Wildenbruch, Ernst von

   Playwright. Wildenbruch was that exceptional creature in the 19th-century German theater, similar to Gustav von Moser and Franz von Schönthan: an aristocrat and former military officer who wrote extremely popular plays. He won favor from Kaiser Wilhelm II for his runaway hit Die Quitzows (The Quitzows, 1888), a glorification of the Prussian royal family, the first play in a planned trilogy. It was wildly successful and was presented thousands of times through the 1890s, winning Wildenbruch the Schiller Prize. Wildenbruch owed his playwriting breakthrough to the Meininger troupe, who usually premiered his plays. They started with Die Karolinger (The Carolingians, 1882), followed by Väter und Söhne (Fathers and Sons, 1882), Der Menonit (The Mennonite, 1882), Christopher Marlowe (1884), and Das neue Gebot (The New Commandment, 1885). They were verbose imitations of Friedrich Schiller, made to seem better in quality when the Meininger produced them. Wildenbruch was a thoroughgoing Prussian patriot, attending military schools as a boy and being commissioned an officer in the Prussian military tradition. Even when he was no longer in the military, Wildenbruch held a series of civil service jobs with the Prussian justice ministry and, when the new Reich came into being, he worked as a career diplomat in the service of the newly ordained kaiser.
   Wildenbruch's companion pieces to The Quitzows, titled Der Generalfeldoberst (The Field Commander, 1889) and Der neue Herr (The New Lord, 1891) were not successful as sequels. In The Field Commander, a close relative of the Hohenzollern family is executed before a Habsburg firing squad. Even though the scene was based on an actual event that took place in 1620, Wilhelm II banned the play based on a cabinet order of 1844 which stipulated that the sovereign had to give his permission for any play in which a deceased member of the royal family was to appear. Wildenbruch begged with the kaiser in a pitiful letter to lift the ban, then in a personal audience be-seeched Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to plead his case with the kaiser. Bismarck, however, bluntly told Wildenbruch he liked his plays but thought this particular play was not worth saving. Soon thereafter, Wildenbruch got word he was to resign his position with the Foreign Ministry. He refused to do so, and in the 1890s he wrote another string of successful plays led by Heinrich und Heinrichs Geschlecht (Heinrich and Heinrich 's Dynasty), premiered in 1896. In that year, Wildenbruch won his second Schiller Prize.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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