Heinrich von Kleist: Michael Kohlhaas

(1979 words)
  • Elystan Griffiths (University of Birmingham)

Heinrich von Kleist’s narrative Michael Kohlhaas (1810) is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece in its genre. In the space of some one hundred pages, it unfolds a complex tale of a law-abiding horse trader who launches a campaign of violence against the nobleman Wenzel von Tronka following the illegal confiscation of his horses. The opening paragraph presents the reader with the main interpretative challenge in a particularly acute form, as it describes Kohlhaas as one of the most decent and most dreadful people of his time: a pillar of the community whose sense of right turned him into a robber and a murderer. The text raises difficult political and legal questions concerning the duties and responsibilities of both …

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Citation:
Griffiths, Elystan. "Michael Kohlhaas". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 26 January 2005
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=13115, accessed 23 April 2014.]