Demetrius (Schiller)

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Title: Demetrius
Genus: Drama Fragment
Original language: German
Author: Friedrich von Schiller
Premiere: February 15, 1857
Place of premiere: Court theater in Weimar
  • Sigismund , King of Poland
  • Archbishop of Gniezno , primus of the empire
  • Prince Leo Sapieha
  • Demetrius , false son of Tsar Ivan
  • Mnicek , Prince of Sendomir
  • Marina , Malik's daughter
  • Marfa , widow of Tsar Ivan
Demetrius from the Schiller Gallery ;
Steel engraving by Sichling after Pecht , around 1859

Demetrius is a fragment of the drama by Friedrich von Schiller , which was premiered on February 15, 1857 at the court theater in Weimar . It describes the historical figure of Demetrius , who was the Russian tsar around 1605/1606.


The real person Demetrius

In a speech in the Polish Reichstag , Demetrius declares his claim to the Tsar's throne. He is hoping for help from Poland. He is said to be Dmitri Ivanovich , the son of Tsar Ivan IV , and was not murdered as a child in 1591, but grew up in a monastery and entered service with the Prince of Sendomir . He was this Tsar Demetrius. He convinced the Reichstag and the king with an impressive speech. Although a Reichstag resolution fails because of Prince Sapieha's veto , Poland takes action against Moscow. With Demetrius, the Poles want to overthrow the upstart Boris Godunov from the throne. The driving force is Demetrius' fiancée Marina , the daughter of Malek. Marfa, Tsar Ivan's widow, banished to a monastery by Godunow, has been mourning her apparently murdered son for years when she receives news that Demetrius is alive.

Schiller only sketched the further course of the plot: Boris receives news of Demetrius' success and kills himself with poison. The new tsar is a benevolent ruler until he learns that his claim to the throne is not legitimate: he is not Ivan's son, but was used as a tool by the anti-Godunov faction. When he was supposed to be identified by his mother Marfa, she does not recognize him. Despite the lack of legitimation, he asks her to recognize him as her son. Marfa follows her conscience and does not recognize it.

Schiller's work on Demetrius

Two handwritten pages by Friedrich Schiller: Demetrius (first act)
Quote from "Demetrius" on a wall of a house in the western market street of Rudolstadt , the hometown of Schiller's wife Charlotte von Lengefeld

Schiller's work on Demetrius can, following his diary, be divided into four sections:

First working phase March 10 to April 21, 1804
During this time, Schiller noted the characters in Demetrius. He also planned the development of the roles of the Marfa and Marina
Second working phase May 22nd to July 22nd 1804
In the second working phase, Schiller collected information about the historical context and worked on the exposition of the drama. The first planned Samborakt was later discarded and replaced by the Reichstag scenes. On July 22, 1804, Schiller broke off work on Demetrius . He started the play The Princess of Cell . Due to the new piece and an illness, he did not resume work on Demetrius until mid-November 1804.
Third work phase from mid-November to 10 December 1804
Schiller weighed between the "Demetrius drama" and the "Warbeck" and finally decided on Demetrius. Before that, he had repeatedly worked on both fragments of the drama. A precise definition of the scenes in Demetrius was created.
Fourth phase of work January 20 to May 1, 1805
The first act is fully worked out. Only sketches exist about the further course of the drama.


The work reflects the responsibility of the individual in the story. The personal and political power of Demetrius depends on the legitimation of the Marfa. In Demetrius , Schiller also reflects on the rule of Napoleon I.

Try to complete Schiller's fragment

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe already thought about completing Schiller's work in order to continue working with his deceased friend after his death. However, he soon gave up on the project.

Friedrich Hebbel , who took on the material, deliberately avoided all of the scenes designed by Schiller in order to achieve “Schiller's goal without Schiller's path”. Hebbel's drama is similar to Schiller's draft, however, in the basic assumption of a deceived cheater. Hebbel also died while he was writing his Demetrius drama.

But a few other authors used Schiller's draft and created complete, more or less successful dramas from it. The followers of Schiller include: Franz von Maltiz (1817, greatly modified in 1835), Gustav Kühne (first performed 1857, printed 1860), Otto Friedrich Gruppe (1858, printed 1861), Heinrich Laube (1872), Heinrich von Zimmermann (1885), Otto Sievers (1888), A. Weimar (Augusta Götze-Weimar, printed 1897, first performed in 1893), Franz Kaibel (1905), Karl Emil Schaarschmidt (1909) and Martin Greif . In his piece Dmitri (premiered in 1982), Volker Braun explicitly referred to Schiller's fragment, but created an independent, deliberately contrasting drama.

The works by Herman Grimm (1854) and Friedrich Bodenstedt (1856), Karl Hardt (1869), Adolf Wilhelmi (1869), Alexander Sergejewitsch Pushkin ( Boris Godunow , 1825), Walter are also independent and not based on Schiller's fragment Flex (1909) and Paul Ernst (1905, first performance 1910).


Book editions

  • Schiller, Friedrich: Demetrius with materials. Reclam, 1986.
  • Friedrich Schiller: Demetrius. Dramatic estate, works and letters in 12 volumes (Volume 10), 2005.

Audio book editions

  • F. Schiller Dramas: Demetrius. The audio publishing house, 2005.


  • Bibliographical Institute & FA Brockhaus AG, 2007.
  • Miriam Springer, Herbert Kraft (ed.): Friedrich von Schiller: Works and letters in 12 volumes . 10th volume. Deutscher Klassiker Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 2005.
  • Peter-André Alt : Schiller. Life - work - time . A biography. 2nd volume. Beck , 2000, p. 604 .
  • Walter Flex : The development of the tragic problem in the German Demetrius dramas by Schiller up to the present. Eisenach, 1912.
  • Elisabeth Frenzel : Demetrius. In: Ders .: Substances of world literature. A lexicon of longitudinal sections of the history of poetry (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 300). 2nd, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1963, DNB 451357418 , pp. 154-157.
  • Petra Hartmann : The young German Demetrius. In: PH: Between the barricade, the Burgtheater and the official pension. The young German authors after 1835. Stuttgart 2009. pp. 117–141.
  • Klaus H. Hilzinger: The deceived fraudster and the deceived people. Schiller's Demetrius in the 19th century. In: "Cry, cry, you poor people!" The seduced and deceived people on stage. Collected lectures of the Salzburg Symposium 1994. Ed. Peter Csobadi et al. Vol. 2. Anif / Salzburg 1995. pp. 473-483.
  • Karl-Heinz Hucke / Olaf Kutzmutz: Demetrius. In: Helmut Koopmann (ed.): Schiller manual . Stuttgart 1998. pp. 513-522.
  • Herbert Kraft : Schiller's “Demetrius” as a fateful drama. With a bibliography “Demetrius in German Poetry”. In: Festschrift for Friedrich Beißner. Edited by Ulrich Gaier and Werner Volke. Bebenhausen 1974. pp. 226-236.
  • Ferdinand Gustav Kühne : Bodenstedt's Demetrius and Schiller's draft. In: Europa 8, 1856. Col. 193-198.
  • Adolf Mielke: Schiller's Demetrius. According to its scenic structure and its tragic content. Dortmund 1906. (Reprint: Hildesheim 1978).
  • Birgit Osterwald: The Demetrius theme in Russian and German literature. Depicted on AP Sumarokov's “Dimitrij Samozvanec”, AS Pushkin's “Boris Godunov” and F. Schiller's “Demetrius”. Münster 1982.
  • Sergej O. Prokofieff: The riddle of Demetrius. Attempt to look at it from a historical, psychological and humanistic point of view. Dornach 1992.

Web links

Commons : Demetrius (Friedrich Schiller)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Jan CL König: “Murder at the Fürstenhof! Schiller's Lower Saxony tragedy 'The Princess of Cell' ”. In: Home calendar for the city and district of Uelzen 2006. Ed. Horst Hoffmann. Uelzen 2005, pp. 31-46, ISSN  0937-3748