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Baroque gem and Götz von Berlichingen's burial place

Schöntal Monastery

Götz von Berlichingen, stained glass from 1547, in the Jagsthausen Museum. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain
Received in France

Goethe and his “Götz”

Imperial Knight Sir Götz von Berlichingen (circa 1480–1562) was the inspiration for the main character in a play written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1773, thus propelling Götz to instant fame. A few years later, the piece influenced literary movements in France.

Title page of the play “Götz von Berlichingen,” by Wolfgang von Goethe, 1773. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

What's more, the piece is not a historic biography of Götz.

An unconventional literary work

The play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) titled “Götz von Berlichingen of the Iron Hand” is still considered a major work of the Sturm und Drang period to this day. Goethe questioned the traditional theater conventions of the day by dismantling unity of place, time and action. His story about the imperial knight takes place across fifty different settings. The action takes place over several, parallel-occurring story lines spanning a timeframe.

Philipp Albert Stapfer. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Philipp Albert Stapfer translated the “Götz” play into French.

Influence in France

Several historical sources indicate that Goethe's piece impressed in literary circles in France and contributed to the questioning of conventions. In 1826, when the Swiss Philipp Albert Stapfer, who was living in Paris at the time, translated Goethe's dramas into French, this influence grew. In 1830, Goethe said to his friend, Johann Peter Eckermann: “The germination of historical pieces that are now new to you (the French) has existed within my Götz for the last 500 years.”

Götz von Berlichingen in front of the Heilbronn council; engraving by Albrecht Schultheiß, 1909. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

A romantic depiction of the imperial knight with the iron fist.

Reviews from France

The reviews of Goethe's work in France, particularly in the French magazine “Le Globe,” reflect how his works were received. It aimed to be read in as many countries as possible in order to promote cultural exchange. Six articles were published on “Götz von Berlichingen” between 1824 and 1828, dealing at length with Goethe and his work.

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