Places: William Tell

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1804 as Wilhelm Tell (English translation, 1841)

First produced: 1804

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: Fifteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Altdorf

*Altdorf. William TellTown in Switzerland’s Uri canton on whose public square people are building a prison fortress under duress, and where William Tell is forced to shoot an apple off the top of his son’s head with his bow. The fortress–along with the pole with the hat near the town, to which the Swiss are required to pay obeisance–represents the claim of the Austrian governor to rule this area. As a visual sign of how the citizens of the forest cantons later freed themselves through common action, the Swiss dismantle the building on stage to the sound of bells and an alpenhorn.

*Rutli Meadow

*Rutli Meadow. Forest clearing from which Lake Lucerne is visible, as are mountain glaciers in the background. Located between two of the forest cantons, this meadow is the scene for the solemn oath of mutual defense among the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, which became the nucleus of Switzerland. The Swiss consider the historic oath on this meadow to be the founding act of the modern Swiss Confederation. Every year, the Swiss restage Schiller’s play on the actual meadow to commemorate their political union.

Baron von Attinghausen’s mansion

Baron von Attinghausen’s mansion (AHT-tihng-how-zehn). Home of Werner, Baron von Attinghausen, Ulrich’s uncle, the elderly leader of the Swiss nationalist movement. The mansion contains a Gothic hall, decorated with coats of arms and helmets that represent the old political order, when Swiss nobles swore allegiance directly to the Holy Roman emperor, not an Austrian governor. The baron cultivates the old local customs, which emphasize solidarity of rich and poor. His blessing on the uprising of the Swiss against Austria helps assure a bright future. His death in the play marks a new era in which a Swiss nobility is no longer needed and all Swiss are to be equal and free.

BibliographyGarland, H. B. Schiller. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976. A well-written biography that includes interpretation of the major plays. Compares William Tell to the earlier works with regard to stage direction and setting. Discussion extends to criticism of the characters and plot.Graham, Ilse. Schiller’s Drama: Talent and Integrity. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1974. A serious study of Schiller. Gives a reading and explanation of William Tell with many quotes in German. Concentrates on symbolism and the character of William Tell as archetypal hero.Sharpe, Lesley. Friedrich Schiller: Drama, Thought and Politics. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Extensive chronology, bibliography, notes, and index to Schiller’s works. Studies the story from which Schiller borrowed and reinvented the dialogue for William Tell. Compares Schiller with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.Simons, John D. Friedrich Schiller. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Includes a discussion of Schiller’s aesthetics and examinations of his poetry and dramatic works. Notes Schiller’s research into the Swiss legend of William Tell and analyzes elements of the plot of his subsequent drama and its success as a monomyth.Thomas, Calvin. The Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller. 1901. Reprint. New York: Ams Press, 1970. Discusses the works of Schiller in chronological order and in great detail. Explains Schiller’s attention to local color and describes the public reception of William Tell. Analyzes the plot as well as several scenes and characters.
Categories: Places