Egmont is a tragic drama in five published in 1788. The hero is based upon the historical figure of Lamoraal, count of Egmond (Egmont), a 16th-century Dutch leader during the Counter-Reformation. The play is set during the period in which the Netherlands was suffering under the harsh rule of Roman Catholic Spain.
The story pits the sympathetic and tolerant Egmont against the fierce and brutal Spanish Duke of Alva. The work had great appeal for European audiences excited by the new movements toward democracy and nationalism.
As typical of Goethe, the language is beautiful and evocative. In 1809 the Burgtheater asked Ludwig van Beethoven, a great admirer of Goethe, to compose incidental music for a revival of the play, and he accepted with enthusiasm.