Prinz Friedrich von Homburg [The Prince of Homburg] (Heinrich von Kleist)

Prinz Friedrich von Homburg is a drama by Heinrich von Kleist.
Finished on: 21.10.2019

Prince Friedrich is an officer under the Great Elector. They have been at war quite some time, and Friedrich is exhausted. When he sleepwalks, the Great Elector plays a trick on him and Friedrich declares his love for the Elector’s niece, Princess Natalie. He even obtains her glove. The next morning, Friedrich is too confused to pay attention to his orders in the battle. When he therefore doesn’t follow them, he is arrested by the Great Elector, despite coming out victorious. The charge carries a death sentence, but maybe not everything is lost yet.

Prinz Friedrich von Homburg is a beautifully written play that raises some moral issues that partly resonated with me, but overall, I didn’t get into it as much as I’d hoped. Maybe I would need to see it performed instead of reading it.

The book cover, monochrome in bright yellow, as is usual for the publisher Reclam.

Prinz Friedrich von Homburg is really beautifully written. The language is just stunning, with phrases that you could frame throughout. There is a certain pathos to Romantic writers that does wonders for their phrasing, I think.

The same doesn’t hold true for the decisions Romantic characters often make. And that is also the case for me here. I could very much understand the conflict between “there are rules and rules have to be the same for everyone” and “mercy and with it exceptions need to be part of the rules as well”. But in the end, I was hoping for a little more rebellion. A little more “if we need exceptions to make the rules work, maybe we need to change the rules themselves”. But there is no room for that here.

Plus, the beginning with the sleepwalking was just plain weird for me, but ok. Also a dick move from the Great Elector, but he generally didn’t seem like much of a charmer anyway. The ending is accordingly fucked-up, too.

There is a lot to dissect and interpret here, and I could see myself digging into it some more, but at the same time, I just wasn’t as emotionally invested into it to motivate me to actually do so.

Summarizing: it’s very good, but not necessarily for me.

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