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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
NOV 7 1923
THE SMITH COLLEGE MONTHLY is published at Northampton, Massachu-
Articles designed for the literary departments for a particular issue must
Entered at the Post Office at Northampton, Massachusetts, as second class matter.
Smith COLLEGE MONTHLY
HELEN ISABEL WALBRIDGE, FLORENCE EVELYN SMITH,
GERTRUDE OGDEN TUBBY,
ETHEL WITHINGTON CHASE,
GRACE WHITING Mason.
AN ESTIMATE OF SCHILLER’S WORK
Notwithstanding the many stragglers up the sides of the mountain, Carlyle contends that there are but two men who ever attained the height of the Parnassus of German literature; and these were Goethe and Schiller. In his estimation, too, Schiller, while he came up a bit later, seems to have for certain reasons even the better position on the summit.
The progress of Schiller's early education was hindered by the circumstances of his parents, who were not rich in this world's goods, but who possessed those qualities of love and energy and intelligence which were to have a dominating influence in the development of their son's character. That the energy ascribed to the father was real, was shown in the constant determination that, in spite of poverty, his child should be educated.
Perhaps the ministerial character of his first tutor, Moser, influenced the boy Schiller to study with the idea of entering the church. It is true, however, that although this profession seemed to satisfy a need of his nature, he was not thoroughly in sympathy with it. In fact the whole project seemed to oversha:low his life, even at a very early age. It relieves us somewhat to know that with all the serious trend of thought and precocity, still he was even as other boys are. The course of his education did not always run smooth, and he and his teachers were often at variance, with the result that Schiller was made to feel something sharper than the pain of mental conflict.
Circumstances finally changed in such a way that the ministry as a profession was put aside in favor of law. Schiller's letters tell us that he was thoroughly miserable during this period of his education. In fact the severe, almost military, discipline that he underwent left its indelible marks on his sensitive nature. Every task was irksome and distasteful to him, and his life which seemed designed for less technical and more far-reaching pursuits, instinctively revolted from the narrow limits of the legal profession. Although he recognized that there is a stern realistic side of life, as well as a beautiful idealism, he could not seem to take a philosophical attitude toward his professional work, because it apparently worked at crosspurposes with the higher demands of his soul life, which found satisfaction only in the realm of poetry. This was the forbidden field where he was continually found trespassing. What wonder then, that his life at Stuttgart was full of tribulation, and vindictive feeling against those who withheld from him what he most desired! He would grow utterly morbid under this cruel restraint; at times, when the bonds momentarily loosened, his passionate nature, with all its pent up force, would burst forth.
The first expression in literature of the power of Schiller's emotions is in the tragedy of “The Robbers.” As Carlyle says " It is the expression of a strong, untutored spirit, indignant at the barriers which restrain it.” Although this work made a mighty impression in the literary world because of its strong appeal to the imagination and emotions, still it shows the unmistakable signs of unfamiliarity with human characters and their ways. A relentless fate rules throughout the course of the tragedy. In the portrayal of the characters, one only is really human, while the others are exaggerated types with all the peculiarities and none of the ordinary traits of men. Schiller is his own critic in regard to this play, when he says that he presumed to delineate men two years before he had met
There were those whom the play affected unfavorably because of certain implications made against the army, and Schil
ler's position at Stuttgart, especially in the eyes of the Grand Duke, was uncomfortable. He was suspected of lack of fidelity in the execution of his duties, and being of a particularly sensitive nature, he imagined more evil designing than actually existed.
Chance finally offered an opportunity for him to escape from his thraldom at Stuttgart. His tragedy of “The Robbers” had been put upon the stage, and the manager of the theatre at Mannheim offered him sufficient inducement to leave Stuttgart and pursue a literary career at Mannheim. So, although the future seemed cloudy. Schiller resolved to be free to do this work he loved, and as he had a nature that was used to hardships, instead of sinking into despair at the prospect, he went out to meet the exigencies with all his strength.
He immediately planned two plays, and in less than two years after leaving Stuttgart “Verschwörung als Fiesco” and “Kabale und Liebe" were staged. These plays showed an infinitely more matured mind than the one which produced “The Robbers,” both in the treatment of human nature and the general knowledge of the ways of the world. The reception given these two plays assured Schiller's literary success, besides giving him practical reward in the office of theatrical poet at Mannheim. Under these happier circumstances, then, Schiller went on with his work, which next took form in the “Don Carlos” tragedy, part of which had alreally appeared in the "Thalia,” a literary periodical. Schiller shows in his treatment of the popular subject, the tragedy of a son condemned to death by his royal father, the advantage gained from added experience with human nature. His characters do not assume the gigantic proportions which they were wont to have in the earlier plays, and which made them seem like Marlowe's creations. Besides his improved technique, acquired by his study of the French drama, there is an ethical note in this play, taking the place of that grim Fate which rules his earlier characters absolutely.
After the success of “Don Carlos,” Schiller resolved to forsake the drama and turn his attention to a new field, that of epic and lyric poetry, and history. In his lyrical writings we have all the delicacy of feeling and the finer instincts of the man brought out. The rich imagery and depth of feeling which were shown in the drama, he wove also into the lyrics.
In Schiller's historical work, his plans were two comprehensive ever to admit of execution,-such subjects as “Histories of the Conspiracies and Revolutions of the Middle and Later Ages." Numerous other histories were planned, but none of them finished, because of his renewed devotion to the drama,
A visit to Weimar brought him into touch with other kindred spirits,-Wieland, the German poet, and Herder. Schiller seemed to be charmed with this city and wanted to live there. He writes, “You know the men of whom Germany is proud, -a Herder, a Wieland, with their brethren ; and one wall now encloses me and them." For some months he lived here and in this vicinity.
It was at this time that two new friendships were formed. One of them ripened into love for the Fräulein Lengefeld, and the other was the lasting friendship for Goethe. Of the first there is little to say except that Schiller's nature seemed to need only this one divine influence to make it expand to the fulness of its beauty. Concerning the other bond, the friendship began with almost condescension on one side, and simply deep respect and admiration on the part of the younger man. He felt at first that he had nothing at all in common with the master mind of Goethe. Their ways of thinking were essentially different and their natures were cast in entirely different moulds. Goethe had very little admiration for Schiller's earlier work, and criticises “The Robbers” as having an offensive character. He acknowledges that he made an effort to avoid meeting Schil. ler. Gradually, however, the respect of the younger man changed to admiration and love, while Goethe's unselfish interest for the welfare of literature was leading him to overcome his personal dislike for Schiller. There was something to justify Goethe's reluctance in recognizing the younger man's genius. He was naturally a bit loath to share the honors which had been indisputably his. Later as they came to see more of each other, and common interests developed, the friendship, bred in repugnance, grew into a mighty bond which lasted throughout their lives.
At this time a new honor was to come into Schiller's life. In response to the solicitations of Goethe, Schiller received the appointment of professor at Jena. Now it seemed as though the brightest days of his life would follow, but shortly after his establishment at Jena he became ill, and was obliged to give up