Devrient, Ludwig(lo͝ot`vĭkh dəvrēăN`), 1784–1832, German actor. He abandoned a commercial career in 1804 to join a traveling theatrical company. In Berlin he was a favorite in comedy and tragedy, especially in the works of Shakespeare and Schiller. His three nephews were actors. Karl August Devrient, 1797–1872, was popular in heroic and character roles such as Lear, Shylock, and Faust. Karl's brother, Philipp Eduard Devrient, 1801–77, directed the Court Theater, Dresden (1844–46), and the Karlsruhe Theater (1852–70). He wrote several plays and also a history of the German stage (1848–74) in five volumes. With his son, Otto, he published translations of Shakespeare's plays. Gustave Emil Devrient, 1803–72, was the youngest and most gifted of the three brothers. He excelled in youthful, heroic parts. When he gave Hamlet in London, his portrayal was said to equal that of Edmund Kean.
Born Dec. 15, 1784, in Berlin; died there Dec. 30, 1832. German actor.
In 1804, Devrient joined a theatrical company on tour in Thuringia (before 1807 he acted under the name Hertzberg). Subsequently he performed at the court theater in Dessau, at the Breslau Theater, and from 1814, at the Royal Theater in Berlin. He was especially successful in tragedies by Shakespeare and Schiller. Character roles suited his art best. He was able to accurately render every nuance of his heroes’ feelings and thoughts and create true-to-life and romantic characters, stressing their contrasting traits. His best roles were Franz Moor and Gessler in Schiller’s The Robbers and William Tell; King Lear, Shylock, and Falstaff in Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, and Henry IV; and Harpagon in Moliére’s The Miser. He was a friend of the writer E. T. A. Hoffmann, who in the book The Strange Sufferings of a Theater Manager (1819) created a character based on Devrient. An outstanding master of the German stage, Devrient brought the era of romanticism to a close and at the same time paved the way for 19th-century realism.