Friday, August 14, 2009

Schiller at 250

In my last post I took on the subject of benevolent rulers. Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) lived under a ruler who was less than benevolent, Karl Eugen, duke of Württemberg. Schiller was a promising young man and entered the duke's elite military academy in Stuttgart in 1773, where he studied medicine. He also read Goethe and Rousseau at the academy and wrote his first drama, Die Räuber (The Robbers). The play, which pitted two aristocratic brothers against one another, was proto-revolutionary in taking on the themes of corruption, religion, economic disparities, and the dividing line between liberty and law. The play was, as they say, a critical success at its original performance in Mannheim in 1781. It did not please Karl Eugen, however, who ordered Schiller to stop writing and publishing and instead to concentrate on being a military surgeon.

In 1783, very much like a Schillerian hero, Schiller left Stuttgart for good, under cover of night. He continued to attack princely corruption, in particular in Kabale und Liebe. One of the themes of the play is the selling of soldiers (Soldatenhandel) by a German prince to fight in the American war of independence. This was a practice that Karl Eugen engaged in, for the purpose of filling the princely coffers. It is no wonder that Schiller was a hero with French Revolutionaries and, later, with supporters of Napoleon.

Stuttgart cherishes no bad feelings for Schiller today and is celebrating his 250th in a novel way. The Cultural Office of the city and the Bakers' Guild are sponsoring the "Schillertüte." The shopping bag (it looks a little like the reusable ones from Trader Joe's) carries on its front a short story of up to 400 words, which must refer to a work by Schiller or contain some phrase from his works.

The bags are available, naturally, at bakeries in Stuttgart, which are also creating special baked goods for the occasion: salzige Schillerlocke mit Wurst-Käse Füllung, Räuber Weckle,, DichterSeele, and "klassisches süße Schillerlocke mit Sahnefüllung." The authors of the short stories that appear on the bags were the winners of a competition. One of the selected contestants, Nia Guramishvili, is only 9 years old, while another, Hans Martin Thill, was born in 1938! The "Schillertüte" pictured below reproduces a winning entry, "Das Feuerwehrfest," which includes the lines "Ach! des Lebens schönste Feier/ Endigt auch den Lebensmai ..." (Das Lied von der Glocke).

For more on Schiller, in general and in this celebratory year, go here. The Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach is sponsoring several events and exhibits, including the intriguingly named "Autopsie Schiller: Eine literarische Untersuchung" (Schiller autopsy: a literary investigation). It promises a look at Schiller's "sinnlicher Seite, seinem physischen wie poetischen Körper, seinen realen wie geistigen Hinterlassenschaften."

Picture credits: Das Literaturarchiv Marbach; Oro Valley Real Estate

No comments: