Kleist, Cortés, and the Great Santiago Earthquake of 1647
Copyright 2011 by Fario
Published at Smashwords by Fario
As its subtitle (“Aus einer alten Chronik”) notes, Heinrich von Kleist’s “Michael Kohlhaas” (1810) is based on an old chronicle. Both Kleist’s long story and the old chronicle, as it happens, deal with the careers of merchants turned brigands. Hans Kohlhase, the historical merchant, rebelled against the elector of Saxony. In March 1540 he was broken on the wheel at Cölln an der Spree (today Berlin) in Brandenburg, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles V, whose realm included Spain’s newly conquered territories in the Americas, was emperor. Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas, a horse trader swindled out of his stock by a minor nobleman and his servants, leads a band of looters, arsonists, and rapists on a rampage through Saxony. He is ultimately beheaded for breach of the peace of the empire.