The figure of Wilhelm Tell casts a long shadow. and not only over Swiss or German literature, for Tell represents the possibility of heroism in the modern era. Tell is the archetypal modern hero who incorporates divine qualities—boundless courage, amazing skills, penetrating wisdom—in the body of a humble, non-aristocratic person. He is the end of a declension traced by Walter Rehm many years ago in his article on "Romisch-Franzosischer Barockheroismus und seine Umgestaltung in Deutschland." Rehm credited Lessing with completing the transformation of the older heroic type based on Roman stoic traditions and the neo-stoic revival into the humanized heroes of the burgerliche Trauerspiel.



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