„Lern dieses Volk der Hirten kennen!“ Verhandlungen des Barbarischen in Schillers Wilhelm Tell

Melanie Rohner


In Friedrich Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, the ambivalence which had been characteristic of the concept of the barbarian ever since the enlightenment’s theories, becomes particularly manifest. In these historico-philosophical models, the concept no longer served simply to realize a spatial exclusion: rather, it chiefly signaled an intermediate, pre-civilized stage within the development of culture, a stage in which people still principally lived as shepherds and still occasionally secured their subsistence via raids. Not coincidentally, in Wilhelm Tell Schiller represented the prototypical Urschweizer as shepherds, even though quite possibly on the Rütli Meadow none of the 33 plotters belonged to the shepherd class. Linking the Swiss confederates with herdsmanship at first glance serves the goal of underlining the social and political purity of the old Swiss. If, however, one reads this isotopy of the pastoral against the backdrop of the concepts of cultural stages in circulation at the time, then this isotopy primarily and from the very beginning points to the barbaric-violent that could erupt from these mountain dwellers—despite, or perhaps because of, their location in a golden era.

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