Classical Weimar (1998)

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Germany 1999.  The national theatre in Weimar.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the small Thuringian town of Weimar witnessed a remarkable cultural flowering, attracting many writers and scholars, notably Goethe, Schiller and Herder. 

This development is reflected in the high quality of many of the buildings and of the parks in the surrounding area. Enlightened ducal patronage contributed to making Weimar the cultural centre of the Europe of the day. In 1999, Weimar was Cultural Capital of Europe. 

In spite of Weimar's universal cultural status, a rather grotesque choice was taken by Hitler during WWII when placing the brutal concentration camp Buchenwald in the close vicinity of Weimar. 

  • Germany 1999.  The National Theatre in Weimar, showing from left to right:  Schiller, Goethe, Wieland and Herder.  

The below information about Goethe, Schiller and Herder is modified from my own ancient website about Literature on Stamps which is no longer online, but still "alive" on my hard drive. 

J.W. von Goethe

Let everyone sweep his own backyard, and the whole world will be clean.
                                                                       - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German poet, dramatist, novelist, and scientist. Goethe's poetry expresses a modern view of humanity's relationship to nature, history, and society; his plays and novels reflect a profound understanding of human individuality. Goethe's importance can be judged by the influence of his critical writings, his vast correspondence, and his poetry, dramas, and novels upon the writers of his own time and upon the literary movements which he inaugurated and of which he was the chief figure.  According to the 19th-century English critic Matthew Arnold, Goethe must be considered not only "the manifest centre of German literature" but one of the most versatile figures in all world literature.

Germany 1999. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Germany 1949. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Souvenir sheet.

German Democratic Republic 1973. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in front of the Goethe-House in Weimar.

Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, in Frankfurt am Main, the son of a government official. From 1765 to 1768 he studied law at Leipzig; there he first developed an interest in literature and painting and became acquainted with the dramatic works of his contemporaries Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. 

Their influence and his own attachment to the daughter of a wine merchant at whose tavern he dined are reflected in his earliest poetry and in his first dramatic works. These early plays included a one-act comedy in verse, Die Laune des Verliebten (The Lover's Caprice, 1767), and a tragedy in verse, Die Mitschuldigen (The Fellow-Culprits, 1768).  

  • German Democratic Republic 1973. Goethe in front of Goethe-House in Weimar. 
Goethe's health broke down in Leipzig and he returned to Frankfurt, where, during his convalescence, he studied occult philosophy, astrology, and alchemy. 

Through the influence of a friend of his mother, who was a member of the Lutheran reform movement known as Pietism, Goethe gained some insight into religious mysticism. 

From 1770 to 1771 he was in Strasbourg to continue his study of law; in addition, he took up the study of music, art, anatomy, and chemistry. 

  • German Democratic Republic 1982. Goethe and Schiller commemorating Goethe and Schiller. Goethe's profile is on the left, and Schiller's on the right. The background image of the sheet is an allegory of buildings in Weimar. 

German Democratic Republic 1982. Souvenir sheet. Goethe and Schiller.

Friedrich von Schiller

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet, dramatist, philosopher, and historian, who is regarded as the greatest dramatist in the history of the German theatre and one of the greatest in European literature.

Schiller was born November 10, 1759, in Marbach, Württemberg, the son of an army officer and estate manager for the Duke of Württemberg. He was educated at the duke's military school and then studied law and medicine. In 1780 he was appointed doctor to a military regiment stationed in Stuttgart. As a student, Schiller wrote poetry and finished his first play, Die Räuber (1781; trans. 1800), which was successfully presented in 1782 at the National Theatre in Mannheim. Arrested by the duke for leaving Württemberg without permission in order to witness the production, Schiller was forbidden to publish further dramatic works, but, in September 1782, he escaped from prison.
  • German Democratic Republic 1973. Schiller in front of the Schiller-House in Weimar. The stamp is from the same set as the Goethe stamp shown above. 

German Democratic Republic 1973. Schiller.

Early Dramas
During the next ten years, Schiller lived and wrote, often under assumed names to avoid discovery and possible extradition to Württemberg, in various parts of Germany, including Mannheim, Leipzig, Dresden, and Weimar. He completed the tragedy Kabale und Liebe (1783; trans. 1849) and began work on the drama Don Carlos (1787; trans. 1795) in 1783 at Mannheim, where for the next year he was official dramatist for the Mannheim theatre. These early plays had a great affinity with the Sturm und Drang movement with their stress on personal liberty and morality and their great dramatic power. The idealistic Don Carlos, the first of his plays to be written in blank verse, which also deals with the struggle against official oppression, marks the transition to a more classical style of writing. 

Influence of Goethe
During the following years, Schiller devoted himself chiefly to historical and philosophical works. 

On the strength of his Geschichte des Abfalls der Vereinigten Niederlande von der Spanischen Regierung (The Defection of the Netherlands, 1788) and through the recommendation of the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he was appointed professor of history at the University of Jena in 1790. 

  • German Democratic Republic 1959. Schiller. 200th birth anniversary. 

German Democratic Republic 1959. Schiller.

Schiller and Goethe first met in Jena two years later and subsequently formed a close friendship that proved intellectually stimulating to both men, then regarded as the two leading figures in contemporary German literature.  

Through Goethe's influence Schiller turned from philosophical writing back to the writing of poetry and plays, and his last years proved to be the most productive of his life. In 1799 he completed his masterpiece, Wallenstein, a three-part work in verse that includes a narrative prologue, Wallensteins Lager (Wallenstein's Camp), and two full-length dramas, Die Piccolomini (trans. 1800) and Wallensteins Tod (The Death of Wallenstein, 1800). Based on events of the Thirty Years' War, the entire work is considered one of the greatest historical dramas in world literature.  

German Democratic Republic 1975. Allegory of ancient and modern Weimar.

Weimar Period
Late in 1799 Schiller settled permanently in Weimar, where he subsequently completed the historical verse dramas Maria Stuart (1800; trans. 1833), Die Jungfrau von Orleans (1801; trans. 1835), Die Braut von Messina (The Bride of Messina, 1803), and Wilhelm Tell (1804; trans. 1825). At the time of his death on May 9, 1805, he was at work on the tragedy Demetrius. As a whole, Schiller's plays are characterized by moral idealism, strong optimism, eloquent poetic diction, and a classic sense of form. 
  • German Democratic Republic 1975. Allegory of ancient and modern Weimar. 

Other Works
Schiller also translated foreign plays into German, including Macbeth by Shakespeare and Phèdre by the French dramatist Jean-Baptiste Racine. His historical works include the Geschichte des Dreissigjährigen Krieges (History of the Thirty Years' War, 1791-1793). Among his philosophical works are the Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen (Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, 1795) and Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung (On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, 1795-1796). His poetic works include the philosophical lyric "Das Ideal und das Leben" (Ideal and Life, 1796); the famous "Das Lied von der Glocke" (The Song of the Bell, 1800); and "An die Freude" (Ode to Joy, 1785), which was set to music by the composer Ludwig van Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony. 

Johann Gottfried von Herder

Johann Gottfried von Herder was a German philosopher and literary critic, whose writings were instrumental in introducing German romanticism.  As the leader of the Sturm und Drang movement, he inspired many writers, notably the future leader of the German romantic school, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

Herder was born on August 25, 1744, in Mohrungen (now Morag, Poland). He studied at the University of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) under the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. 

Germany 1994. Johann Gottfried von Herder.

Among Herder's earliest critical works was Fragmente über die neuere deutsche Literatur (Fragments on Recent German Literature, 1766-1767), which advocated the emancipation of German literature from foreign influences. 

Subsequent essays -- such as Von deutscher Art und Kunst (Of German Style and Art, 1773), written in collaboration with Goethe -- were devoted to extolling folk literature and the poetry of Shakespeare and Homer and to the development of Herder's idea of Volksgeist (“national character”), as expressed in the language and literature of a nation. 

  • Germany 1994. Johann Gottfried von Herder. 

In 1776, with the help of Goethe, Herder was appointed to a government post in Weimar. There he wrote his major work, the 4-volume study Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (1784-1791; trans. 1800), which attempts to demonstrate that nature and human history obey the same laws and that in time contending human forces will be reconciled. Although unfinished, the treatise embodies most of Herder's ideas, and it remains his most important contribution to philosophy.

Toward the end of his life, Herder broke with Goethe and German classicism, arguing in favor of a didactic purpose in poetry in such works as Briefe zur Beförderung der Humanität (Letters for the Advancement of Humanity, 1793-1797). He died in Weimar on December 18, 1803.

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Germany (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Germany for further information about such sites. 

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Revised 03 aug 2006  
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