Excerpts from Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen (1773):
KARL: Jaxthausen is a village and castle on the Jaxt. It has belonged for two hundred years to the lords of Berlichingen by hereditary right and by the right of possession.
GÖTZ: Are you not as free, as nobly born as any man in Germany, independent, subject only to the Emperor, and you cringe before vassals?...Do you underestimate the value of being a free knight who is subject only to God, his Emperor, and himself!
GÖTZ: Order and peace! I believe it! That's what every bird of prey wants: to devour its quarry in comfort.
GÖTZ: If your conscience is clear, you are free.
GÖTZ: I am a thorn in your flesh, small as I am, and Sickingen and Selbitz no less so, because we are determined to die before we owe anyone but God for the air we breathe and before we pay loyalty and service to anyone but the Emperor.
GÖTZ: Last night I thought I gave you my right iron hand, and you held me so tight that it came out of the brassarts as if it had been broken off.
FRANZ: When she looks at anyone it's as though one were standing in spring sunlight.
GEORG: Don't worry! It won't put me off if ever so many are crawling around me: to me they're like rats and mice.
GEORG: A horseman that thinks ahead of time won't take any very broad jumps.
GEORG: He was startled; I saw the confession of his crime on his face. He scarcely had the heart to look at me -- me, a mere squire.
SELBITZ: That was because his conscience was lower than your rank.
THE EMPEROR: God in Heaven! God in Heaven! What is this? One of them has only one hand, the other only one leg. If they ever had two hands and two legs what would you do then?
SICKINGEN: It is an honor for both of you to be betrayed by him.
GÖTZ: Sickingen, you will fall into the pit with me. I was hoping you would get me out of it.
GÖTZ: One wolf is too many for a whole flock of sheep.
GÖTZ: Elizabeth, you will stay with me!
ELIZABETH: Till death!
GÖTZ: Whom God loves, to him may He give a wife like that!
THE COUNCILOR: We are under no obligation of good faith with a brigand.
GÖTZ: If you were not wearing the Emperor's likeness, which I venerate in its meanest counterfeit, you would eat that word "brigand" and choke on it! I am engaged in an honorable feud. You could thank God and parade yourself large before the world if you had ever in your life done a deed as noble as that for which I now sit here captive.
GÖTZ: I still have, thank God, one hand left and I did well to use it.
THE COUNCILOR: Seize him!
GÖTZ: Is that your intention? Whoever isn't a Hungarian ox better not come too close to me! He'll get such a box on the ears from this right iron hand of mine as will cure him once and for all of headache, toothache, and all the other aches of this world.
WEISLINGEN: Last night I met Götz in the forest. He drew his sword and challenged me. I reached for mine and my hand failed me. Then he thrust it into his sheath, looked and me contemptuously, and followed me. He is a prisoner, and I tremble before him
GÖTZ: Heavenly air...Freedom! Freedom!
MARIA: Noble man! Noble man! Woe to the age that rejected you!
LERSE: Woe to the posterity that fails to appreciate you!
(Images are of Götz von Berlichingen's actual iron hand, along with a prototype to the left, which are housed in the castle museum of the Götzenburg in Jagsthausen; photographed by the author during his latest pilgrimage to Germany, in August, 2009.)