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Encyclopedia > Friedrich von Schiller

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (November 10, 1759 - May 9, 1805), usually known as Friedrich Schiller, was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist.

Friedrich Schiller
Friedrich Schiller

He was born in Marbach (located in Germany's Stuttgart Region), the son of the military doctor, J. C. Schiller. His childhood and youth were spent in relative poverty, although he attended both village and Latin schools, and coming to the attention of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg, entered the Karlsschule Stuttgart (an elite military academy founded by Duke Karl Eugen) in 1773, where he eventually studied medicine.

While at the arduous and oppressive school, he read Rousseau and Goethe and discussed Classical ideals with his classmates. At school, he wrote his first play, The Robbers, about a group of naïve revolutionaries and their tragic failure.

In 1780 he obtained a post as regimental doctor in Stuttgart.

Following the performance of Die Räuber (The Robbers) in Mannheim in 1781 he was arrested and forbidden to publish any further works. He fled Stuttgart in 1783 coming via Leipzig and Dresden to Weimar in 1787. In 1789 he was appointed professor of History and Philosophy in Jena, where he wrote only historical works. He returned to Weimar in 1799, where Goethe convinced him to return to playwriting. He and Goethe founded the Weimar Theater which became the leading theater in Germany, leading to a dramatic renaissance. He remained in Weimar until his death at 45 from tuberculosis.



He married Rosine Engau. His son, Johann Wilhelm Engau (not Schiller) started the line of descendants that now live in St. Louis, Missouri. Schiller's father was Johann Kaspar Schiller, and his mother was Dorothea Kodweiß. Her father was Johann Kodweiß, and her mother was Anna Maria Munz. Her father, Johannes Munz, came from a very respectable family. Several of Schiller's descendants have continued the family's literary tradition, including author and poet, Matt Schiller, who now resides in New South Wales, Australia

Philosophical papers

Goethe and Schiller in Weimar

Schiller wrote many philosophical papers on ethics and aesthetics, finding that beauty must be conceived in the mind by applying reason to the senses and emotions. He developed the concept of the Schöne Seele (beautiful soul), a human being whose emotions have been educated by his reason, so that Pflicht und Neigung (duty and inclination) are no longer in conflict with one another. His philosophy glorified heroic statesmanship and helped to oppose the oligarchical duchies of his time to create the Weimar Renaissance.

The Aesthetical Letters

A pivotal work by Schiller was On the Aesthetic Education of Man, in a series of Letters, which was inspired by the great disappointment Schiller felt about the French Revolution. He had hoped that it would be an American-style revolution, leading to the formation of a constitutional republic. Instead, it became a bloodbath. Schiller wrote that "a great moment has found a little people," and wrote the Letters as a philosphical inquiry into what had gone wrong, and how to prevent such tragedies in the future. In the Letters he asserts that it is possible to elevate the moral character of a people, by first touching their souls with beauty, an idea that is also found in his poem Die Künstler (The Artists): "Only through Beauty's morning-gate, dost thou penetrate the land of knowledge."

On the philosophical side, Letters put forth the notion of Stofftrieb ("the sensuous drive") and Formtrieb ("the formal drive"). In a comment to Immanuel Kant's philosophy, Schiller transcends Kant's dualism between Form and Stoff, with the notion of Spieltrieb ("the play drive") as a source of beauty and contentment. On the basis of Spieltrieb, Schiller sketches in Letters a future ideal state (an utopia), where everyone will be content, and everything will be beautiful, thanks to the free play of Spieltrieb. Being a typical construct of philosophical romanticism, Schiller's focus on the dialectical interplay between Form and Stoff has inspired a wide range of succeeding aesthetic philosophical theory.


For his achievements, Schiller was ennobled in 1802 by the Duke of Weimar. His name changed from Johann Christoph Friedrich Schiller to Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.


  • "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." — Maid of Orleans

Musical settings of Schiller's poems

Ludwig van Beethoven said that a great poem is more difficult to set to music than a merely good one, because the composer must improve upon the poem. In that regard, he said that Schiller's poems were greater than those of Goethe, and perhaps that is why there are relatively few famous musical settings of Schiller's poems. Two notable exceptions are Beethoven's setting of An die Freude (Ode to Joy) in the final movement of the Ninth Symphony, and the choral setting of Nanie by Johannes Brahms.



  • Die Räuber or The Robbers (1781)
  • Kabale und Liebe or Intrigue and Love (1784)
  • Don Carlos, Infant v. Spanien or Don Carlos (1787)
  • Wallenstein (1800) (translated from a manuscript copy into English as The Piccolomini and Death of Wallenstein by Coleridge in 1800)
  • Die Jungfrau von Orleans or The Maid of Orleans (1801)
  • Maria Stuart or Mary Stuart (1801)
  • Die Braut von Messina (1803),
  • Wilhelm Tell or William Tell (1804)
  • Demetrius (unfinished at his death)


  • The Revolt of the Netherlands
  • A History of the Thirty Years' War



  • An die Freude or Ode to Joy (1785) which became the basis for the fourth movement of Beethoven's ninth symphony
  • The Artists
  • The Cranes of Ibykus
  • The Bell
  • Columbus
  • Hope
  • Pegasus in Harness
  • The Glove

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Friedrich Schiller
  • Project Gutenberg e-texts of some of Friedrich Schiller's works (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/author?name=Schiller%2c%20Friedrich)
  • Friedrich Schiller Chronology (http://www.friedrich-schiller.org)
  • 2005 is Schiller year: all dates (http://www.schillerjahr2005.de)

  Results from FactBites:
Johann Christoph Friedrich Von Schiller - LoveToKnow 1911 (2818 words)
JOHANN CHRISTOPH FRIEDRICH VON SCHILLER (1759-1805), German poet, dramatist and philosopher, was born at Marbach on the Neckar, on the 10th of November 1759.
The chief attraction for Schiller was, however, Frau von Kalb with whom he had been passionately in love in Mannheim; but not very long afterwards he made the acquaintance at Rudolstadt of the family von Lengefeld, the younger daughter of which subsequently became his wife.
While Schiller's standpoint was too essentially that of his time to lay claim to finality, it is, on the whole, the most concise statement we possess of the literary theory which lay behind the classical literature of Germany.
Friedrich von Schiller (1464 words)
Kurz darauf siedelte Schiller nach Jena über und begegnet in dieser Zeit erstmals Wilhelm von Humboldt.
Februar 1790 zog Schiller zusammen mit Charlotte von Lengenfeld in Schillers Junggesellenwohnung in Jena.
Schiller hatte sich zu dieser Zeit eine schwere Erkältung zugezogen.
  More results at FactBites »



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