Kleist, Bernd Heinrich Wilhelm von

(1777-1811)
   Playwright. Kleist was a master of German verse, in both comedy and tragedy. During his own lifetime, however, his work found little favor among managers due to the French occupation of most German territories. Kleist's most important plays were the tragedy Die Familie Schroffenstein (The Schroffenstein Family, 1803), the comedy Der zerbrochene Krug (The Broken Jug, 1806), a tragedy about Amazons titled Penthesilea (1808), the romantic drama Käthchen von Heilbronn (Kathy of Heilbronn, 1810), and the psychological study with patriotic Prussian overtones Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (The Prince of Homburg, 1811). A production of The Schroffenstein Family took place in Graz, Austria, during the 1803-1804 season without his knowledge, but it soon folded. In Weimar, an 1808 production of The Broken Jug attracted little attention, as was the case for an 1811 staged reading of Penthesilea in Berlin. Kathy of Heilbronn, however, proved to be somewhat popular after its premiere at Vienna's Burgtheater in 1810. Productions of Kathy followed in Graz, Karlsruhe, Bamberg, and Würzburg. By that time, unfortunately, Kleist had committed suicide in Berlin, despairing ever of having success as a playwright. He had persistently tried to convince August Wilhelm Iffland to produce his plays, but Iffland rebuffed him with equal persistence.
   Only when Count Brühl assumed directorship of the Royal Theater did Kleist's work begin to gain popularity in Berlin. August Ernst Klingemann had staged Kleist's plays in Braunschweig in the early 1820s, but only after Brühl staged Kathy of Heilbronn in 1824 with Luise von Holtei (1800-1825) in the title role did critics begin to take serious notice of Kleist. By that time, Ludwig Tieck had published Kleist's plays and thereafter began a recognition of Kleist's eminence as a playwright. Not only was Kleist a master of verse, as Tieck had insisted but he was also gifted in the creation of characters whose inner conflicts are compelling. Kleist's mastery in a wide range of dramatic achievement is similarly remarkable: Kathy of Heilbronn remains one of the best of German dramas about "romantic knighthood"; The Broken Jug, among the very best German comedies ever written, features a leading character with distinct Falstaffian dimensions; and The Prince of Homburg deserves the esteemed position it shares alongside the works of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller as a classic of the German stage.
   See also Kleist Prize.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • von — /von/; Ger. /fawn/, unstressed /feuhn/, prep. from; of (used in German and Austrian personal names, originally to indicate place of origin and later to indicate nobility): Paul von Hindenburg. * * * (as used in expressions) Friedrich Leopold… …   Universalium

  • Kleist — noun German dramatist whose works concern people torn between reason and emotion (1777 1811) • Syn: ↑Heinrich von Kleist, ↑Bernd Heinrich Wilhelm von Kleist • Instance Hypernyms: ↑dramatist, ↑playwright * * * Kleistian, adj …   Useful english dictionary

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