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German Classics Prize

A German Classic: Schiller's Maria Stuart 

An Essay Prize for Sixth-Formers

1st Prize: £500    2nd Prize: £300   3rd Prize: £100

Deadline for Submission: noon on Wednesday 12th September 2018

The Oxford German Network is delighted to announce the launch of the second round of the essay prize competition 'A German Classic'. This is aimed at sixth-form students and involves engaging with one of the most fascinating plays in German literature and one that is often considered to be the epitome of Weimar Classicism: Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart. Schiller's historical drama explores how Elizabeth I came to have Mary, Queen of Scots executed. The centrepiece of the play is a thrilling confrontation between Elisabeth and Maria (one that never actually took place). Schiller portrays the complexity of political intrigues at court, and the problems faced by women in power who have to navigate a male-dominated world. Elisabeth and Maria reflect each other: cousins by blood, but of different religious identities, and who both have competing (and legitimate) claims to the throne of England. Why one succeeds over the other may appear to be a historical certainty, but Schiller's play is a piece of tense drama because it portrays how fragile the reign of the Tudors was. 

The competition is aimed at students with a GCSE or equivalent in German who are in Lower Sixth, for submission in mid-September of Upper Sixth (equivalent to Years 12 and 13 or S5 and S6 in Scotland). Participants are not expected to have prior experience of studying German literature.

Essay Questions

1. Who is the more tragic character, Maria or Elisabeth?

2. 'Der Thron von England ist durch einen Bastard/entweiht' (Act III, Scene 4). To what extent is Maria Stuart about a crisis of royal legitimacy?

3. In Maria Stuart, do women in power have to forsake their sexuality?

4. What significance do the male characters have in Maria Stuart?

5. Compare Schiller's portrayal of Maria and Elisabeth with their historical counterparts.

Further Information

Download the full competition details and guidelines here.

A reader of secondary literature to help you put together ideas for your essay can be accessed upon request: please email the prize coordinator for further details. 

The Oxford German Network are launching a series of podcasts on Maria Stuart that will be released on a rolling basis. The first podcast features a discussion of the recent production of Mary Stuart with Oxford students who went to see the play on its national tour in April 2018. Make sure you subscribe to the OGN's YouTube Channel so that you don't miss an installment!

Fancy exploring beyond the text of Schiller's Maria Stuart? Have a look here for further suggestions for reading.

Ready to submit your essay? Fill out the entry form here.

Any questions or queries? Contact the prize coordinator here.

Interested in Goethe's Faust? Click here for details and further resources from 2017's German Classic competition. Results of the competition available here.