Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell: Weimar Classicism between Empire and Nation

Todd Kontje


In this essay I explore ways in which Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell responds to the paradigm shift in European politics from the Holy Roman Empire to the modern nation-state. Rather than clinging to the imperial politics of the past or embracing unequivocally the new model of the egalitarian nation-state, Schiller explores the advantages and disadvantages of both. Schiller stages a conflict between local Swiss cantons and the Habsburg-controlled Austrian territory. This historical opposition, in turn, makes implicit reference to the recent French efforts to control and centralize the Swiss government, as well as intra-German tensions between smaller principalities and larger territorial states. The larger purpose of the essay is to reconsider the cultural politics of Weimar Classicism in ways that subvert the teleological model of the “Klassik-Legende.”

View Full Text

This article requires a subscription to view the full text. If you have a subscription you may use the login form below to view the article. Access to this article can also be purchased.

Purchase access

You may purchase access to this article. This will require you to create an account if you don't already have one.