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Fiesco; or, the Genoese Conspiracy   By: (1759-1805)

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By Frederich Schiller


The chief sources from which I have drawn the history of this conspiracy are Cardinal de Retz's Conjuration du Comte Jean Louis de Fiesque, the Histoire des Genes, and the third volume of Robertson's History of Charles the Fifth.

The liberties which I have taken with the historical facts will be excused, if I have succeeded in my attempt; and, if not, it is better that my failure should appear in the effusions of fancy, than in the delineation of truth. Some deviation from the real catastrophe of the conspiracy (according to which the count actually perished [A] when his schemes were nearly ripe for execution) was rendered necessary by the nature of the drama, which does not allow the interposition either of chance or of a particular Providence. It would be matter of surprise to me that this subject has never been adopted by any tragic writer, did not the circumstances of its conclusion, so unfit for dramatic representation, afford a sufficient reason for such neglect. Beings of a superior nature may discriminate the finest links of that chain which connects an individual action with the system of the universe, and may, perhaps, behold them extended to the utmost limits of time, past and future; but man seldom sees more than the simple facts, divested of their various relations of cause and effect. The writer, therefore, must adapt his performance to the short sightedness of human nature, which he would enlighten; and not to the penetration of Omniscience, from which all intelligence is derived.

In my Tragedy of the Robbers it was my object to delineate the victim of an extravagant sensibility; here I endeavor to paint the reverse; a victim of art and intrigue. But, however strongly marked in the page of history the unfortunate project of Fiesco may appear, on the stage it may prove less interesting. If it be true that sensibility alone awakens sensibility, we may conclude that the political hero is the less calculated for dramatic representation, in proportion as it becomes necessary to lay aside the feelings of a man in order to become a political hero.

It was, therefore, impossible for me to breathe into my fable that glowing life which animates the pure productions of poetical inspiration; but, in order to render the cold and sterile actions of the politician capable of affecting the human heart, I was obliged to seek a clue to those actions in the human heart itself. I was obliged to blend together the man and the politician, and to draw from the refined intrigues of state situations interesting to humanity. The relations which I bear to society are such as unfold to me more of the heart than of the cabinet; and, perhaps, this very political defect may have become a poetical excellence.

[A] Fiesco, after having succeeded in the chief objects of his undertaking, happened to fall into the sea whilst hastening to quell some disturbances on board of a vessel in the harbor; the weight of his armor rendered his struggles ineffectual, and he perished. The deviation from history in the tragedy might have been carried farther, and would perhaps have rendered it more suitable to dramatic representation. Translation.




ANDREAS DORIA, Duke of Genoa, a venerable old man, eighty years of age, retaining the traces of a high spirit: the chief features in this character are dignity and a rigid brevity in command.

GIANETTINO DORIA, nephew of the former, and pretender to the ducal power, twenty six years of age, rough and forbidding in his address, deportment, and manners, with a vulgar pride and disgusting features.

FIESCO, Count of Lavagna, chief of the conspiracy, a tall, handsome young man, twenty three years of age; his character is that of dignified pride and majestic affability, with courtly complaisance and deceitfulness... Continue reading book >>

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