My approach to teaching literature in German today has evolved as a kind of compromise between my own love of literature and the average student’s disinterest. Like many colleagues, I proceed from the experience that motivating active and critical engagement is possible when associated with tasks that are either creative and “fun”, or more perceptibly skill-building than the pursuit of a deeper textual understanding. Like many of us, I have learned to shift the deeper understanding from a worthy goal in itself to a more instrumental process that results in more practical rewards. In my Fateful Weapons in German Drama course, students engage with Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell and some lesser-known one-act plays via a series of formal debates. In my presentation, I propose to outline how the preparation and staging of debates can be structured towards producing a debate summary that performs the same argumentative work as a traditional analytical essay. While most students are doing the work in the name of competitive spirit or of developing a professional argumentative discourse, they often generate the kind of insights into the literary work that I find thrilling.