Wallenstein (play)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Wallenstein is the popular designation for a trilogy of dramas by Friedrich Schiller. It consists of the plays Wallenstein's Camp (Wallensteins Lager) with a lengthy prologue, The Piccolomini (Die Piccolomini), and Wallenstein's Death (Wallensteins Tod). Schiller himself also structured the trilogy into two parts, with Wallenstein I including Wallenstein's Camp and The Piccolomini, and Wallenstein II consisting of Wallenstein's Death. He completed the trilogy in 1799.

In this drama Schiller addresses the decline of the famous general Albrecht von Wallenstein, basing it loosely on actual historical events during the Thirty Years' War. Wallenstein fails at the height of his power as successful commander-in-chief of the imperial army when he begins to rebel against his emperor, Ferdinand II. The action is set some 16 years after the start of the war, in the winter of 1633/1634 and begins in the Bohemian city of Pilsen, where Wallenstein is based with his troops. For the second and third acts of the third play the action moves to Eger, where Wallenstein has fled and where he was assassinated on 26 February 1634.


Content Summary

Wallenstein's Camp

Introducing the second and third parts, Wallenstein's Camp is by far the shortest of the three. Whilst the main action takes place among the higher ranks of the troops and nobility, Wallenstein's Camp reflects popular opinion, particularly that of the soldiers in Wallenstein's camp. They are enthusiastic about their commander, who to all appearances has managed to unite mercenaries from a wide variety of locations in his army. They praise the great freedom he allows them whenever they are not engaged in fighting (he allows them to plunder) and his efforts on their behalf in negotiations with the Holy Roman Emperor, of whom some of the troops are critical. The soldiers also praise the war for improving their own lives despite its harming the civilian population. A peasant complains that the troops steal from him; a monk criticizes their wicked life. The soldiers find out at the end of this part that the emperor intends to place part of the army under the command of Spanish Habsburgs and they agree to ask Max Piccolomini, one of their commanders, to urge Wallenstein not to fulfil the emperor's wishes.

The Piccolomini

The main action of the trilogy begins with the second play. The viewpoint changes from that of the ordinary soldiers to that of the commanders within Prince Wallenstein's army. They meet in an encampment near Pilsen, awaiting further orders. Most of them are enthusiastic follows of the prince and hold him in higher regard than the emperor. Wallenstein has repeatedly ignored the emperor's orders, which has brought the two of them into conflict. Presumably so as to weaken Wallenstein, the emperor has ordered him to cede part of his huge army. Wallenstein is unwilling to do this and considers giving up his command over the imperial troops. In order to pressure the emperor into making peace, he is secretly negotiating with the emperor's Swedish enemies and would like to keep the option open of allying himself with Sweden against his own emperor. He is urged to do this by his closest comrades, his brother-in-law Terzky and Illo, who want him to break his pledge of allegiance to the emperor. Toward this end they get all the commanders to sign a document pledging their loyalty to Wallenstein. Terzky and Illo lead the others to believe that this statement of loyalty contains a proviso that the signatories' loyalty to Wallenstein is subsidiary to their loyalty to the emperor, but they secretly remove that proviso from the copy of the declaration which the signatories actually sign.

Wallenstein lets his comrades in on his plans but - unknown to Wallenstein - one of them, Octavio Piccolomini, remains loyal to the emperor, for whom he is spying. (This character is a fictionalisation of the historical figure Prince Octavio Piccolomini, Duke of Amalfi.) The emperor has also authorised Piccolomini to officially replace Wallenstein as commander-in-chief, but Piccolomini decides only to act on that authorisation if Wallenstein officially takes a stand against the emperor. Imperial informers manage to capture one of Wallenstein's negotiators en route to the Swedes, and Wallenstein's removal thus becomes imminent. The situation then comes to a head because Octavio's son Max Piccolomini (a fictional creation by Schiller) and Wallenstein's daughter Thekla (a historical character) are in love. Max is an enthusiastic follower and devotee of Wallenstein, who treats him well. Max does not believe his father, who tells him about Wllenstein's intended betrayal. "Piccolomini" ends with Max's decision to ask Wallenstein directly about his plans, so that Max will know whether he has to take a stand against his father or against Wallenstein.

Wallenstein's Death

In the last part of the Wallenstein trilogy the conflict anticipated in the second play erupts and leads to a tragic conclusion. Wallenstein learns that the negotiators he has sent to secretly bargain with the Swedes have been intercepted by imperial troops. He supposes that the emperor now has evidence that Wallenstein is considering an alliance with his enemies and perhaps even wants to overthrow the emperor. After some hesitation and intense pressure exerted by Illo, Terzky and especially the latter's spouse, Countess Terzky, Wallenstein decides to conclude an official pact with the Swedes.

However, Octavio Piccolomini, still under secret orders from the emperor, manages to convince almost all the important leaders in Wallenstein's army to abandon him. In particular he convinces Buttler that Wallenstein has secretly obstructed his career. Insulted, Buttler remains with Wallenstein in order to seek revenge. Octavio's only son, Max Piccolomini, is torn between his loyalty to the emperor and his admiration for Wallenstein, as well as his love for Thekla. He finally decides to leave Wallenstein but Wallenstein dashes Max's hopes that they can remain friends despite this. Wallenstein then flees with his remaining supporters to Eger and Max Piccolomini throws himself into a doomed battle with the Swedes in which he dies. When Thekla learns of this, she secretly sets out for Max's grave to seek death near her beloved. Wallenstein also grieves about the loss of Max, but believes that the fates have taken Max away in compensation for future good fortune.

In the night, Buttler's henchmen, Macdonald and Deveroux, murder the two high officers Illo and Terzky during a banquet, then kill Wallenstein himself in his bedroom. The drama ends with a final dialogue between Octavio and his chief antagonist, Countess Terzky, who has just poisoned herself and dies. At the end of the play Octavio receives the message that he has been raised to the rank of prince by the emperor in gratitude for his loyalty.

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