The play was written by Friedrich Schiller between 1803 and 1804, and published that year in a first edition of 7000 copies. Since its publication, Schiller’s William Tell has been translated into many languages.
Friedrich Schiller (who had never been to Switzerland, but was well informed, being a historian) was inspired to write a play about the legendary Swiss marksman William Tell by his wife Lotte, who knew the country from her personal experience. After his friend, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, had returned from his second journey to the Lake of Lucerne in 1779, Schiller started collecting sources.
Most of Schiller’s information about the history of the Swiss confederation is drawn from Aegidius Tschudi’s Chronicon Helveticum (Latin: ‘Swiss Chronicle’), Johannes von Müller’s
History of the Swiss Confederation (German: Geschichten Schweizerischer Eidgenossenschaft), as well as two chronicles of Petermann Etterlin and Johannes Stumpf.