Friedrich von Schiller. Wilhelm Tell

Theodore Martin, translator

Etext prepared by Dagny, dagnyj@hotmail.com Emma Dudding, emma_302@hotmail.com and John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz


Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was born at Marbach, Wurtemberg, Germany, November 10, 1759. His father had served both as surgeon and soldier in the War of the Austrian Succession, and at the time of the poet's birth held an appointment under the Duke of Wurtemberg. Friedrich's education was begun with a view to holy orders, but this idea was given up when he was placed in a military academy established by the Duke. He tried the study of law and then of medicine, but his tastes were literary; and, while holding a position as regimental surgeon, he wrote his revolutionary drama, 'The Robbers,' which brought down on him the displeasure of his ducal master. Finding the interference with his personal liberty intolerable, he finally fled from the Duchy, and in various retreats went on with his dramatic work. Later he turned to philosophy and history and through his book on 'The Revolt of the Netherlands' he was appointed professor extraordinarius at Jena, in 1789. His 'History of the Thirty Years' War' appeared in 1790-93, and in 1794 began his intimate relation with Goethe, beside whom he lived in Weimar from 1799 till his death in 1805. His lyrical poems were produced throughout his career, but his last period was most prolific both in these and in dramatic composition, and includes such great works as his 'Wallenstein,' 'Marie Stuart,' 'The Maid of Orleans,' 'The Bride of Messina,' and 'William Tell' (1804). His life was a continual struggle against ill-health and unfavorable circumstances; but he maintained to the end the spirit of independence and love of liberty which are the characteristic mark of his writings.

This enthusiasm for freedom is well illustrated in 'William Tell,' the most widely popular of his plays. Based upon a world-wide legend which became localized in Switzerland in the fifteenth century and was incorporated into the history of the struggle of the Forest Cantons for deliverance from Austrian domination, it unites with the theme of liberty that of the beauty of life in primitive natural conditions, and both in its likenesses and differences illustrates Schiller's attitude toward the principles of the French Revolution.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE HERMANN GESSLER, governor of Schwytz, and Uri. WERNER, Baron of Attinghausen, free noble of Switzerland. ULRICH VON RUDENZ, his Nephew. People of Schwytz: WERNER STAUFFACHER. CONRAD HUNN. HANS AUF DER MAUER. JORG IM HOFE. ULRICH DER SCHMIDT. JOST VON WEILER. ITEL REDING. People of Uri: WALTER FURST. WILHELM TELL. ROSSELMANN, the Priest. PETERMANN, Sacristan. KUONI, Herdsman. WERNI, Huntsman. RUODI, Fisherman. People of Unterwald: ARNOLD OF MELCHTHAL. CONRAD BAUMGARTEN. MEYER VON SARNEN. STRUTH VON WINKELRIED. KLAUS VON DER FLUE. BURKHART AM BUHEL. ARNOLD VON SEWA. PFEIFFER of Lucerne. KUNZ of Gersau. JENNI, Fisherman's son. SEPPI, Herdsman's son. GERTRUDE, Stauffacher's wife. HEDWIG, wife of Tell, daughter of Furst. BERTHA of Bruneck, a rich heiress. ARMGART, peasant woman. MECHTHILD, peasant woman. ELSBETH, peasant woman. HILDEGARD, peasant woman. WALTER, Tell's son. WILHELM, Tell's son. FRIESSHARDT, Soldier. LEUTHOLD, Soldier. RUDOLPH DER HARRAS, Gessler's master of the horse. JOHANNES PARRICIDA, Duke of Suabia. STUSSI, Overseer. The Mayor of Uri. A Courier. Master Stonemason, Companions, and Workmen. Taskmaster. A Crier. Monks of the Order of Charity. Horsemen of Gessler and Landenberg. Many Peasants; Men and Women from the Waldstetten.



A high rocky shore of the Lake of Lucerne opposite Schwytz. The lake

makes a bend into the land; a hut stands at a short distance from the

shore; the fisher boy is rowing about in his boat. Beyond the lake are

seen the green meadows, the hamlets and farms of Schwytz, lying in the

clear sunshine. On the left are observed the peaks of The Hacken,

surrounded with clouds; to the right, and in the remote distance,

appear the Glaciers. The Ranz des Vaches, and the tinkling of cattle

bells, continue for some time after the rising of the curtain.

FISHER BOY (sings in his boat) Melody of the Ranz des Vaches

The smile-dimpled lake woo'd to bathe in its deep,

A boy on its green shore had laid him to sleep;

Then heard he a melody

Floating along,

Sweet as the notes

Of an angel's song.

And as thrilling with pleasure he wakes from his rest,

The waters are rippling over his breast;

And a voice from the deep cries,

'With me thou must go,

I charm the young shepherd,

I lure him below.'

HERDSMAN (on the mountains) Air.-Variation of the Ranz des Vaches

Farewell, ye green meadows,

Farewell, sunny shore,

The herdsman must leave you,

The summer is o'er.

We go to the hills, but you'll see us again,

When the cuckoo calls, and the merry birds sing,

When the flowers bloom afresh in glade and in glen,

And the brooks sparkle bright in the sunshine of Spring.

Farewell, ye green meadows,

Farewell, sunny shore,

The herdsman must leave you,

The summer is o'er.

CHAMOIS HUNTER (appearing on the top of a cliff) Second Variation of

the Ranz des Vaches

On the heights peals the thunder, and trembles the bridge,

The huntsman bounds on by the dizzying ridge.

Undaunted he hies him

O'er ice-covered wild,

Where leaf never budded,

Nor Spring ever smiled;

And beneath him an ocean of mist, where his eye

No longer the dwellings of man can espy;

Through the parting clouds only

The earth can be seen,

Far down 'neath the vapour

The meadows of green.

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