The Image Bank

Michael Kohlhaas

Book cover

Michael Kohlhaas

Kohlhaas is Heinrich von Kleist’s character in his eponymous novella. Ernst Bloch described Kohlhaas “the Don Quixote of rigorous bourgious morality” (‘Über den Begriff der Weisheit’).

Kohlhaas’s commitment to seeing that justice be done drives him to madness and eventually death. He declares, in what might stand as a motto for a man of integrity:

Let justice be done, though it destroy the world

‘Fiat iusticia, et pereat mundus’

‘Es soll Gerechtigkeit geschehen, und gehe auch die Welt daran zu Grunde’

Is what von Kleist describes a perversion of integrity, an extreme of integrity, or something else altogether?

Suggested reading

  • Heinrich von Kleist 1811. Michael Kohlhaas
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