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Don Carlos


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A: Friedrich Schiller W: 1782–7 Pf: 1787, Hamburg Pb: 1787 Tr: 1798 G: Trag. in 5 acts; German blank verse S: Madrid, mainly at the court of Philip II, and Aranjuez, 1568 C: 17m, 6f, extrasThe Marquis of Posa returns to Spain to find his friend Don Carlos, heir to the Spanish throne, no longer the young idealist committed to bringing freedom to Spanish possessions. Carlos is in love with his mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth. The Queen rejects his advances, urging him to prepare himself one day to rule Spain. Betrayed by the Princess of Eboli, who loves Carlos, the King's suspicions are aroused, especially when Don Carlos asks to be put in charge of the Spanish army in its expedition to pacify the Netherlands. Trusted by the King, Posa is able to denounce Eboli's slander and secretly plans to take Carlos, by force if necessary, to Brussels to lead a revolt against Spanish oppression. Learning of his imminent capture, Carlos believes himself betrayed by Posa, and once again confesses everything to Eboli. Posa, aware that Eboli will reveal all to the King, sacrifices himself by pretending to love the Queen himself. He is executed, but leaves a message with the Queen, urging Carlos to continue the fight for freedom. Carlos, discovered in the Queen's company, is handed over to the Inquisition as adulterer and traitor.

A: Friedrich Schiller W: 1782–7 Pf: 1787, Hamburg Pb: 1787 Tr: 1798 G: Trag. in 5 acts; German blank verse S: Madrid, mainly at the court of Philip II, and Aranjuez, 1568 C: 17m, 6f, extras

One of the longest plays in German, Don Carlos represents a transition from Schiller's Sturm und Drang writing to the historical tragedies of his maturity. The first German historical drama to be written in blank verse, Schiller had to ‘translate’ it into prose for the unskilled actors at its premiere. Despite the title, the focus of the tragedy is the invented character of Posa, the dangerous idealist, whose noble attempts to confront Philip's realpolitik end only in disaster for himself and his friend. Verdi wrote an operatic version in 1867.

Subjects: Literature.


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