- by Friedrich SchillerPremiered 1787. Schiller's verse tragedy has enjoyed an extensive stage history, with productions every year since its premiere in Hamburg under Friedrich Ludwig Schröder. Its political subject matter is a familiar one in German drama, namely, the Spanish oppression of liberty during their occupation of the Low Countries from 1519 to 1581. Schiller's treatment is the most unwieldy, due to its numerous plot twists, yet it contains the best verse of any, along with some great speeches for actors. Critics for decades have vied with each other to identify the "greatest" Carlos, though most agree that among the best have been Adalbert Matkowsky, Josef Kainz, Friedrich Kayssler, Fritz Kortner, and Klaus Kinski under Kortner's direction in 1950 at the Munich Kammerspiele. Among the great Posas have been Pius Alexander Wolff and Albert Bassermann, though there is little doubt that the greatest King Philipp was its original, Schröder himself.In the play, Prince Carlos loves his stepmother Elisabeth, to whom he was once in fact betrothed; his father King Philipp stole her from him. His confidant, the Marquis Posa, arranges a meeting between Don Carlos and Queen Elisabeth, to whom the prince confesses his abiding passion. Elisabeth does not reciprocate, but she convinces Don Carlos to agitate against the Spanish occupation of the Low Countries. Carlos requests permission from his father to go to the Low Countries as viceroy, but Philipp refuses and appoints the brutal Duke of Alba instead. Carlos, in despair, receives word that Elisabeth wants to meet him for a romantic rendezvous; he leaps at the bait, only to discover that Princess Eboli has come in Elisabeth's stead. The princess has a grudge against Elisabeth and reports an affair between her and Carlos to Alba and Philipp's priest-confessor, the evil Domingo. Philipp soon receives reports of the son's affair with his queen, but he distrusts Alba and Domingo. The king then appoints Posa instead as viceroy to the Low Countries. The marquis pleads for the Netherlands with the king in a famous and oft-quoted speech ending with "Geben Sie Gedankenfreiheit!" (Grant freedom of thought!). When an emissary of King Philipp shoots and kills Posa, Don Carlos demands to be appointed in his stead to the Low Countries. In a final and heartbreaking meeting between Elisabeth and Carlos, Philipp has his son arrested and turned over to the Inquisition for torture and ultimately death.There have been few English-language productions of the play, despite its enormous popularity as a basis for opera, including the famous version by Giuseppe Verdi. Richard Mansfield directed and starred in a 1906 version on Broadway. A popular production adapted by Mike Poulton under the direction of Michael Grandage transferred from its 2004 origin in Sheffield to London in 2005 with Richard Coyle as Don Carlos, Elliot Cowan as the Marquis Posa, Ian Hogg as the Duke of Alba, and Derek Jacobi in a stunning portrayal of King Philipp.
Historical dictionary of German Theatre. William Grange. 2006.
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