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Title: Clavigo
Genus: Tragedy
Original language: German
Author: Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Publishing year: 1774
Premiere: August 23, 1774
Place of premiere: Hamburg
Place and time of the action: Madrid
  • Clavigo (archivist of the king)
  • Carlos (his friend)
  • Beaumarchais
  • Marie Beaumarchais
  • Sophie Guilbert (nee Beaumarchais)
  • Guilbert (her husband)
  • Buenco
  • Saint George
Goethe 1779

Clavigo is a tragedy in five acts by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with Beaumarchais as the stage figure. Written in just eight days in May 1774, the stage manuscript was already in print in July 1774, the first work to be published under Goethe's name ( Götz von Berlichingen appeared anonymously in 1773). On August 23, 1774 , the piece was premiered by the Ackermann Society in Hamburg.

The venue is in Madrid.


Illustration for Clavigo by Hugo Steiner-Prag , 1917

first act

Clavigo's apartment

Clavigo is presented as an upstart at the Spanish court. He and his friend Carlos , striving for Clavigo's further career and accepting intrigues for it, assure each other how well Clavigo's weekly “The Thinker” is now being received by the Madrid reading public. But then Carlos objects that when Clavigo was still with Marie , he did better journalism. Clavigo thinks about it and has to agree. He left Marien - betrayed her . But finally the friends agree: women! You waste too much time with them. And time is running out for a journalist like Clavigo, the more people by working over the head wants to grow. He has already achieved a lot since arriving in Madrid without a stand, without a name, without a fortune . Clavigo is the king's archivist !

Guilbert's apartment

Sophie Guilbert and her unmarried sister Marie are expecting their brother Beaumarchais together . When the father sent the sisters to Madrid many years ago, the brother was still half a child, but a noble, great soul. The occasion for the rare visit from France is anything but pleasant. Bad luck happened to Marie . The false courtier Clavigo has left her. But although the faithless groom Marie played along badly and her health is suffering from the separation, she confesses: Clavigo's love gave me a lot of joy and asks herself: Oh! why am I no longer lovable? Brother is coming. Beaumarchais exceeds the trembling expectations of the trembling Marie: all, all revenge against the traitor is sworn by the still noble brother.

Second act

Clavigo's house

Unsuspecting, Clavigo receives the avenger, who appears incognito . To avoid suspicion, the foreign visitor praised Clavigo's paper The Thinker and tells the story of his two sisters together with the story of a young person who was born in the Canary Islands . Clavigo becomes more and more uncomfortable while listening, because it is also the story of his betrayal: How he was accepted as a poor eater in the wealthy house of Guilbert, finally promised marriage to Marie and then made off. Beaumarchais speaks plain language: and the traitor - you are! Clavigo, the monster , the vile , not worthy that hideous man , can not help but it can be an admission of guilt by Beaumarchais dictate. When Clavigo is alone, he immediately regrets: This explanation, I shouldn't have given it. Carlos comes and wants to help the friend out of the impasse. But Clavigo has made up his mind: I have decided to marry Marien, voluntarily out of my inner instinct.

Third act

Guilbert's apartment

Clavigo goes to the Guilberts but does not appear yet. Sophie saw Herr Archivarius coming, and the two sisters agree on his arrival. In summary, Sophie says to Marie: Your heart speaks more for him than you believe it . Marie is appalled to find out that her brother Clavigo has forced an explanation from him. Clavigo appears. Marie screams and falls into Sophien's arms . Clavigo ends his emotionally charged longer appearance with Marie! ... Can you no longer hear the tone of my heart? And Marie calls: O Clavigo! The mood changes. Clavigo did it. He grabs Marie's hand with delighted kisses and hugs those present in turn. Beaumarchais is coming. At the height of reconciliation, the latter takes the paper that had been forced off Clavigo out of his wallet, tears it up and gives it to him. Beaumarchais thinks for a moment and remarks: But it was too hasty for me to return the paper to him.

Fourth act

Clavigo's apartment

Now it is actually showing how hasty Beaumarchais' great gesture of reconciliation was. After analyzing the situation, Carlos quickly realizes that the friend's mind has shifted . Carlos takes matters in hand. He assesses the friend correctly: if people do not admire or envy you, you are not happy either. Clavigo still wants to prefer a quiet life to fame: the world judges by appearances. Oh, whoever has Mary's heart is to be envied! Carlos doesn't accept that and plays his trump card. Marie had consumption . That makes Clavigo undecided again. Because, he remembers, he was also shocked when he saw Marie again and felt the cold hand of death . Now the practically inclined Carlos has an easy time with his hesitant friend. Clavigo should just give him a free hand and, above all, not sign anything compromising . Clavigo is willing to be helped. He disappears from the scene, following the arrangement of his friend.

Guilbert's apartment

The disappearance does not go unnoticed and the stone starts rolling. Beaumarchais brings the bad news: I was with Clavigo. He is not at home. And the brother immediately starts talking about revenge again. Sophie realizes that all of this is too much for Marie and asks her brother for moderation. Sophie was really watching. Marie's health is deteriorating. The patient asks for a doctor on her own initiative. But no doctor comes over, but Sophie's spouse appears with a paper in hand. The work of the schemer Carlos comes to light in one fell swoop. Clavigo charged Beaumarchais. This foreigner Beaumarchais had sneaked into his house, held the pistol up to him in bed, and forced him to sign a shameful declaration . If Beaumarchais does not leave Spain quickly, he faces jail. The so badly accused becomes a maddened animal . This new course of events, the conglomerate of lies and truth in the paper, is too much for Marie's sick heart. She calls Clavigo! and dies. Sophie, quite beside herself, reproaches her brother: spoil us all as you killed Mary.

Fifth act

Street in front of Guilbert's house

Marie's funeral is to take place. Clavigo comes to the funeral procession armed with a sword. Desperately he exclaims: Marie! take me with you! Beaumarchais appears, they fight, Beaumarchais thrusts his sword into his chest. As she dies, Clavigo wants to know how Marie died. Sophie tells him: her last word was your unfortunate name. Clavigo grabs Marie's cold hand as she dies.

Documentary theater

  • Goethe admires the stage works and pamphlets by Beaumarchais . He reads or sees:
1768 the drama Eugénie (1767),
1774 the Mémoires (1774),
1776 the comedy Le barbier de Séville (1775),
1785 the comedy Le mariage de Figaro (1784),
1796 the drama La mère coupable (1792),
1800 the opera Tarare (1787).
  • Eugénie and the Mémoires serve Goethe as the basis of his Clavigo. Beaumarchais stayed in Madrid on business matters in 1764/65. On this occasion he took care of his 33-year-old sister Marie-Louise, who lived there. The publicist and writer José Clavijo y Fajardo had twice promised him marriage. Although the couple had drifted apart, Beaumarchais asked Clavijo for a third vow, which was not kept either.


  • 1774 - Beaumarchais sees Clavigo in Augsburg towards the end of the year and does not agree with the poetic liberties that the young playwright had taken.
  • 1779 - Goethe probably sees his piece for the first time on December 22nd in Mannheim . Iffland played the Carlos.
  • 1780 - Schiller plays the clavigo in the Karlsschule on February 11th .
  • 1792 - on January 7th, the Clavigo had its first performance in Weimar.


“Then I worked a tragedy. Clavigo , modern aneckdote, dramatizes with the greatest possible simplicity and truth of the heart; my hero an indefinite, half tall, half small person. "

- Goethe's letter of July 1774 to Gottlob Friedrich Ernst Schönborn

"Of course, it may look strange to you when you can not master such a naked and conventional piece as Clavigo ."

- Goethe's letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter from 1816

“ I wrote my siblings in three days, my Clavigo , as you know, in eight. Now I am supposed to let it go; and yet I can in no way complain of a lack of productivity, even in my old age. But what I succeeded in doing every day and under all circumstances in my younger years, I now only succeed periodically and under certain favorable conditions. "

- Conversation with Johann Peter Eckermann on March 11, 1828

Secondary literature

Web links

Commons : Clavigo  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Clavigo. A tragedy  - sources and full texts