Friedrich Schiller's Drama: Theory and Practice

Friedrich Schiller's Drama: Theory and Practice

Friedrich Schiller's Drama: Theory and Practice

Friedrich Schiller's Drama: Theory and Practice

Excerpt

No discussion of Friedrich Schiller's dramas would be complete were it not linked to an account of his philosophical views in general and his theory of tragedy in particular. This point should be stressed for a special reason: his reflection was closely, if not exclusively, engaged with his creative imagination in the production of his best dramas.

In the relation between theory and practice Schiller's work resembled Lessing's; yet there is also an important difference. Lessing's theory of tragedy was pre-eminently a literary exercise: it derived from Aristotle Poetics and the critical writings of practised dramatists. When Schiller developed his theory he enlarged its scope by incorporating the views of philosophers who were not primarily concerned with literature. In this way he inaugurated a phase of German criticism that was to have a profound effect, particularly in the nineteenth century. After Schiller the ruling conceptions of tragedy were not propounded by practising dramatists: from Hegel to Nietzsche and Eduard von Hartmann philosophy supplied the German tragedians with their basic notions. An important exception is Otto Ludwig, and his idea of tragedy differs substantially from Schiller's.

Die Räuber, Schiller's first tragedy, appeared in 1781, the year which saw the publication of Kant Kritik der reinen Vernunft. It was a coincidence of symbolical importance, for Schiller went on to write his dramas in the flush of the German idealist movement and his own work reflects the change from Leibnizian to Kantian idealism which is a crucial phase of that movement. If we consider only this . . .

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