Heinrich von Kleist



  • (1777 - 1811) German playwright and author, who was virtually unrecognized during his lifetime.

    His life was as strange and full of tragic ironies as his plays. Kleist served in the Prussian army for what he called "the loss of sevenvaluable years" before leaving to devote himself to philosophy and literature. At one point during his travels the French imprisoned him for six months as a suspected spy, time he used to adapt Molière'sAmphitryon. Over the next ten years he wrote some of the mostremarkable plays in the German language while leading an eccentricwandering life in Germany, France, and Switzerland. In 1811 Kleistshot himself after first shooting a terminally ill woman who had pleadedwith him to end her suffering by euthanasia.

    Kleist's plays include The Broken Jug (1808), whichis now regarded as a comic masterpiece, the fiercely patriotic DieHermannsschlact (1808), the romantic medieval dramaDas Käthchen von Heilbronn (1810), and The Prince ofHomburg (1821), which has been highly praised for its psychologicalinsight.