Places: The Prince of Homburg

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, 1821 (English translation, 1875)

First produced: 1821

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1675

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Fehrbellin Palace

*Fehrbellin Prince of Homburg, ThePalace. Located forty miles northwest of Berlin, this palace was the Prussian headquarters for the campaign against Sweden. For the prince of Homburg however, the palace gardens become a place to dream of becoming a war hero and marrying the Elector’s niece Natalie. In a prearranged pantomime with Homburg half asleep, Natalie removes the victory wreath Homburg has fashioned for himself; it is returned to him unexpectedly only in the final scene. The wreath symbolizes both Homburg’s promise as an officer and his tendency to take precipitous action, for which he must do bitter penance in the course of the play. The sweet garden scents and the moonlit night point to Homburg’s dream of love.

*Old Palace

*Old Palace. Prussian palace in Berlin in whose garden the people of Brandenburg join the Elector to honor the war dead and celebrate victory. As the seat of the Great Elector in his capital, this palace is a proper place in which to hand down a death sentence against Homburg for disobedience in battle. The Elector also hears the petition of his niece and his generals to spare Homburg, since his disobedient action secured the Prussian victory. The setting underscores the duty of the Elector to his country, which must outweigh the promptings of the heart and the wishes of his niece. The key position of the Prussian army for the success of Brandenburg means that obedience to the state is a cardinal virtue.


*Fehrbellin. Site of the decisive Prussian victory over the Swedes in 1675, which provides the setting for the play’s second act. This scene helps show the dreamy prince of act 1 as a man of action. Resisting the officer who tries to restrain him, he rides out with his troops decisively despite the crash of cannons, the rain of musket bullets, and a nearby fire.

BibliographyDoctorow, E. L. Foreword to Plays, by Heinrich von Kleist, edited by Walter Hinderer. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1982. Refers to the paradoxical nature of Kleist’s plays. In the discussion of The Prince of Homburg, suggests that the main theme of the play is not the victory of state over individual but the existential angst of the individual.Greenberg, Martin. Introduction to Five Plays, by Heinrich von Kleist. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988. A brilliant discussion of the duality inherent in The Prince of Homburg.Maass, Joachim. Kleist: A Biography. Translated by Ralph Manheim. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1983. Written in an anecdotal style with a sense of humor, it makes for a light reading. The chapter on The Prince of Homburg sees the influence of Kleist’s own emotional and psychological makeup on the characters he creates.McGlathery, James M. Desire’s Sway: The Plays and Stories of Heinrich von Kleist. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1983. Regards the emotional outbursts of Kleist’s characters as manifestations of their erotic desires. Analyzes the prince in The Prince of Homburg as a lovesick man wishing to be united with his beloved.Reeve, William C. Kleist on Stage, 1804-1987. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993. An excellent source for a history of production of Kleist’s various plays. The chapter on The Prince of Homburg describes its reception when first staged in 1821 and through the 1980’s, including the enthusiasm it generated during the Nazi era.
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