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Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer (January 15, 1791January 21, 1872), an Austrian dramatic poet, was born in Vienna.

Early life

His father, severe, pedantic, and a staunch upholder of the liberal traditions of the reign of Joseph II, was an advocate of some standing; his mother, a nervous, high-strung woman, belonged to the well-known musical family of Sonnleithner. After a desultory education, Grillparzer entered the University of Vienna in 1807 as a student of jurisprudence; but two years later his father died, leaving the family in difficult circumstances, and Franz, the eldest son, was obliged to turn to private tutoring. In 1813 he received an appointment in the court library, but as this was unpaid, after some months he accepted a clerkship that offered more solid prospects in the Lower Austrian revenue administration. Through the influence of Count Stadion, the minister of finance, he was appointed poet to the Hofburgtheater in 1818, and promoted to the Hofkammer (exchequer). In 1832 he became director of the archives of that department. In 1856 he retired from the civil service with the title of Hofrat. Grillparzer had little capacity for an official career and regarded his position merely as a means of independence.

Early works up to Das goldene Vlies

In 1817 the first performances of his tragedy The Ancestress (Die Ahnfrau) made him famous, but before this he had written a long tragedy in iambics, Blanca von Castilien (1807-1809), modeled on Friedrich von Schiller's Don Carlos; and the promising dramatic fragments Spartacus and Alfred der Grosse (1809). The Ancestress is a gruesome fate-tragedy in the trochaic measure of the Spanish drama, already made popular by Adolf Müllner in his Schuld; but Grillparzer's work is a play of real poetic beauties, and reveals an instinct for dramatic as opposed to merely theatrical effect, which distinguishes it from other fate-dramas of the day. Unfortunately, its success led to the poet being classed for the best part of his life with playwrights like Müllner and Houwald. The Ancestress was followed by Sappho (1818), a drama of a very different type; in the classic spirit of Goethe's Torquato Tasso, Grillparzer unrolled the tragedy of poetic genius, the renunciation of earthly happiness imposed upon the poet by his higher mission.
In 1821, Grillparzer completed his The Golden Fleece (Das goldene Vlies) trilogy, a project that had been interrupted in 1819 when his depressed mother committed suicide, and by Grillparzer's subsequent visit to Italy. The trilogy opens with a one-act prelude, Der Gastfreund, then depicts, in The Argonauts (Die Argonauten) Jason's adventures in his quest for the Fleece. Medea, a tragedy of classic proportions, contains the culminating events of the story which had been so often dramatized before. The theme is similar to that of Sappho, but on a larger scale; it is again the tragedy of the heart's desire, the conflict of the simple happy life with that sinister power, be it genius or ambition, which upsets the equilibrium of life. The end is bitter disillusionment, the only consolation renunciation. Medea, her revenge stilled, her children dead, bears the fatal Fleece back to Delphi, while Jason is left to realize the nothingness of human striving and earthly happiness.

Historical tragedies

For his historical tragedy König Ottokars Glück und Ende (1823, but owing to difficulties with the censor, not performed until February 19, 1825), Grillparzer chose the conflict of Otakar II of Bohemia with Rudolph I of Germany. With an almost modern realism he reproduced the medieval setting of the play, at the same time not losing sight of the needs of the theatre; through Ottokar's fall, Grillparzer again preached the futility of endeavour and the vanity of worldly greatness. A second historical tragedy, Ein treuer Diener seines Herrn (1826, performed 1828), attempted to embody a more heroic gospel; but the subject of the superhuman self-effacement of Bankbanus before Duke Otto of Meran proved too uncompromising an illustration of Kant's categorical imperative of duty to be palatable in the theatre.
With these historical tragedies began the darkest ten years in the poet's life. They brought him into conflict with the Austrian censor - a conflict which grated on Grillparzer's sensitive soul, and was aggravated by his own position as a servant of the state. In 1826, he paid a visit to Goethe in Weimar, and was able to compare the enlightened conditions which prevailed in the little Saxon duchy with the intellectual thraldom of Vienna.
To these troubles were added personal worries. In the winter of 1820-1821, he had met and fallen in love with Katharina Fröhlich (1801-1879), but whether owing to a presentiment of mutual incompatibility, or merely owing to Grillparzer's conviction that life had no happiness in store for him, he shrank from marriage. Whatever the cause may have been, the poet was plunged into an abyss of misery and despair to which his diary bears heartrending witness; his sufferings found poetic expression in the fine cycle of poems bearing the significant title Tristia ex Ponto (1835).

Slip into depression

Still, during this time, Grillparzer completed two of his greatest dramas, Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen (1831) and Der Traum, ein Leben (1834). The earlier play dramatizes the story of Hero and Leander, as a love-tragedy full of poetic expression and with an insight into character motivation that predated the psychological dramas of Ibsen. The poetic influence of Lope de Vega and Pedro Calderón de la Barca is also felt. Der Traum, ein Leben, Grillparzer's technical masterpiece, is in form perhaps even more Spanish; it is also more of what Goethe called a confession. The aspirations of Rustan, an ambitious young peasant, are shadowed forth in the hero's dream, which takes up nearly three acts of the play; ultimately Rustan awakens from his nightmare to realize the truth of Grillparzer's own pessimistic doctrine that all earthly ambitions and aspirations are vanity; the only true happiness is contentment with one's lot and inner peace.
Der Traum, ein Leben was the first of Grillparzer's dramas which did not end tragically, and in 1838 he produced his only comedy, Weh dem, der lügt. But Weh dem, der lügt, in spite of its humour of situation, its sparkling dialogue and the originality of its idea - namely, that the hero wins by invariably telling the truth, where his enemies invariably expect him to lie - was too strange to meet with approval in its day. Its premiere on March 6, 1838 was a failure. This was a severe blow to the poet, who turned his back forever on the German theatre.

Later life and final masterpieces


grillparzer in Arabic: فرانتس جريلبارتسر
grillparzer in Czech: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Danish: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in German: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Spanish: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Esperanto: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in French: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Italian: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Hungarian: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Dutch: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Japanese: フランツ・グリルパルツァー
grillparzer in Polish: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Russian: Грильпарцер, Франц
grillparzer in Simple English: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Finnish: Franz Grillparzer
grillparzer in Swedish: Franz Grillparzer
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