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Friedrich Schiller The Maid of Orleans

A romantic tragedy
A romantic tragedy
von Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)

New production
Co-production with the Deutsches Theater Berlin


  • 28 July 2013, 19:30


  • 29 July 2013, 19:30
  • 30 July 2013, 19:30
  • 01 August 2013, 19:30
  • 02 August 2013, 19:30
  • 04 August 2013, 19:30
  • 05 August 2013, 19:30
  • 07 August 2013, 19:30

Print programme (PDF)


Michael Thalheimer, Director
Olaf Altmann, Sets
Nehle Balkhausen, Costumes
Bert Wrede, Music
Sonja Anders, Dramaturgy
Robert Grauel, Lighting


Michael Gerber, Thibaut d'Arc, rich farmer
Kathleen Morgeneyer, Johanna, his daughter
Christoph Franken, Charles the seventh, King of France
Meike Droste, Agnes Sorel, his beloved
Andreas Döhler, Count Dunois, Bastard of Orleans
Henning Vogt, Du Chatel, royal officer
Jürgen Huth, La Hire, royal officer
Almut Zilcher, Queen Isabeau, Charles' mother
Peter Moltzen, Philip, the Good, Duke of Burgundy
Markus Graf, Talbot, Captain of the Englishmen
Alexander Khuon, Lionel, english Leader
Alexander Khuon, Montgomery


A chaste young peasant girl hears divine voices and takes up arms in battle for her king. Mounted on horseback and accoutred in shining armour with helmet and sword, the Maid of Orleans defies all predictions to triumph on the battlefield and becomes a folk heroine, venerated and idolized. Only a short time later, having gazed into the face of an enemy soldier, her faith shatters and her fall begins: She fails because of the conflict between a divine mission and human love, between greatness and personal happiness. A world without order in which all hope seems lost, in which everybody is merely out to save his own skin, needs luminous figures, not doubters – and Johanna, bereft of her ideals, can no longer play her role as heroine. Her final heroic deed is that of a desperate outsider, one who follows her obsession to the last…

“No God appears, no angel shows himself;
Closed are heaven’s portals, miracles have ceased.”

In 1430, towards the end of the Hundred Years’ War, France’s situation seems desperate: the English are in the ascendancy and the French dauphin, Charles VII, has been abandoned by his allies and is on the verge of abdicating. When France’s plight and the siege of Orleans become known, Johanna, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a Lotharingian countryman, announces that her fatherland will be saved by a pure virgin – she herself has been called by divine voices and apparitions to undertake this task. Shortly afterwards the royal court receives the news that a helmeted maid “like a war-goddess, terrible yet lovely in aspect”, has turned a losing battle into a victory, and while casualties on the English side number 2,000, the French have lost not a single man. Johanna appears at Charles’s court and relates how she was summoned by God: the Virgin Mary appeared to her and told her to take up arms, saying that if she resisted the temptations of earthly love, she would “achieve whate’er on earth is glorious”. Johanna is put at the head of the French army and wins another victory. But when she encounters Lionel, an English general, on the battlefield, she spares his life, finding herself incapable of killing him. The two enemy warriors fall in love at first sight and Johanna is convinced that in allowing this feeling she has already broken her vow. It is the implacability that she prescribes for herself that she cannot live up to, her own ideal that brings about her downfall. Thus she has no answer for her father when at the victory celebration he accuses her of practising devilish arts. She is banished and falls into the clutches of Queen Isabeau, the mother of King Charles, who is in league with the enemy. There Johanna meets her beloved Lionel again.

Described as a romantic tragedy by its author, The Maid of Orleans was first performed at Leipzig in 1801 and was one of Schiller’s most frequently performed plays during his own lifetime. Schiller based his play on the story of the French saint Jeanne d’Arc but diverges from the historical account in two important points: as far as is known from the sources, the historical Joan did not herself slay anyone in battle; in Schiller she is a warrior who kills. Furthermore, she was captured by the English in May 1430, arraigned as a witch before an ecclesiastical court and burnt at the stake in Rouen, but in Schiller’s play she dies heroically in a final battle. Preferring a fluid approach to the concept of genre, here in his romantic tragedy, more than in any of his previous dramas, Schiller gives space to the elements of the miraculous, the theatrical, the operatic, creating an opulent, colourful sequence of pictures at whose centre stands the rise and downfall of a frail, innocent young girl. His contemporaries were confounded by this formally bewildering masterpiece full of political, philosophical and religious motifs and references: Kant’s categorical imperative, Catholic mysticism and the burning question of the nation state…

“And all we bear away as booty from the battle of existence is comprehension of its nothingness and sovereign contempt of all the ends that seemed exalted and desirable” – thus the nihilistic worldview of the Englishman Talbot on the battlefield at Orleans. The world that Schiller portrays in The Maid of Orleans is shattered, without order and seemingly without a future. On one side stands a king who has abdicated from his task of establishing order, on the other Johanna, who faces up to this task but despairs at the first stirrings of human feeling. Influenced by Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”, the idealist Schiller creates a dilemma: a fallible, inconsistent, divided individual with all her passions is confronted with her own maxims and founders on the dogmatic ideal of superhuman greatness that she has set for herself. The real world cannot be changed with pure idea. One of the two is bound to fail.

Sonja Anders
Translated by Sophie Kidd