Nineteenth-century History

The Ploughman from Bohemia

Der Ackermann aus Böhmen

Der Ackermann aus Böhmen

One of the research papers I am currently working on for my German literature class is about the ad hominem style of argumentation in the rhetorical dialog Der Ackermann aus Böhmen, or The Ploughman from Bohemia. While I am not going to go into the style of argumentation used in the text on this blog, I do want to discuss its historic significance.

The text was written ca. 1400 by Johannes von Tepl (or sometimes also known as Johannes von Saaz) and was first published in 1460. To sum it up briefly, the work is a Streitgespräch, or rhetorical dialog, between der Ackermann and Death. Der Ackermann is grieving for his wife who Death had just recently stolen from him which leads to an argument between the two. Of course der Ackermann argues that Death murdered his wife and thus should be properly punished, while Death argues that everyone must die otherwise there would be no room for anyone anymore on this earth. This is done between insulting each other. There are necessarily many details that I am choosing to omit here that are quite entertaining, but irrelevant for this post.

What is most fascinating about the dialog is the change of emphasis from religion and God to the direct confrontation between man and Death. It isn’t until the end of the text that God finally breaks in between the two and establishes his judgement. Other interpretations place der Ackermann and Death in a court-like environment of which God is the judge, der Ackermann the plaintiff and Death the defendant. Both of these views are valid, however whichever standpoint the reader comes from, he or she must admit that the text breaks new ground in the question of God and religion. Der Ackermann aus Böhmen was written about a century before Luther’s reformation, so Catholic doctrine was still the norm at the time.

I’ve included some links to the full text in both the original High Middle German and an English translation:

Original German

English (titled here as “The Husbandman and Death”)

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Explore History Rhymes
Random Featured Articles
Rocky Mountain Mining Towns: South Pass City, Wyoming

Rocky Mountain Mining Towns: South Pass City, Wyoming

There are many towns throughout the American west which serve as excellent examples of what a mining “boom town” was like. South Pass City, Wyoming is one such town. It is a relatively rare example, however, in that it has survived practically unchanged into the present and as such can b...
Kings of Bavaria: Maximilian II Joseph

Kings of Bavaria: Maximilian II Joseph

King Maximilian II Joseph was the third king of Bavaria. He was born on November 28, 1811 in Munich and was the first Bavarian king to be born in Bavaria.
Nineteenth Century German History

Nineteenth Century German History

Despite having just begun another series, I am going to be embarking on a second multi-part series which has to do with nineteenth century German history. The goal of the project will be to give a survey of nineteenth century German history. You may ask why I am going to be pursuing such a project.....
The Rise of Democracy in England

The Rise of Democracy in England

Today’s idea of democracy has taken centuries to develop and no other country has such a unique history with democracy as that of England. From the first Norman kings in the eleventh century CE, to today’s complex relationship between the English people, the monarchy and the Parliament, the proc...