By Barbara Peterson

Carlos und Elisabeth--

Elisabeth et Carlos is available for loan from the Conrad Veidt Society Library


[The Players] [The Plot] Stills [Production History] [My Review] [Notes of Interest] [Videos]


Conrad Veidt Charles V and Don Carlos
Dagny Servaes Princess, later Queen Elisabeth
Eugen Kl�pfer Don Philip, later King Philip II
Egede Nissen Princess Eboli
Wilhelm Dieterle Marquis of Posa
Adolf Klein Grand Inquisitor
Martin Herzberg Don Carlos as a boy
Robert Taube Duke of Alba

Released in 1924. Directed by Robert Oswald. Costume construction H. J. Kaufman. Cameraman: Theodor Sparkuhl.


Prologue: King Charles V of Spain is old, weak, and suspects his son Philip of plotting against him. When Philip finally deigns to answer the summons of the court, he strides up and literally throws his father from the throne. Charles is helped to his feet by his grandson, takes off his crown, and gives it to Philip. The Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition enters and bestows his approval. After a moment of weakness, Philip pursues the inquisition against the heretics with great dispatch

Don Carlos as a boy helps his granfather, Charles V, rise to his feet.

Act One: Some twenty years later, Philip is hated by the people and most of the nobility. The Marquis of Posa, who is a great friend of Carlos, the Spanish infanta; plots to overthrow Philip's rule in Flanders. He rides for the palace in Madrid.

In the vast grounds of the palace of Madrid, Don Carlos writes a note to Princess Elisabeth (which, unfortunately, he heads only, Dear Princess) asking her to meet him in the huge Garden Maze behind the house. He summons a page and tells the boy to give the note to the Princess. The Page finds a group of ladies walking in the garden, and there are two Princesses. The Page gives the note to the wrong woman. Later, Elisabeth stalks past Carlos in anger, while Princess Eboli comes up to him in ecstasy. Because of this turn of events, Carlos isn't too interested in listening to Posa when he arrives to discuss matters of state. Then, King Philip of Spain arrives, and asks Elisabeth how she'd like to become Queen of Spain. Elisabeth assumes that Philip means that she's to marry his son (who is her age) and will become Queen when he becomes King. But when Philip kisses her on the lips, she realizes he wants her to marry him>. She's too stunned to speak or protest. When Carlos hears of this, he is distraught.

Days later, the marriage has taken place and King and Queen sit on their thrones, while the nobility pass by and make their bows. Carlos is the last man to walk by. The King and Queen leave, and Carlos collapses on the floor. The King walks back into the room and goes to him. ''Father, I love Elisabeth!'' ''You are banned from Madrid!''. The King turns his back and walks away. Carlos draws his sword and creeps after him for a few seconds, but finally bows in defeat.

Act Two: After only seven months, Queen Elisabeth gives birth to a baby. The King rejoices. Posa visits Carlos in his exile and suggests that he ask the King to send him to govern Flanders. After about another year, Carlos returns to Madrid. The King and Councillor Perez watch from one window of the palace, the two Princesses from another, as Carlos rides through the city through happy, cheering throngs. Perez, whispers to the king that the people are talking. A baby born after only 7 months!

Veidt as Don Carlos, Wilhelm Dieterle as Posa.

Carlos and Posa have an audience with the king. ''Send me to Flanders.'' begs Carlos. Angry, the king summons his friend, the cruel Duke of Alba. ''I am sending you to Flanders.'' Philip walks away. Carlos glares at the Duke of Alba, then draws his sword. Alba draws his sword, bloodshed is averted by Posa.

Posa goes to Elisabeth - Carlos wants to talk to her. Perez goes to the King and tells of Carlos menacing of Alba. Elisabeth waits in the garden, while Posa keeps look out. Carlos comes up to her. Meanwhile Perez and Philip enter the maze as well. ''Elisabeth, why did you marry Philip?'' ''Because...I cannot say!'' She starts to cry, he holds her. Then Posa informs them that the King is coming, and Carlos flees, leaving a glove behind. Later, Carlos is given a note - it is from Princess Eboli but he assumes this is merely cover from Elisabeth. When he goes to her room and finds Eboli waiting for him, he shuns her. Eboli vows revenge. Meanwhile Elisabeth has confronted Philip in the throne room. ''I love the prince and he loves me!'' Philip twists her down angrily, then falls to his knees in grief as she leaves the room.

Act Three: Princess Eboli seeks revenge on Carlos for spurning her. She goes through Elisabeth's belongings and finds a compromising letter. Meanwhile Carlos observes Philip and Elisabeth together, but does nothing. Philip's councillor, Perez, tells him again that the people are saying the baby can't be his. This news festers within him, and that night Philip goes into the baby's room, sends away the nurse, takes the toddler (who always cries when Philip picks him up) over to the mirror and compares their faces.

The guards in the palace begin to whisper that the ghost of Charles V walks the corridors at night. Posa begs Carlos to ask to be sent to Flanders as his father's envoy, but Carlos is too busy pining after Elisabeth. The next night the 'ghost' walks again - and is revealed to be Carlos. He enters Elisabeth's room and they embrace. Then Elisabeth recollects herself, shoves him away and goes into the next room. Princess Eboli enters. Carlos begs her to have pity on him and talk to Elisabeth for him, but she stares at him in hatred. She has already given the letter to Perez, who has given it to the king. ''You must arrest Carlos.'' Posa runs to alert Carlos, seconds before soldiers enter. Carlos draws his sword, hands it to Posa, and goes away with the soldiers without protest. Eboli confesses to Elisabeth what she has done, and that she regrets it. The two women embrace sadly.

Act Four: Posa goes to see the King, and tries to persuade him to end the Inquisition and treat the people more humanely. Philip appears convinced, and shakes Posa's hand as he exits. Then Elisabeth and Eboli go to Posa and ask his help to save Carlos. Elisabeth then goes to Philip and begs him to release Carlos, while Posa arranges for a letter to be sent - implicating him rather than Carlos in the rebellion in Flanders. Philip tears up the letter. Meanwhile the people agitate for the release of Carlos, and break into the palace. Philip runs down to the dungeon, sees Posa in the cell with Carlos (where's he's come to say goodbye. ''I've sacrificed myself to save you.''), takes a gun from one of the soldiers and shoots Posa. Carlos is overcome with grief, and calls his father an assassin.. He draws his father's sword, but then throws it contemptuously on the floor. The people arrive, massed on the dungeon steps, and force the jailers to open the cell door. They lift Carlos to their shoulders and carry him away.

Philip returns to the Queen. She affirms that she still loves Carlos, and he falls to the ground in grief. Then he heads for the offices of the Grand Inquisitor. Meanwhile the 'ghost' walks again, but it is Carlos in a cowl. He persuades Elisabeth to run away with him, and Eboli agrees to aid them. They head for the doors, pull them open and the mass of King Philip, The Grand Inquisitor, and many guards is revealed. They turn, and more guards appear from the darkness. Carlos allows them to lead him away.

Carlos awaits his execution stocially. Elisabeth begs Philip for help, Philip begs the Grand Inquisitor. Elisabeth goes into the dungeon where Carlos awaits. They have a few seconds to embrace before the guards come and take him away. The Grand Inquisitor allows the guards to do this, then hands Elisabeth the pardon for Carlos. She must take it to the King. Elisabeth does so, but the King refuses to see her. ''Later.'' he tells his servant. Finally Elisabeth breaks in and shows him the pardon - but it's too late. Elisabeth and Philip die of grief and their six year old son, crying uncontrollably, is sat on the throne and crown placed on his head.

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1. Conrad Veidt, From Caligari to Casablanca. By Jerry C. Allen. Page 85. Wilhelm Dieterle (Posa) looking on while Conrad Veidt (Don Carlos) begs Princess Eboli (Egede Nissen) to talk to the Queen for him.
2. The Haunted Screen, by Lotte Eisner. Page 53. Conrad Veidt as Don Carlos pointing towards the door behind which is his love Elisabeth, while Posa (Wilhelm Dieterle), tries to draw him away. 3. Conrad Veidt, Lebensbilder Edited by Wolfgang Jacobsen. Pg 53. (1) Veidt as Don Carlos glares at Posa (Wilhelm Dieterle). (2) Martin Helzberg as a young Don Carlos, gazing at his deposed and distraught grandfather, Charles V (Veidt).


Don Karlos was a popular Max Reinhardt production at the Deutsches Theater, and many of the 'effects' are straight from the stage. All of the male characters are dressed in dark clothing, so that their faces seem to float out of the darkness, while the two women are dressed in white. The sets dwarf the actors, with doors twice as tall as a man. On occasion light pours from these doors, illuminating the actors standing before them, while the rest of the set is in virtual darkness. According to Lotte Eisner: ''As in Reinhardt, the characters suddenly surge out of the darkness, lit by invisible sources of light; in a room, a flood of light falls from a high central window, piercing the darkness without destroying it. The rich costumes and trimmings glitter and glow - lam&eeml;, gilt dentelles, velvets. The Hamlet-like sadness of the pallid face of Veidt as the Spanish Infanta leaps from the darnkess. But these extremely evocative images contrast unfavorably with others who which lack this magic, and the mediocrity of the mise-en-scene and the indifferent direction of the actors (though they all belonged to Reinhardt's troupe) becomes immediately all too apparent.''

Information from the Don Carlos study guide copyright 1974 by Salem Press:

Friedrich von Schiller has always been considered among the greatest of German dramatists. Although poetic in form, his last plays are by no means lyrical, their force lying in their sonorous, sometimes rhetorical language, and in the intense sincerity of the playwright's idealism. His characteristic themes are those of persecution and tyranny, for Schiller, writing at the height of German Romanticism, was in both philosophy and politics the representative dramatist of his age.

His source for Don Carlos was a historical biography, but as he was writing the play he found his sympathies were more with the Marquise de Posa, the 'man of action' of the piece.

(Johann Christoph) Friedrich von Schiller, born on November 10, 1759, at Marbach, Germany, was the son of an officer in the army of the Duke of Wurttemberg. His parents intended him to enter the ministry of the Lutheran Church, and to this end sent him to the Latin school at Ludwigsburg, then the ducal residence. Duke Karl Eugen of Wurttemberg, in common with other semi-independent German princelings, had delusions of grandeur, and he tried to imitate the ''grand style'' of the Bourbons by making his court into a kind of Bavarian Versailles. He lived lavishly, if crudely, ruling largely through sycophants and irresponsible adventurers. At Ludwigsburg young Schiller saw much of the ways of the world and learned early to hate social and political tyranny.

Among the duke's many projects was a military school, established to train the sons of his officers for the public service. When he was fourteen Schiller was offered a scholarship at the academy, a princely favor not to be rejected by his parents, even though it meant giving up their plans for his future. He began as a student of law, but did badly, and when the school was moved to Stuttgart two years later, he transferred to the study of medicine. But in spite of his formal education, young Schiller's true interests did not seem to lie in divinity or law or medicine, but in literature. Although the strict discipline of the academy prevented easy access to contemporary writing, contraband works of the revolutionary ''Sturm und Drang'' authors found their way into his hands and were avidly read. Under the influence of this reading, and possibly of his own reaction to the world of Ludwigsburg, Schiller began his first play, THE ROBBERS, a wild, romantic melodrama of social injustice and rebellion.

In 1780, Schiller was honorably dismissed from the academy, although without a doctor's degree, and was assigned as army doctor to a regiment of invalid soldiers at Stuttgart. To augment his meager income he decided to borrow money and publish his play. As a book, THE ROBBERS was largely ignored, but it came to the attention of Dalberg, director of a theater at Mannheim, who in 1782 produced a revised version which was a tremendous success.

Dissatisfied with an unpleasant job, and flattered by his sudden notoriety into the conviction that he was born to be a writer of tragedy, Schiller deserted the Wurttemberg army and fled to Mannheim in a neighboring principality. Dalberg was at first reluctant to associate himself with a refugee from another state, but by 1783 it was apparent that the Duke of Wurttemberg had ignored the desertion, and Schiller received a one-year contract as theater-playwright. In the following year two new plays were produced at Mannheim, neither of which enjoyed anything like the success of THE ROBBERS, but which were, like that play, characterized by a vehement, high-keyed prose and radical sentiments.

Schiller's contract with Dalberg was not renewed, and in 1784 he moved to Leipzig and then to Dresden, where he published his journal, DIE RHEINISCHE THALIA, and worked in a desultory manner on a new play, DON CARLOS. This tragedy, finished in 1787, represents in many ways the midpoint in Schiller's development as a dramatist. As is true of the earlier Mannheim plays, the language is often high-pitched and the action confusing; like them, the plot deals with an idealist, the Marquis Posa, who is destroyed by his own fanaticism, but, as in the later plays, the form is poetic and the thought mature.

After the completion of DON CARLOS there was a hiatus of ten years in Schiller's dramatic output. In 1787 he went to Weimar, where he made the acquaintance of the poet Herder, and finally settled in Jena. In his reading for DON CARLOS, Schiller had become interested in the Spanish-Dutch conflict of the sixteenth century, and as a result decided to devote himself to the writing of history. In 1788 he published his GESCHICHTE DES ABFALLS DER VEREINIGTEN NIEDERLANDE (HISTORY OF THE DEFECTION OF THE NETHERLANDS), and during the next four years wrote the impressive HISTORY OF THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR. Although Schiller's success as a historian led to his appointment as professor at the University of Jena, his work in that field is more notable for its literary qualities than for its historical accuracy or scientific objectivity. He instinctively sided with the oppressed and rebellious, and his republican sympathies colored his prose as well as his plays.

While at Jena, Schiller divided his time between history and philosophy. His concern was primarily with the study of aesthetics, although that is never, in his thinking, entirely divorced from ethics. His best-known essays in this field are ON GRACE AND DIGNITY and ON NAIVE AND SENTIMENTAL POETRY.

Schiller first met Goethe in Jena, and from 1794 on they were close friends and literary allies. Partly through Goethe's influence, Schiller's interest in writing poetry revived. Together they made a study of the epic style, and out of this interest grew a number of ballads and romanzas which are still among Schiller's most popular works. During this period Schiller also wrote several reflective lyrics expressing the humane idealism and high ethical aspirations which characterized his thought. Goethe was also at that time the director of the small theater at Weimar, where Schiller moved in 1799, and the two friends often worked together selecting and adapting plays for production there. The renewed contact with the stage quite naturally reawakened Schiller's love for the drama, and the remaining years of his life were spent writing poetic plays for the Weimar theater. With a burst of energy he wrote in rapid succession his five greatest plays: the WALLENSTEIN trilogy, made up of WALLENSTEIN'S CAMP (1798), THE PICCOLOMINI (1799), and WALLENSTEIN'S DEATH (1799); MARY STUART, THE MAID OF ORLEANS, THE BRIDE OF MESSINA, and WILLIAM TELL. The last, undoubtedly Schiller's most popular play, is an intensely human drama dealing with the rebellion of the Swiss people against their Austrian rulers. While writing still another historical play, DEMETRIUS, Schiller contracted the illness which led to his premature death on May 9, 1805, in Weimar, Germany.

A comprehensive edition of Schiller's works is the SAKULARAUSGABE, edited by E. von der Hellen, 16 vols., 1904-1905. The pioneer study of Schiller in English is Thomas Carlyle, THE LIFE OF FRIEDRICH SCHILLER, 1845, still useful in spite of the difficulties of the style. For more recent estimates see J. G. Robertson, SCHILLER AFTER A CENTURY, 1906; H. B. Garland, SCHILLER, 1949; William Witte, SCHILLER, 1949; and E. L. Stahl, FRIEDRICH SCHILLER'S DRAMA, THEORY, AND PRACTICE, 1954. For biographical and critical studies in German see C. von Wolzogen, SCHILLERS LEBEN, 1830; Reinhard Buchwald, SCHILLER, 2 vols., 1937, and SCHILLER UND BEETHOVEN, 1946; Ernst Muller, DER JUNGE SCHILLER, 1943; Kurt May, FRIEDRICH SCHILLER: IDEE UND WIRKLICHKEIT IM DRAMA, 1948; Bernhard Martin, SCHILLER UND GOETHE, 1949; and Melitta Gerhard, SCHILLER, 1950. Some recent more specialized studies are Ronald D. Miller, THE DRAMA OF SCHILLER, 1963; Edmund Kostka, SCHILLER IN RUSSIAN LITERATURE, 1965; and R. M. Longyear, SCHILLER AND MUSIC, 1966.

Main Works

WALLENSTEIN, 1798-1799;

DER GEISTERSEHER, 1787-1789 (unfinished).

XENIEN, 1796 (with Goethe);
GEDICHTE, 1800-1803.


The play DON CARLOS was first produced in 1787. For the 1924 movie version, severla characters were excised, and much of their 'business' given to other characters. Domingo, confessor to the King; Count Lerma, the colonel of the royal bodyguard; the Marchioness de Mondecar, an attendant to the Queen; Don Raimond de Taxis, the postmaster general; Don Louis Mercado, physician to the Queen; and the Duke of Medina Sidonia, admiral of the King's fleet.


Sumptuously mounted - but a pretty boring film. Don Carlos's character is just too weak. His father, Philip, deposed the king, but all Carlos does is moan and whine and skulk. His inactivity gets on your nerves. Some nice staging effects - when Carlos and Elisabeth are attempting to flee the castle and open a pair of huge doors, it reveals practically the entire court waiting for them on the stairs.


Veidt's film countdown
This was Conrad Veidt's 63rd film.

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OrderDon Carlos and Marie Stuart by Schiller from HERE.
OrderWilhelm Tell by Schiller from HERE.
OrderThe Robbers and Wallenstein by Schiller from HERE.
Order Friedrich Schiller Plays : Intrigue and Love and Don Carlos by Walter Hinderer HERE.

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