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||Oct 19, 2009|
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The Robbers (German: Die Räuber) was the first drama by German playwright Friedrich Schiller. The play was published in 1781 and premiered on January 13, 1782 in Mannheim, Germany. It was written towards the end of the German Sturm und Drang ("Storm and Stress") movement and has been considered by many critics, such as Peter Brooks, to have influenced the development of European melodrama. The play astounded its Mannheim audience and made Schiller an overnight sensation. It later became the basis for Verdi's opera of the same name, I masnadieri.
The plot revolves around the conflict between two aristocratic brothers, Karl and Franz Moor. The charismatic but rebellious student Karl is deeply loved by his father. The younger brother, Franz, who appears as a cold, calculating villain, plots to wrest away Karl's inheritance. As the play unfolds, both Franz's motives and Karl's innocence and heroism are revealed to be complex. It is believed that the The Robbers was loosely based on real-life Johann von Christophe Käsebier (who was trained as a tailor by his father, and whose son became Count of Wittgenstein's personal tailor) and Christian Andreas Käsebier (who was a notorious 18th Century German crime boss who was eventually sent to a Polish prison).
Schiller's highly emotional language and his depiction of physical violence mark the play as a quintessential Sturm und Drang work. At the same time, the play utilizes a traditional five act structure, with each act containing two to five scenes. The play uses alternating scenes to pit the brothers against each other, as one quests for money and power, while the other attempts to create a revolutionary anarchy in the Bohemian Forest. Schiller raises many disturbing issues in the play. For instance, he questions the dividing lines between personal liberty and the law and probes the psychology of power, the nature of masculinity and the essential differences between good and evil. He strongly criticizes both the hypocr