Friedrich Schiller ‘The Robbers’

The Robbers (Die Räuber), 1781 by Friedrich Schiller

The Robbers (Die Räuber), 1781
by Friedrich Schiller

On January 13, 1782Friedrich Schiller’s playThe Robbers‘ (Die Räuber) was premiered at the national theatre in Mannheim. The “Sturm und Drang” play astounded its Mannheim audience and made Schiller an overnight sensation.

It is believed that Schiller began working on The Robbers more intensively in 1777, but, in secret. Around 1780, he read some passages at first so some friends to see their impact. He was at first unlucky in finding the right publisher and had to come up with the money himself. The very first volume was published annonymously with only 800 copies. The people were shocked by this work, but also the theatre gained interest in the story. Freiherr von Dalberg was back then responsible for the theater in Mannheim and asked Schiller for a theater-version, which he finished by 1781. On January 13, 1782, the scandalous play was premiered in Mannheim.

The plot of ‘The Robbers‘ revolves around the two aristocratic brothers, Karl and Franz Moor. Karl is more rebellious and very charismatic while the younger brother, Franz, appears more as a cold hearted villain who plots against Karl to wrest away his inheritance. As the conflict continues thoughout the plot, Franz’s motives as well as Karl’s seemingly innocent characteristics evolve to be more complex. The play is represented in a traditional five-act structure and in the altering scenes, the brother’s conflicts are depicted, showing the one questing for money and power while the other seeks to create a revolutionary anarchy in the Bohemian Forest. Many controversial topics were subject of the play including the dividing lines between personal liberty and law as well as the topic of power in general. Schiller also made the differences between good and evil and masculinity as subject of the famous play.

Notable for ‘The Robbers‘ is especially the fact that Schiller intentionally broke the rules of traditional plays. For example, the drama plays at various different locations. Also, Schiller violates the rule to not mix different levels in society, which he also did in his famous work ‘Intrigue and Love‘. When Karl Moor decides to develop his close connection with his robbers and becomes a criminal, he decides to turn away from his family, leaving his priviliges in society.

At yovisto, you may learn more about Friedrich Schiller and the Renaissance.

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