cabal and Love

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Title: cabal and Love
Genus: A civil tragedy
Original language: German
Author: Friedrich Schiller
Publishing year: 1784
Premiere: April 13, 1784
Place of premiere: Schauspiel Frankfurt , Frankfurt am Main
  • President of Walter , at the court of a German prince
  • Ferdinand von Walter , his son, major
  • Court Marshal von Kalb
  • Lady (Emilie) Milford , mistress of the Prince
  • Wurm , House Secretary to the President
  • Miller , town musician or, as they are called in some places, art piper
  • Mrs. Miller , the wife of Town Musician Miller
  • Luise Miller , his daughter
  • Sophie , the lady's maid
  • A valet of the prince
  • Various secondary characters

Kabale und Liebe is a five-act drama by Friedrich Schiller . It was premiered on April 13, 1784 in Frankfurt am Main , is a typical example of Sturm und Drang , a literary movement of the Enlightenment , and is one of the most important German theater plays today. The Schiller originally Luise Miller called bourgeois tragedy was only at the suggestion of actor August Wilhelm Iffland the audience more effective Title Kabale und Liebe and is about the passionate love between bourgeois musicians daughter Luise Miller and the nobility son Ferdinand von Walter, by vile intrigue (cabal) gets destroyed.


Title page of the first edition, 1784
Theater ticket for the second performance on May 3, 1784 in Frankfurt am Main with August Wilhelm Iffland in the role of valet.

In 1784 Schiller published his theoretical work The Schaubühne regarded as a moral institution . The main idea of ​​this treatise is to present tragedy as a means of theodicy : the task of the theater is to show the order of the world as created by God by restoring higher justice on the stage. This justice becomes visible in the cabal and love in the fact that in the end it is not worldly justice but God who is the final judicial authority. Schiller sees a further function of the theater in its educational mandate , that is, to bring about a catharsis of the audience, to bring them to the refinement through education and thus to turn the “Schaubühne” into a “moral institution”. Their most important task, however, is their mediating role between freedom and necessity: the struggle of the individual with social, moral and religious constraints is idealized on the stage and won by people.

Kabale und Liebe is a bourgeois tragedy , a form of tragedy that can be traced back to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and that no longer takes place exclusively in the world of the nobility, but also in that of the bourgeoisie. The influence of Lessing's Emilia Galotti on Schiller's piece is obvious. The literary ständeklausel is overridden, the conflict between the bourgeoisie and nobility - which also established itself as one between bourgeois stand proud and aristocratic snobbery manifested - is the dominant motif. The focus is on the generally human, political grievances are openly accused.

The piece belongs to the epoch of Sturm und Drang . Individual interests and subjective feelings as well as the demand for freedom from the constraints of the estates are powerful driving forces for the characters and ultimately lead to catastrophe.

Through his love for Caroline von Wolhaben , the sister of his future wife Charlotte von Lengefeld , Schiller had become painfully aware of the gap between the nobility and the bourgeoisie.

Kabale und Liebe was Schiller's third drama. In September 1782 he had fled to Mannheim from the sphere of influence of the Württemberg Duke Carl Eugen ; The Duke had Schiller arrested because of his unauthorized departure for the premiere of the play The Robbers and had forbidden him from writing. Injustice and prince arbitrariness, which he was a witness and victim of, were reflected in the cabal and love :

  • The extravagance at the ducal court: Although Württemberg was a relatively poor country at the time of Schiller, Carl Eugen led his court life along the lines of the Versailles court. The frequent festivals, balls and hunts, which were financed by exploiting the population and “selling soldiers”, among other things, were correspondingly complex.
  • Soldiers' trade : The "sale" of regional children abroad, in Schiller's time especially for the colonial war in America , also took place in Württemberg and was used to raise funds. This mercenary trade involved the kidnapping of the sons of farmers, artisans and day laborers to foreign rulers, using methods that did not stop at the use of force and narcotics. The "father of the country" received large sums of money for this.
  • The mistress system : Carl Eugen maintained a distinctive mistress system typical of his time. One of his lovers, Franziska von Hohenheim , later became the Duke's official companion and, in 1780, his wife. She is the contemporary role model of Lady Milford in cabal and love . This applies in particular to the positive influence that Franziska von Hohenheim had on the duke.
  • Intrigues : The minister Count Friedrich Samuel von Montmartin , who was at the Württemberg court at the time of Schiller , had overthrown his rival by means of forged letters and gained the prince's sole trust.
  • Arbitrary rule: How justified Schiller's criticism of the arbitrariness of the rulers was can be seen, among other things, in the fate of Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart , a journalist and poet who took offense at the outrageous situation and was imprisoned for it without a court judgment.


Main article: Cabal and love / plot overview
Ferdinand ,
around 1859 from Geyer to Ramberg , Schiller Gallery

Ferdinand, major and son of the president of Walter, an influential nobleman at the court of a German prince, plunges into a fatal conflict with his mutual love Luise, the daughter of the musician Miller. Both Ferdinand's father and old Miller refuse to associate their children.

Luise Miller

Instead, Walter's president pursues the goal of marrying Ferdinand to the Duke's mistress , Lady Milford, in order to increase his influence at court. However, Ferdinand rebelled against his father's plan, gave up his obedience and tried to persuade Luise to flee together. He goes to Lady Milford to get her to renounce the alliance and to confess his love for Luise. He not only learns about the tragic past of the lady, but also that she really loves him and has always exercised a moderating influence on the prince's tyranny. For reasons of prestige, however, she could no longer do without Ferdinand, because everyone was talking about her marriage. Only after she speaks to Luise herself shortly afterwards and is confronted with her innocence, civic pride and Christian selflessness does she take the simple girl as a model, give up her marriage intentions and leave the country to withdraw from the courtly world and henceforth as Day laborer to lead a decent life.

In order to achieve their goal and to prevent Ferdinand from realizing his threat, namely to enlighten the court about his father's corrupt machinations and to reveal "how to become president", the president and his secretary Wurm (also Ferdinand's rival) initiate an insidious one Intrigue: Luise's parents are arrested for no reason. Luise is told that she can only save her parents from certain death by sending a love letter to Hofmarschall von Kalb. In addition, Luise has to swear an oath on God and pass the forced letter off as a written document of her own free will. This letter is leaked to Ferdinand, stirs up his already existing distrust and actually awakens feelings of jealousy and thirst for revenge in him. Luise then wants to break her oath by suicide in order to restore the innocence of her love while dying before Ferdinand. However, this plan thwarts her devout father, who considers suicide to be a grave sin and therefore speaks to Luise's Christian conscience. So she only has to counter Ferdinand's accusations with silence and the lie required by the oath. Blind with anger and despair, Ferdinand poisons himself and Luise. As she dies, Luise is released from her duty of confidentiality, reveals the intrigue to Ferdinand and forgives him. The latter awakens from his delusion, recognizes the selfless loyalty of his beloved and, at the moment of his death, extends his hand to his father, who falls on his knees in front of his son "in the most terrible agony", in reconciliation. The President then presents himself to the courts for purification.

Figure constellation

In the play, as the name bourgeois tragedy suggests, both the bourgeoisie and the nobility (world of the court) are represented. At the time, the bourgeoisie and the nobility were separated from each other by insurmountable social barriers.

The bourgeoisie

The town musician Miller is an honorable, upright musician, deeply religious and with a firm place in the guild system of the city, on the one hand self-confident, fearless and upright, on the other hand bound by narrow boundaries and not free of domination. Miller is firmly anchored in class thinking and therefore rejects a marriage between his middle-class daughter and the noble Ferdinand. However, he leaves Luise free to choose a spouse within the class structure, because he considers the custom according to which the father chooses the husband to be outdated. He behaves as a commanding patriarch towards his wife, while he and his daughter share a tender love. His civic self-confidence is clearly expressed in the dispute with the president: Despite his great respect, he stands up against the president and boldly insists on his domestic rights. He makes it clear that the corrupt world of the nobility in his eyes is morally below the bourgeois world. At the same time, however, he is by no means immune to the seduction of wealth. When Ferdinand offers him money for the "three months long happy dream of his daughter", Miller is overwhelmed by the possibilities this wealth offers him and is very sociable and friendly towards Ferdinand.

With regard to Luise's relationship with Ferdinand, Ms. Miller has petty-bourgeois hopes for advancement and secretly favors this love affair. In addition, she feels flattered by the intercourse of a fine gentleman in her house. For this reason, she rejects Wurm as a son-in-law in the conversation, but reveals to him through her chatty and simplicity information about the relationship between Ferdinand and Luise, which he knows how to use for his intrigue. Ms. Miller finds it difficult to assert herself against her husband. She also takes a fearful and submissive attitude towards the president and embodies the typical spirit of submission.

Miller's sixteen-year-old daughter Luise is presented as the “most beautiful example of a blonde” who “would cut a figure alongside the first beauties of the court”. She is firmly anchored in her family. She has a very close relationship with her father in particular, which is made even stronger by the fact that Luise Miller's only child is. Luise, raised by her parents in a Christian way and growing up very sheltered, repels the amoral life at court. The encounter with Ferdinand plunges her into a conflict between inclination and duty ( Kant ), between her love for Ferdinand and the expectations of her father, to whom the divine social barriers appear inviolable due to his religious convictions.

Wurm , the President's secretary and confidante, is a characterless schemer and hypocrite, ready for anything for wealth and prestige. He is the source of the cabal, from which, among other advantages, he promises himself the hand of the Luise he desires. Having climbed the social ladder through unscrupulousness, he steps down and crouches up. He openly distances himself from all bourgeois moral concepts and secretly feels that he belongs more to the nobility. His ruthlessness and lack of empathy for the opposite arouse dislike in almost all characters in the drama. The fact that they no longer perceive Secretary Wurm as a person can hardly be overlooked: (Mr. Miller about Wurm :) "A confiscated, hostile guy, as if some surreptitious trafficker had smuggled him into the world of my Lord God", (Luise about Wurm :) "How This Satan is nimble when it comes to making people mad! ”, (President to Wurm :)“ The fabric is satanically fine [.] ”Wurm wants to approach the President again and again in the dialogues. For example, he replies to the president's question about what an oath should bring: “Nothing with us, gracious sir. With this kind of people everything ”, whereby he puts himself in the same category as the president. Or also (Wurm, addressed to the President :): "Comrade, I will uncover secrets, arm in arm with you to the scaffold, it should tickle me, boy, to be damned with you." The President allows this ingratiation: " Worm. [...] May I speak frankly? (President. While sitting down :) Like a damned to a co-damned. ”Or (President to Wurm :)“ The student surpasses his master. ”

The nobility

The contrast between (by the prior barrier mutually separated) nobility and middle, which constitutes the voltage of the dramatic action, layered in Cabal and Love a further difference: the orientation of the people in the fame (needle) on the one hand and the motivation by feeling (citizens ) on the other hand. So Ferdinand and Lady Milford belong to the nobility, but like educated citizens, they let themselves be guided by their sincere love; in conflict situations, however, they soon revert to their honor, i.e. the principle of the nobility. The bourgeois reorientation of these two nobles contributes significantly to the conflicts of the drama.

Ferdinand is a typical representative of Sturm und Drang , passionate, quick-tempered, unworldly and self-centered. For the son of the president, the middle-class Luise as a bride is actually taboo. For him, however, it is not the status but the personal qualities of a person that are important. Shaped by the tradition of the Enlightenment, he despises the scheming practices of the courtly world. He accuses the injustice, inhumanity and amorality of the absolutist order, tries to break this order and invokes “nature” and “God”. His possessiveness and his self-centered love for Luise, combined with his emotional spontaneity, are typical of the contemporary teachings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and encourage his unfounded jealousy from an early age. Obsessed with the idea of ​​absolute love, he takes on the role of avenger and kills an innocent woman.

Lady Milford after a drawing by Arthur von Ramberg, 1859

Lady Milford alias Johanna von Norfolk, the prince's mistress, occupies an intermediate position between the courtly and civil values. Like Ferdinand, she believes in enthusiastic love, which is an idea of ​​bourgeois intellectuals - at the same time she clings to honor as the life principle of the nobles. The orphan, who fled from England into German exile and got into distress, returns the love of the prince out of gratitude and becomes his mistress. This position enables her to live a befitting life and satisfies her ambition. This position also gives her the opportunity to exercise a soothing influence on the prince and to alleviate the grievances in the principality. So the marriage plan with Ferdinand is not, as generally assumed, arranged by the President, but by herself. Lady Milford has a longing for real love; with Ferdinand she hopes to leave the country and begin a new phase of life.
When Ferdinand rejects her love, she tries by all means to force him into marriage, knowing full well that she cannot win Ferdinand's heart. Lady Milford fears possible humiliation and is therefore not prepared to withdraw the publicly disclosed connection. She tries to persuade Luise to renounce Ferdinand by making threats and promises, but her arrogant mask breaks; Deeply hit by Luise's “higher virtue”, she ended her relationship with the prince and left the country. Overall, the image emerges of a woman who wants what is good, but remains involved in the lavish and scheming hustle and bustle of the court for a long time. The pursuit of honor and power casts a shadow on their humanity, which is evident in their behavior towards the people and their servants. In the end, she makes a clear decision, goes out of the country and thus frees herself from the entanglements and thus from her moral conflict.

President of Walter , Ferdinand's father, got his office through the murder of his predecessor. His entire behavior is aimed at consolidating his position at court - possibly even expanding it - and securing the duke's favor. He subjects people, values ​​and feelings to this power calculation. He regards love as a foolish enthusiasm: a marriage should only serve dynastic or political goals. It is only when Ferdinand forgives him in death that he becomes aware of his mistakes. He recognizes that people do not let themselves be moved like chess pieces, but rather follow feelings and values ​​that are not only subordinate to considerations of usefulness or striving for power. Remorseful, he faces justice and thus ends his career.

Court Marshal von Kalb is a cowardly and talkative court curtain that is dependent on President von Walter and personifies the court's lifestyle, which is based on outward appearances. It is clear to him that as a person without special qualities he has no alternative to making himself (consciously or unconsciously) the stirrup holder and tool of the mighty.

Invisible and yet towering in the background stands the prince as an absolutist ruler who is indifferent to the welfare of his subjects. He does not appear in person, but his marriage plans, court life and government actions affect the lives of all characters in the drama.

Linguistic representation

Schiller uses high style, pathos and hyperbole to describe the cynical, cold world of the court. The incorporated French passages serve Schiller to expose the court world with its empty conversations and its penchant for glamorous externalities.
The president's language is often ironic, polished, calculating and arrogant. Court Marshal Kalb's language of expression can be seen as a counterpart to Ms. Miller's language: on the one hand, stupid, unnatural and graceful, on the other hand, cringing and hysterical. Schiller contrasts the unnatural language of the court with the direct, often crude language of the Miller couple . Miller is characterized by the language of the common man ("I've had enough of it"). He underlines his views with general idioms and plastic imagery ("You hit the sack; you mean the donkey"). Thanks to her language, Ms. Miller can also be assigned to the common bourgeoisie. Through the incorrect pronunciation of foreign words ("Bläsier", "barrdu") and the use of numerous dialect expressions, she reveals her lower origin.

The language of lovers ( Lady Milford, Luise and Ferdinand ), which remains largely free of sociolect-related elements , occupies a special position .

Secretary Wurm can be made out as a smaller image of the President.

Structure of the drama

The structure of the piece follows a strict system, which can be described with the terms "symmetry" and "dialectical principle". Correspondence and contrast characterize the content as well as the form of the work. This becomes clear in the sequence of scenes, which alternates at regular intervals between the world of the petty bourgeoisie and that of the absolutist court. In this way, the “small world” (Miller’s room) is dialectically contrasted with the “big world” (the President’s hall or Lady Millford’s palace) and a symmetry is achieved in the sequence of the scenes . The principle of symmetry also applies to the plot structure of the work. The three scenes between Ferdinand and Luise at the beginning (1,4), in the middle (3,4) and at the end (5,7) can be cited as an example; the first emphasizes the secret contrast between lovers, the second makes it acute at the decisive turning point, the third seals it in death.


In the course of the 18th century, the bourgeoisie developed the idea of ​​distinguishing themselves from other classes through strict body control. This meant both posture and body language. At that time, the outside was directly coupled with the inside. The appearance of a person provides information about his being; physiognomics postulates this . That Schiller came into contact with this science can be seen from one of his teachers. Jacob Friedrich Abel , “Professor of Psychology and Morals at the High Karlschule”, writes in the textbook for one of his lectures: “[W] eil certain changes in the soul, e. B. Thinking, are always accompanied by certain external movements of the body, but these ultimately become permanent, then the state of the soul in the body is visible. "Abel went down in history as a philosopher of enlightenment and the method of maieutics .

The appearance of the figures in the piece remains largely in the dark. Just not with one person. It is this worm. Schiller does not give it a beautiful appearance. It's downright ugly. In keeping with his scheming character, he has small, treacherous mouse eyes, red hair and a bulging chin. He gets along well with the “slow, crooked walk of the cabal”. His posture is not upright and tight, but crooked, bendable and freely changeable. And so is his character: he does what suits him at the moment and embodies in it through and through the image of the aristocrats before the French Revolution. He deliberately leans his clothes on the nobility: Occasionally he appears with a stick and hat.

Interpretative approaches

Often the drama is analyzed from the perspective of social class. If you ignore the stands, there are other perspectives. The most common are the theological and the philosophical, as well as those that this is actually a love drama. The research literature also agrees on this: “Of all Schiller's dramatic works, Kabale und Liebe has received the most divergent interpretations. It has been variously called a tragedy of love, of absolute subjectivity, of theological superbia, of class differences, of social-political injustice. I propose to discuss it as a tragedy of language. ”In the linguistic-philosophical approach, for example, the theory is set up that Louise and Ferdinand perfect their verbal communication - just as their love should be. The letter shows that human action is flawed and that there is no perfection in life. It puts an end to beautiful words and the words communicated promise tragedy. Ferdinand, because he continues to hold fast to his ideal of only using the beautiful words of the "language of the heart" and does not dare to address the ugly letter to Louise, causes the catastrophe itself. Schiller consequently shows that language is something man-made and artificial, using the example of the character Wurms, who can successfully burst the paradise of trusting words between the two with words. Schiller probably got the philosophical ideas for this from reading Herder.

Film adaptations

year country title Director
1913 D. cabal and Love Friedrich Fehér
1922 D. Luise Millerin (alternatively: cabal and love) Carl Froelich
1955 FRG cabal and Love Curt Goetz plow
1959 FRG Cabal and Love (TV) Harald Braun
1959 GDR cabal and Love Martin Hellberg
1965 AT Cabal and Love (TV) Erich Neuberg
1967 FRG Cabal and Love (TV) Gerhard Klingenberg
1976 AT cabal and Love Gerhard Klingenberg
1980 FRG cabal and Love Heinz Schirk
1982 GDR Cabal and Love (TV) Piet Drescher
2001 D. cabal and Love Achim Scherf
2005 D. Cabal and Love (TV) Leander Haussmann
2009 D. Cabal and love (theater, TV) Andreas Kriegenburg
2016 D. Cabal and love (school film, DVD) Cornelia Koehler


Radio plays


The Viennese playwright Josef Kilian Schickh , a contemporary of Johann Nestroy , wrote the parody The fatal lemonade or: Liebe und Kabale for the Theater an der Wien in 1831 .


  • Friedrich Schiller: Cabal and love. Schwan, Mannheim 1784. ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  • Kiermeier-Debre, Joseph (Ed.): Friedrich Schiller - Cabal and love. Original text with appendix on author, work and text form, including time table and glossary, published in the library of first editions, 4th edition 2007, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich. ISBN 978-3-423-02622-2
  • Hans-Erich Struck: Friedrich Schiller - Cabal and love. 2nd revised edition 1998, Oldenbourg Schulbuchverlag, Munich 1998, reprint 2006. ISBN 3-486-88643-6
  • Beate Nordmann: Explanations on Friedrich Schiller, Cabal and Love . Bange, Hollfeld 2003. ISBN 3-8044-1747-7
  • Jens, Walter (Ed.): Kindlers New Literature Lexicon, Study Edition Volume 14 Re – Sc. Kindler Verlag GmbH, Munich
  • Mitter, Manfred: Friedrich Schiller - Cabal and love, interpretation impulses. Merkur Verlag, Rinteln, ISBN 978-3-8120-0850-1 (text booklet), ISBN 978-3-8120-2850-9 (CD-ROM)
  • Friedrich Schiller: Cabal and love by Norbert Tholen. Krapp & Gutknecht, Rot ad Rot 2009, ISBN 978-3-941206-10-6
  • Kämper, Max (ed.): Friedrich Schiller: Cabal and love. A civil tragedy. Reclam Verlag, Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3-15-019226-9
  • Beate Herfurth-Uber: Cabal and love, hearing & learning, knowledge compact in 80 minutes , with key scenes of a production at the Plauen-Zwickau theater, interview with the director Stefan Wolfram. Background knowledge. MultiSkript Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-9812218-5-5 , audio CD.

Web links

Commons : Cabal and Love  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Cabal and Love  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Another interpretation suggests that it is only his sense of honor, hurt by the rejected love for Luise, that drives him to his intrigues.
  2. Jacob Friedrich Abel: Introduction to the doctrine of the soul . Johann Benedikt Metzler, Stuttgart 1786, p. 421 .
  3. Bruce Kieffer: Tragedy in the Logocentric World: Schiller's "Kabale und Liebe" . In: German Studies Review . tape 5 , no. 2 , p. 205-220 .
  4. Cornelia Köhler: Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) . Anne Roerkohl Documentary, Münster 2016, ISBN 978-3-942618-20-5 ( online ).
  5. Rolf Fath: Reclams Kleiner Verdi-Opernführer , Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-15-018077-5 , p. 77.
  6. Catalog raisonné Gottfried von Eine .