Gerhart Hauptmann

(redirected from Gerhart Johann Hauptmann)

Hauptmann, Gerhart

(gĕr`härt houpt`män), 1862–1946, German dramatist, novelist, and poet. He showed the influence of the theories of Zola and the plays of Ibsen in his play Before Dawn (1889, tr. 1909), which inaugurated the naturalistic movement in the German theater and won overnight fame. His other realistic plays include the famous tragedy of the working class, The Weavers (1892, tr. 1899), the comedy The Beaver Coat (1893, tr. 1905), and the tragedies Drayman Henschel (1899, tr. 1913) and Rose Bernd (1903, tr. 1913). Responsive to changing moods in literature, Hauptmann reflected the trend away from naturalism with the dream play Hannele (1893, tr. 1894) and the popular romantic play The Sunken Bell (1897, tr. 1898). His prose works include the novel of a modern mystic, The Fool in Christ, Emanuel Quint (1910, tr. 1911) and The Heretic of Soana (1918, tr. 1923). Till Eulenspiegel (1928) is an epic of postwar Germany. A leading figure in German literature for three generations, Hauptmann received many honors, notably the 1912 Nobel Prize in Literature.


See study by P. Mellen (1983).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hauptmann, Gerhart


Born Nov. 15, 1862, in Obersalzbrunn; died June 6, 1946, in Agnetendorf. German writer. Son of an innkeeper.

Hauptmann attended an art school and the University of Jena. His first literary work was written in the 1880’s. He became famous with the appearance of the drama Before Sunrise (1889; Russian translation, 1901), which portrays the decline of a bourgeois family. Soon after that Hauptmann became the leading figure of German naturalism. In the dramas Drayman Henschel (1898), Rose Bernd (1903), and The Rats (1911), Hauptmann criticized the mores of Germany under the kaiser and sympathized with the unfortunate. Hauptmann’s works, however, revealed the limitations of naturalism—the absolute determinism of biological laws and the passivity of the heroes. The theme of the drama The Weavers (1892) is the Silesian weavers’ uprising of 1844. In this drama, which is innovative in theme and style, the working mass serves as a collective hero. This play was very successful in Russia and other countries. The comedy The Beaver Coat (1893) is a satiric exposé of William II’s Germany. Besides the dramas of everyday life, Hauptmann wrote verse plays and tales, which were influenced by symbolism (The Sunken Bell, 1896; Poor Heinrich, 1902). His play Florian Geyser (1896) is based on a historical event, a 16th-century peasant uprising.

Hauptmann’s dramas Winter Ballad (1917), White Savior (1920), and Indipohdi (1920) and the novels The Fool in Christ, Emanuel Quint (1910) and The Island of the Great Mother (1924) lean toward the irrational. Hauptmann’s prose, except for the novel The Heretic of Soana (1918; Russian translation, 1920), which is an exposé of bigoted, hypocritical morality, does not measure up artistically to his plays. Of his later works, the most notable is the drama Before Sunset (1932), a work containing social criticism. During the fascist rule in Germany, Hauptmann stopped writing on contemporary themes. He wrote the autobiographical novel Adventure of My Youth (1937) and a drama tetralogy based on the Greek legend of the house of Atreus (1941-44). The narrative poem The Great Dream testifies to Hauptmann’s hostility toward Nazism. After the downfall of the Hitler regime, Hauptmann was elected honorary chairman of the Kulturbund, an organization of the democratic intelligentsia. He received the Nobel Prize in 1912.


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In Russian translation:
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.