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Novels by Lessing and Schiller Comparison Essay

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Introduction

There is an apparent evolution of stage drama that at most has been influenced by changes within society. Politics and familial factors have provided sufficient background and theme for most plays although previously, these were centred on mysterious forces as traceable on Greek comedies and tragedies.

European drama has in their influences of their earlier predecessors so that English, German or French literature and drama were seen of these influences. This paper shall try to focus on the German plays Emilia Galotti and Kabale und Liebe from the eighteenth century that will argue that it was a mistake to perceive the plays as political dramas but instead centred on human psychology.

Emilia Galotti

There are certain interpretations as well as perceptions about Lessing’s Emilia Galotti, a German bürgerliches Trauerspiel or bourgeois tragedy play in five acts by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. It premiered on 8 March 1772 in Braunschweig about the story based upon the Roman myth of Virginia.

Emilia Galotti is a drama during the Enlightenment with love as its central theme, and most often interpreted as a political commentary. The play focuses on the arbitrary rule by the aristocracy presented in stark contrast to the current and enlightened morality of the bourgeoisie. Other feudal ideas of love and marriage in the play come into conflict with the greater move by the population, or in this instance by Emilia’s father to marry for love rather than tradition and power.

Summary

Emilia Galotti is the central figure of the play with her parents Odoardo and Claudia. Hettore Gonzaga is the prince of Guastalla who fell in love with Emilia. Marinelli is the prince’s chamberlain, Count Appiani is Emilia’s fiancée and countess Orsina, the prince’s former mistress. “Emilia Galotti” is interpreted as a nefarious abduction plot gone sour in a time when the abuse of aristocratic privilege has made the middle class start to feel entitled. Emilia is the daughter of a respectable bourgeois officer Odoardo and has caught the eye of the womanizing Prince Gonzaga. Emilia and her mother Claudia at that instant were on the way to Vegghia. He became obsessed with Emilia and want her for himself. As a prince who is so used to having what he wants, he empowered his chamberlain Marinelli to do whatever is necessary to make Emilia the prince’s lover, thus in their exchange of thoughts:

“DER PRINZ. Auch das! – Packen Sie nur zusammen: ich muß fort – Morgen, Rota, ein mehres! Geht ab.

CAMILLO ROTA den Kopf schüttelnd, indem er die Papiere zu sich nimmt und abgeht. Recht gern? – Ein Todesurteil recht gern? – Ich hätt’ es ihn in diesem Augenblicke nicht mögen unterschreiben lassen, und wenn es den Mörder meines einzigen Sohnes betroffen hätte. – Recht gern! recht gern! – Es geht mir durch die Seele dieses gräßliche Recht gern!

However, Emilia is set to marry Count Appiani. Aside from this, Odoardo the father of Emilia is considered a political enemy of the prince, because he opposed the claims of the prince on Sabionetta. When Claudia learned of the attraction, she blurted:

“CLAUDIA GALOTTI. Welch ein Mann! – O, der rauhen Tugend! – wenn anders sie diesen Namen verdienet. – Alles scheint ihr verdächtig, alles strafbar! – Oder, wenn das die Menschen kennen heißt; – wer sollte sich wünschen, sie zu kennen? – Wo bleibt aber auch Emilia? – Er ist des Vaters Feind: folglich – folglich, wenn er ein Auge für die Tochter hat, so ist es einzig, um ihn zu beschimpfen?

The prince and Marinelli made a plan to make Emilia fall for the prince. They hired criminals to act as robbers during the wedding day of Emilia and Appiani. While the plan seemed perfect, during the wedding, the criminals killed Appiani.

Emilia was convinced they owed their lives to the people of the prince. She was brought to the prince and she was grateful for their rescue as well as for taking care of her parents. Then, Marinelli figures in to calm down Emilia. But Claudia was not easy to fool with the incident to save them from the bandits. Claudia insisted:

Es ist klar! – Ist es nicht? – Heute im Tempel! vor den Augen der Allerreinesten! in der nähern Gegenwart des Ewigen! – begann das Bubenstück; da brach es aus! Gegen den Marinelli. Ha, Mörder! feiger, elender Mörder! Nicht tapfer genug, mit eigner Hand zu morden; aber nichtswürdig genug, zu Befriedigung eines fremden Kitzels zu morden! – morden zu lassen! – Abschaum aller Mörder! – Was ehrliche Mörder sind, werden dich unter sich nicht dulden! Dich! Dich! – Denn warum soll ich dir nicht alle meine Galle, allen meinen Geifer mit einem einzigen Worte ins Gesicht speien? – Dich! Dich Kuppler!

Prince Hector and Marinelli were convinced that they did the right thing, calling Claudia a crazy woman. But Claudia and Odoardo decided to take Emilia back to their home as Count Appiani already is dead. He went to the palace of the prince in Guastalla. But when Emilia and her father had the chance to discuss her situation, she convinced Odoardo to kill her instead as it was not worth staying and giving herself to the prince, as she uttered:

Aber nicht über alle Verführung. – Gewalt! Gewalt! wer kann der Gewalt nicht trotzen? Was Gewalt heißt, ist nichts: Verführung ist die wahre Gewalt. – Ich habe Blut, mein Vater; so jugendliches, so warmes Blut, als eine. Auch meine Sinne, sind Sinne. Ich stehe für nichts. Ich bin für nichts gut. Ich kenne das Haus der Grimaldi. Es ist das Haus der Freude. Eine Stunde da, unter den Augen meiner Mutter; – und es erhob sich so mancher Tumult in meiner Seele, den die strengsten Übungen der Religion kaum in Wochen besänftigen konnten! – Der Religion! Und welcher Religion?– Nichts Schlimmers zu vermeiden, sprangen Tausende in die Fluten, und sind Heilige! – Geben Sie mir, mein Vater, geben Sie mir diesen Dolch.”

Odoardo finally agrees and stabs her, but immediately felt remorse for taking the innocent life of his daughter. Odoardo leaves the matter to the prince in distraught as she lay dead. The Prince decided that Marinelli was partly responsible for the catastrophe and had him banned from his court while he lamented for allowing evil to rein, for conniving with the evil plans of his friend. In the end, Odoardo and the prince recognises the authority of God.

Kabale und Liebe

Kabale und Liebe which means Intrigue and Love is a play written by the German dramatist and writer Friedrich Schiller first performed on 15 April 1784 in Frankfurt. The characters are: Präsident von Walter, am Hof eines deutschen Fürsten. Ferdinand, Hofmarschall von Kalb, Lady Milford, Wurm, Miller, father of Louise, Dessen Frau, Luise, the maiden, Sophie, Ein Kammerdiener des Fürsten, and Verschiedene Nebenpersonen. The play’s summary goes that Luise loves a young man she met in the village. Luise’s father Miller is worried by this mysterious love further compounded when he was approached by the courtier Wurm. Wurm was in love with Luise and wishes to have her as his won. However, Miller informs Wurm that he will never intrude and decide against his daughter’s will. Angered and irritated by Miller’s reply, Wurm reveals to Miller that the man whom Louise loves is Ferdinand, the son of Miller’s enemy Count Walter.

At Count Walter’s castle, Wurm twists all information he knows and informs his master of Ferdinand’s love for Luise. The count in return decided that Ferdinand will marry his niece Federica, the Duchess of Ostheim. He summons his son to tell him. When Ferdinand is left alone with Federica, he confesses that he loves another woman, hoping that the duchess will understand. But Federica is too much in love with him to understand.

Amidst the drama, there exchange of words between the lead characters Louise, Miller and Ferdinand:

“Luise (hängt sich an ihn, in der entsetzlichsten Bangigkeit). Aber,

mein Vater, Dies alles könnt’ ich ja recht gut besorgen.

Miller. Du bist allein, und es ist finstre Nacht, meine Tochter.

(Ab.)

Ferdinand. Leuchte deinem Vater, Luise! (Während dem, daß sie

Millern mit dem Licht begleitet, tritt er zum Tisch und wirft Gift in

ein Glas Limonade.) Ja, sie soll dran! Sie soll! Die obern Mächte

nicken mir ihr schreckliches Ja herunter, die Rache des Himmels

unterschreibt, ihr guter Engel läßt sie fahren-“

At Miller’s household, the old man informs his daughter who the real Ferdinand is making it appear that Ferdinand deceived her gravely. Ferdinand arrives and admits his deception but swears that his love is sincere. He knelt in front of Miller and he declared that Luise is his going to be his bride. However, Count Walter arrives and orders that Luise and her father be arrested. Ferdinand stands up against his father’s will and orders. He threatens Count Walter that if he does not free the girl, Ferdinand will reveal how Walter deceptively became the count. Walter was frightened and convinced to free Luise.

Nevertheless, Miller was imprisoned for daring to draw his sword before the count. He was set for execution. Meanwhile, Wurm went to Luise’ house to offer a bargain which he believed she won’t refuse: her father’s freedom in exchange for a letter in which Luisa would deny her love for Ferdinand but instead declare her love for Wurm. Thus:

“Luise. So muß ich mich wundern, daß Sie nicht nach dem Marktplatz

gingen.

Wurm. Warum eben dahin?

Luise. Ihre Braut von der Schaubühne abzuholen.

Wurm. Mamsell Millerin, Sie haben einen falschen Verdacht-Luise

(unterdrückt eine Antwort). Was steht Ihnen zu Diensten?

Wurm. Ich komme, geschickt von Ihrem Vater.

Luise (bestürzt). Von meinem Vater?–Wieder ist mein Vater?

Wurm. Wo er nicht gern ist.

Luise. Um Gotteswillen! Geschwind! Mich befällt eine üble

Ahnung–Wo ist mein Vater?

Wurm. Im Thurm, wenn Sie es ja wissen wollen.

Luise (mit einem Blick zum Himmel). Das noch! Das auch noch!–Im

Thurm? Und warum im Thurm?

Wurm. Auf Befehl des Herzogs.

Luise. Des Herzogs?

Wurm. Der die Verletzung der Majestät in der Person seines

Stellvertreters-Luise. Was? was? O ewige Allmacht!

Wurm. Auffallend zu ahnden beschlossen hat.”

At the castle, Count Walter and Wurm recall how the count rose to power by killing his own cousin. Wurm convinces the Count that Ferdinand was aware of it and that Ferdinand could endanger the count. Consequently, Duchess Federica and Luise came in. With prompting from the count and Ferdinand, Luise confirms the contents of her letter as the truth. Appalled, Ferdinand reads Luise’ letter inside his apartment. As he cannot believe the content of the letter, the young man challenged Wurm to a duel. But to prevent the confrontation, the courtier fires his pistol in the air. The count and his servants came running in to stop the duel. At this instance, Count Walter proposes to Ferdinand that he retaliates the hurt he has suffered by marrying Duchess Federica.

Soon, the whole household celebrates the union and marriage of Ferdinand and Federica. Old Miller was freed from prison and goes back home. He embraces his daughter Luise upon entering their house. But Luise is so distraught she is determined to take her own life. However, Miller manages to persuade her to remain alive with him. But when she was alone, Luise prayed. Ferdinand arrives, slips in unseen and pours poison into the water jug on the table as she was about to confront Luise.

“Luise. O Himmel! Nicht umsonst hab’ ich diesen Auftritt gefürchtet.

Ferdinand (gebieterisch). Versuche!

Luise (nimmt das Glas etwas unwillig und trinkt).

Ferdinand (wendet sich, sobald sie das Glas an den Mund setzt, mit

einer plötzlichen Erblassung weg und eilt nach dem hintersten Winkel

des Zimmers).

Luise. Die Limonade ist gut.

Ferdinand (ohne sich umzukehren, von Schauer geschüttelt). Wohl

bekomm’s!

Luise (nachdem sie es niedergesetzt). O wenn Sie wüßten, Walter, wie

ungeheuer Sie meine Seele beleidigen.

Ferdinand. Hum!

Luise. Es wird eine Zeit kommen, Walter-Ferdinand (wieder vorwärts

kommend). O! mit der Zeit wären wir fertig.

Luise. Wo der heutige Abend schwer auf Ihr Herz fallen

dürfte-Ferdinand (fängt an stärker zu gehen und beunruhigter zu

werden, indem er Schärpe und Degen von sich wirft). Gute Nacht,

Herrendienst!

Luise. Mein Gott! Wie wird Ihnen?

Ferdinand. Heiß und enge–Will mir’s bequemer machen.

Luise Trinken Sie! Trinken Sie! Der Trank wird Sie kühlen.

Ferdinand. Das wird er auch ganz gewiß–Die Metze ist gutherzig;

doch, das sind alle!

Luise (mit dem vollen Ausdruck der Liebe ihm in die Arme eilend).

Das deiner Luise, Ferdinand?”

At this last instance, Ferdinand wants to learn the truth and asks Luise if she really wrote the letter in which she declared her love for Wurm. “Yes,” Luise replied. With this, Ferdinand drinks a glass of water then passes a glass to Luise. He also invited her to drink and informs her that they are both condemned to die as the juice was poisoned. Finally, before she succumbs to death, Luise told Ferdinand the truth about the letter. She soon died and some peasants came with Count Walter and Wurm. The Count and Wurm had a verbal exchange thus Wurm declaring: “Über mich? (Er fängt gräßlich an zu lachen.) Lustig! Lustig! So weiß ich doch nun auch, auf was Art sich die Teufel

danken.–Über mich, dummer Bösewicht? War es mein Sohn? War ich

dein Gebieter?–Über mich die Verantwortung? Ha! bei diesem Anblick,

der alles Mark in meinen Gebeinen erkältet! Über mich soll sie

kommen!–Jetzt will ich verloren sein, aber du sollst es mit mir

sein–Auf! Auf! Ruft Mord durch die Gassen! Wicked die Justiz auf!

Gerichtsdiener, bindet mich! Führt mich von hinnen! Ich will

Geheimnisse aufdecken, daß Denen, die sie hören, die Haut schauern

soll.”

It was late that the Count realised the deception and evil deed of his servant. But his servant retaliated that they were both evil and blinded by their own selfishness.

Analysis

Kalb (2005) opined that he found G. E. Lessing a great critic and a patriarch of the Enlightenment of which “lionization as a playwright has sometimes been mixed with uneasiness about his rationalism, doubts about his particular balance of the head and heart.”

As such, Michael Thalheimer’s interpretation of the play Emilia Galotti was both “emotional and erotic” in its play at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. Kalb (2005) observed that Mr Thalheimer version of the play had it “stripping complex classics down to their essential cores, omitting secondary characters, superfluous exposition and most props and furniture […]to focus on sex – the confused and intemperate behaviours within and around a disastrous love triangle.”

McCall (1999) observed that bourgeois or middle-class tragedy of the eighteenth century is a movement that tried to differentiate itself from the classical past. There is much difference pictured between the royalty and the middle-class. “Royalty, when it cries, need not make a show of its tears. Anaesthetics of crying clears a path for bourgeois drama (and culture) by politicizing the difference between the high classical and the bourgeois domestic: in a conscious usurpation which serves as a linchpin in Lessing’s drama theory, tradition (i.e., dramatic classicism) is embodied in the cold, unfeeling, and uncrying royal character,” (p 595).

In addition, it was suggested that “Tears are the insignia of historical difference, such that no tears equal no history—or at least no tears equal no bourgeois history—no self as bourgeois, in the sense of nonaristocratic fellow-feeling urbanites (with cash to spare for theatricals) endowed with receptive moral-aesthetic sensibility,” (p 596).

This may be perceived as a strong indication of differences between two classes which inevitably have to merge because of human emotions, of love. In addition, Lillo (1965) has defined that tears become a phenomenon on stage and physiological indicators of mimetic identification indicating “the human heart” has been “touched” upon showing of tears, that cues on stage to fill “a thousand eyes with tears” (p 8) that as well reproduce moral sentiments among the many audiences as witnesses.

In comparison to other European plays of the period, McCall (1995) views that “eighteenth-century domestic tragedy reveals, from The London Merchant to Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe (1784)—by way of Lessing’s two bourgeois tragedies of the 1775 Miss Sara Sampson and the 1772 Emilia Galotti […]“aqueous solutions” as natural ways of signifying a deep-rooted like-mindedness among diverse persons in the “liquid politics” of the human organism; watching the same play, we all have (or are supposed to have) the same convictions. Insofar as they are an externalization of private impulses, all of which are to be agglutinated in a shared public sentiment of marketable goodwill, tears in eighteenth-century domestic tragedy are a strategy to domesticate sympathy and to legitimate bourgeois mercantilism.”

Lessing himself was quoted to define that the art of theatre was to “touch the human heart on all sides, in order to make it better through these contacts,” (Lessing, 1775). McCall (1999) also proposed the notion of the family with the father as master and the household and all its members of which was also seen as a little principality reflecting him. This was emphasized in Friedrich Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe subtitled “A Bourgeois Tragedy [Ein Bürgerliches Trauerspiel”, as the father announced the master code in the opening line: “Ich war Herr in Haus” which is translated as “I was master of the house” (Schiller, 1988).

The father was master until such time that the love interest pictures in the scene which in both cases are aristocratic lovers who the fathers believe would not fit in with bourgeois family values. As such, a well-accepted equal son-in-law of solid bourgeois provenance would be better. In Kalabe und Liebe, other family members are the father’s investments and their value is indicated by his code word “virtue.”

Unfortunately, a virginal daughter still negotiable for marriage was considered as a trade object and would serve a good return of his investment. But when “the capital funds [die Kapitale]” which such “fathers have deposited in the hearts of [they’re] children” are coming to maturity, his daughter seems about “to fritter away [auf und Davon machen]” his “entire house and home [Hab und Gut].” In reply to which daughter Luise declares, “No, father. I’ll go as His” (i.e., the earthly and heavenly master’s) “great Debtor [Schuldnerin] from the world, to pay interest [Wucher—also “usury”{!}] for all eternity” as observed and as quoted by McCall (1999).

In fact, it was also observable that it was not enough to assert that the family is the master’s mirror image. The dyadic bond, which extends the person of “the man of the house” is extended concretely into his family members and are expected to represent themselves as “his family” (McCall, 1999).

In the process where there seemed to be a chance for Emilia to eventually like the prince, and likewise with the case of Louise to be able to bargain with Ferdinand for her father’s freedom, these apparently wise daughters become blinded by their “love” or affection for their fathers and instead sacrifice their own lives for their fathers’ sake.

The political background for Emilia Galotti and Kabale und Liebe, nevertheless, served as a rich source of inspiration for the dramas to unfold as touching and provocative. Without the politics of aristocracy and bourgeois, it was such a difficulty providing enough strength and base for ripping apart the familial bondage between the families involved.

Conclusion

If literature were to trace psychological “familial bonds” in its history, there is a long tradition of European narratives to unearth, from the Iliad to more modern dramas that almost always bond a father to his son and son to father, as well as mother to son and son to mother. The two plays represented here centres on the bond between a father and his daughter that extends control and bonding beyond which is necessary or even logical and practical.

While practical is a modern notion of positive virtue, if viewed as a virtue at all, such was not during the eighteenth century when both plays were written and initially staged. The focus was on the changes of lives of the aristocracy and that of the bourgeois who have to deal with the understanding of “power”, “equality” as well as their personal convictions based on their faiths.

In this manner, while backgrounds of the plays Kabale und Liebe and Emilia Galotti had the royalties or their official positions imposed as hindrances and challenges to be immediately addressed, they do not ultimately present political strives as the main themes. There is the psychology of being an underling by the daughter, thereby the need to follow the will of a father who is considered the absolute authority within the family. Also, the daughters are akin to empowering their fathers as if they have no will of their own, which simply strays away from the modern notion of independence and individuality.

The political background in both plays are secondary to the messages or central theme as all throughout, each has emphasised the role of bonding, family authority as well as irrationality of having to please an authority seen as fathers. Family played a very important role in both plays as the decisions and actions of the daughters, viewed as pure and innocent by their fathers, were basically to preserve their father’s belief as well as the integrity of the family.

Time was of importance in the plays. The period was such that paternal authority was a universally accepted norm European or otherwise. While paternity plays an important role in every person’s psychological development, paternal rule over an individual has diminished over time so that at this modern period, viewers could not easily relate to the psychological warfare that evolved amongst these two dramas. These dramas are, today, palatably presented as dance-musicale instead, to the advantage of its viewers who may or may not be able to grasp aristocratic and bourgeois drama as well as an absolute paternal authority which could be psychologically daunting, if not disturbing.

Reference

Friedrich Schiller, Kabale und Liebe: Ein bürgerliches Trauerspiel (Augsburg, 1988), 9.

Lessing, G. E. (1775). “Berliner Priviligierte Zeitung” (1755), in Lessings Sämtliche Werke, 17 vols., ed. K. Lachmann and F. Muncker (Stuttgart, 1886–1924), 7: 31.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Works. Volume 2, Munich 1970 FF, S McCall, Tom (1999). “Liquid Politics: Toward a Theorization of “Bourgeois” Tragic Drama.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 98 (3), Summer, pp. 593-622.

Blackadder, Neil Martin (2006). “Emilia Galotti (review).” Theatre Journal 58, (2), May, pp. 350-351.

Kalb, Jonathan (2005). “A Tale of Sex and Death, Stripped to Its Core,” 2005.

High, Jeffrey L. (2004). “Two Reception Histories of Schiller’s Dramatic Works.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 37(3), pp. 487-491.

Schneider, Heinrich (1956). “Emilia Galotti’s Tragic Guilt.” Modern Language Notes 71 (5), pp. 353-355.

Lillo, George (1965). Prologue to The London Merchant, ed. William H. McBurney, Regents Restoration Drama Series (Lincoln).

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