In forming an estimate of Schiller’s merits as a dramatic writer, when we compare one of his pieces with another, and balance the beauties with the defects, impartial criticism will find sufficient examples to show that this great poet has often failed, but that with all his failings, he must be ranked among those writers, who are the pride of German literature. Among the German tragic poets, there is none who can contest with him the palm of excellence.
Even his cheerfulness resembles a melancholy smile. A bold and free spirit, like his, always struggling with itself and with the course of events, never finding entire satisfaction, contemplating with philosophical seriousness the mystery of existence, and looking to a higher and better order of things, could not long employ itself upon evanescent ideas, which only dwell upon the surface.
“Schiller was in the full maturity of his intellectual powers,” says Friedrich Schlegel, when he was carried off by a premature death.
Up to the last period of his life, his health, which had been long broken up, was always made to yield to his powerful will, and exhausted in endeavors to advance his literary fame … How much he might still have performed, had he devoted himself exclusively to the theatre, and with every new production exhibited a higher mastery of his art, we may be allowed to conjecture from the specimens of excellence he has left behind. He was a virtuous artist, in the genuine sense of the word; he worshipped the true and beautiful with purity of heart, and to his indefatigable endeavors to reach them, he offered up his life as a sacrifice, far from petty self-love, and from the jealousy too common even among artists of excellence.”
Written in 1824.