Letter 220

• 220. Auguste Böhmer to Cäcilie Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 18 February 1799

Jena, 18 February 1799

|499| . . . You probably remember that last year a children’s comedy was performed at Loder’s birthday. [1] This year there will be another performance, but a proper one by grownups, and Mother and I will also be performing. The plays to be performed are Die Heirath durch ein Wochenblatt [2] and Der schwarze Mann. [3] The first piece is really funny . . . among other things, Mother will be playing the role of a tailor’s wife who pretends to be a real Ladyship and disguises a tailor’s lad as her jockey, [4] it is enough to make you die laughing . . . and I will have the honor of playing the disguised tailor’s lad, and Mother is having a proper boy’s costume made for me just for that role [4a] . . .

You probably already know that recently in Weimar Die Piccolomini, the first part of Schiller’s Wallenstein, was performed. We drove over there. [5] The play is extremely interesting, |500| it portrays the separation of the two Piccolominis because of Wallenstein, and his public defection from the emperor.

Schiller gave the affection of the young Piccolomini a different motivation than in history; he loves Wallenstein’s daughter, Thekla, who receives an extremely charming portrayal. [6] The banquet is also portrayed where all the generals of the army sign their commitment to serve him without restriction. [7] And how the father Piccolomini entices them to join the emperor again through trickery and promises and by persuading them they owe no loyalty to him who is himself a traitor to his lord, and how Wallenstein, who so confidently counts on the loyalty of his army, is suddenly surrounded by nothing but enemies. [8]

All this is portrayed so excitingly, so interestingly! that I was quite beside myself and still cannot get over it. The astrologer Seni also makes an appearance, and a scene where they observe the stars in Wallenstein’s astrological tower. [9] That was a very beautiful set. [10] Even in general, there is as much stimulus for the eye as for the mind, the sets were quite splendid, and the costumes too. Wallensteins Tod will probably also be performed soon. [11] That should really be something! People will be unable to leave the theater out of sheer excitement . . .


[1] Justus Loder’s birthday was 28 February. Concerning the performance the previous year, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 11 February 1798 (letter 195), notes 4 and 4a (concerning the rehearsals); Friedrich Schlegel similarly mentions the performance in his letter to Auguste in February/March 1798 (letter 198a). Concerning the present performance, see also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 25 February 1799 (letter 222a [formerly 217, now redated]). Back.

[2] Friedrich Ludwig Schröder, Die Heurath durch ein Wochenblatt. Eine Posse, in einem Aufzuge (Marriage through a weekly, a one-act farce) (Vienna 1786), published later in volume 3 of his Dramatische Werke, ed. Eduard von Bülow with an introduction by Ludwig Tieck (Berlin 1831). Erich Schmidt, (1913), 1:736, thought there may be reason to consider Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer as co-author, notwithstanding Tieck does not mention him in his introduction, reprinted as “Die geschichtliche Entwickelung der neueren Bühne und Friedrich Ludwig Schröder,” in Tieck’s own Kritische Schiften (Leipzig 1848), 2:358:

Die Heirath durch ein Wochenblatt was adapted from Boursault’s versified Mercure galant, the latter of which until recently was still being performed on the French stage as a result of the superb performances of extremely talented actors. Because it has no real coherent story, it was performed only in excerpts. Schröder, too, severely reduced the rather rambling piece. In other editions, the role of Wilibald has been altered. Although some of the material as regards the characters appearing in the play is genuinely outdated, to my knowledge the play is still included in the repertoire of some companies. These plays à tiroir (comedies of episodes) have since become quite popular in Germany.

The play was adapted from Edme Boursault’s (1638–1701) Le mercure galant, ou, La comédie sans titre (premiered 1683); “named from Donneau de Visé’s periodical . . . [the play is] a sort of revue of various ridiculous characters who seek to use the publicity of journalism for their own ends” (Oxford Companion to French Literature, ed. P. Harvey and J. E. Heseltine [Oxford 1959], 85) (illustration of characters from the original play: Messieurs Préville et Auger, Comédie françise, Maître Sangsue, Maître Brigandeau, dans le Mercure galant [after ca. 1763]; Bibliothèque de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, collections Jacques Doucet):



[3] Der schwarze Mann. Eine Posse in 2 Akten (The black man) by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter (Leipzig 1784). Back.

[4] Here still in the sense of “equine groom, handler.” Back.

[4a] For the text of the scene in which Caroline and Auguste appear in this play, see supplementary appendix 220.1. Back.

[5] Although Wilhelm and Caroline did not attend the premiere of Schiller’s Die Piccolomini on Wednesday, 30 January 1799, they and Auguste did attend the second performance, on Saturday, 2 February.

This piece constituted the first part — after the prologue and Wallensteins Lager back on 12 October 1798 — of his Wallenstein. See Caroline’s less than enthusiastic assessment in her letter to Friedrich von Hardenberg (letter 219), and Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on that same day (letter 219a).

See also the supplementary appendix on Wallenstein for a summary of Die Piccolomini and Wallensteins Tod. See also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in early 1799 (letter 215) with note 1. Auguste mentions Wallensteins Tod toward the end of this letter. Back.

[6] The role of Max Piccolomini was performed by Johann Heinrich Vohs, that of Thekla by Caroline Jagemann. Concerning the performance of Vohs and Jagemann, Schiller himself remarked in the Allgemeine Zeitung on 31 March 1799:

Vohs as Max Piccolomini was the audience’s delight, and he certainly merited such. He consistently remained in the spirit of his role, capable, moreover, of expressing even the most subtle, delicate emotion with the utmost success. . . . Thekla von Friedland was portrayed delicately and with considerable grace by Demoiselle Jagemann. A noble simplicity characterized both her acting and her diction, both of which she was able to elevate to the level of tragic dignity when necessary. One song that Thekla sings provided this excellent singer the opportunity to delight the public through this talent as well.

(Caroline Jagemann later performs the title role in Wilhelm Schlegel’s play Ion: Ein Schauspiel, which premiered in Weimar on 2 January 1802. That play is discussed at length in later letters.)

See Wilhelm Scherer, A History of German Literature, trans. from 3rd ed. by Mrs. F. C. Conybeare, 2 vols. (New York 1887), 2:212–13:

The pair of lovers in the tragedy, Max Piccolomini, Octavio’s son, and Thekla, Wallenstein’s daughter, are both ruined by the conflict of their own characters with those of their respective fathers. When they tear themselves from Wallenstein’s side and flee from the malicious powers of life, his good angels seem to have departed from him. But even these good angels are not quite faultless. Max says he would pardon forcible resistance [to the emperor] and even open rebellion in the great hero, when threatened at his post, but he cannot forgive treason, he cannot forgive his allying himself with the enemy. And Thekla is wanting in strength of character, for after Max’s death she gives way to the selfish longing of an overwhelming grief, and forsakes her duty, forsakes her mother in the moments of her deepest distress.

The realist is one-sided and so is the idealist, and only both in conjunction furnish a complete picture of humanity. This is Schiller’s teaching in Wallenstein. Max and Thekla form the necessary supplement to the other characters. The idealist, Max, stands in striking contrast with the realist, Wallenstein, a contrast destined to be one of the most momentous features in the tragedy. We might consider Max the real hero of the second part of the triology, and Wallenstein only the hero of the third part.

Here Thekla as portrayed by Luise Fleck (Almanach fürs Theater 1807, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Here Max and Thekla in (1) a nineteenth-century rendering (Arthur Freiherr von Ramberg and Friedrich Pecht, Schiller-galerie: Charaktere aus Schiller’s Werken [Leipzig 1859], no pagination) and (2) a contemporary rendering portraying Max, Thekla, and Wallenstein in act iii, scene 23 of Wallensteins Tod (by Johann August Nahl):




[7] Here two scenes from Die Piccolomini, “The Generals of Wallenstein Before the Banquet” and “The Banquet of Wallenstein’s Generals at Pilsen” (from The Piccolomini, The Death of Wallenstein, Wallenstein’s Camp, Friedrich Schiller’s Works, trans. Samuel Taylor Coleridge London 1903], frontispiece and plate following p. 128):




[8] The characters of Octavio Piccolomini, Max’s father, and Wallenstein (Schiller-galerie: Charaktere aus Schiller’s Werken, no pagination):



[9] At the time, the beginning sections of Wallensteins Tod — the scene with Wallenstein and Seni in the astrological observatory — were still part of Die Piccolomini. They now constitute the initial scenes of act 1 in Wallensteins Tod. Back.

[10] See the set directions for act iv, scene 1, in the translation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Piccolomini, Or the First Part of Wallenstein, a Drama in Five Acts (London 1800), 147, when this scene was yet part of Die Piccolomini:

Act IV

A Room fitted up for astrological labours and provided with celestial charts, with globes, telescopes, quadrants, and other mathematical instruments. — Seven colossal figures, representing the planets, each with a transparent star of a different colour on its head, stand in a semi-circle in the background, so that Mars and Saturn are nearest the eye. — The remainer of the Scene, and its disposition, is given in the fourth Scene of the second Act. — There must be a curtain over the figures, which may be dropped, and conceal them on occasions. [In the fifth Scene of this Act it must be dropped; but in the seventh Scene, it must be again drawn up wholly or in part.]

Scene 1

Wallenstein at a black table, on which a Speculum Astrologicum is described with chalk. Seni is taking observations through a window.

Here a nineteenth-century rendering from Schiller’s Works, ed. J. G. Fischer, Hjalmar H. Boyesen, vol. 2 (Philadelphia 1883), 185, where the scene now constitutes scene 1 of act 1 in The Death of Wallenstein:



[11] Wallensteins Tod would be performed in Weimar on 20 April 1799, albeit with the title Wallenstein; it was repeated on 22 April 1799 (Das Repertoire des Weimarischen Theaters, 22). Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott