Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, 1759 - 1805

portrait of Friedrich Schiller
Oil porttrait by Ludovike Simanowiz (ca. 1794)

Born: 10 November 1759, Marbach am Neckar, Duchy of Württemberg
Died: 9 May 1805, Weimar, Duchy of Saxe-Weimar

Named after Kaiser Friedrich II of Prussia, friends and family called him Fritz. He was the only son of a military doctor who was away in the Seven Years' War when he was born. His father wanted him to become a Lutheran pastor and had the local pastor teach Fritz Latin and Greek. Duke Karl Eugen, however, wanted him to follow in his father's calling and took control of his education, sending him to the Karlsschule Stuttgart, a military academy the Duke founded, where he studied medicine. He wrote The Robbers while still in school, a play criticizing social corruption and espoused republican ideals. By the time it was performed, Schiller was an army surgeon. The play made a deep impression on audiences and angered the duke, Schiller was jailed for two weeks over it. After his punishment he fled first to Weimar in 1782, then to Jena in 1787 where he was a professor of history and philosophy. During this period he avoided further trouble by writing only on historical subjects. He married in 1790, the following year he had to leave his teaching post because of pneumonia and pleurisy, he was an invalid for the rest of his life. In 1799 he and Goethe founded the Court Theatre and he returned to active playwriting. Their undertaking was soon the leading theatre in Germany. The two collaborated on a number of works and Schiller left several concepts sketched out at his death that Goethe would later complete. Beethoven used Schiller's "Ode to Joy" in the closing choral movement of his Ninth Symphony, Brahms and Schubert both set his poems to music and Giuseppe Verdi adapted four of the plays as operas while Donizetti and Rossini each added one more. The Duke of Weimar ennobled Schiller in 1802, allowing him to use "von" in his name. His death at 45 was the result of tuberculosis.

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