Academic journal article Studies in Romanticism

Wallenstein's Rhetoric and the Development of Hegel's Modern Hero

Academic journal article Studies in Romanticism

Wallenstein's Rhetoric and the Development of Hegel's Modern Hero

Article excerpt

Eugene Moutoux ends his brief exploration of the relationship between the historical figure, Albrecht Wallenstein, and Schiller's dramatic figure of the eponymous Wallenstein trilogy with this statement: "The guilty Wallenstein falls because, to all appearances, he rebelled; the innocent Wallenstein rebels because he fell--and the contradiction of history is reconciled in drama." (1) This chiasmus mixing the historical and the literary functions less as a conclusion than as an introduction to Schiller's character--more like an opening up than a closing down of Wallenstein's potential guilt and innocence, as Moutoux puts it. While it is interesting to follow this discussion of Schiller's source material, my focus lies on the literary character itself, and the way Moutoux constructs his conclusion leads us perfectly to the crucial straggles that define Wallenstein's situation. (2) Wallenstein attempts to navigate a world based on military, religious, political, regional, and national allegiances and to manipulate his own realm of influence within that world both for his own potential benefit and for the benefit of the civilians and soldiers suffering the death and destruction of the Thirty Years' War. But this ultimately proves impossible. Whether his plan could have been carried out successfully had he pursued it differently is the question that makes it difficult to determine his character. In this light, his monologue in Act One, Scene Four of Wallensteins Tod gives fascinating insight into his own interpretation of the situation he both suffers and has created. As I will attempt to show, building on the argument of Michael Auer, Schiller uses the figure of the "polyptoton" as an aesthetic embodiment of the contradictions of Wallenstein's position. The monologue's structure not only demonstrates the interrelation of the rhetoric Schiller places in the mouth of Wallenstein and his protagonist's shrinking space for activity, but also--vitally--points to Schiller's dramatic trilogy as a major interlocutor within Hegel's formulation of the "modern hero" in Vorlesungen uber die Aesthetik.

Because polyptoton is perhaps not as familiar as, say, the similar turn of chiasmus, it warrants an initial description. A polypton is a figure in which a turn of phrase reiterates a word in different syntactic cases or uses two different words formed from the same stem. Schiller employs polyptoton to create a formal, often thematically complex, sense of repetitiveness--without repeating syntactically and orthographically identical terms like those found in Keats's chiasmus, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty...." Wallenstein delivers one clear example of polyptoton, which I will discuss later, around the stem "plan-": "was planlos ist geschehn, / Weitsehend, planvoll mir zusammenknupfen" ["Now all these things that undesigned have happened / They will combine into a great design"]. (3) Polyptota create units of speech built from shared parts, or pairs of words that are not in the same subject or object case (and whose articles, in German, vary accordingly). Where Auer reads in these figures an expression of interior division--as we will see in more detail later--I will show that they do even more. They allow Wallenstein to represent in the medium of his own language the tension between any interior self-division and the inherently exterior and unnavigable structures of life and activity in which he finds himself. It is at this meeting of interior and exterior difficulties that the rhetorical figure becomes crucial in the dialogue between Hegel on the modern hero and Schiller in Wallenstein.

One kernel of Wallenstein's difficulties is that his own realm of influence is tied to each of the concurrent and often opposing power structures to which his status as Herzog of Friedland relates. Furthermore, as Schiller demonstrates in the trilogy's first play, Wallensteins Lager, Wallenstein is also responsible for a large number of people, primarily his soldiers and their various hangers-on. …

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