‘Art is the Daughter of Freedom’ – Friedrich Schiller

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller
(1759 -1805)

On May 9, 1805, the German poet, philosopher, and historian Friedrich Schiller passed away. As a representative of the Weimar Classicism and the ‘Sturm und Drang‘ (Storm and Drive) movement, Schiller published some of the most influential works of the time.

The young Friedrich Schiller was enthusiastic to become a cleric, which was also the request by his parents. He studied Latin and Greek in his early years and wrote his first play at the age of 13. Forced to attend the military school by the duke in 1773, Schiller moved to Stuttgart and began studying law and later medicine. During his time in Stuttgart, Schiller discovered his fascination for the ‘Sturm und Drang‘ movement and the works of Goethe, Shakespeare, Voltaire, and Rousseau.

Later in 1782, Schiller premiered his drama ‘The Robbers‘; it was loved mainly by the young audience due to the immense criticism on governmental and economical inequities in Germany. After being arrested, Schiller escaped from Stuttgart, traveled through Germany for six years and settled down in Jena where he started his professorship in 1789. In the following years, he suffered from tuberculosis, married Charlotte von Lengefeld, and became friends with Wilhelm von Humboldt. He was also announced as honorary citizen of the Republic of France. During these years, Schiller published the play ‘Wallenstein‘ as well as many philosophical studies.

“Dreifach ist des Raumes Maß:
 Rastlos fort ohn’ Unterlaß
 Strebt die Länge: fort ins Weite
 Endlos gießet sich die Breite;
 Grundlos senkt die Tiefe sich.”
(Schiller, Sprüche des Confucius)

(English translation:)

“Threefold is the form of space:
 Length, with ever restless motion,
 Seeks eternity’s wide ocean;
 Breadth with boundless sway extends;
 Depth to unknown realms descends.”
(Schiller, Sentences of Confucius)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller became close friends in the late 1790’s, they enjoyed exchanging knowledge in the fields of literature as well as philosophy, and natural sciences. After Schiller’s death in 1805, Goethe expressed his deep sorrow in a letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter.
Friedrich Schiller has passed away, but even today his works are discussed in classrooms, universities and institutes, for instance the Schiller-Institut in Frankfurt.

At Yovisto, Ulrike Lillge of the Schiller-Institut gives a talk (in German) about the Staatliche Museen Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) famous exhibition of portraits of the Renaissance, where she emphasizes the contrast between humanists and the oligarchical view of the Venetian school.

Further Reading – Works of Schiller:

The Robbers: A Tragedy
Friedrich Schiller
BiblioBazaar, 2007
Love and Intrigue
Friedrich Schiller
Dodo Press, 2007
Wilhelm Tell
Friedrich Schiller
Reclam, 2000
Die Bürgschaft
Friedrich Schiller
Kindermann, 2009

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