUTION 1789-1830 has been published as a book.
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France’s Revolution 1789-95
France & Napoleon’s Rise & Fall 1796-1815
France of Louis XVIII & Charles X 1814-30
Britain’s Reaction to France 1789-1799
Britain: War and Recovery 1800-30
Romantic Era of English Literature 1789-1830
Germans, Austria & Swiss 1789-1830
German Idealists and Romantics 1789-1830
Spain, Portugal and Italy 1789-1830
Netherlands and Scandinavia 1789-1830
Poland, Russia & Greek Revolution 1789-1830
Summary and Evaluating Europe 1789-1830


Chronology of Europe 1716-1830
World Chronology 1715-1815
World Chronology 1816-1830

BECK index