In an early, unpublished essay on Friedrich Schiller's trilogy Wallenstein, G. W. F. Hegel criticizes the play's denouement as “horrific” and “appalling” and for depicting the triumph of death over life. To understand why Hegel's response was so negative, Lydia Moland analyzes Wallenstein in terms of his mature theory of modern tragedy. She argues that Schiller's portrayal of Wallenstein's character and death indeed makes the play a particularly dark and unredemptive example of modern tragedy as Hegel understands it. She suggests, however, that Hegel's early objections are primarily motivated by his philosophy of history. Hegel accurately sensed the loss of faith in historical progress that Schiller experienced in the wake of the French Revolution; in essays written shortly before Wallenstein appeared, Schiller associates the tragic sublime with humans' ability to act in the face of the meaninglessness of history. In his essay “The German Constitution,” composed during the same period as his Wallenstein review, Hegel instead formulates his familiar exhortation that we see history as meaningful. Hegel's objection to Wallenstein's darkness, then, is primarily an objection to the vision of history it portrays. Against the background of Peter Stein's 2007 Berlin production of Wallenstein, Moland argues that the play's lasting appeal lies in its ability to allow audiences to experience the sublime as Schiller intended: as an assertion of our agency despite the cycles of history we so little control.
Lydia Moland; An Unrelieved Heart: Hegel, Tragedy, and Schiller's Wallenstein. New German Critique 1 August 2011; 38 (2 (113)): 1–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-1221767
Download citation file: