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Love and Intrigue

Friedrich Schiller

Act Two

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Lady Milford improvising at the piano, Sophie at the window. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.

A salon in Lady Milford’s palace ; a sofa stands to the right, a piano to the left.

Scene One

  • 1 That is, not yet dressed for the day. The Lady is presented in a natural state, her hair still open (...)

The Lady, still in charming négligé,1 her hair not yet done, is improvising at the piano; Sophie, her chambermaid, comes back from the window.

1SOPHIE. The officers are breaking up. The changing of the guard is over. But no sign of Walter.

2LADY (stands up and walks restlessly up and down the room). I don’t know what it is today, Sophie. I’ve never felt this way before. So you didn’t see him? But of course. He’ll be in no hurry. It weighs on me like a crime. Go, Sophie. Have them lead out the wildest racer in the stable for me. I must get out—see people and blue sky and ride until I feel more free.

  • 2 Sophie, and then the Lady, describe a typical evening at a princely court: The company gathered, en (...)

3SOPHIE. If you don’t feel well, my Lady, let them gather here this evening.2 Have the Duke dine here; have the hombre tables set up before your sofa. I should have the Prince and his whole Court at my disposal and yet be out of sorts?

4LADY (throwing herself on the sofa). Spare me, please. I’ll give you a diamond for every hour I can be rid of them. Am I to decorate my walls with that crowd? They’re wretched people. They are horrified if I let a warm, heart-felt word slip out; they gape and snort as if they’d seen a ghost. They’re all puppets on a single string; I can work them more easily than my filet needle. What am I to do with people whose hearts tick like their pocket watches? Can I enjoy asking them a question when I know in advance what they will answer? Or conversing with them when they can’t find the courage to differ with me? Out with them! It’s boring to ride a horse that doesn’t also take the bit in its teeth. (She goes to the window.)

5SOPHIE. But surely you’ll make an exception for the Prince, my Lady? The handsomest man, the fieriest lover, the wittiest tongue in all the land!

  • 3 Rare spices, formal gardens, leaping fountains, and costly fireworks are typical forms of princely (...)

6LADY (returning). Because it is his land—and only a principality can halfway serve to justify my choice. You say they envy me. Poor thing! They ought to pity me. Among all those who nurse at the breast of majesty, the Favorite comes away the poorest, since she’s the only one to get to know the wandering beggar in that great rich man. True, he can use his greatness as a talisman to raise my every heart’s desire like a fairy castle out of the earth. He puts the nectar of both Indies on his table, summons paradises out of wildernesses, makes the streams of the land play proudly in fountains. Or he burns up the life’s blood of his subjects in fireworks.3 But can he command his heart to beat great and fiery against another great and fiery heart? Can he search out a single fine feeling among his dwindling reserves? My heart starves in all this excess of the senses. What help to me are a thousand high sentiments, where I’m here only to cool passions?

7SOPHIE (looking at her, amazed). How long have I been in your service, my Lady?

8LADY. Since you come to know me only today? It’s true, dear Sophie: I’ve sold my honor to the Prince, but I’ve kept my heart free—a heart, my girl, that is perhaps still worthy of a man, over which the poisonous wind of the Court has passed like no more than a breath across a mirror. Believe me, my dear: I’d long since have held my own against this wretched Prince, had my ambition only let me concede superior rank to another lady at the Court.

9SOPHIE. And this heart submitted so readily to ambition?

10LADY (vivid). As if this heart had not avenged itself already—were not avenging itself yet! Sophie (laying her hand on Sophie’s shoulder), we womenfolk can only choose between ruling and serving, but the highest delight of power is only a wretched makeshift if we’re denied the greater delight of being slave to a man we love.

11SOPHIE. You, my Lady, are the last one from whom I expected to hear that truth.

  • 4 Strings by which a wandering child was controlled.

12LADY. But why, my Sophie? Can one not see in this childish wielding of the scepter that we are only here to hold the lead strings?4 Didn’t you see in all my changing moods, in these wild pleasures, that they served only to drown the sound of wilder wishes in my breast?

13SOPHIE (stepping back, astonished). My Lady?

14LADY (more vivid). Satisfy these! Give me the man I’m thinking of, whom I adore, whom I must have or die. (Entranced.) Let me hear him say that tears of love sparkle more brightly in our eyes than diamonds in our hair (fiery) and I’ll throw the Prince’s heart and his principality at his feet and flee with this man into the farthest wilderness in the world—

15SOPHIE (looking at her, shocked). Good heavens! What are you saying? Are you quite well?

16LADY (startled). You blanch? Have I perhaps said too much? Then let me gain your silence by my confidence: hear yet more, hear all—

17SOPHIE (looking at her, anxiously). I’m afraid, my Lady—afraid I have no need to hear it.

18LADY. The union with the Major— You and the world think it’s a court intrigue. Sophie—don’t blush—don’t be ashamed of me— It is the work—of my love.

19SOPHIE. By God! What I suspected!

  • 5 Effectively, the Lady has crossed the First Minister’s court intrigue with one of her own.

20LADY. They let themselves be persuaded, Sophie—the weak Prince, that scheming Walter, the silly Chamberlain. Every one of them would swear this marriage was the unfailing way to keep me for the Duke, to bind our tie the more tightly. Oh, quite! The very way to cut it forever! To break these disgraceful chains forever! Liars who’ve been lied to! Outwitted by a mere woman! You yourselves will now deliver my beloved to me. That was exactly what I wanted. And when I once have him—when I have him—goodbye to you, goodbye forever, detestable splendor—5

Scene Two

An old Retainer of the Prince, carrying a jewelry case. As above.

21RETAINER. His Grace the Duke commends himself to my Lady and sends you these diamonds on the occasion of your marriage. They have just come in from Venice.

22LADY (has opened the case and starts). My good man! What does your Duke pay for such stones?

23RETAINER (darkly). They don’t cost him a penny.

24LADY. What? Nothing? Are you out of your mind? (Stepping back from him.) Why are you looking at me that way? These priceless stones, they cost him nothing?

  • 6 Troops, such as the famous Hessians, purchased (strictly speaking, leased) to fight in the American (...)

25RETAINER. Yesterday seven thousand sons of the land went off to America. They pay for everything.6

26LADY (lays the jewelry down and walks rapidly through the room; pause; then to the old Retainer). What is it, my man? I believe you’re weeping.

27RETAINER (wipes his eyes; trembling, with a terrible voice). Precious stones like these here— I, too, have a son or two among them.

28LADY (turns away abruptly, catching his hand). But not conscripted?

29RETAINER (with a terrible laugh). Oh, God, no—purely voluntary. It seems a handful of smart-talking fellows stepped out front and asked the colonel what price the Prince takes for a yoke of men—and our most gracious ruler had all the regiments on the parade ground march up and shoot them down, the troublemakers. We heard the muskets cracking, saw their brains spatter on the pavement, and the whole army cried: Hi-ho, off to America!

30LADY (falls onto the sofa). God! God! And I heard nothing? I noticed nothing?

  • 7 The German is Bärenhatz, a particularly ostentatious form of "hunt" or, rather, a harrying of a dan (...)

31RETAINER. Well, yes, my Lady— Why did you have to go off on a bear hunt7 with our Lord just as they struck up all the noise for parting? You shouldn’t have missed something so splendid: The way the rattling drums announced that it was time and howling orphans ran after a living father and a raging mother ran to spit a nursing baby on the bayonet blades, and how they drove a bridegroom from his bride with sabre cuts, and we graybeards stood there in despair and finally threw our crutches after the fellows and off to the new world. And the whole time all the drums rolling so that all-knowing God was not supposed to hear us pray—

32LADY (stands up, very stirred). Away with these stones—they flash the flames of hell into my heart. (More gently, to the old Retainer.) Be comforted, poor old man. They’ll come home again. They’ll see their fatherland again.

33RETAINER (warm and with conviction). Indeed they will! Heaven knows! At the town gates they turned and cried: "God be with you, wife and children! Long live the father of our country! At Judgment Day we’ll all be back again!"

34LADY (striding up and down). Horrible! Terrible! And they told me I had dried them all, the tears of this land. Dreadful, dreadful, what I begin to see. Go, my man. Tell your master—that I’ll come to thank him personally. (As the old Retainer is about to go, she tosses her purse into his hat.) And take that, for telling me the truth.

35RETAINER (tosses the purse contemptuously on the table). Add it to the rest. (He goes off.)

36LADY (looking after him). Sophie, run after him. Ask his name. He shall have his sons back.

37(Sophie goes off. The Lady walks up and down, reflecting; then to Sophie, who returns.)

38Was there not a rumor recently that fire had destroyed a town on the border and made beggars of nearly four hundred families? (She rings.)

39SOPHIE. Why do you ask? Yes, it’s true. And most of those poor creatures now serve their creditors as slaves or go to ruin in the shafts of the princely silver mines.

40SERVANT (entering). What are my Lady’s orders?

41LADY (giving him the jewelry). Let this be brought immediately before the Estates General and the proceeds distributed to the four hundred ruined by the fire.

42SOPHIE. My Lady, consider that you are risking the highest displeasure.

43LADY (with grandeur). I should wear the curse of the land in my hair? (She signals the Servant, who goes off.) Or would you see me sink to the ground under the terrible trappings of such tears? Go, Sophie. Better to have false gems in one’s hair and memory of this good deed in one’s heart.

44SOPHIE. But gems like these! Couldn’t you have taken your worse pieces? No, indeed, my Lady. This is unforgivable.

  • 8 "Pearls and diamonds" is a metonymy for "tears."

45LADY. Silly girl! For this more pearls and diamonds8 will fall for me in one instant than ten kings carried in their diadems, and better ones—

46SERVANT (returning). Major von Walter—

47SOPHIE (hurrying to the Lady). God! You’re blanching—

48LADY. The first man who’s ever frightened me— Sophie— Say I’m not well, Edward— No, wait— Is he in good spirits? Laughing? What does he say? Oh, Sophie, don’t I look horrible?

49SOPHIE. My Lady, please—

50SERVANT. Do you order me to turn him away?

51LADY (stammering). He is most welcome. (The Servant goes off.) Tell me, Sophie— What shall I say to him? How shall I receive him? I’ll be speechless. He’ll laugh at me. He’ll— I’m afraid that— You’re leaving me, Sophie? Stay! No. Rather, go! Oh, do stay.

52(The Major is coming through the anteroom.)

53SOPHIE. Compose yourself. He’s here.

Scene Three

Ferdinand von Walter. As above.

54FERDINAND (with a short bow). Should I be interrupting you, my Lady—

55LADY (her heart hammering). In nothing I would find more important, Major.

56FERDINAND. I come at my father’s orders.

57LADY. I am indebted to him.

58FERDINAND. To announce to you that we shall be married. Thus my father’s commission.

59LADY (blanches, trembling). And not of your own heart?

60FERDINAND. Ministers and panders never ask that.

61LADY (so anxious that words fail her). And you yourself have nothing you would add?

62FERDINAND (with a glance at Mamsell Sophie). Quite a bit, my Lady.

63LADY (signaling Sophie, who goes off). May I offer you this sofa?

64FERDINAND. I shall be brief, my Lady.

65LADY. Yes?

66FERDINAND. I am a man of honor.

67LADY. Whose virtues I value.

68FERDINAND. A knight.

69LADY. None better in the duchy.

70FERDINAND. And an officer.

71LADY (conciliating). You touch here on excellences that others have in common with you. Why no mention of those in which you are unique?

72FERDINAND (frosty). Here I have no need of them.

73LADY (with mounting anxiety). And how am I to understand this preamble?

74FERDINAND (slowly and emphatically). As the protest of honor, should you wish to force my hand.

75LADY (drawing herself up). What’s this you say, Major?

76FERDINAND (cool). It’s the language of my heart, my coat of arms, and this sword.

77LADY. It was the Prince gave you this sword.

78FERDINAND. The State gave it to me, by the hand of the Prince. God gave me my heart, and half a thousand years gave me my coat of arms.

79LADY. The name of the Duke—

  • 9 The ermine of office. See the robe of the Duke of Friedland on the cover of Schiller’s Wallenstein (...)
  • 10 Like the privilege of carrying a sword, the tassel on the grip is a mark of high birth.

80FERDINAND (heated). Can the Prince twist natural rights, or stamp new acts the way he stamps his copper coins? He himself is not exalted above honor, but his gold can stop its mouth. He can cast his ermine9 over his vileness. If you please, my Lady: no more of this. It is no longer a matter of prospects and pedigree thrown away, or of this tassel on my sword,10 or of this world’s opinion. I am prepared to trample all that underfoot as soon as you persuade me that the prize is no worse than the price.

81LADY (turning away from him, pained). I have not deserved that, Major.

82FERDINAND (seizing her hand). Forgive me. We speak here without witnesses. The circumstance that brings you and me together—today and never again—entitles me, forces me not to withhold my most secret feelings. I cannot get it through my head, my Lady, that one so beautiful and so intelligent—qualities a man would value—could throw herself away on a prince who knows only to admire her allures, unless this lady were ashamed to bring a man her heart.

83LADY (looking him directly in the face). Have your full say.

84FERDINAND. You call yourself a Briton. By your leave, I cannot believe you are a Briton. The free-born daughter of the freest people under heaven—which is also too proud to burn incense to foreign virtue—would never hire herself out to foreign vice. You cannot possibly be a Briton—or this Briton’s heart must be smaller by as much as Britain’s pulse beats higher and bolder.

85LADY. Are you done?

86FERDINAND. One could say it is woman’s vanity, passion, temperament, love of pleasure. Often enough virtue has outlived honor. Many a one who entered these shameful lists reconciled the world afterwards by means of noble deeds and ennobled this ugly business by means of becoming practices. But then why this monstrous squeezing of the land, such as never was before—and carried out in the name of the duchy. I am done.

87LADY (gentle and with dignity). It is the first time, Walter, that one has dared address me thus, and you alone would I answer. That you reject my hand— for this I value you. That you malign my heart is something I forgive. That you are serious I do not believe of you. One who’d make bold thus to insult a lady who needs but one night to ruin him utterly must credit this lady with a great soul or be quite mad. Your putting the ruin of the land on my account we’ll let almighty God forgive, who one day brought you and me and the Prince together in one place. But you have called out the Englishwoman in me and my fatherland must have answer for reproaches of this order.

88FERDINAND (leaning on his sword). I’m eager to hear.

89LADY. Hear then what I have not told anyone but you, nor ever shall. I am not the adventuress that you take me for. I could be grand and tell you: I am of princely blood, of the house of the ill-starred Thomas Norfolk, sacrificed for Mary Queen of Scots. My father, lord chamberlain to the king, was accused of treasonous relations with France, condemned by Parliament, and beheaded. All our property fell to the Crown. We ourselves were banished. My mother died on the day of execution. I, fourteen years old, fled to Germany, accompanied by my lady-in-waiting and carrying a little case of jewelry and this family cross that my dying mother passed on to me with her last blessing.

90(Ferdinand becomes thoughtful and regards the Lady more warmly.)

91(With mounting pathos.) Ill and without name, without protection, without fortune, a foreign orphan, I arrived in Hamburg. I had learned nothing but a bit of French, a little needlework, and piano. I knew that much better how to dine on gold and silver, sleep beneath a damask cover, send ten servants flying with a flick of my fingers, and receive the blandishments of the scions of great houses. I had passed six years in weeping, the last brooch was gone, my attendant died—and now fate brought your Duke to Hamburg. I was strolling along the Elbe, looking into the river, and I began to imagine whether this water or my suffering were the deeper. The Duke saw me, followed me, and found my lodgings, then knelt before me and swore he loved me. (She pauses, very agitated, then continues, her voice breaking.) All the images of my happy childhood awoke again, shining irresistibly; a desolate future, black as the grave, filled me with dread. My heart was burning for another heart. I sank on his. (Rushing away from him.) Now condemn me!

92FERDINAND (much moved, hurries after her and stops her). My Lady! Oh, heavens! What do I hear! What have I done? My offense is horrible. You’ll never forgive me.

93LADY (returning, having tried to collect herself). Let me tell you more. The Prince had taken my defenseless youth by surprise, but the blood of Norfolk in me rebelled. "You, Emilia, born a princess, " it cried, "and now a prince’s concubine?" My pride contended with my fate as the Prince brought me here and the most gruesome scene stood suddenly before my eyes. The lust of the great of this world is a ravenous hyena that hunts its prey with driving hunger. It had raged frightfully in this land: had separated bride from bridegroom, even broken the holy bonds of marriage, had razed the peaceful happiness of a family in one place, opened an inexperienced young heart to pestilential ruin in another, and the foaming mouths of dying schoolgirls pronounced their teacher’s name among curses and spasms. I placed myself between the lion and the lamb, obtained a princely oath from him in a moment of passion, and this abominable sacrifice had to stop.

94FERDINAND (rushing through the room, very disturbed). No more, my Lady! Say no more!

95LADY. This sad period was followed by one sadder yet. Court and harem swarmed now with the dregs of Italy. Frivolous Parisian women toyed with the princely scepter and the population bled under their whims. They all had their day. I saw them sink into the dust beside me, for I was a greater coquette than they. I took the reins from the tyrant, who went slack in my embrace. Your fatherland, Walter, felt a human hand for the first time and sank, trusting, on my breast. (Pause, in which she gives him a melting glance.) Oh, that the man by whom alone I would not be mistaken should now force me to boast, to scorch my silent virtue on the beams of admiration! Walter, I have opened prisons, torn up death warrants, and shortened many an eternity on the galleys. I have at least poured balsam into wounds that will not heal, laid powerful evildoers in the dust, and often saved the lost cause of innocence by a seductive tear. Just think, young man, how sweet I found that! How proudly my heart could defeat every reproach to my princely birth! And now there comes the man who alone is to reward me for all these things, the man whom my exhausted fate perhaps created to redeem my early sorrows, the man whom I embrace with longing in my dreams—

96FERDINAND (intervening, deeply shaken). Too much! Too much! That’s against our understanding, my Lady. You were to defend yourself against complaint and now you make me an offender. Spare my heart, I beg you, spare my heart, torn by shame and hot regret—

97LADY (clasping his hand). Now or never. Enough of this heroic fortitude. You must yet feel the weight of these tears. (Very tenderly.) Hear me, Walter— When one so unhappy, irresistibly drawn to you, embraces you, her heart full of boundless love, and you now pronounce the cold word "honor"— When this unhappy creature, oppressed by the sense of her disgrace, sick and tired of vice, heroically lifted up by the call of virtue, now throws herself into your arms (she embraces him in solemn entreaty) to be saved by you, returned by you to heaven, or (turning her face away, with a hollow voice) fleeing from your image, answering the call of despair, pitches down into yet more hideous depths of vice—

98FERDINAND (tearing himself away from her, in terrible distress). No, by almighty God! I cannot endure this. My Lady, I must— Heaven and earth weigh on me— I must make a confession, my Lady.

99LADY (retreating from him). Not now! Not now, by all that’s holy— Not at this terrible moment, with my heart bleeding from a thousand wounds— Be it life or death, I cannot, will not hear.

100FERDINAND. No, no, my esteemed Lady. You must. What I shall tell you now will soften my offense, will ask pardon for what’s past— I deceived myself in you, my Lady. I expected, I wished to find you worthy of my contempt. I came here intent upon insulting you, gaining your hatred— Better for us both had I succeeded! (He falls silent, then softly and more hesitant.) I love, my Lady, love a burgher’s daughter, Luisa Miller, the music master’s girl.

101(The Lady turns away; he continues, more animated.)

  • 11 Ferdinand takes responsibility for awakening Luisa’s desire. See Luisa’s last speech, Act One, scen (...)

102I know what I am throwing myself into. But even if prudence would silence passion, duty speaks the more loudly. I am the guilty one. I was the one who broke the golden peace of her innocence, flattered her feeling with wild hopes and betrayed it to hot passion.11 You will remind me of rank and birth, of my father’s principles—but I love. My hopes climb the higher the more deeply Nature has fallen out with convention. My resolve and mere prejudice! We shall see whether fashion or humanness carries the day.

103(The Lady meanwhile has withdrawn to the far end of the room and now covers her face with both hands. He follows her.)

104My Lady, you were saying?

105LADY (expressing great pain). Nothing, Major von Walter! Nothing but that you destroy yourself and me and a third person.

106FERDINAND. A third person?

107LADY. We cannot find happiness together. We must fall victim to your father’s excessive haste. Never shall I gain the heart of a man who gave me his hand because he was forced to.

108FERDINAND. Forced to, my Lady? Forced to give? And gave nonetheless? Can you force a hand without a heart? Take from a girl a man who is all the world to her? Tear a man from a girl who is all the world to him? You, my Lady? Who were a moment ago the most admirable Briton? You can do that?

109LADY. Because I must. (Grave and fierce.) My passion, Walter, yields to my tenderness for you. My honor no longer can. Our alliance is the talk of the whole land. All eyes, all the arrows of derision are trained on me. The humiliation will be a permanent stain if a subject of the Prince should refuse my hand. Plead your case with your father. Arm yourself as best you can. I shall set off all my mines.

110(She goes off rapidly. The Major stands speechless. Pause.

111Then he plunges through the double doors.)

Scene Four

Room in the Music Master’s house

112Miller, his Wife, Luisa enter.

113MILLER (rushing in). I told you so!

114LUISA (appealing anxiously). What, Father? What?

115MILLER (running up and down). My long black coat! Quick! I have to get there first. A white shirt with cuffs! I saw it coming!

116LUISA. For God’s sake! What?

117WIFE. What’s going on? What is this?

118MILLER (tosses his wig into the room). Straight to the wig-maker with that! What’s going on? (Leaping to the mirror.) My beard’s long as my finger again. What’s going on? What would be going on, you crow bait? The devil’s what is going on, blast you!

119WIFE. Just look at that! I’m always the one.

120MILLER. You? Yes, you and your big mouth. Who else? This morning with that diabolical baron of yours— Didn’t I say so? Wurm has talked.

121WIFE. Who says? How do you know that?

122MILLER. How I know? Out there, before the door, there’s a fellow from the ministry spooking around and asking about the fiddler.

123LUISA. I am lost!

124MILLER. And you, too, with your forget-me-not blue eyes! (Laughing angrily.) Exactly right! When the devil’s laid an egg in your parlor, you’ll see a pretty daughter hatched. Now I have it in cash!

125WIFE. How do you know it’s about Luisa? Maybe you were recommended to the Duke. Maybe he wants you in the orchestra.

126MILLER (reaching for his walking stick). The sulfur rains of Sodom! Orchestra? Where you, dirty bawd, will howl descant and my blue backside make the thorough bass. (Throws himself into a chair.) God in heaven!

127LUISA (seating herself, deathly white). Mother! Father! Why am I suddenly so frightened?

128MILLER (leaping from his chair). Just let that pen-pusher come within firing range! I’ll make him run! In this world or the next one. If I don’t thrash him to a pulp, body and soul, write the Ten Commandments and the seven petitions of the Our Father, and all the books of Moses and the prophets on his hide so that they’ll see the blue marks at the raising of the dead—

129WIFE. Oh, just rant and rage, you. That’ll keep the devil away. Help, holy Lord God! Where to now? How to find help? What to do? Papa Miller, say something! (She runs wailing through the room.)

130MILLER. To the Minister, on the spot. I’ll be the first to open my mouth. I’ll file the complaint myself. You knew before I did. You could have told me. The girl would have listened then. There was still time. But no! We had to go and haggle for something, we had to go and fish for something! And you only heaped coals on the fire! You pander, you look out for your own hide. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it. I’ll take my daughter on my arm and march with her over the border.

Scene Five

Ferdinand von Walter plunges into the room, alarmed and out of breath. As above.

131FERDINAND. Has my father been here?

132(All speak at once.)

133LUISA (leaping up, frightened). His father! Almighty God!

134WIFE (with a despairing hand clap). The First Minister! We’re lost!

135MILLER (with an angry laugh). Praise God! Praise God! We had it coming!

136FERDINAND (hurries to Luisa and throws his arms around her). You’re mine, and if heaven and hell should throw themselves between us.

137LUISA. I’ll die, it’s certain. But go on. You pronounced a terrible name—your father?

138FERDINAND. It’s nothing. Nothing. It’s over now. I have you back again. You have me back again. Let me catch my breath here in your arms. It was a terrible moment.

139LUISA. What was? You’re killing me!

140FERDINAND (steps back and regards her with meaning). A moment, Luisa, when an alien figure threw itself between my heart and you, when my love paled before my conscience, when my Luisa stopped being everything to her Ferdinand—

141(Luisa sinks into a chair, her face averted. He goes to her,

142stands speechless before her, then moves away, very aroused.)

143No! Never! Impossible, my Lady. Too much to ask. I cannot give up this innocence for your sake. No, by almighty God, I cannot break my oath, which cautions me, loud as heaven’s thunder, in this sightless eye. My Lady, look here; look here, you faithless father— I should take this angel’s life? Should heap hell into this heavenly breast? (Hurrying to her, determined.) I shall lead her before the great Judge’s throne; eternal God is to say if my love is a crime. (He takes her by the hand and lifts her from the chair.) Take courage, my dearest one. You have won. From the most dangerous contest I return a victor.

144LUISA. No! No! Keep nothing back! Pronounce the dreadful verdict. You named your father? Named the Lady? Death shudders seize me. They say that she will marry.

145FERDINAND (falls at Luisa’s feet, overcome). Marry me, unhappy child!

146LUISA (after a pause, quietly, with terrible calm). So why should I be startled? The old man there has told me often enough. I didn’t want to believe him. (Pause. Then she throws herself, weeping bitterly, into Miller’s arms.) Father, here is your daughter again. Forgiveness, Father. Your child can’t help it that this dream was so beautiful—and so frightful this awakening—

147MILLER. Luisa! Luisa! Oh, God! She’s beside herself. Daughter, my poor child. A curse on the seducer! A curse on the woman who procured her!

148WIFE (turns to Luisa, wailing). Do I deserve this curse, my daughter? God forgive you, Baron. What has this lamb done you, that you would harm it?

149FERDINAND (leaping up, determined). But I shall pierce the heart of all his intrigues; I’ll tear through these iron chains of prejudice. Free like a man, I’ll make my choice, and their little fly-speck souls will stagger at the gigantic workings of my love. (He is about to go.)

150LUISA (rises, trembling, and follows him). Stay! Stay! Where are you going? Father! Mother! At this fearful moment he would leave us?

151WIFE (hurries after and catches him). The First Minister is coming here. He’ll maltreat our child. He’ll maltreat us, Major von Walter, and you are leaving us?

152MILLER (laughing in rage). Leaving us? Oh, yes, indeed. Why not? She’s made him a gift of everything! (Seizing the Major with one hand, Luisa with the other.) Patience, sir! The way out of my house goes over this one here. Wait for your father, if you’re no knave. Tell him how you stole into her heart, you deceiver, or before my eyes, by God, (flinging his daughter at him) you’ll have to walk over this whimpering worm whom love for you has ruined.

153FERDINAND (returns and walks up and down, lost in thought). The First Minister has great power, to be sure. The rights of a father are broad. Crime itself can hide in its folds. He can use it to take things quite far. Quite far! But love alone can take things to the limit. Here, Luisa! Put your hand in mine. (He clasps her hand.) As surely as God will not desert me at my last breath: The moment that separates these two hands will also break the thread between me and Creation.

154LUISA. I’m afraid! Turn your face away. Your lips are trembling. Your eyes are rolling terribly—

155FERDINAND. No, Luisa. Don’t be afraid. It’s not madness speaking here. It is a gift of heaven: determination at the very moment when the constricted breast can draw breath only by desperate means, by something unheard of. I love you, Luisa. I shall keep you, Luisa. Now to my father! (He hurries out and runs into—the First Minister.)

Scene Six

The First Minister followed by a retinue of Attendants. As above.

156FIRST MINISTER (entering). He’s here already.

157FERDINAND (taking a few steps back). In the house of innocence.

158FIRST MINISTER. Where the son is learning obedience to his father?

159FERDINAND. Spare us—

160FIRST MINISTER (interrupts him, to Miller). This is the father?

  • 12 Town musicians, traditionally, were governed by the local musicians’ guild. The title is known to E (...)

161MILLER. Town musician Miller.12

162FIRST MINISTER (to the Wife). And this the mother?

163WIFE. Oh, dear. Yes. The mother.

164FERDINAND (to Miller). Father, take your daughter out of here. She’s about to faint.

165FIRST MINISTER. Unnecessary. I have smelling salts for her. (To Luisa.) How long acquainted with the son of the First Minister?

166LUISA. I never asked after such a one. Ferdinand von Walter has visited me since last November.

167FERDINAND. Has adored her.

168FIRST MINISTER. You have received assurances?

169FERDINAND. Just now, the most solemn before God.

170FIRST MINISTER (angrily, to his son). To a confession of your foolishness you’ll yet be invited. (To Luisa.) I’m waiting for an answer.

171LUISA. He swore he loves me.

172FERDINAND. An oath I’ll keep.

173FIRST MINISTER. Must I order you to hold your tongue? — Did you accept that vow?

174LUISA (tenderly). I returned it.

175FERDINAND (firmly). The bond is fixed.

176FIRST MINISTER. I’ll have that echo thrown from the room. (Malicious, to Luisa.) And he paid each time in cash?

177LUISA (attentive). I don’t quite understand the question.

178FIRST MINISTER (with a cutting laugh). No? Well, then! I mean to say— Every trade, they say, has a price. You, too, I hope, will not have given away your favors— Or was it enough just with the closing?

179FERDINAND (erupting). By all hell! What is this?

180LUISA (to the Major, with dignity and disdain). Major von Walter, I release you.

181FERDINAND. Father! Virtue, even in beggar’s guise, commands respect.

182FIRST MINISTER (laughing louder). Quite a demand! The father should respect the son’s whore.

183LUISA (falling). Heaven and earth!

184FERDINAND (rushing to Luisa, as he draws against his father, then lowers his sword). Father, you once had a claim upon my life. That claim is satisfied. (Putting up again.) My debt of filial piety is cancelled.

185MILLER (who has stood timidly aside, comes forward, his teeth now grinding in rage, now chattering in fear). Your Excellency, a child is its father’s work—if it please your Honor. Anyone who calls the child a tramp slaps the father in the face, and one slap deserves another. That’s our practice here—if it please your Honor.

186WIFE. Help us, Lord and Savior! Now the old man has cut loose. The sky will fall on us.

187FIRST MINISTER (who has only half heard). The pander’s stirring, too? We’ll talk directly, pander.

188MILLER. If it please your Honor—my name is Miller, if you want to hear an adagio. But I don’t deal in love stuff. As long as the Court has advance supplies, we burghers need not deliver. If it please your Honor.

189WIFE. For heaven’s sake, man. You’ll do in wife and child.

190FERDINAND. You are playing a role here, my father, where you could at least have done without these witnesses.

191MILLER (approaching him, now more bold). In good German— If it please your Honor. Your Excellency rules as you wish here in the land. But this is my parlor. My most devoted compliments should I ever bring a petition, but a boorish guest I’ll throw out the door. If it please your Honor.

192FIRST MINISTER (white with rage). What is this? (Confronting him.)

193MILLER (backing away). Just my opinion, sir. If it please your Honor.

194FIRST MINISTER (all alight). Ha, you rascal! You’ll talk your way into a prison with this opinion of yours. Go! Fetch the bailiffs.

195(A few go off. The First Minister rushes about in a rage.)

196Father into prison—mother and trollop of a daughter to the pillory! Justice will lend my rage its arm. I shall have satisfaction for this scandal. Is this kind of riff-raff to defeat my plans and set father and son on one another, unpunished? Ha, you wretches! I’ll appease my hatred with your destruction; the whole brood—father, mother, daughter—I’ll sacrifice to my revenge.

197FERDINAND (intervening, calm and firm). Now, now. Don’t be afraid. I am here. (To the First Minister, submissive.) Don’t be hasty, my father. As you love yourself, no use of force. There’s a region of my heart where the word father has not yet been heard. Don’t penetrate that far.

198FIRST MINISTER. You good-for-nothing! Silence! Don’t make me even angrier.

199MILLER (emerging from a stunned state). Look after your child, Wife. I’m going to the Duke. His private tailor—God’s inspiration—takes flute lessons from me. With the Duke I can’t go wrong. (He is about to leave.)

200FIRST MINISTER. With the Duke, you say? Have you forgotten I’m the threshold you must clear or break your neck? With the Duke, you dunce? Just try it, when you, one of the living dead, are lying a tower’s height under the earth, in a dungeon where night flirts with hell, and sound and light bounce back from the walls. Rattle your chains then and whimper: "This is too much for me."

Scene Seven

Bailiffs. As above.

201FERDINAND (hurries to Luisa, who falls into his arms, half-dead). Luisa! Help! The fright was too much for her.

202(Miller seizes his walking stick, puts on his hat, and prepares for attack. The Wife falls to her knees before the First Minister.)

203FIRST MINISTER (to the Bailiffs, showing his star). Seize her, in the name of the Duke. Back from the trollop, boy—fainted or not. When she’s in the iron collar, they’ll throw stones to wake her up.

204WIFE. Have mercy, your Excellency! Have mercy!

205MILLER (pulling his wife to her feet). Kneel before God, you whore of an old cry baby and not before—scoundrels, since I have to go to prison anyway.

206FIRST MINISTER (biting his lip). You may miscalculate, you knave. There are gallows standing empty. (To the Bailiffs.) Do I have to say it twice?

207(The Bailiffs close in on Luisa.)

208FERDINAND (placing himself before her). Who’s asking for it? (He draws his sword, still in its scabbard, and defends himself with the grip.) Dare to touch her, anyone who’s not also hired out his pate to the courts. (To the First Minister.) Spare yourself. Don’t go any further, my father.

209FIRST MINISTER (to the Bailiffs). If you love your daily bread, you cowards—

210(The Bailiffs seize Luisa again.)

211FERDINAND. Death and destruction! I say, keep back. Once more: Have mercy on yourself. Don’t push me to the limit, Father.

212FIRST MINISTER (outraged, to the Bailiffs). Is that what you call zeal, you rascals?

213(The Bailiffs become rougher.)

214FERDINAND. If it must be, then forgive me, Justice! (He bares his sword and wounds a few.)

215FIRST MINISTER (very angry). I’ll just see if I, too, get to feel that sword. (He seizes Luisa, lifts her bodily, and hands her over to a Bailiff.)

216FERDINAND (laughing bitterly). Father, you’re making a farce of the Godhead, which understood its people so badly that it made perfect hangman’s hired help into sorry ministers.

217FIRST MINISTER (to the others). Away with her!

218FERDINAND. Father, she’s to stand in the pillory, but with the Major, the First Minister’s son. Do you insist?

219FIRST MINISTER. The more amusing will be the spectacle. Away!

220FERDINAND. Father, I’ll cover the girl with my officer’s sword. Do you insist?

  • 13 A leather holder, sewn at the waist of a uniform, by which a sword was carried.

221FIRST MINISTER. The porte épée,13 worn at your side, has become quite accustomed to the pillory. Away! Away! You know my will.

222FERDINAND (pushes a Bailiff away, holds Luisa with one hand, and points the sword at her with the other). Father! Before you disgrace my wife, I’ll run her through. Do you insist?

223FIRST MINISTER. Do so if the blade’s as cutting as your tongue.

224FERDINAND (releases Luisa and stares upward). You, almighty God, are my witness! I attempted every human means. I must now resort to a devilish one. Take her away to the pillory, all of you, (quietly to the First Minister) and I meanwhile shall tell all the residence a tale of just how one gets to be first minister. (Exit.)

225FIRST MINISTER (thunderstruck). What was that? Ferdinand— Release her! (He hurries after the Major.)


1 That is, not yet dressed for the day. The Lady is presented in a natural state, her hair still open, playing by ear. She is a daring rider, impatient of convention, and full of feeling.

2 Sophie, and then the Lady, describe a typical evening at a princely court: The company gathered, entertained themselves with conversation, at cards (games of hombre, faro, piquet), or with music. The ladies did fine needlework such as filet.

3 Rare spices, formal gardens, leaping fountains, and costly fireworks are typical forms of princely display.

4 Strings by which a wandering child was controlled.

5 Effectively, the Lady has crossed the First Minister’s court intrigue with one of her own.

6 Troops, such as the famous Hessians, purchased (strictly speaking, leased) to fight in the American revolt against British rule, 1775–1783

7 The German is Bärenhatz, a particularly ostentatious form of "hunt" or, rather, a harrying of a dangerous wild animal confined within a closed compound. See Velázquez’s Tela real in the National Gallery, London.

8 "Pearls and diamonds" is a metonymy for "tears."

9 The ermine of office. See the robe of the Duke of Friedland on the cover of Schiller’s Wallenstein in this series.

10 Like the privilege of carrying a sword, the tassel on the grip is a mark of high birth.

11 Ferdinand takes responsibility for awakening Luisa’s desire. See Luisa’s last speech, Act One, scene four, above.

12 Town musicians, traditionally, were governed by the local musicians’ guild. The title is known to English speakers from the medieval tale of the "Town musicians of Bremen." The German is Stadtmusikant.

13 A leather holder, sewn at the waist of a uniform, by which a sword was carried.

Table des illustrations

Légende Lady Milford improvising at the piano, Sophie at the window. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.
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