Skip to main content
Select Source:

Tell, William

William Tell, legendary Swiss patriot. According to legend, Tell was a native of Uri, one of the Swiss forest cantons. Gessler, the canton's Austrian bailiff, decreed that Swiss citizens must remove their hats before his hat, which he had posted on a stake in the canton's largest town. Tell refused and as punishment was ordered to shoot an apple off his small son's head. Although he succeeded, he was held prisoner by Gessler when he revealed that had he failed, he planned to kill Gessler with an arrow he had hidden on his person. Tell escaped and eventually shot Gessler from ambush at Küssnacht, thus setting off the revolt that ousted the bailiff on Jan. 1, 1308. While there is no valid proof of Tell's existence, the legend represents a distorted account of events that resulted (1291) in the formation of the Everlasting League between the cantons of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden. Schiller's popular drama Wilhelm Tell is based on the legend; Rossini's opera William Tell is based on Schiller's drama.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Tell, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Tell, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tell-william

"Tell, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tell-william

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Tell, William

Tell, William

William Tell, a hero of Swiss folklore, became a symbol of Switzerland's national pride and independence. He is best known for shooting an arrow through an apple sitting on his son's head.

Tell's feat of archery supposedly took place around 1300, when Switzerland was under Austrian rule. The independent-minded Tell refused to salute an Austrian official, who then ordered Tell to take the nerve-wracking shot. Afterward, the official spotted a second arrow. Tell said that if his first arrow had missed, he would have used the second one to kill the official. As punishment, Tell was sent to prison, but he escaped and killed the Austrian official. This act inspired the rebellion that eventually ended Austrian rule in Switzerland. Some accounts name Tell a leader in that fight.


* See Nantes and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

William Tell first appeared in legends and songs of the 1400s. By the 1700s, various Swiss histories featured the story. The play Wilhelm Tell (1804) by the German poet Friedrich von Schiller brought the Swiss hero to world attention, as did the opera Guillaume Tell (1829) by Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini. Despite these works, however, there is no historical evidence that William Tell existed, although the stories about him may have been based on a kernel of reality. The famous test of marksmanship, with a cherished life at stake, is similar to stories from Norse* and British folklore.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Tell, William." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Tell, William." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tell-william

"Tell, William." Myths and Legends of the World. . Retrieved April 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tell-william

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Tell, William

Tell, William Legendary Swiss hero, leader in the 14th-century war of liberation against Austria. For refusing to salute Albert I's steward, Gessler, he was made to shoot an arrow through an apple placed on his son's head.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Tell, William." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Tell, William." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tell-william

"Tell, William." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tell-william

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

William Tell

William Tell ( Rossini). See Guillaume Tell.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"William Tell." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"William Tell." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/william-tell

"William Tell." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved April 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/william-tell

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.