Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Although I am also reading a few other works that are much more closely aligned with "speculative fiction" concepts, I have found myself reading Friedrich Schiller's classic 1787 play Don Carlos. While I know that many place this work more in the Weimar Classicist movement of the 1780s-1805 period, in many ways I cannot help but notice quite a few strands lingering from the 1760s Sturm und Drang. For those of you confused as to why I'm posting this here rather than on Vaguely Borgesian, bear with me here.
Based on the troubled and sometimes twisted relationship between King Phillip II of Spain and his malformed and mentally disturbed son Carlos, there are many elements in here to which believe fantasy/SF readers (and writers, of course) ought to pay close attention, as Schiller manages to create a host of internal and external conflicts and to execute them brilliantly through the first three Acts (I hope to finish reading this tomorrow, but I felt inspired to write a brief bit tonight).
Schiller lays it out very early on: Carlos had been promised the hand of the daughter of the King of France, but Daddy Dearest, dearly missing his dead wife and not finding any suitable Habsburg cousins worthy of his connubial desires, gets the French King (I forget which one, perhaps Francis II, but it's during the troubles of the 1560s before Henri IV) to agree to having his daughter marry him instead of his son. Carlos, already fucked in the head due to a whole shitload of bad genes preserved via centuries of Habsburg incestual (uncle/niece, first cousin marriages) habits, goes all emo on Philip. Schiller here does a good job of highlighting the morbid obsession that Carlos bears for his step-mom while still giving enough foreshadows of the events to come to make it clear that Carlos might be missing a few cards in his mental deck.
Although I have a German original, I have also been relying upon a Project Gutenberg translation to aid me in my reading. While certainly not literal (in some cases, my rough renderings back into English were more poetic, albeit of a different style than what was employed for this old translation of Schiller's play), it makes it clear that Schiller wanted to capture the emotional conflicts not just between Carlos and Phillip, but also between Carlos and the Duke of Alva, with whom there was some form of rivalry, although much of this has to be laid at the feet of Carlos and his increasing paranoia.
So far, the play is outstanding and in a time when I'm wishing that there were SF authors that would have the gumption and the talent to create such marvelously disturbed but yet fascinating characters, I cannot help but to recommend Don Carlos as one example of a style of writing that certainly could be introduced into SF in order to broaden its palette.
Posted by Larry Nolen at 1:21 AM