Torquato Tasso (Goethe)

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Title: Torquato Tasso
Genus: play
Original language: German
Author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Publishing year: 1790
Premiere: February 16, 1807
Place of premiere: Weimar
Place and time of the action: Belriguardo, a pleasure palace
  • Alfonso the Second , Duke of Ferrara
  • Leonore von Este , sister of the Duke
  • Leonore Sanvitale , Countess of Scandiano
  • Torquato Tasso
  • Antonio Montecatino , State Secretary
Title page of the first print and contemporary binding

Torquato Tasso is a play in five acts by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , which puts the Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544–1595) at the center of the plot. The piece, which strictly adheres to the classic rule of the three units of place, time and plot, was written between March 30, 1780 and July 31, 1789. In February 1790 the work was in print, but was First performed in Weimar on February 16, 1807.


The play takes place on a spring day (around 1577) and takes place in Belriguardo, a summer residence of Alfonso II , Duke of Ferrara . The theme of the drama is - in addition to the love of the young Tasso for the Princess of Este , the duke's sister - the role of the poet in court society. When Tasso says: “ A master / I only recognize the master who nourishes me / I like to follow him, otherwise I don't want a master. / I want to be free in thinking and writing! / The world restricts us enough in action. “He means the Duke with the Lord , the State Secretary Antonio Montecatino with the Master and the Princely Court with the world . Deviating from classical drama theory, Tasso does not experience catharsis , his problems remain unsolved. Today, Goethe's play is considered to be one of the first artist dramas in literature.


Entrance portal to the “pleasure palace” Belriguardo in Voghiera near Ferrara
First elevator
Garden place

The princess and countess of Scandiano, Leonore Sanvitale, wreath the statues of Virgil and Ariostus . They talk about Tasso. Leonore describes the poet:

His eye hardly lingers on this earth; ...
The distant things gather his mind,
And his feeling enlivens the inanimate.
Often he ennobles what seemed mean to us,
And what is valued becomes nothing before him.
In this own magic circle walks
The wonderful man and attracts us .

The Duke arrives and predicts the Tasso problem:

People only fear those who do not know them
And those who avoid them will soon fail to recognize them.
That is his case, and so will gradually
A free mind, confused and bound.

In the course of the plot it will be shown that this will all happen exactly with Tasso. The Duke, however, leaves Tasso alone and asks the ladies: Don't bother him in his dreams when he thinks and writes .

Tasso comes and gives the Duke his latest poetic work. The duke is delighted and waves to his sister . The princess takes Virgil's wreath, and Tasso kneels to receive the beautiful burden on his weak head . Leonore applauds. At the beginning of the performance, the audience does not yet know why this occurrence is extraordinary and why Tasso does not actually like the wreath. The audience thinks at most: advance praise?

In the meantime Antonio is returning from a long stay in Rome. The man of the world stayed in the Duke's diplomatic service in the metropolis and was successful. In the presence of all four other people involved, he disapproves of Tasso's distinction and scorns: who pressed this wreath on Ariost's forehead? Tasso swallows the insult wordlessly. Antonio is allowed to insult verbatim. The Duke takes him aside, wants to hear from Rome. Tasso goes with the ladies.

second elevator

From the conversation between Tasso and the princess, the viewer learns why the princess appreciates Tasso. The princess was terminally ill. When she slowly recovered, it was Tasso who met her unknown . And good times began back then . Tasso loves the princess. His declaration of love culminates in the sentence: What is allowed is allowed . To his chagrin, the princess puts him in his place: what is allowed is what is proper . But all is not lost, because the princess has no bridegroom: I still don't know a relationship that attracted me . Encouraged, Tasso replies: I only experienced the most divine in you . But when he continues to trump, the disillusionment comes: No further, Tasso!

The princess wishes Tasso and Antonio to be friends. Tasso violently complies with the request and meets a reserved Antonio. Tasso keeps pleading for good weather: Here is my hand! High five! But Antonio insults Tasso until the poet pulls the sword straight. This is the sheer impossibility of a royal court that sees itself as a non-violent district. The Duke must punish that. The punishment is mild: Tasso! stay in your room. Tasso takes the punishment more seriously than the Duke meant it to be. The Duke tries to mediate and asks Antonio: restore calm . Before that, Leonore, the Duke recommends, should seek to appease Tasso with a tender lip .

third elevator

The Duke's last two wishes are now being granted. Before Antonio harnesses Leonore to his cart, the viewer first learns why Leonore finds Tasso interesting. Leonore would like to go to Rome or Florence with Tasso and could affect his mind as a friend . The princess doesn't want to have Tasso taken away, because

I have to love him because my life is with him
Came to life as I never knew it.

When Leonore is alone, it comes to light why she wants to turn away from Princess Tasso. Leonore has almost everything: husband and son and goods, rank and beauty. But, she wonders what are you still missing? Your answer: That which is perishable keeps its [Tassos] song. The lady is out for her own fame.

When Antonio, sent by the Duke, enters the scene, Leonore wants to see if we can tame him. Leonore is not up to Antonio. It is the other way around. He hitched them - as announced above - to his cart. Antonio further belittles Tasso: his mind wants to summarize the ultimate ends of all things; Hardly anyone in a million people can do that. But he wants to tolerate Tasso at court. It shouldn't be Antonio. He tells Leonore exactly what to do. Leonore should go to Tasso and calm him down. Afterwards Antonio wanted to go to Tasso's room and talk to him.

Fourth elevator

Tasso, waiting in his room on the instructions of the duke, believes the princess is his. When Leonore comes on behalf of Antonio, he does not hide from her the offense he has experienced from the gruff man . When Tasso is alone again, he sees through Leonore: Now it comes as a tool of my enemy, it sneaks up and hisses with a smooth tongue, the little snake, magical sounds. Tasso does not accept Leonore's offer to go to Florence with her. I want to get away and further than you think.

Antonio looks for Tasso in his room, brings him freedom again and advises him not to leave the court. Complete your work here, here is your place. Tasso insists he wants to go to Rome. Either he or Antonio should ask the Duke to do so. Antonio doesn't believe in this idea, but he leaves.

Just as Tasso saw through Leonore before, he now believes he can see through Antonio. He [Antonio] plays the gentle one, the clever one, so that I can only be found very sick and awkward, and appoints himself to be a guardian so that he can humiliate me into a child. The arrival of this man ruined his fortunes , Tasso thinks. And what's the worst for him, you too! Beloved princess, you withdraw from me! In those gloomy hours she did not send me a single sign of her favor.

Fifth elevator
Alfonso II Duke of Ferrara

Antonio informs the Duke of Tasso's wish. Selfishly, Duke Tasso does not want to lose to neighboring Italian rulers. Antonio holds all the bad qualities of Tasso against the Duke. While Antonio advised Tasso to stay at court, he advised the Duke to release Tasso to Rome, because his moody discomfort rests on the broad cushion of his happiness.

Tasso asks the Duke to return his last poetic work because he wants to work on it in Rome. The Duke considers the poem his property. He does not think of returning it, but promises a copy. At least now the viewer suspects why Tasso didn't like the laurel wreath at the beginning. The poet feels misunderstood, left alone. Tasso considers his work to be in need of improvement. The art-loving duke misuses the beautiful poem for self-expression. The princess, who Tasso loves so much, apparently doesn't understand him either when she says to him: You can't be given anything anymore, because you are unwilling to throw away everything you have. This passion , this frenzy , is what Tasso brings up when he talks about his happiness , that is, his love for the princess. The princess muffles: If I am to hear you, Tasso, any longer, moderate the glow that frightens me. But Tasso has hope to the last. So he continues to rave about; expresses his longing for the princess. The second extraordinary occurrence in this spectacle is not long in coming. Tasso falls into her arms and hugs her tightly. Unheard of what Tasso can afford again. This is lese majesty . The princess pushes him away and hurries away. The Duke, who had slowly approached with Leonore and Antonio, says to Antonio: He's going mad, hold him tight. Now that the princess has left him for good, Tasso is so terribly alone. He does not get over this loss. The third extraordinary occurrence in this spectacle is related to the second and follows immediately. It is the strangest emotional expression in the whole piece and burdens even the seasoned audience with an almost insoluble riddle: surprisingly, Tasso surrenders to his fate.

And when man falls silent in his torment,
Gave me a god to tell how I suffer

Before Tasso falls silent , he articulates his woes in a lament - in the parable of the rock and the boatman stranded on the sea wave. Antonio, whom he previously recognized as his enemy, is now suddenly said to be the saving rock on which the skipper Tasso was supposed to fail, but to which he now clings in the distress at sea. The curtain falls.


A talent is formed in silence
Become a character in the stream of the world. (Leonore, I, 2)
This is how you feel intent and you are out of tune. (Tasso, II, 1)
Man only recognizes himself in man, only
Life teaches everyone what he is. (Antonio, II, 3)
O do not look at what is lacking in everyone;
See what is left for each one! (Leonore, III, 2)
We always hope, and in all things it is better to hope than despair. (Antonio, III, 4)
Life's toil alone teaches us to value life's goods. (Antonio, V, 1)


The "madness" of Goethe's Tasso

Torquato Tasso

After the end of the fifth act, the viewer sits shocked and wants to understand the change of heart that reveals itself in the fact that Tasso should find support with Antonio of all people.

First of all, the Duke's simple interpretation suggests itself: Tasso is said to have “got out of his mind”, that is, to have gone mad. Another interpretation would be that Tasso has capitulated and adopts a typical humble attitude towards the actual winner (analogous to that of the wolf, who offers his throat to bite his superior rival in a duel).

Before that, Tasso constantly tried to rebel against the norms of court society, i. H. to bring out one's “thoughts without measure and order”, according to the motto: “What is allowed is allowed”. Already in the walking scene the princess rebukes him with the counter words: "What is allowed is allowed". The “golden age” that Tasso wants to restore is a mere topos for her that allows her to rave about the “good old days”. Tasso, on the other hand, wants to implement the ideals associated with the topos in reality. However, his inept attempt to woo the princess makes it clear to him that his dream has shattered court reality, and the end shows that Tasso has realized this. Accordingly, the ending would not express Tasso's madness, but his deep despair and resignation.

Autobiographical references

When reading or looking at Goethe's Torquato Tasso , the question inevitably arises whether Goethe means Tasso himself, the princess the Frau von Stein and the court of the Estonians the Weimar court. For Goethe worked and lived at the Weimar court since November 7, 1775 ; In his drama he shows the audience the limitations to which the sensitive poet, who strives for perfection in his work alone, is exposed to on the part of the desolate world .

In 1786 Goethe “fled” from Karlsbad head over heels from the Weimar conditions to Italy. He later reported on this in his travel diary Italian Travel . The entry from October 16, 1786 is the earliest reference to Goethe's occupation with the historical Torquato Tasso. In Ferrara , the former residence of the Estonians , Goethe attempted to trace the traces that the historical Torquato Tasso had left in their domain. But he quickly gave up this attempt. On his journey in October 1786, Goethe stayed only briefly in Ferrara; He never visited Belriguardo, the location of his drama.


Alexander Demetrius Goltz : Castle actor Josef Kainz in the role of Torquato Tasso, 1910

“Arrived here at seven o'clock this morning, as indicated by the German pointer, I am preparing to leave again tomorrow. For the first time a kind of displeasure overcomes me in this large and beautiful, flat, depopulated city. The same streets were otherwise enlivened by a gleaming courtyard, Ariostus lived dissatisfied here, Tasso unhappy, and we believe we are edified when we visit this place. Ariost's tomb contains a lot of marble, poorly distributed. Instead of Tasso's prison, they show a wooden stable or coal vault, where it has certainly not been kept. Also, hardly anyone in the house knows what they want anymore. They finally come to terms with the tip. It seems to me like Doctor Luther's inkblot, which the castellan refreshes from time to time. Most travelers have something like handicraft tracks and like to look around for such landmarks. "

- Excerpt from Goethe's Italian journey , diary entry (Ferrara, October 16, 1786 at night) about Goethe's search for traces that Torquato Tasso left in Ferrara

“Then we looked for the open and, after a long walk, came to S. Onofrio, where Tasso is buried in a corner. His bust is on the monastery library. The face is made of wax, and I like to believe it's cast over his body. Not quite sharp and spoiled here and there, but on the whole it points more than any other of his portraits to a talented, delicate, fine, self-contained man "

- Excerpt from Goethe's Italian journey , diary entry (Rome, February 16, 1787).

“As for the mask of Tasso , it has the following reasoning. He died in Rome, in the monastery of St. Onofrio , where a cast was made of his face after death. You put the mask on a bust that is still in the library of the monastery. "

- Goethe's letter of March 18, 1816

“In my last volumes with Göschen I had done as much as possible, e.g. As in my Tasso of the heart blood perhaps more than is cheap, transfused, but I reported this brave publisher whose word do I cherish. That this issue has no particular disposal "

- Goethe's letter from 1829 to Christoph Friedrich Ludwig Schultz (lawyer, Prussian State Councilor (1781 - 1834))

" I succeeded in my Iphigenia and my Tasso because I was young enough to be able to penetrate and enliven the ideal of the material with my sensuality."

- Eckermann on a conversation with Goethe on February 4, 1829

“I had the life of Tasso , I had my own life, and by throwing together two such strange characters with their peculiarities, I created the image of Tasso , which I contrasted with Antonio as a prosaic contrast , for which I did not lack role models. The other court, living and love relationships were in Weimar as in Ferrara. "

- Goethe in a table talk on May 6, 1829


Torquato Tasso and the two Leonors , painting by Karl Ferdinand Sohn , 1839
  • Caroline Herder writes:
    He [Goethe] confidently told me the real meaning of this piece [the Tasso] . It is the disproportion of talent with life.
  • Goethe received the highest praise from Friedenthal for the artistic construction of the Tasso .
  • John Stuart Mill writes:
    “The incidents of a dramatic poem may be scanty and ineffective, though the delineation of passion and character may be of the highest order; as in Goethe's glorious Torquato Tasso . "
  • Conrady highlights the almost unsurpassable bound speech of poetry.
  • Bertolt Brecht, on the other hand, says in his essay “The Regular Jambus in Drama”, with reference to Goethe's “Torquato Tasso” as an example:
    "Even in the hands of a master, the regularly built iambus rapes language and gestures."
  • Conrady characterizes the Tasso as a flawless work of art, the parts of which are internally harmoniously linked.
  • Wolfgang Koeppen wrote a story between 1978 and 1983 with the title "Tasso or the Disproportion".


Title page of the first print

Work editions

  • First printing: JW Goethe: Torquato Tasso. A play . Eighth edition. Leipzig: GJ Göschen 1790, 222 p. Digitized and full text in the German text archive
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Torquato Tasso. A play . Halle a / S .: Printing and publishing by Otto Hendel 1886, 100 pp.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Poetic Works , Volume 5, pp. 611–697. Phaidon Verlag Essen 1999, ISBN 3-89350-448-6

Secondary literature

Sorted by year of publication

Audiovisual media

Television games

Audio books

Web links

Commons : Torquato Tasso  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ritchie Robertson: Goethe: A Very Short Introduction . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2016, ISBN 978-0-19-968925-5 , pp. 90-93 .
  2. Also modified (or misquoted) as: You notice the intention and you are out of tune.
  3. cf. also Leo Kreutzer in: "Mein Gott Goethe" Reinbek near Hamburg: Rowohlt 1980; Chapter: "About Torquato Tasso, Werther and the Phantom Society" (pp. 12–29)
  4. On the outer wall of the church of Sant 'Onofrio in Rome, where Tasso died in the local convent, there has been a marble tablet since 1993 with the inscription: Dedicated to the greatest German poet / Johann Wolfgang von Goethe /, / who, according to the "Italian journey" , / Visited Sant 'Onofrio on February 2nd, 1787 / and wrote the poignant play / “Torquato Tasso” /.
  5. ^ From Caroline Herder's letter of March 20, 1789 to her husband
  6. Herder's Journey to Italy, pp. 296f.
  7. Friedenthal p. 347, 9. Zvo
  8. ^ John Stuart Mill, "What is Poetry?", 1833. Reprinted in: Critical Theory Since Plato, Revised Edition, 1992. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 551-556.
  9. Conrady p. 478, 12. Zvo
  10. in: Bertolt Brecht: Collected works in 20 volumes. Volume 19. Suhrkamp. Frankfurt / Main 1967, pp. 420f.
  11. ^ Conrady p. 478, 16. Zvo
  12. in: Wolfgang Koeppen: "On the Fantasy Horse"; Frankfurt / Main 2001, pp. 593-598