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Love and Intrigue

Friedrich Schiller

Act Five

Texte intégral

Luisa pleads with Ferdinand, the glass of lemonade between them. 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.

Evening twilight in a room in the Music Master’s house

Scene One

Luisa sits motionless and silent in a dark corner of the room, her head lying on her arms. After a long pause Miller enters, carrying a lantern. By its light he anxiously searches the room without finding her. Then he lays his hat on the table and sets down the lantern.

1MILLER. She’s not here either. Once again, I see she’s not here. I’ve been down all the lanes, visited everyone we know, asked at every gate. No one’s seen my child anywhere. (After a silence.) Patience, poor unhappy father. Wait for morning. Then your one and only may wash up on the bank. God! God! Have I loved her like an idol? This punishment is hard! Heavenly Father, hard! I’ll not complain, heavenly Father, but the punishment is hard. (He throws himself into a chair.)

2LUISA (speaking from the corner). You’ve done right, poor old man! Learn in good time how to lose.

3MILLER (leaping up). You’re here, my child? Are you? Why so alone, and without light?

4LUISA. Oh, I’m not lonely. When it gets real dark all around me, I have my best visits.

5MILLER. God save you! Only a bad conscience keeps company with the owl. Sins and evil spirits fear the light.

6LUISA. Eternity, too, Father, that speaks directly with the soul.

7MILLER. My child, my child! What kind of talk is this?

8LUISA (stands up and comes forward). I have fought a hard fight. You know this, Father. God gave me strength. The fight is now over. One calls our sex weak and fragile. Don’t believe it, Father. We quake at a spider but the black monster death and decay we happily embrace. So that you know, Father. Your Luisa is merry.

9MILLER. Listen, Daughter! I wish you were wailing. I’d like that better.

10LUISA. How I’ll outwit him, Father! How I’ll cheat the tyrant! Love is smarter than evil and bolder—that he didn’t know, the man with the sad star on his breast. Oh, they are tricky when it only has to do with the head, but when they try something with the heart, the rascals are stupid. He thought he’d seal his fraud tight with an oath. An oath binds only the living, Father. In death even a sacred oath must melt. Ferdinand will know his Luisa— You’ll take care of this note, Father? You’d be so good?

11MILLER. Note to whom, my daughter?

12LUISA. Strange question! Eternity and my heart have between them no room for a single thought of him. When should I have had time to write anyone else?

13MILLER (uneasy). Listen, Luisa! I’m going to open this letter.

14LUISA. As you like, Father. But you won’t learn much. The lines lie there like cold corpses, live only for the eyes of love.

15MILLER (reading). "You’ve been betrayed, Ferdinand. A piece of mischief like none other has broken the bond of our hearts. But a terrible vow has silenced me and your father has spies posted everywhere. If you have courage, Beloved, I know a third place where no sworn oath binds and no listener comes near." (Miller stops and looks her gravely in the face.)

16LUISA. Why are you looking at me that way? Read it to the end, Father.

17MILLER. "But you must have courage enough to travel a dark road where nothing lights your way but God and your Luisa. You must come all love. Leave your hopes behind and all your clamoring wishes; you can use your heart only. If you will, then start out at the stroke of twelve in the Carmelite tower. If you’re afraid, strike the word strong from your sex—a girl will have put you to shame." (Miller lays the note down, stares straight ahead, and then turns to her; softly.) And this third place, my daughter?

18LUISA. You don’t know, Father? Really don’t know? Strange! I’ve described it plainly. Ferdinand will find it.

19MILLER. Hm! Speak more clearly.

20LUISA. I can’t find a pretty word for it. Don’t be frightened, Father, if I name an ugly one. This place— Oh, why has love not invented names! It would have given this one the loveliest. This third place, Father—just let me finish—is the grave.

21MILLER (staggering into a chair). Oh, my God!

  • 1 In ancient iconography, love was represented as a child with a torch held high, death as a child wi (...)

22LUISA (goes to him and holds him). No, no, Father. This is just horror of the word. Get rid of the word and a bridal bed is there, over which the morning spreads its golden carpet and spring strews its bright garlands. Only a howling sinner could call death a skeleton. It is a charming child, young and blooming, like they paint the god of love,1 but not sly and treacherous—a quiet, helpful genius; it helps the soul, an exhausted pilgrim, across the moat of time, unlocks the fairy castle of eternal glory, and is gone.

23MILLER. What are you planning, Daughter? You would lay hand—

24LUISA. Don’t call it that, my father. To leave a society where I’m not welcome, leap ahead to a place I can no longer do without— Is that a sin?

25MILLER. Suicide is the most abhorrent, my child—the only one you can’t repent—you’ll have no time.

26LUISA (freezes). Dreadful! But I’ll find time. I’ll jump into the river and as I sink pray for mercy from almighty God.

27MILLER. You would regret the theft as soon as you are sure of what you’ve stolen? Careful, Daughter! Don’t mock God at the moment you most need Him. Oh, this has gone far, very far. You’ve given up your prayers and merciful God has withdrawn his hand from you.

28LUISA. Is it a sacrilege to love, my father?

29MILLER. If you love God, it will never amount to sacrilege. You’ve bowed me down, my only one, down to the open grave perhaps. But I’ll not make your heart still heavier. Daughter, just now I said something. I thought I was alone, and you heard me. Why keep it a secret? You were my idol. Listen, Luisa, if you still have place for a father’s feelings. You were my everything. It is not just what is yours that you’re now throwing away. I, too, stand to lose everything. You see my hair is graying. The time is coming when we fathers draw down the capital that we’ve laid up in our children’s hearts. Would you cheat me of this, Luisa? Make off with what belongs to your father?

30LUISA (kissing his hand, very touched). No, Father. I go out of the world as your debtor and will pay, with interest, in eternity.

  • 2 miller now cautions Luisa not to substitute her love of Ferdinand for her love of God.

31MILLER. Careful you don’t miscalculate, my child. (Very solemn.) Shall we find each other there? Look how you turn pale! My Luisa herself understands I’ll not catch up with her, since I’ll not hurry off as soon as she does. (Luisa rushes, shuddering, into his arms; he embraces her, entreating.) Oh, Daughter, my fallen daughter, perhaps already lost! Take your father’s word to heart! I cannot keep watch on you. I can take a knife away from you and you can kill yourself with a knitting needle, can keep you safe from poison and you can strangle yourself with a string of beads. Luisa, Luisa. I can only warn you. Would you let it reach the point that your faithless fantasy fades from your side as you cross the terrible divide between time and eternity?2 Would you dare go before all-knowing God with this lie: "I’ve come because of You, my Creator, " even while your wanton eye searches for its mortal idol? And when this fragile god of your invention, like you, a mere worm, is writhing at the feet of your Judge, when he gives the lie to your godless confidence in this doubtful moment and refers your false hopes to eternal mercy that the wretch can hardly beg for himself—what then? (Louder.) What then, unhappy creature? (He holds her tighter, looks at her steadily, and releases her quickly.) I know nothing more— (Raising his right hand.) God of Judgment, I’ll vouch for this soul no longer. (To Luisa.) Do as you wish. Bring your slender young man such a sacrifice that your devils shout for joy and your good angels step aside. Just go your way! Heap up all your sins, also this one, the last, most horrible, and if that’s not load enough, make up the weight with my curse. Here is a knife. Pierce your heart (in tears, about to rush away) and your father’s!

32LUISA (leaping after him). Stop! Stop! Oh, my father! That tenderness should compel more savagely than a tyrant’s rage! What must I do?

33MILLER. If your Major’s kisses burn hotter than your father’s tears, then die!

34LUISA (after a painful struggle, quite firmly). Father, here is my hand. Father, I swear— What shall I do? A criminal, no matter which I choose. Father, may it be so! Ferdinand— God looks down on us! I tear up his last memory. (She destroys the letter.)

35MILLER (embracing her joyfully). That’s my daughter! Look at me! You’re lighter by a lover and have made your father happy. (Between laughter and tears.) Child! Child that I was not worthy of my life long! God knows how I, simple man, have come into this angel! My Luisa, my kingdom of heaven! Oh, God. It’s true: I don’t know much about love, but that it must be a torment to give it up—that I understand.

36LUISA. But away from here, my father. Away from this town, where my best friends laugh at me and my good name is gone. Away from the place where I find so many traces of lost happiness. Away!

37MILLER. Wherever you like, my daughter. God’s bread grows everywhere and he’ll also provide listeners for my fiddle. We’ll leave everything behind. I’ll set the story of your sorrow for the lute and sing a song about the daughter who broke her heart for her father’s sake. With this ballad we’ll beg door to door, and the offerings of weeping women will taste sweet—

Scene Two

Ferdinand to join the others

38LUISA (seeing him, throws herself with loud cries into Miller’s arms). God! There he is! I am lost!

39MILLER. Who? Where?

40LUISA (with averted face points to the Major and tightens her embrace). Him! He himself! Just look, Father. He’s come to murder me!

41MILLER (seeing him, draws back). You here, Baron?

42FERDINAND (approaches slowly, stops, and gazes long and searching at Luisa. Pause). Bad conscience taken by surprise! My thanks! A swift and sure confession. No need for torture. Good evening, Miller.

43MILLER. In God’s name! What do you want, Baron? Why burst in on us this way?

44FERDINAND. There was a time when the day advanced second by second, when longing for me hung itself on the weights of the dawdling wall clock, lay in wait for the heart’s throb at my arrival. And now I come by surprise?

45MILLER. Go away, Baron. Go away. If one spark of human kindness remains in your heart, if you don’t want to murder the girl you pretend to love, go now. Happiness went out the door of my cottage the moment you set foot in it. You brought misery under my roof, where there’d been only joy. Are you not yet satisfied? You’d rub salt into the wound your luckless acquaintance has struck in my only child?

46FERDINAND. Curious father, I’ve come with good news for your daughter.

47MILLER. New hopes that lead to new despair? Bearer of unhappiness, go away! That face of yours makes your wares worthless.

  • 3 Here, and below, Ferdinand is speaking double: He speaks in terms of love and means the murder he i (...)

48FERDINAND. Finally, my hopes are realized! Lady Milford, obstacle to our love, fled the country just this moment. My father has approved my choice. Fate has left off pursuing us. Our good stars are rising. I’ve come to keep my word and fetch my bride, lead her to the altar.3

49MILLER. Did you hear him, Daughter? Hear him make fun of your lost hopes? In truth, Baron—how it becomes the seducer to exercise his wit on his crime.

50FERDINAND. You think I’m being witty? Indeed not, by my honor! What I say is true, like my Luisa’s love, and I will keep it sacred, as she did her vows. I know nothing more sacred. You doubt me? No blush of pleasure on the cheeks of my new wife? Strange! Lies must be the usual currency here, if truth gets so little credit. You two mistrust my words? Then believe this writing.

51(He tosses Luisa the letter to the Chamberlain. She opens it and collapses.)

52MILLER (not noticing). What’s this to mean, Baron? I don’t understand you.

53FERDINAND (leads him to Luisa). She has understood me that much better.

54MILLER (stooping over her). Oh, God! My daughter!

55FERDINAND. Deathly pale! That’s just how I like her, your daughter. Lovely like never before, this just and pious daughter. The face of a corpse. The breath of the Last Judgment, which strips the gloss from every lie, has stripped away the paint and polish this artful sorceress used to fool the very angels of light. Her loveliest face, her first true face! I’ll kiss it. (About to go to her.)

56MILLER. Keep back! Keep clear! Don’t lay hand on a father’s heart, boy! I couldn’t save her from your caresses, but I can from your rough handling.

57FERDINAND. What are you doing here, you graybeard? I’ve no use for you. Don’t meddle in a game that’s clearly been lost. Or are you smarter than I thought? Did you lend your daughter’s little love games the wisdom of your sixty years and disgrace this honorable gray hair by a pander’s trade? If not, unhappy old man, then lay yourself down right now and die. There’s still time; you can still go off to sleep in the sweet illusion: I was a happy father! One moment more and you’ll fling this poisonous adder back into its hellish home, curse the gift and the Giver, and go, cursing God, into your grave. (To Luisa.) Speak, wretched girl. Did you write this letter?

58MILLER (warning Luisa). For God’s sake, Daughter! Don’t forget! Don’t forget!

59LUISA. This letter, my father—

60FERDINAND. Fell into the wrong hands? Praise be to chance! It did greater things than hair-splitting reason and will hold up better on that day than the wits of all the wise men. Chance? If Providence is present when a sparrow falls, why not when a devil is to be unmasked? I want an answer! Did you write this letter?

61MILLER (aside). Steady, steady, my daughter! Just one "yes" and it’s all over.

62FERDINAND. What a farce! Her father, too, is fooled. Everyone is fooled! There she stands, this disgrace, and even her tongue has quit on her last lie! Swear by God! By the terrible, true God! Did you write this letter?

63LUISA (after a struggle in which she exchanges glances with her father; firmly). I wrote it.

64FERDINAND (stops, shocked). Luisa! No! That’s a lie. Under torture even innocence confesses crimes it never committed. I was too harsh. Wasn’t I, Luisa? That’s why you confessed? Because I asked too harshly?

65LUISA. I confessed what’s true.

66FERDINAND. No, I say. No! No! You didn’t write it. That is not your hand at all. And if it were, why should imitating handwriting be harder than corrupting hearts? Tell me truly— No, don’t. You could say Yes and I’d be lost. A lie, Luisa! A lie! If you knew one now, tossed it to me with your open angel’s face, persuaded just my ear, my eye, deceived this heart— Oh, Luisa! Then may all truth go out of Creation in this breath, and justice yield henceforth to a courtier’s servile falseness! (With a faltering voice.) Did you write this letter?

67LUISA. By God, the terrible and true! Yes!

68FERDINAND (after a pause, in great pain). Woman! Woman! The face with which you stand before me now! Hand out paradises with this face—you’ll not find a buyer even among the damned. Did you know what you were to me, Luisa? No! Impossible! You didn’t know that you were everything to me. Everything. A poor word, but even Eternity can hardly travel around it all or planetary systems complete their paths within it. Everything! To toy with it so shamelessly! This is terrible—

69LUISA. You have my admission, Major von Walter. I have condemned myself. Go then! Leave a house in which you were so unhappy.

70FERDINAND. Fine! Fine! I am calm and quiet. So is, they say, the shuddering stretch of land the plague has swept over. And so am I. (After a moment’s reflection.) One more request, Luisa. The last! My head’s so feverish. I need to cool it. Would you make me a glass of lemonade?

71(Luisa goes off.)

Scene Three

Ferdinand and Miller They walk up and down on opposite sides of the room, saying nothing.

72MILLER (finally stands still and regards the Major sadly). Dear Baron, can it perhaps ease your sorrow if I tell that I feel for you?

73FERDINAND. Let it be, Miller. (A few more steps.) Miller, I hardly know what brought me to your house—

74MILLER. What it was, Major? You wanted to take flute lessons from me. You don’t remember?

75FERDINAND (quickly). And saw your daughter. (Another pause.) You’ve not kept your word, friend. We agreed on peace and quiet for my solitary hours. You deceived me, sold me scorpions. (Seeing Miller’s reaction.) No, don’t be alarmed, old man. (Embracing him, touched.) It’s not your fault.

76MILLER (wiping his eyes). All-knowing God knows that!

77FERDINAND (walking up and down, brooding darkly). Strange, beyond understanding strange, how God toys with us. On slender, unseen threads terrible weights often hang. Had man but known he was to eat death in that apple— Had he known— (Walking more rapidly, then seizing Miller’s hand.) Man! I’m paying a high price for your bit of flute— And you’re not even clearing a profit— You, too, are losing—perhaps losing everything. (Turning away, oppressed.) Wretched flute playing. I never should have thought of such a thing.

78MILLER (to conceal his feelings). That lemonade is taking quite a while. I’ll go have a look, if you don’t mind.

79FERDINAND. No hurry, dear Miller, (to himself) at least not for the father. Stay a bit. What did I want to ask? Oh, yes. Is Luisa your only daughter? You have no other children?

80MILLER (warmly). No others, Baron, and don’t wish for any. The little maid is just right to pocket a father’s whole heart. All the love I have in ready money I’ve put on the daughter.

81FERDINAND (shaken). Look to the lemonade, my good Miller.

82(Miller goes off.)

Scene Four

Ferdinand alone

83His only child. Do you feel that, murderer? His only one! The man has nothing else in all the world but his instrument and this only— You would rob him? Rob the last red cent from a beggar? Throw the broken crutch at the feet of a cripple? You could stomach that? And when he hurries home and can hardly wait to tell the whole sum of his happiness from the face of this daughter, and comes in and she’s lying there, the flower, withered, dead, stamped out, willfully, this one last hope— And he stands there before her, and all nature holds its breath, and his frozen glance wanders through unpeopled endlessness in vain, seeks God and finds God no longer, and comes back more empty— God! God! My father, too, has this one son. This, his only son, but not his only riches— (Pause.) But what’s he losing then? The girl, for whom the most sacred feelings of love were only playthings— would she be able to make her father happy? She won’t, oh, no indeed! And I deserve thanks for stepping on the adder before it bites the father, too.

Scene Five

Miller, returning, and Ferdinand

84MILLER. At your service, Baron, right away. The poor thing’s sitting out there crying herself to death. She’ll give you tears to drink in your lemonade.

85FERDINAND. A good thing if it were only tears! Since we’ve just been talking about music, Miller— (Taking out a purse.) I still owe you something.

86MILLER. What is this? Don’t even think of such a thing. Who do you take me for? That’s in your good hands. Don’t insult me so. And, God willing, we’ve not met for the last time.

87FERDINAND. Who can know? Just take it. It’s for life and death.

88MILLER (laughing). Oh, for that reason, Baron! In that case I think we can risk it with you.

89FERDINAND. Risk it indeed— You’ve never heard that young men have fallen—girls and young men, children of hope, the dreams and desires of deceived fathers— What worm and age don’t do, a thunderbolt may deliver. Even your Luisa’s not immortal.

90MILLER. I have her from God.

91FERDINAND. Just listen. I tell you she’s not immortal. This daughter is the apple of your eye. You’ve attached yourself, heart and soul, to this daughter. Be careful, Miller. Only a desperate gambler puts everything on a single throw. The merchant who loads all his treasure on a single ship is called a fool— But why don’t you take your money?

92MILLER. What, my Lord? This whole almighty purse? What is your Grace thinking of?

93FERDINAND. Of what I owe. Here! (He tosses the purse on the table, where gold pieces fall out.) I can’t hang on to this stuff forever.

94MILLER (nonplussed). God help us! That didn’t sound like silver pieces! (He goes to the table and cries out.) What in heaven’s name, Baron? This is—or I’ve been— It’s God’s own gold—by the handful— Oh, no, Satan! You’ll not catch me with that!

95FERDINAND. Have you been drinking this year’s or last year’s, Miller?

96MILLER (blunt). Lord help me! Look at that! Gold!


98MILLER. I ask you—for God’s sake— Gold!

99FERDINAND. Remarkable enough.

100MILLER (after a silence, going to him; with feeling). My Lord, I’m a simple, up-standing man, in case you want to put me up to something. That much money can’t be had for anything good.

101FERDINAND (moved). No need to fear, dear Miller. You’ve long since earned this money and God forbid that I should make you pay for it with your good conscience.

102MILLER (jumping for joy). Mine then! Mine! With God’s knowledge, by His will, mine. (Running to the door, shouting.) Wife! Daughter! Victory! Come here! (Coming back.) But how’ve I suddenly come into all these wild riches? How do I deserve them? How do I make this good?

103FERDINAND. Not with music lessons, Miller. With this money I pay you for— (Overcome, he stops.) I pay you for (pause; sadly) a three months’ happy dream with your daughter.

104MILLER (taking his hand and pressing it). Gracious Lord! If you were a plain little burgher man— (quickly) and my girl didn’t love you— I’d want to stab her dead, the girl. (Returning to the money and throwing himself on it.) But now I have everything and you have nothing, and I’ll have to shell out the whole lot again?

105FERDINAND. Don’t be concerned, friend. I’m about to go away—to where that mint’s not good.

106MILLER (staring at the gold meanwhile, overjoyed). It’s mine then? Mine? I’m sorry, though, you’re going away. Just wait! What a figure I’ll cut! And the spread for my table! (He puts his hat on and flies through the room.) I’ll give lessons on the market square, for free, and smoke Three Kings number five and if I make-do with a two-penny place again, the devil take me. (About to go.)

107FERDINAND. Stay here! And say nothing! Gather up your money. (With emphasis.) Say nothing just for this evening and, as a favor to me, no more music lessons.

108MILLER (more fevered, fastening Ferdinand by the waistcoat). And, good sir! My daughter! (Releasing him.) Money doesn’t make the man. Oh, no. I’ve eaten potatoes, I’ve eaten wildfowl: enough to eat’s enough. This coat will last forever if God’s own sun does not shine through the sleeves. For me that’s all tinsel. It should go to the girl, everything that I can see she wants—

109FERDINAND (hastily). Oh, quiet, quiet—

110MILLER (more and more heated). She’ll learn French for me, from a to z, and to dance the minuet, and singing—they’ll read about it in the papers; and she’ll wear a bonnet like the privy counselor’s daughters and a bustle, as they call it, and they’ll talk about the fiddler’s daughter for four leagues around—

111FERDINAND (seizing his hand). No more! No more! Not one more word, for God’s sake! Just for today. The only thanks I ask of you!

Scene Six

Luisa with the lemonade, to join the others

  • 4 Luisa adopts the language of her station, restoring class distinction.

112LUISA (her eyes red, her voice trembling, brings the Major the glass of lemonade on a tray). At your service, if it’s not strong enough.4

113FERDINAND (takes the glass, sets it down, and turns suddenly to Miller). Oh, I almost forgot! May I ask something of you, my dear Miller? A little favor—

114MILLER. A thousand for one! Your orders—

115FERDINAND. They’ll be expecting me at table. But I’m badly out of sorts. Impossible for me to go into company. Will you bring my excuses to my father—

116LUISA (alarmed; quickly). I can run that errand.

117MILLER. To the First Minister?

118FERDINAND. Not to the First Minister himself. Leave the message with the attendant at the door. My watch here will vouch for you. Wait for an answer. I’ll still be here when you come back.

119LUISA (very anxious). Can’t I see to that?

120FERDINAND (to Miller, who is about to leave). And one more thing! Here’s a letter for my father, included in a packet I received this evening. Perhaps urgent. This, too—

121MILLER. As good as done, Baron!

122LUISA (holding him back, deeply alarmed). But, Father, I could do all that full well.

123MILLER. You are alone and it is black night, my daughter. (Exit.)

124FERDINAND. Light your father’s way, Luisa. (While she accompanies Miller with a light, he goes to the table and drops poison into the glass of lemonade.) Let her drink it! The powers above nod their assent, heaven’s vengeance puts its name to it, her good angel lets her go—

Scene Seven

Ferdinand and Luisa

125Luisa returns slowly, carrying the light. She sets it down and stands on one side,

126her head down, glancing timidly at the Major from time to time.

127He stands on the other side, staring straight ahead.

128(A deep silence to announce this scene.)

129LUISA. If you’d like to accompany me, Major von Walter, I’ll play a piece on the fortepiano.

130(She opens the piano. Ferdinand gives her no answer. Pause.)

131You also owe me a return game on the chessboard. Shall we play a round, Major von Walter?

132(Another pause.)

133Major von Walter, the letter case I once promised to embroider for you— I’ve begun it. Would you like to see the pattern?

134(A third pause.)

135Oh, I’m so miserable!

136FERDINAND (unmoving and unmoved). That may well be.

137LUISA. It’s not my fault, Major von Walter, that you meet with such a poor reception.

138FERDINAND (laughs to himself insultingly). No. What can you do if I’m so dumb and awkward?

139LUISA. I knew we shouldn’t be alone together here. I was frightened when you sent my father away. I admit that. Major von Walter, we must both find this moment unbearable. If you’ll let me, I’ll go invite a few of my acquaintances.

140FERDINAND. Oh, please do. And I’ll go ask a few of mine.

141LUISA (looks at him uncertainly). Major von Walter?

142FERDINAND (very spiteful). By my honor! The cleverest thing that one can think of at this pass. We’ll turn this charming duet into a party; we’ll call on gallantries to avenge ourselves on love’s silly notions.

143LUISA. You’re in good spirits, Major von Walter?

144FERDINAND. Enough to attract a pack of urchins in the marketplace! In truth, Luisa, your example has converted me. You’ll be my teacher. Only fools natter on about eternal love. Eternal sameness is boring; variety is the soul of pleasure. Done, Luisa! Count me in. We’ll skip from one little romance to another, you here, me there. Perhaps I’ll find my lost peace of mind in some bordello. Perhaps, after all these pleasures, we’ll run into one another again, two moldering skeletons, and with the pleasantest surprise know each other, children of one mother, by our family resemblance, the way it happens in comedies. Shame and disgust will then strike up a harmony we found impossible in tenderest love.

145LUISA. Oh, come, come! It’s not enough to be unhappy? You must also deserve to be?

146FERDINAND (through clenched teeth). I’m unhappy? Who told you that? Woman, you’re too great a nullity to have feelings. How can you weigh another’s feelings? Unhappy, she said? That word could rouse my anger even in the grave. She knew that she’d make me unhappy—knew it and betrayed me nonetheless— Death and destruction! Look, you snake, that was the one scrap of forgiveness— What you just said will break your neck. Till now I could dress up your wantonness in your simplicity; my contempt almost spared you my revenge. (He seizes the glass.) Now I know you weren’t frivolous, you weren’t stupid—you were just a devil. (He drinks.) The lemonade is flat and lifeless as your soul. Taste it!

147LUISA. Dear God! I didn’t fear this scene for nothing.

148FERDINAND (commanding). Taste it!

149(Luisa takes the glass somewhat reluctantly and drinks. As she sets the glass to her lips, Ferdinand turns away, suddenly pale, and hurries into the farthest corner of the room.)

150LUISA. The lemonade is good.

151FERDINAND (without turning; shaken). To your health!

152LUISA (sets down the glass). If you knew, Walter, how you offend my soul.


154LUISA. A time will come, Walter—

155FERDINAND (coming forward). Oh, we’re about finished with time.

156LUISA. —when you might regret this evening.

157FERDINAND (walks up and down, more uneasy than ever; removes his sword and sash). Good night to you, courtly service!

158LUISA. My God! Are you all right?

159FERDINAND. Hot and hemmed in— Want to be comfortable.

160LUISA. Then drink! The lemonade will cool you.

161FERDINAND. That it surely will. A kind-hearted whore—they all are!

162LUISA (rushing into his arms, full of love). That to your Luisa, Ferdinand?

163FERDINAND (pushing her away). Oh, no! Not these gentle, melting eyes! It’ll defeat me. Come in all your frightfulness, you snake, rise up before me, worm—unwind your coils, raise your back—as horrible as hell ever saw you. Just no angel anymore. No angel. It is too late. I’ll stamp on you like an adder or despair. Have mercy!

164LUISA. Oh, that it had to come to this!

165FERDINAND (observing her in profile). This work of a heavenly sculptor— Who can believe it? Who should? (Taking her hand and raising it.) I’ll not call you to account, Creator, but why your poison in such lovely vessels? Can depravity prosper in these mild climes? Oh, it is curious.

166LUISA. To have to hear this and keep silent!

167FERDINAND. And this sweet voice—how can such melody come from broken strings? (Dwelling on the sight of her.) So lovely, so harmonious, so perfect! As if all Creation had come about just to prepare the Creator for this masterpiece! And God should have gone wrong only with her soul? Such as this came spotless into the world? (Moving away from her.) Or did He see an angel emerging under his chisel and correct His error with an evil heart?

168LUISA. This intransigence! Before he admits any fault, he’ll blame heaven.

169FERDINAND (throwing his arms around her, in tears). Once more, Luisa, once more as at our first kiss, when you first called me Ferdinand— Unending happiness seemed to blossom there— Eternity lay before our eyes like a day in May, a thousand golden years passed like dancing brides before our souls— I was happy then. Oh, Luisa! Luisa! Why have you done this to me?

170LUISA. Weep, Walter, weep. Your sorrow is more just toward me than is your anger.

171FERDINAND. You’re wrong. These are no tears of sorrow, not the warm dew that falls as balsam into the wounded soul and sets the frozen wheel of feeling back into motion. These are cold single drops, my love’s farewell. (He lays his hand on her head, solemn and terrible.) Tears for your soul, Luisa, tears for the Godhead, which failed here of its boundless good will, that is so willfully stripped of the grandest of its works. I think all Creation should put on mourning, appalled at what’s happening in its midst.

172LUISA. Don’t drive me to the limit, Walter. I have a soul as strong as any, but it must be tested in human fashion. Walter, one word more and then we part— A terrible fate has scrambled the language of our hearts. If I could speak, Walter, I could tell you things— But hard fate has bound my tongue the way it bound my love, and I must endure it when you treat me like a common tramp.

173FERDINAND. Do you feel well, Luisa?

174LUISA. Why this question?

175FERDINAND. Otherwise I’d be sorry to see you go from here with this lie.

176LUISA. I entreat you, Walter—

177FERDINAND (very aroused). No! No! That revenge would be too satanic! No! So help me God! I don’t want to take it all the way into that world. Luisa! Did you love the Chamberlain? You’ll not leave this room.

178LUISA. Ask what you like. I’ll not answer anything more. (She sits down.)

179FERDINAND (more earnest). Think of your immortal soul, Luisa! Did you love the Chamberlain? You’ll not leave this room.

180LUISA. I’ll not answer anything more.

181FERDINAND (falling at her feet). Luisa! Did you love the Chamberlain? Before this light burns down, you’ll be standing before God!

182LUISA (leaping up, shocked). Jesus! What are you saying? — I feel very sick. (She sinks back into her chair.)

183FERDINAND. Already? You women and the eternal puzzle. Your tender sinews withstand crimes that attack humanity at the root; a little grain of arsenic, though—

184LUISA. Poison! Poison! Lord God!

185FERDINAND. I’m afraid so. Your lemonade was seasoned in hell. You’ve drunk a toast to death.

186LUISA. Die! I’ll die! Merciful God! Poison in the lemonade! I’ll die! Have mercy on my soul, God of forgiveness.

187FERDINAND. That’s the main thing. I, too, ask Him.

188LUISA. My mother—my father— Savior! My poor, lost father! Is there no saving me? My young life and no saving it! I must go already?

189FERDINAND. No saving it. You must go already. But don’t be afraid. We’ll go together.

190LUISA. You, too, Ferdinand? Poison, Ferdinand! From you? Oh, God, do not remember it of him; merciful God, hold him blameless—

191FERDINAND. You look to your own accounts. I fear they’re not in good order.

192LUISA. Oh, Ferdinand! Ferdinand! Now I can break my silence. Death suspends all oaths. Ferdinand! Heaven and earth hold nothing more unhappy than you. Ferdinand, I die innocent.

193FERDINAND (shocked). What’s she saying? They don’t usually take a lie with them on this journey?

194LUISA. I’m not lying, not lying, have lied only once in all my life—ooh! it’s running ice cold through my veins—when I wrote that letter to the Chamberlain—

195FERDINAND. Ha! That letter! Praise God! Now I have all my manhood back.

196LUISA (her tongue faltering, her fingers cramping). This letter—steel yourself—my hand wrote what my heart condemned. Your father dictated it.

  • 5 Ferdinand understands at last what the Chamberlain tried to tell him. See above, Act Four, scene th (...)

197(Ferdinand stands rooted to the spot; finally he falls, thunderstruck.)5

198Oh, the terrible misunderstanding—Ferdinand—they forced me— forgiveness—your Luisa would have chosen death—but my father—the danger—they were so treacherous.

199FERDINAND (shoots to his feet). God be praised! I don’t yet feel the poison. (He whips out his sword.)

200LUISA (weaker and weaker). What would you do? It’s your father—

201FERDINAND (in an unbridled rage). Murderer and father of a murderer! He’ll make this journey, too. So that the Judge of the World will rage against the guilty party. (He is about to go.)

202LUISA. Dying, my Redeemer forgave. A blessing on you and Him. (She dies.)

203FERDINAND (turns just in time to see her dying gesture and falls before her). Wait! Wait! Don’t escape me, heavenly angel! (He seizes her hand and releases it quickly.) Cold, cold and damp. Her soul is gone. (He leaps up again.) God of my Luisa, mercy, mercy on the most atrocious of murderers. It was her last prayer. And how lovely now in death! The Destroyer, himself touched, spared these glowing cheeks when he passed over them. This mildness was no false face. It withstood even death. (Pause.) But why don’t I feel anything? The strength of my young years would save me? Thankless effort! I believe not! (He reaches for the glass.)

Final Scene

Ferdinand. The First Minister. Wurm and Servants.

204All rush into the room, alarmed. Then Miller accompanied by court Attendants and a crowd, which gathers in the background.

205FIRST MINISTER (the letter in his hand). Son, what is this? I’ll never believe—

206FERDINAND (throwing the empty glass at his feet). Then look, you murderer!

207FIRST MINISTER (staggering back). My son! Why have you done this to me?

208(Everyone freezes. Pause.)

209FERDINAND (without looking at him). Oh, yes, indeed! I should have let the statesman tell me whether this trick is also in his deck of cards. Shrewd and admirable, this feint that was intended to break our hearts’ bond by jealousy, that I admit. A masterful calculation. A pity, though, that angry love did not let its strings be pulled like that wooden marionette of yours.

210FIRST MINISTER (searching the circle gathered around him). Is there no one here who’d have pity on a desolated father?

211MILLER (behind the scene). Let me in! For God’s sake, let me in!

212FERDINAND. The girl is a saint—another must plead her cause.

213(He opens the door to Miller, who plunges in with court Attendants and a crowd.)

214MILLER (in the most terrible anxiety). My child! My child! Poison! Someone, they say, has taken poison here. Daughter, where are you?

215FERDINAND (leading him to stand between Luisa’s body and the First Minister). I am innocent. Thank this one here.

216MILLER (falling beside the body). Oh, Jesus!

217FERDINAND. In few words, Father—they’re becoming costly for me—I’ve been knavishly robbed of my life, robbed through you. I tremble to think how I stand with God, but a villain I never was. My eternal lot may fall out as it will—let it not fall on you. But I have committed murder (raising his voice), a murder you shall not presume to see me bring before the Judge of the World alone. I here solemnly heap the greater part on you; how you’ll arrange yourself with that is yours to decide. (Bringing him to Luisa’s body.) Here, you savage! Feed on this, the terrible fruit of your inventiveness. Your name’s inscribed, distorted, on this face, where the angels of death will read it. Let a figure like this one pull back the curtain of your bed and give you its ice-cold hand in sleep, a figure like this stand before your soul when you die and block your last prayer, a figure like this stand on your grave at the Resurrection and—beside God when he judges you. (He faints; court Attendants support him.)

218FIRST MINISTER (gesturing toward heaven). Not from me, not from me, Judge of the World! Demand these souls of this one here! (He steps up to Wurm.)

219WURM (startled). Of me?

220FIRST MINISTER. Of you, you damnable! Of you, you Satan! You’re the snake that so advised me. You’ll answer for it. I wash my hands.

221WURM. Me? (A hideous laugh.) Oh, delightful! Now I know how devils thank each other. I’ll answer, you stupid scoundrel? Was he my son? Did he owe me obedience? I’ll answer? A sight like this that chills me to the bone? I should answer? Fine! I’ll be lost; but you’ll be lost along with me. Up and out! Cry murder through the streets! Wake justice from its sleep! Bailiffs, bind my hands! Lead me away! I’ll reveal secrets to make your skin crawl. (About to go.)

222FIRST MINISTER (holding him back). You wouldn’t, madman?

223WURM (clapping him on the shoulder). I shall, comrade, I shall— True, I’m raging—that’s your doing. And I shall do what madmen do: Arm in arm with you to the scaffold! Arm in arm with you to hell! I’ll be tickled, rascal, to be damned with you! (He is hustled off.)

224MILLER (who has lain with his head in Luisa’s lap, stands up and tosses the purse at the Major’s feet). You sneaking poisoner! Keep your cursed gold! You wanted to buy my child from me? (He plunges out.)

225FERDINAND (his voice breaking). Go after him! He’s despairing. Gather up this money for him. It is my acknowledgment of a terrible debt. Luisa, I am coming—farewell— Let me die upon this altar.

226FIRST MINISTER (emerging from his numbness). Ferdinand, my son! No last glance for a shattered father?

227(The Major is laid beside Luisa.)

228FERDINAND. The glance is for my God of mercy.

229FIRST MINISTER (kneeling before him, tormented). Both the created and the Creator desert me—no glance to restore me at this last?

230(Ferdinand extends his dying hand. The First Minister leaps up.)

231He forgave me! (To the others.) Your prisoner!

232(He goes off. Attendants follow. The curtain falls.)


1 In ancient iconography, love was represented as a child with a torch held high, death as a child with torch inverted. The motif of Eros and Thanatos as two aspects of the same will return.

2 miller now cautions Luisa not to substitute her love of Ferdinand for her love of God.

3 Here, and below, Ferdinand is speaking double: He speaks in terms of love and means the murder he intends.

4 Luisa adopts the language of her station, restoring class distinction.

5 Ferdinand understands at last what the Chamberlain tried to tell him. See above, Act Four, scene three, the Chamberlain’s second-last speech.

Table des illustrations

Légende Luisa pleads with Ferdinand, the glass of lemonade between them. 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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