William Tell originally featured in 1400s stories and ballads. By the 1700s, the event had been included in a number of Swiss histories. The German author Friedrich von Schiller's drama Wilhelm Tell (1804), as well as the opera Guillaume Tell (1829) by the Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini, catapulted the Swiss hero to international recognition.
Schiller's play was very popular among Germans who saw it for the first time. It was they who coined the term "Tell tale eyes" when viewing the character Wilhelm's face after he is hanged. This phrase later found its way into other languages including English.
Later adaptations and sequels to Wilhelm Tell include Karl Gutzkow's 1836 novel William Tell. This book was followed by an Austrian operetta composed by Franz Xaver Bieber in 1856. The most recent adaptation of Tell's story is Ron Howard's 2004 film starring Jeff Bridges as Tell and Michael Beckley as Hundson.
Tell's story has also been used as the basis for several films not related to Switzerland or Germany, such as Henry King's 1890 American film version of Schiller's play which stars Josephine Hill as Tell. Other notable movies based on Tell include Max Varnelis' 1955 Greek film and Yves Boissier's 2001 French film.
In addition to the dramas and operas mentioned above, there have been many other works written about Tell over the years.
While William Tell was not a real person, there is little question that the tale is not only vital to Swiss culture but has served as an inspiration to freedom warriors all over the world. His bravery in battling injustice is still relevant today. As part of the 2018 Season, Victorian Opera presented William Tell. The production features music by Giuseppe Verdi and a book by Antonio Livigni with staging by Charles Edwards.
Verdi based his version on an 1858 play by Friedrich Schiller. In addition to being the composer of some of Italy's most famous songs, Verdi was also one of Europe's leading opera composers. He first visited Switzerland as a young man where he fell in love with the country and its people. This experience inspired many of his greatest works including La Traviata, Aida, and Il Trovatore.
William Tell is one of Verdi's earliest operas and it was originally performed at the Paris Opera in 1829. It tells the story of a peasant named William who lives in the Swiss Alps. Troubled by the oppression he sees around him, he decides to take up arms against the Habsburg rulers of Austria. Using his crossbow, he shoots an arrow at a white flag which signals the start of a rebellion. After defeating his enemies, William dies peacefully in bed.
Overture to William Tell by Gioachino Rossini/Composers Guillaume Tell (French: Guillaume Tell; Italian: Guglielmo Tell) is a four-act French-language opera written by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Victor-Joseph Etienne de Jouy and L. F. Bis, based on Friedrich Schiller's play Wilhelm Tell, which in turn was inspired by the William Tell legend. The work had its world premiere at the Paris Opera on 8 October 1829.
William Tell is one of Rossini's most popular operas and has been performed throughout the world. The work has had several editions since its first publication in 1830. A typical performance lasts about two and a half hours.
The story takes place in Switzerland in the year 1291. It begins with an introduction which tells how Tell's father, an honest citizen of Bern, is overthrown by the nobility after he refuses their demand that all citizens must bear arms against their king. After being imprisoned, Tell is released upon his promise that he will never again act against the law. However, when his son William is taken hostage by Hundson, one of the nobles, Tell goes back on his word and fights against his king. He is captured but manages to escape from prison before it is rebuilt. After this incident, the town council decides not to arrest anyone who tries to overthrow the government.
One day William travels to Austria where he meets Rudolf von Rottenburg, the governor of Styria.
Friedrich Schiller wrote the play in 1804. The plot revolves around the famed Swiss marksman William Tell during the early 14th century Swiss battle for independence from the Habsburg Empire. Tell is asked to shoot an apple off of the head of the tyrant Habsburg Emperor Franz von Hapsburg, but he refuses because all citizens are entitled to legal defense against unlawful arrest or interrogation. Tell is imprisoned but later pardoned by the government.
Schiller's play was very popular in Germany when Goethe wrote his own version of it in 1797. Goethe changed some of the characters' names (he called his Tell a young man instead of an old one) and added some new scenes. In addition, he modified some of Schiller's lines to make them more poetic.
Goethe's play was even more popular than Schiller's original work. It was performed hundreds of times throughout Germany. Tell has always been a favorite character among Germans because of his courage and defiance toward authority. His story has also been used as a metaphor for other events such as the 1653 Turkish siege of Vienna.
Tell has also been associated with the anniversary of William Tell's death since at least 1833 when Goethe published his play.