The salon of Mrs. Schopenhauer hosted, in the session of the third week of February 1809, the following participants: Adele, the hostess’ daughter, Goethe, Friedrich Schlegel and his wife Dorothea, Bettina Brentano, Wieland, Achim bon Arnim and the brilliant composer Ludwig van Beethoven, incarnation of musical Romanticism, who at that time had found a temporary relief to his deafness thanks to an acoustic trumpet.
In the hearth of the fireplace a large fire heats the room. Everyone is sitting around this source of heat, which also constitutes the only lighting of the living room.
The first part of the soiree is musical in nature. Beethoven accompanies Bettina Brentano on the piano. Bettina intones lieder centered on themes of romantic love. After an hour of uninterrupted concert, Beethoven stop playing the piano and join the other guests after receiving a warm ovation. However, Bettina is so absorbed in the lieder’s emotion that she continues as if nothing had happened.
At first, the audience feels the duty to continue listening to her, and Bettina spends another hour linking lied after lied without pause. The public begins to get impatient and to show signs of fatigue (Schlegel throws himself on the floor and covers his ears), but Bettina shows no signs of wanting to finish her performance. Wieland stands in front of her and rotates each arm backward and forward tracing wide circles at both sides like the sails of a mill. But the young woman does not see anything. She seems to have entered into a kind of trance and there is no way to stop her. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, Goethe runs around the room like a caged animal. The only one who remains impassive is Beethoven, whom has been enough getting the trumpet out of his ear to solve the problem. With the consent of the salonnière, Dorothea Schlegel begins to throw objects to the singer, first small, then bigger and bigger. But Bettina seems immune to any impact. The guests begin to look like the character in Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” when suddenly the door bursts open and Arthur Schopenhauer barges in the room, ranting.
He stops for a moment to analyze the seriousness of the situation and, walking as fast as his crutches allow, goes to the singer and, grabbing a candelabra from above the piano, hits her in the head. Poor Bettina collapses unconscious, thus ending her concert. Immediately, Arthur leaves the candelabrum in its place and leaves the room without greeting anyone.
The second part of the evening consists of a friendly talk about various topics. Among them stands out for its novelty the news of a mysterious light that has been seen in the sky of Weimar these last nights. It is a strange light that changes color, from cobalt blue to intense white, and which (according to the testimonies compiled by Mrs. Schopenhauer herself) moves through the night sky in the most random way, sometimes horizontally, sometimes vertically, sometimes zigzagging. Its speed also changes in an instant. A second it is still, as if suspended in the air, and the next second it is fired with lightning speed.
Each one of the participants gives his opinion on the matter. Goethe thinks that they are dealing with a mad star and that, like with madmen in general, the best thing is to ignore it. Von Arnim points out the possibility that it is a secret weapon of the French army. Schlegel, on the other hand, thinks that it’s the archangel Saint Michael’s flaming sword. His wife Dorothea, of Jewish origin, believes rather that it is the prophet Elijah who announces the second coming of the Messiah. This announcement of the possible arrival of the end of the world instills panic among those present, who begin to roam the room and to wail like banshees. Goethe laments because he has just started a new novel and Beethoven leaves a half-finished symphony. Schlegel hates to leave before he has cleaned the house. And when Bettina regains consciousness and starts singing again, there is a general stampede that knocks down the door, thus concluding this entertaining night out.