THE WILLIAM TELL STORY AFTER FRIEDRICH SCHILLER
Switzerland, early 14th century. The Austrian Emperor Albrecht of Habsburg wishes to annex the country and has put in charge of the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden three Bailiffs who oppress the population.
When a Swiss citizen kills one of the bailiffs who wanted to assault his wife, the hunter William Tell doesn’t hesitate to rescue him. But when exasperated representatives of the cantons decide to unite themselves to resist and to seize the invaders’ fortresses on Christmas, the independent Tell refuses to join the coalition, although he promises to help them if they ever need him. Soon after, the cruel Bailiff Gessler puts his hat on top of a pole and demands that the inhabitants of Altdorf salute it in order to assert his authority and guarantee their obedience.
And a few days later, William comes to town with his son Walter and forgets to salute the hat. The Bailiff’s men want to capture him, raising the people’s anger, and Gessler himself intervenes. The two men have already been at odds with each other and the Bailiff, who heard about the hunter’s feats with a crossbow, offers him to shoot an apple off his son’s head several dozen metres away in exchange for his freedom.
Reluctantly, Tell must obey, but while he’s getting ready, he hides a second arrow in his clothes. Then taking position, he aims for the apple and shoots it off his son’s head. Everybody is impressed by the shot, including the Bailiff who saw him hide the arrow and asks him what it was meant for while promising to let him walk free. Trusting him, the hunter admits that he was planning to use the arrow against him if he’d hurt his son, and a furious Gessler has him arrested despite the population’s opposition.
Thus, they both cross the Lake Lucerne with soldiers in order to reach Gessler’s fortress. But they are caught in a sudden storm and when the Bailiff entrusts Tell with the handling of the boat, William manages to jump on terra firma and runs away. Then, hiding himself, the hunter ambushes Gessler and kills hilm with an arrow. The Bailiff’s death leads to the beginning of the insurrection: the insurgents seize the three fortresses and chase away the Austrian troops.
Therefore, the cantons managed to keep their independence and will form the basis of modern Switzerland thanks to William Tell’s intervention.