Prinz Friedrich von Homburg
The Prussian cavalry general Prince Friedrich von Homburg should be preparing for an imminent battle against the Swedish, but instead, he is found sleepwalking by the Elector and his royal household. The Elector abuses the Prince’s dream-like state and subjects him to an examination. Homburg goes reveals his innermost desires: He addresses Natalie, the Elector’s niece, as his bride and calls the Elector “Father”. Before both can withdraw from him, he takes off one of Natalie’s gloves.
On waking, Homburg has no explanation for what he experienced. Thinking only of the miraculous glove in his hands, he fails to listen to the plan of attack for the imminent battle against the Swedish army: To hold back until he receives a direct order. And so Homburg joins the battle too soon. He achieves a partial victory, but is sentenced to death for insubordination. In the face of the death penalty, he loses all certainties: He asks to be spared, ready to relinquish all his posts and to give up Natalie – he only wants to live. The Elector finally decides to grant the Prince his pardon, on one condition: That he declares the sentence to be unjust. But Homburg is unable to reconcile this with his conscience. He acknowledges the sentence and chooses death…
Prince, army commander, war hero – and at the same time an outsider, dreamer, fantasist – and sentenced to death. Heinrich von Kleist’s “Prinz Friedrich von Homburg” depicts a man torn apart by his own contradictions, unable to reconcile his innermost ideals with outer reality, his rich dream-world with his looming execution.