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Don Carlos (play)

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Don Carlos
Don Karlos, Leipzig, 1787
Written byFriedrich von Schiller
CharactersCarlos, Prince of Asturias
Philip II of Spain
Duke of Alba
Elisabeth of Valois
Princess of Eboli
Marquis of Posa
Original languageGerman
SettingSpanish Court at Aranjuez

Don Carlos (German: Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien,[nb 1][1] German pronunciation: [dɔn ˈkaʁlɔs ɪnˈfant fɔn ˈʃpaːni̯ən] ) is a (historical) tragedy in five acts by Friedrich Schiller; it was written between 1783 and 1787 and first produced in Hamburg in 1787.


The title character is Carlos, Prince of Asturias and the play as a whole is loosely modeled on historical events in the 16th century under the reign of King Philip II of Spain. Don Carlos is a Prince of Spain, given to the Spanish Inquisition by his father (who also wants to marry Carlos' lover) due to his Libertarian creeds. Another great Romantic character is the Marquis of Posa dying for the liberty of the Dutch Republic as well as ruling Catholic Spain during the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.

Ambiguity in depiction[edit]

In 1982, Lesley Sharpe argued that with Don Carlos, Schiller moved away from character-based drama, and that the play's universe "casts a shadow of ambiguity" on its characters because of the complexity of the situation.[2]


According to Schiller himself, the two main criticisms of Don Carlos were that it lacked unity and that the actions of the Marquis Posa were implausible. In Briefe über Don Carlos (1788[3]), he himself claimed that two acts is too little time for a gradual development of Philip's trust in Posa. Schiller did defend Posa's actions with arguments from character.[2]

Rudiger Gorner claimed in Standpoint that Kenneth Tynan once criticized Don Carlos as "a Spanish tragedy composed of themes borrowed from Hamlet and Phèdre",[4] though according to The Guardian's Michael Billington, Tynan was actually writing about Schiller's play Mary Stuart (1800) after seeing a 1958 performance of that work at The Old Vic.[5] Sharpe claimed that Schiller's defenses of Posa are unsuccessful because the play is not character-based in the first place, though she also said that Schiller's overall discussion of the play ultimately does "less than justice [...] to the play as a work of art".[2] Gorner argued that the "sheer musicality of Schiller's verse" is shown by such works as Don Carlos, as well as The Robbers (1781) and Intrigue and Love (1784).[4]

Opera adaptations[edit]

Several operas have been composed on the basis of the play:

English translations and stage adaptations[edit]

  • Don Carlos, Prince Royal of Spain: An Historical Drama from the German of Frederick Schiller (PDF). London: W. Miller. 1798.[permanent dead link]
  • Boylan, R. D. (2007). Don Carlos. DoDo Press. ISBN 978-1-4065-3895-3. Reprint of an 1872 translation.
  • Sy-Quia, Hilary Collier; Oswald, Peter (2008). Don Carlos and Mary Stuart. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-954074-7. Reprint of a 1996 translation (out-of-print).
  • Poulton, Mike (2005). Don Carlos. Nick Hern Books. ISBN 978-1-85459-857-8. Poulton's adaptation was directed by Michael Grandage in a well-reviewed staging.[6][7]
  • MacDonald, Robert David (2006). Schiller: Volume Two: Don Carlos, Mary Stuart. Oberon Books. ISBN 978-1-84002-619-1. MacDonald's adaptation was first staged in Edinburgh in 1995. It is a verse translation in iambic pentameter; Mary Carole McCauley wrote, "MacDonald creates a sense of ease within his 10-syllable metric lines by using modern idioms, and what the translation lacks in a certain lush richness, it may make up for in accessibility."[8]

Influence on English-language literature and film[edit]

Jeffrey L. High (CSULB) has found influences of Schiller's plays on the screenplays for several Hollywood films, and in particular suggests a close correspondence between Don Carlos and the screenplay for Star Wars (1977).[9]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Schiller replaced the Portuguese spelling "Dom" with the Spanish "Don" in 1801, after Christoph Martin Wieland had made him aware of the difference.


  1. ^ Thiel, Luzia. Freundschafts-Konzeptionen im späten 18. Jahrhundert: Schillers "Don Karlos" und Hölderlins "Hyperion". Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2004, ISBN 978-3-8260-2744-4, p. 15.
  2. ^ a b c Sharpe, Lesley (1982). "Schiller and Goethe's "Egmont"". The Modern Language Review. 77 (3): 629–645. doi:10.2307/3728071. ISSN 0026-7937. JSTOR 3728071.
  3. ^ Garland, Henry; Garland, Mary (1997), "Briefe über Don Carlos", The Oxford Companion to German Literature, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198158967.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-815896-7, retrieved 15 May 2021
  4. ^ a b Gorner, Rudiger (22 October 2009). "Schiller's Poetics of Freedom". Standpoint. Archived from the original on 17 September 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  5. ^ Billington, Michael (29 January 2005). "Why is Schiller suddenly back in favour?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 September 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  6. ^ Highfield, John (4 October 2004). "Don Carlos". The Stage: Reviews.
  7. ^ Billington, Michael (4 February 2005). "Don Carlos. Gielgud, London". The Guardian.
  8. ^ McCauley, Mary Carole (23 January 2001). "'Don Carlos' gets seal of approval". The Baltimore Sun. Review of the 2001 production in Baltimore.
  9. ^ High, Jeffrey L. (2011). "Introduction: Why is this Schiller [Still] in the United States?". In High, Jeffrey L.; Martin, Nicholas; Oellers, Norbert (eds.). Who Is This Schiller Now?: Essays on His Reception and Significance. Camden House. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-57113-488-2. Schiller experts unfamiliar with Star Wars could place most of the characters with the corresponding Don Karlos characters at a glance at the movie poster. ... The reader will be hard pressed to distinguish the basic plot and character constellation of Star Wars from that of Don Karlos without reference to the specific period and galaxy in question.

External links[edit]