Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock was born on July 2, 1724, to an a middle-class northern German family. At the age of fifteen, he was admitted to Schulpforta, a prestigious school maintained by the ruler of the region, which emphasized instruction in classical languages and literatures. At the same time, Klopstock became acquainted with English authors, particularly Joseph Addison and John Milton, and at the occasion of his graduation speech in 1745, he not only expressed the wish that German poets should produce works rivaling Homer, Vergil, and Milton but also confessed that he himself felt called on to become their German successor.

While studying theology first at the University of Jena, then later in Leipzig, Klopstock began to work on The Messiah, publishing the first three cantos in 1748. His growing reputation, bolstered by strong support from the famous Swiss literary theoreticians Johann Jakob Bodmer and Johann Jakob Breitinger, led King Frederick V of Denmark to invite Klopstock in 1751 to come to Copenhagen and to complete the work on The Messiah with the support of a lifelong annuity. On his trip to Denmark, he met his future wife, Meta Moller, with whom he spent the happiest time of his life at the court in Copenhagen, until she died in childbirth in 1758.

After the death of King Frederick in 1766, Klopstock’s friend and patron Count Bernstorff had to go into exile, and Klopstock followed him to Hamburg. This...

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