Franz Grillparzer

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Grillparzer, Franz


Born Jan. 15, 1791, in Vienna; died there Jan. 21, 1872. Austrian playwright.

Grillparzer studied law in Vienna and combined careers in literature and the civil service. In 1856 he retired and traveled around Europe. In 1826 he became acquainted with Goethe, and in 1836 in Paris he met L. Börne, who gave a very favorable evaluation of Grillparzer’s first important drama, the “tragedy of fate” The Ancestress (1817). He also became acquainted with Heine, and was a friend of Beethoven.

Grillparzer is the father of modern Austrian drama. His works were pervaded with protest against the reactionary feudal-bureaucratic regime of Chancellor Metternich and the egoistic spirit of emerging capitalist society. Thus, many of his plays were banned by the censor or were received with hostility by bourgeois audiences (for example, the comedy Thou Shalt Not Lie, 1838). However. Grillparzer’s world view was inconsistent: he saw no forces capable of countervailing the old Austria, which he despised, and in the Revolution of 1848–49 in Germany he took the side of the government.

In Grillparzer’s works the traditions of Enlightenment classicism are combined with romanticism and realism and the clarity and austerity of classical composition with romantic lyricism, symbolism, and the fervid fantasy and color of mass scenes. In the tragedy Sappho (1818) he depicted the tragic incompatibility of art and life. In Waves of the Sea and of Love (1831), Grillparzer upheld the freedom of natural craving against religious asceticism. In the plays King Ot-tocar: His Rise and Fall (1825) and The Dream, a Life (1834) he debunked lust for power and conquest and the cult of the strong man, for whom Napoleon served as prototype. Libussa (1844) conveys the humanist dream of a future society. Outstanding among Grillparzer’s short stories is “The Poor Musician” (1848), which is about the fortunes of an oppressed man of the people.


Sämtliche Werke, vols. 1–42. Berlin, 1909–48.
In Russian translation:
P’esy. Introductory article and annotations by E. Etkind. Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.
[“Novelly.”] In Avstriiskaia novella XIX v. Moscow. 1959.


Engels, F. F. Greberu, 9 dek. 1839–5 fevr. 1840. (Letter.) In K. Marx and F. Engels, Iz rannikh proizvedenii. Moscow, 1956. Page 336.
Mering, F. Literaturno-kriticheskie stat’i, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.
Azadovskii, K. “Gril’partser i ego zarubezhnye kritiki.” Voprosy literatury, 1968, no. 12.
Müller, J. F. Grillparzer. Stuttgart, 1963.
Naumann, W. F. Grillparzer: Das dichterische Werk, 2nd ed. Stuttgart [1967].
Wells, G. A. The Plays of Grillparzer. London [1969].


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Franz Grillparzer was a prolific dramatist influenced by the Spanish theatre of the siglo de oro as well as by classical drama.
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