Franz Grillparzer

Definition

Theater

  • (1791 - 1872) Austria's greatest 19th-century dramatistand a major figure in the European Romantic movement. Grillparzerbegan to study law at the University of Vienna but financial problemsforced him to become a tutor and then a government clerk. The pessimisticoutlook of his 12 tragedies reflects the unhappy events of his ownlife, in particular the early death of his father, his mother's suicide,and his own romantic failures.

    His first play, Die Ahnfrau, was produced in 1817 atthe Theater an der Wien by the director Josef Schreyvogle (1768 - 1832),who discovered and nurtured Grillparzer's talents. This was followedby Sappho (1818), a tragedy about the difficulty of reconcilingart and life, and two years later by The Golden Fleece, a pessimisticreworking of the Greek legend in which Medea proclaims that life isnot worth living.

    Grillparzer's masterpiece, the historical play KönigOttokars Glück und Ende, was written in 1823 but banned bythe Metternich regime for two years because its leading characterresembled Napoleon. The play received its premiere at the Burgtheaterand became famous after transferring to the Theater an der Wien.

    Grillparzer's other plays include Des Meeres und der LiebeWellen (1831), which retells the story of Hero and Leander witha psychological insight that anticipates the work of Ibsen, and hisadaptation (1834) of Calderón's Life is a Dream.

    Grillparzer's only comedy, Weh' dem, der lügt!proved a failure when produced at the Burgtheater in 1838. Followingthis experience, he withdrew from the theater and wrote only for hisown amusement. After his death, three completed plays were found andproduced, including the philosophical Libussa (1874), one ofhis finest works.

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