Christian Friedrich Hebbel

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Hebbel, Christian Friedrich

 

Born Mar. 18, 1813, in Wesselburen, Holstein; died Dec. 13, 1863, in Vienna. German writer.

The son of a bricklayer and a laundress, Hebbel became one of the greatest German tragedians of the 19th century. He studied at the universities of Heidelberg and Munich from 1836 to 1839. After experimenting with poetry and novellas, he published in 1840 the tragedy Judith, which established the tragic lot of women as a an important theme in his work. Most of Hebbel’s plots derive from mythology, literature, history, or the Bible. Maria Magdalena (1844) is his only drama on a contemporary subject.

Hebbel was inconsistent in his views on the Revolution of 1848: he supported the struggle against the reactionary Metternich regime yet advocated a constitutional monarchy. After 1848 deepening contradictions appear in Hebbel’s work. The clash of despotism with human dignity in Herod and Mariamne (1850) and the conflict between new humanist ideas and traditional archaic religious beliefs in the play Gyges and His Ring (1856) are muted by a conciliatory tone. This tone is particularly obvious in the drama Agnes Bernauer (1851), which takes place in medieval Bavaria.

Hebbel’s Niebelungen Trilogy (staged 1861, published 1862), based on the German epic, was the last dramatic work that he completed. He began but never finished a tragedy about the Russian historical figure False Dmitrii. He also wrote comedies, short stories, reviews, and articles on the theory of drama. Hebbel’s letters and diaries (published 1885) provide much material on the political and artistic views of the writer and his contemporaries.

WORKS

Sämtliche Werke, vols. 1–19. Edited by R. Werner. Berlin-Steglitz, 1911–20.
Neue Hebbel-Briefe. Edited by A. Meetz. Neumünster, 1963.
In Russian translation:
Iudif’. Moscow [1908].
Tragedii. Foreword by S. A. Adrianov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.

REFERENCE

Istoriia nemetskoi literatury, vol. 4. Moscow, 1968.

Z. E. LIBINZON

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