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The Robbers

Friedrich Schiller

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The Robbers was the first drama written by Friedrich Schiller. It was originally published in 1781 and was first performed in Germany in 1782. It was very popular and made Schiller an overnight success. It tells the story of Karl and Franz Moor, sons to Count Maximilian of Moor - two brothers who not only have very different characters, but who are also treated very differently by their father. Franz is the least favourite and spends his time thinking of ways of how he can claim his father's inheritance, which, as the youngest son, he currently has no right to. This of course, means getting both his brother and his father out of the way. His scheme is immediately strengthened when he forges a letter to his father, falsely detailing all the bad things his brother is doing whilst studying in another city, a result of which is the Count disinheriting his oldest son. This leads to event after event, where each brother fights for their own survival with the circumstances they have found themselves in - one by their own doing, the other by someone else's.

The five-act play explores power, masculinity, personal liberty, and good and evil.

№ 73 in Anne Haight's List of Banned Books.

This book has 109 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1781. This translation by Alexander Fraser Tytler was first published in 1792.

Production notes: This ebook of The Robbers was published by Global Grey on the 23rd July 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'View of Neuschwanstein Castle' by Hubert Sattler.

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Excerpt from 'The Robbers'

Apartment in the Castle of COUNT MOOR.


FRANCIS. But are you really well, father? You look so pale.

OLD MOOR. Quite well, my son—what have you to tell me?

FRANCIS. The post is arrived—a letter from our correspondent at Leipsic.

OLD M. (eagerly). Any tidings of my son Charles?

FRANCIS. Hem! Hem!—Why, yes. But I fear—I know not—whether I dare —your health.—Are you really quite well, father?

OLD M. As a fish in water. Does he write of my son? What means this anxiety about my health? You have asked me that question twice.

FRANCIS. If you are unwell—or are the least apprehensive of being so— permit me to defer—I will speak to you at a fitter season.—(Half aside.) These are no tidings for a feeble frame.

OLD M. Gracious Heavens? what am I doomed to hear?

FRANCIS. First let me retire and shed a tear of compassion for my lost brother. Would that my lips might be forever sealed—for he is your son! Would that I could throw an eternal veil over his shame—for he is my brother! But to obey you is my first, though painful, duty—forgive me, therefore.

OLD M. Oh, Charles! Charles! Didst thou but know what thorns thou plantest in thy father's bosom! That one gladdening report of thee would add ten years to my life! yes, bring back my youth! whilst now, alas, each fresh intelligence but hurries me a step nearer to the grave!

FRANCIS. Is it so, old man, then farewell! for even this very day we might all have to tear our hair over your coffin.

OLD M. Stay! There remains but one short step more—let him have his will! (He sits down.) The sins of the father shall be visited unto the third and fourth generation—let him fulfil the decree.

FRANCIS (takes the letter out of his pocket). You know our correspondent! See! I would give a finger of my right hand might I pronounce him a liar—a base and slanderous liar! Compose yourself! Forgive me if I do not let you read the letter yourself. You cannot, must not, yet know all.

OLD M. All, all, my son. You will but spare me crutches.

FRANCIS (reads). "Leipsic, May 1. Were I not bound by an inviolable promise to conceal nothing from you, not even the smallest particular, that I am able to collect, respecting your brother's career, never, my dearest friend, should my guiltless pen become an instrument of torture to you. I can gather from a hundred of your letters how tidings such as these must pierce your fraternal heart. It seems to me as though I saw thee, for the sake of this worthless, this detestable"—(OLD M. covers his face). Oh! my father, I am only reading you the mildest passages— "this detestable man, shedding a thousand tears." Alas! mine flowed—ay, gushed in torrents over these pitying cheeks. "I already picture to myself your aged pious father, pale as death." Good Heavens! and so you are, before you have heard anything.

OLD M. Go on! Go on!

FRANCIS. "Pale as death, sinking down on his chair, and cursing the day when his ear was first greeted with the lisping cry of 'Father!' I have not yet been able to discover all, and of the little I do know I dare tell you only a part. Your brother now seems to have filled up the measure of his infamy. I, at least, can imagine nothing beyond what he has already accomplished; but possibly his genius may soar above my conceptions. After having contracted debts to the amount of forty thousand ducats,"—a good round sum for pocket-money, father--"and having dishonored the daughter of a rich banker, whose affianced lover, a gallant youth of rank, he mortally wounded in a duel, he yesterday, in the dead of night, took the desperate resolution of absconding from the arm of justice, with seven companions whom he had corrupted to his own vicious courses." Father? for heaven's sake, father! How do you feel?

OLD M. Enough. No more, my son, no more!

FRANCIS. I will spare your feelings. "The injured cry aloud for satisfaction. Warrants have been issued for his apprehension—a price is set on his head—the name of Moor"—No, these unhappy lips shall not be guilty of a father's murder (he tears the letter). Believe it not, my father, believe not a syllable.

OLD M. (weeps bitterly). My name—my unsullied name!

FRANCIS (throws himself on his neck). Infamous! most infamous Charles! Oh, had I not my forebodings, when, even as a boy, he would scamper after the girls, and ramble about over hill and common with ragamuffin boys and all the vilest rabble; when he shunned the very sight of a church as a malefactor shuns a gaol, and would throw the pence he had wrung from your bounty into the hat of the first beggar he met, whilst we at home were edifying ourselves with devout prayers and pious homilies? Had I not my misgivings when he gave himself up to reading the adventures of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and other benighted heathens, in preference to the history of the penitent Tobias? A hundred times over have I warned you—for my brotherly affection was ever kept in subjection to filial duty—that this forward youth would one day bring sorrow and disgrace on us all. Oh that he bore not the name of Moor! that my heart beat less warmly for him! This sinful affection, which I can not overcome, will one day rise up against me before the judgment-seat of heaven.

OLD M. Oh! my prospects! my golden dreams!

FRANCIS. Ay, well I knew it. Exactly what I always feared. That fiery spirit, you used to say, which is kindling in the boy, and renders him so susceptible to impressions of the beautiful and grand—the ingenuousness which reveals his whole soul in his eyes—the tenderness of feeling which melts him into weeping sympathy at every tale of sorrow—the manly courage which impels him to the summit of giant oaks, and urges him over fosse and palisade and foaming torrents—that youthful thirst of honor—that unconquerable resolution—all those resplendent virtues which in the father's darling gave such promise— would ripen into the warm and sincere friend—the excellent citizen—the hero—the great, the very great man! Now, mark the result, father; the fiery spirit has developed itself—expanded—and behold its precious fruits. Observe this ingenuousness—how nicely it has changed into effrontery;—this tenderness of soul—how it displays itself in dalliance with coquettes, in susceptibility to the blandishments of a courtesan! See this fiery genius, how in six short years it hath burnt out the oil of life, and reduced his body to a living skeleton; so that passing scoffers point at him with a sneer and exclaim—"C'est l'amour qui a fait cela." Behold this bold, enterprising spirit—how it conceives and executes plans, compared to which the deeds of a Cartouche or a Howard sink into insignificance. And presently, when these precious germs of excellence shall ripen into full maturity, what may not be expected from the full development of such a boyhood? Perhaps, father, you may yet live to see him at the head of some gallant band, which assembles in the silent sanctuary of the forest, and kindly relieves the weary traveller of his superfluous burden. Perhaps you may yet have the opportunity, before you go to your own tomb, of making a pilgrimage to the monument which he may erect for himself, somewhere between earth and heaven! Perhaps,—oh, father—father, look out for some other name, or the very peddlers and street boys who have seen the effigy of your worthy son exhibited in the market-place at Leipsic will point at you with the finger of scorn!

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