The Prince of Homburg
Heinrich von Kleist
The Prince of Homburg is a valiant fighter and the Elector relies on his prowess as a warrior. But Homburg is also a dreamer, a sleepwalker, a lover. His mind wanders during the briefing before the historic battle at Fehrbellin and so he misses the Elector’s instructions that he is not to attack without a direct order. He attacks on his own initiative, wins the battle and is celebrated – and then sentenced to death. Eventually, the Prince is pardoned, but he is no longer willing to accept this act of mercy.
Only five months before his suicide, Kleist chooses a Prussian Prince as the protagonist of a dream-like drama that oscillates between obligation, honour, obedience and courage. It was not until 1821 that the play saw its world premiere in Vienna. Plans to stage the work during the author’s lifetime were thwarted by the fact that Princess Marianne of Prussia, a member of the Hesse-Homburg family, whom Kleist presented with a personally dedicated copy of the play, considered it a slight to the family honour.
With his complex hero – the Prince of Homburg, a dreamer and visionary who does not quite fit the social categories of his time – Kleist describes the conflict between a man’s personal responsibility and his obligation to submit to a higher order.
Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) entered the Prussian army in 1792 and served in the Rhine campaign in 1796. He was made a lieutenant in 1797 and retired from military service two years later to study philosophy, physics, mathematics and political science. Unable to achieve any notable literary success, insecure of his personal connections and desperate about the political situation, he committed suicide together with Henriette Vogel, who suffered from an incurable disease, on 21 November 1811 at Wannsee Lake.
Johannes Ender has directed productions at venues including the Kampnagel theatre in Hamburg, the Theater Heidelberg, the Deutsches Theater Göttingen, the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg as well as the Thalia Theater and the Staatsschauspiel Dresden. At the Salzburg State Theatre he has for instance staged “The Sorrows of Young Werther”. In a renewed collaboration with stage and costume designer Hannah Landes he now creates an “open drama space” at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre.