Lenz, Jakob Michael Reinhold

Lenz, Jakob Michael Reinhold

(yä`kôp mĭkh`äĕl rīn`hôlt lĕnts), 1751–92, German writer. He was a friend of Goethe, whom he first imitated, then lampooned. A gifted poet, he wrote lyric poems; plays, including the comedies Der Hofmeister (1774) and Die Soldaten (1776); and critical works, notably Anmerkungen übers Theater [remarks on the theater] (1774). He is a principal representative of the Sturm und DrangSturm und Drang
or Storm and Stress,
movement in German literature that flourished from c.1770 to c.1784. It takes its name from a play by F. M. von Klinger, Wirrwarr; oder, Sturm und Drang (1776).
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Lenz, Jakob Michael Reinhold


Born Jan. 12, 1751, in Sesswegen, in former Livland; died May 24, 1792, in Moscow. German writer and playwright.

The son of a pastor, Lenz went to Königsberg to study theology in 1768. In 1771, Lenz joined the circle of “stormy geniuses” headed by J. W. van Goethe in Strasbourg and became one of the theoreticians of the Sturm und Drang movement. Lenz led a restless existence. In 1781 he moved to Russia, where he became close to N. I. Novikov’s circle. In his Notes on the Theater (1774), Lenz argued against the aesthetics of classicism and proclaimed art to be free from normative rules; he demanded the creation of vivid and original characters. His article “On the Use of the German Language” (1775) urged writers to study popular speech.

Lenz’ plays are characterized by a mixture of the tragic and comic and by free, “Shakespearean” composition. His plays are imbued with antifeudal feelings—for example, The Tutor (1774) and Soldiers (1776). Lenz’s poetry resembled Goethe’s early love lyrics.


Gesammelte Schriften, vols. 1–4, 2nd ed. Edited by E. Lewy. Leipzig, 1917.
In Russian translation:
“Soldaty” [excerpts]. In Khrestomatiia po zapadnoevropeiskoi literature: Literatura vosemnadtsatogo veka. Moscow, 1938. Pages 556–63.


Rozanov, M. N. Poet perioda “burnykh stremlenii” Iakob Lents, ego zhizn’ i proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1901.
Kindermann, H. J. M. R. Lenz und die deutsche Romantik. Vienna-Leipzig, 1935.