People of Germany: Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) was a German poet, philosopher, physician, historian, and playwright. He was born in Marbach, Württemberg as the only son of a military doctor. He grew up in a very religious family and spent much of his youth studying the Bible, which would later influence his writing for the theatre. He had 5 sisters. He was named after King Frederick the Great, but he was called Fritz by nearly everyone. As a boy, Schiller was excited by the idea of becoming a cleric and often put on black robes and pretended to preach. Later, he entered the Karlsschule Stuttgart (an elite military academy), where he eventually studied medicine. During most of his short life, he suffered from illnesses that he tried to cure himself. While at the Karlsschule, he read Rousseau and Goethe and discussed Classical ideals with his classmates. At school, he wrote his first play, The Robbers, which dramatizes the conflict between 2 aristocratic brothers: the elder, Karl Moor, leads a group of rebellious students into the Bohemian forest where they become Robin Hood-like bandits, while Franz Moor, the younger brother, schemes to inherit his father’s considerable estate. The play’s critique of social corruption and its affirmation of proto-revolutionary republican ideals astounded its original audience. Schiller became an overnight sensation. Later, he would be made an honorary member of the French Republic because of this play. In 1780, he obtained a post as regimental doctor in Stuttgart, a job he disliked. In order to attend the first performance of The Robbers in Mannheim, Schiller left his regiment without permission. As a result, he was arrested, sentenced to 14 days of imprisonment, and forbidden by Karl Eugen from publishing any further works. He fled Stuttgart in 1782, going via Frankfurt, Mannheim, Leipzig, and Dresden to Weimar. Along this journey he had an affair with an army officer’s wife Charlotte von Kalb. In 1789, he was appointed professor of History and Philosophy in Jena, where he wrote only historical works.
Goethe convinced him to return to playwriting. He and Goethe founded the Weimar Theater, which became the leading theater in Germany. Their collaboration helped lead to a renaissance of drama in Germany. For his achievements, Schiller was ennobled in 1802 by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, adding the nobiliary particle “von” to his name. He remained in Weimar, Saxe-Weimar until his death at 45 from tuberculosis in 1805.