I have recently been reading Friedrich Schiller's fantastic Drama William Tell, in which he not only relates the folkloric-mythological origin of Switzerland upon its liberation from the yoke of the Habsburg dynasty, but also posits how a rebellion — I imagine, in contrast to the Jacobin Reign of terror after the French Revolution — should be organized.
The popular insurrection that Schiller describes in his work does not leave any deaths behind, except for that of Geßler, the despotic tyrant murdered by William Tell. Also, at the end of the play, Johannes Parricida assassinates his uncle, King Albrecht, and asks Tell for a safe haven from persecution. To convince him, he claims that they have both killed two nefarious people who abused their power, to which Tell replies that the cases are not comparable. He acted in defense of himself and his family, while Parricide wanted to satiate his lust for power and greed:
"Parricidas Erscheinung ist der Schlussstein des Ganzen. Tells Mordtat wird durch ihn allein moralisch und poetisch aufgelöst. Neben dem ruchlosen Mord aus Impietät und Ehrsucht steht nunmehr Tells notgedrungene Tat, sie erscheint schuldlos in der Zusammenstellung mit einem ihr ganz unähnlichen Gegenstück, und die Hauptidee des ganzen Stücks wird eben dadurch ausgesprochen, nämlich: ‚Das Notwendige und Rechtliche der Selbsthilfe in einem streng bestimmten Fall‘" (cf. Alexander Geist, Wilhelm Tell. Inhalt, Hintergrund, Interpretation.)
"Parricida's appearance is the keystone of the whole. Tell's murderous deed is morally and poetically resolved by him alone. Next to the nefarious murder out of impiety and ambition now stands Tell's act of necessity, it appears guiltless in the composition with a counterpart quite dissimilar to it, and the main idea of the whole play is expressed by this very fact, namely: 'The necessary and legal of self-help in a strictly determined case.'"
It is the right to self-defense and to resistance where Tell presumably finds his justification. However, other sources suggest that Tell's decision to kill Geßler had little to do with Swiss independence and self-defense, but rather pure revenge (Gessler forced him to risk his son's life in the famous apple-shot scene).
Thus some questions arise.
- Regarding William Tell: Is the tyrannicide perpetrated by William Tell morally legitimate? (I know this is not incredibly general, as you should be familiar with the work in order to be able to answer it, but was curious. I would be very glad if someone could share their opinion and might probably award a bounty if I find it interesting :))
- If we abstract on a more general level: When is tyrannicide legitimate from a moral point of view? Which philosophical currents (or philosophers) — I am thinking above all, of authors such as Hobbes or contract theorists, but also utilitarianism — would have supported/rejected it? And why?
Thanks in advance.