We meet a young hero when they have two passions – to the theater and Mariana, and he is full of happy enthusiasm and enthusiastic plans. His father, a respectable burgher, created his initial capital by selling a collection of father’s paintings, and then made his fortune a successful trade, now he wants his son to multiply his family capital in the same field. Wilhelm strongly disagrees with the fate of the merchant prepared for him. The young man is convinced that his calling is a theater that he loved from childhood. However, when he touched the world of urban bohemia, he was somewhat surprised that the actors were much more earthly creatures than he had imagined before. They quarrel, gossip, intrigue, settle scores with each other on small occasions, envious and capricious.
Mariana, meanwhile, is also warned by her old servant, who believes that Wilhelm “is among those lovers who can only give their heart as a gift, but pretend not to know what.” The old woman convinces the troubled girl not to break with the rich patron, of whom William is unknown. And one evening, when Wilhelm languishes in blissful thoughts about Mariana and covers her silk handkerchief with kisses, a note from him drops out: “How I love you, little fool! .. Now I’ll come to you… Is it not for that I sent you a white negligee to keep a white sheep in your arms? .. “
… The whole being and the whole being of Wilhelm is shaken to the ground after this collapsed blow. Endless torment ends with severe fever. Hardly recovering from her, the young man reevaluates not only his former love, but also his poetic and acting talent. Werner can not keep a friend when he throws a bundle of written sheets into the oven. Having torn with the muses, the young man with diligent obedience is engaged in paternal affairs. “So in the dull monotony the years pass. He maintains correspondence and income books, travels with errands to debtors. In one of these trips, Wilhelm is delayed for several days to rest a little. His mental wound was already slightly delayed by that time. Now he is increasingly tormented by his conscience – not too sharp, he left the girl, so never again did not meet with her? And suddenly everything would be an easy misunderstanding?
And yet the young man had already been healed enough to open up to new impressions and hobbies. At the inn where he stayed, a motley company soon formed, mostly from actors who had strayed here, without an engagement. Gradually, Wilhelm draws closer to the comedians, driven by an old love for the theater. His new friends are frivolous coquette Filin, husband and wife Melina, bearded and unsociable old man harper and other servants of bohemia. In addition, he becomes the patron of the thirteen-year-old savage Mignon, the rope dancer in boyish attire. For a few thalers Wilhelm frees the girl from the evil master. Here, at an inn from the mouth of an occasional caller, he learns that Mariana, after their separation, left the theater, was poor, gave birth to a child, and later her trail was lost. One day noble gentlemen come to the inn, who are anxious about how to entertain the Prince’s expected visit. They invite the whole troupe to the baron’s castle nearby, By this time, with money borrowed from Wilhelm, Melina already bought the props and scenery of the local ruined theater. Everyone is full of hope of becoming an independent team.
Staying in the castle allows the comedians to take a break from the worries about the daily bread. Wilhelm also meets here with people who will play an important role in his destiny. First of all, it is the baron’s assistant, a certain Jarno, a man of vast knowledge and an acute skeptical mind. It is he who brings Meister to the world of Shakespearean drama. Patronizes the young man and the charming Countess, who with her husband the Count is visiting the castle. She eagerly listens to the poems and poems of William, of those that miraculously survived. It is time to leave the hospitable shelter. Generously rewarded and full of hope, the comedians go to the city. The benevolent to all of Wilhelm is now their kind genius and the soul of the troupe. But it’s not for long. The journey is interrupted by a meeting with an armed detachment that attacks the actors. They are abducted by all things,
He comes to his senses in the clearing, seeing only the owl, Mignon and the harper side by side. The rest of the friends fled. After a while, a wounded young man leans over a beautiful horsewoman who is unfamiliar to him. She gives him first aid, sends for a doctor, gives money. Her servant delivers Wilhelm and his companions to the nearest village, where the rest of the actors are waiting. This time they fall upon the recent idol with abuse, reproaching him for all sins, but Wilhelm staunchly and gently responds to their ingratitude. He swears not to leave them until the position of the company becomes quite prosperous. After a while, the actors, taking the letters from Meister, leave him to get into the theater Zerlo, located in the nearest city. Wilhelm remains with the old Harper and Mignon, who takes care of him. He gradually recovers. In his soul lives the image of a beautiful Amazon. He is covered with some almost mystical haze, he seems to double, at times reminding the lovely countess with whom William was friendly in the castle, and at such moments a young man seems to be raving. Eventually Wilhelm “in the strange company of Mignon and the old man hastened to flee from inaction, in which he was again tormented for too long.”
They get to the Zerlo Theater, and here Wilhelm feels again in his element. At the first meeting with the director of the theater, he suggests putting “Hamlet” Shakespeare, “expressing the worldly hope that excellent Shakespearean plays will constitute an era in Germany.” Immediately, in front of Zerlo and his sister theater actress Aurelia, Wilhelm fervently develops his understanding of the tragedy. He quotes the lines: “The course of life is disrupted, and I will throw myself into this hell, that everything will go smoothly,” – explaining that they give the key to Hamlet’s entire behavior. “It is clear to me that I wanted to show Shakespeare: a great act that gravitates over a soul to which such an act is not capable… Here the oak is planted in a precious vessel, which was assigned to cherish only tender flowers in its bosom, the roots grow and destroy the vessel. . “
Aurelius soon becomes a friend of Wilhelm and once reveals his secret of unhappy love for a certain Lothario, a noble nobleman. Philina had already told Wilhelm earlier that Felix, three, living in the house of Zerlo, the son of Aurelius, and Wilhelm mentally believed Lothario as the father of the boy, hesitating to ask it directly. The old nurse Felix is still sick, and the baby is attached to Mignone, who is happily engaged with him and teaches him his lovely songs. Like the old half-mad harper, the girl has a bright musical talent.
During this period, Wilhelm overtook the mournful news – after a sudden illness his father died. “Wilhelm felt free at a time when he did not have time to come to an agreement with himself, his thoughts were noble, the goals are clear, and there seemed to be nothing reprehensible in the intentions.” However, he lacked experience, and he still followed “the light of other people’s ideas, like a guiding star.” In such a state of mind, he receives a proposal from Zerlo to sign a permanent contract with him. The gruel promises, in case of Wilhelm’s consent, to give the work to his friends-actors, whom he did not previously like to work with. After some hesitation, the young man agrees to accept the offer. “He was convinced that only at the theater he could complete that education, which he wanted for himself,” only here he can realize himself, that is ” to achieve the full development of himself, such as he is “, which he vaguely sought from a young age. In a detailed letter to Werner, to which he asks while taking care of his inheritance, Wilhelm shares his deepest thoughts. He complains that in Germany only a nobleman, nobleman, a comprehensive personal development is available. Burger, which is by birth Wilhelm, is compelled to choose a certain way of life and to sacrifice integrity. “A burgher can gain merit and at best form his mind, but his personality is lost “However, on the stage, Wilhelm concludes,” an educated person is as full a person as a representative of the highest class… “Wilhelm signs a contract with Zerlo, after which the whole unfortunate troupe. Work begins on “Hamlet”, the translation of which was carried out by Wilhelm himself. He plays the role of Prince, Aurelius – Ophelia, Zerlo – Polonia. In the joyful creative unrest the premiere is approaching. It passes with great success. The scene of a meeting between Hamlet and the Ghost makes a special impression on everyone. The public does not know that none of the actors can guess who performed the role of the Ghost. This man in a hood came just before the start of the play, he did not take off his armor on the stage and quietly retired. In this scene Wilhelm experienced a real shudder, which was passed on to the audience. After this episode, the inspiration and confidence no longer left the actors. The success of the performance is marked by a bohemian feast. And from the vanished Ghost in the hands of Wilhelm there is only a fragment of smoky cloth with the inscription: “Run, young man, run!”,
A few days after the premiere, the fire in the theater Zerlo. The troupe hardly restores the destroyed scenery. After the fire disappears – with a fan – Filin, seriously ill Aurelius and almost completely damaged in the mind of the old harper. Wilhelm is busy caring for the weak and taking care of the children – Mignon with Felix. He instructs the harper to the local doctor. While he is busy with these troubles, the management style changes, so to speak. Now they are all ruled by the Mirror and Melina. The latter laughs “over the Wilhelmovs… claims to lead the public, and not to go around with it, and both agreed unanimously that it is only necessary to rake in money, to grow rich and to live happily.” Wilhelm is not himself in such an atmosphere. And then there is an excuse to leave the theater for a while. Aurelius dies. Before her death, she hands Wilhelm a letter to Lothario, adding that she completely forgave and wishes him all the happiness. She asks Meister to personally hand over her message to Lothario.
At the bedside of the dying Aurelian, the doctor hands over to Wilhelm a certain manuscript-a note from one of his patients, already dead. And in fact this is the story of a beautiful woman’s soul, a woman who managed to gain an extraordinary spiritual independence and defend her right to the chosen path. She was able to overcome secular conventions, reject temptations and devote herself entirely to the love of others and God. On this path she found like-minded people in some secret society. The manuscript introduces Wilhelm to the world of noble and beautiful relations of a noble family. He learns of the uncle of the deceased, a man of extraordinary intelligence and nobility, of her younger sister, who died, leaving her and the uncles of four children in the care of her. Recognizes that one of the two nieces of the memoirist, Natalia, was distinguished by an amazing innate inclination towards active good… These “
And here he is at Lothario, in an ancient castle with towers. Looking at the portraits in the living room, Wilhelm discovers in one of them a resemblance to a beautiful Amazon, which he does not cease to dream. The news of the death of Aurelius causes grief in Lothario, but he explains to Wilhelm that he never loved Aurelius. Wilhelm fervently reminds the owner of the little Felix, but this even more strikes Lothario. He claims that the boy could not be his child. So whose son he is, feeling some kind of alarm, Wilhelm is perplexed. In the castle near Lothario, he meets his old acquaintance Jarn and the abbot, who was once caught in his path. All belong to Meister with warm friendliness and persuade to stay in the estate longer. He returns for a short time to the theater to pick up Mignon and Felix. He is waiting for an amazing discovery. In the recovered nurse Felix, he recognizes the old servant of his first beloved Mariana. And she tells us that Felix is his son, the child of poor Mariana. They prove that the girl remained true to Wilhelm and forgave him. She wrote to him a lot, but Werner intercepted all her messages-for the best of intentions. Wilhelm is shocked to the core. He showered Felix with kisses, praying to God not to deprive him of this treasure. He takes his children with him and again goes to the estate of Lothario. It was decided to give the minion to the sister of Lothario, who lives nearby, since she created something like a boarding school for girls. But Werner intercepted all her messages – for the best of reasons. Wilhelm is shocked to the core. He showered Felix with kisses, praying to God not to deprive him of this treasure. He takes his children with him and again goes to the estate of Lothario. It was decided to give the minion to the sister of Lothario, who lives nearby, since she created something like a boarding school for girls. But Werner intercepted all her messages – for the best of reasons. Wilhelm is shocked to the core. He showered Felix with kisses, praying to God not to deprive him of this treasure. He takes his children with him and again goes to the estate of Lothario. It was decided to give the minion to the sister of Lothario, who lives nearby, since she created something like a boarding school for girls.
Soon new friends take Wilhelm solemnly to the Tower Society. This is the order of people who have devoted themselves entirely to the moral perfection of life. So, Lothario thinks about ways to alleviate the fate of the peasants. Jarno, as if warning Wilhelm of the excessive, “Hamlet” messianism, notes that a person “having reached a certain degree of spiritual development… wins a lot if he learns to dissolve in the crowd if he learns to live for others, working on what he is conscious of his duty “. In the narrow tower hall of Meister, a scroll of his destiny is solemnly presented, kept among similar scrolls. Wilhelm finally realizes that he is not alone in this world, that his life is not an accidental phenomenon, that it is woven into other fates and into the fate of mankind. He realizes that life is wider and more art. Jarno and the abbot seriously explain that his talent, which the young man so trusted, is relative and more important to realize himself in the endless field of human relations. “The years of your teaching have passed,” concludes the abbot. It turns out that he played the role of the Ghost in a memorable performance, which helped then William. But its true purpose is not theater, but life, reflection and direct action.
Wilhelm will have to learn other amazing things. It turns out that Lothario has two sisters-one of them is the Countess, whom William once made friends with, and the other, who has Mignon raised, turns out to be… a beautiful Amazon. Moreover, this is the same girl Natalia, which was discussed in “Recognition of the Beautiful Soul”. They meet when the news comes of the serious illness of Mignon. In the house of Natalia – and this is the house of her late uncle – Wilhelm suddenly discovers a collection of pictures of his grandfather, which he remembered from early childhood. This is how some of the most important threads of destiny unite. Mignon dies in his arms. And after her death, another mystery opens – it turns out the girl belonged to an Italian noble family, and her father is an old harper, who by force of irresistible circumstances was separated from his beloved and therefore lost his mind. Bitter events bring Wilhelm closer to Natalia, to whom he feels a reverent feeling. They do not dare to explain themselves, but the brother does not help, not Lothario, but the second, cheerful freckle Friedrich. Wilhelm recognizes him as a fan of the owl. Now Friedrich, happy with Filina, arranges the engagement of Wilhelm with his most perfect sister. The hero gains happiness, which he could not even dream about.