Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Hugo Laurenz August Hofmann Elder von Hofmannsthal was born on February 1, 1874, in Vienna. His father was a bank manager. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, there was considerable social unrest in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but Hofmannsthal enjoyed a sheltered and carefree childhood and youth. From an early age, he was exposed to the theater, to opera, and to other forms of art. From 1884 to 1892, he attended the prestigious Wiener Akademisches Gymnasium (academic high school). He was a brilliant student, particularly in languages and literature. At the age of twelve, he had read the German classics ( Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Heinrich von Kleist, and Franz Grillparzer). Three years later, he was acquainted with the works of Homer, Voltaire, Dante, William Shakespeare, George Gordon, Lord Byron, and Robert Browning, all of which he read in the original languages. In 1890, he published his first poems under the nom de plume “Loris.” This pseudonym became known rapidly in the literary circles of Vienna, particularly in the famous Café Griensteidl. When Hofmannsthal was eventually introduced to the influential critic Hermann Bahr, the latter was astounded to meet a seventeen-year-old youth; given the intellectual maturity of Loris’s writings, he had expected to encounter a man in his forties.
Hofmannsthal’s precocious maturity was based primarily on reading, not on real, “lived” experiences. The...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry)
Other Literary Forms
Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s outstanding poetry forms only a very small portion of his literary legacy. During the 1890’s, when his best poems were written, editions of his early lyric plays also appeared. They include Gestern (1891), Der Tor und der Tod (pb. 1894; Death and the Fool, 1913), Die Hochzeit der Sobeide (pr., pb. 1899; The Marriage of Sobeide, 1913), and Theater in Versen (1899). After 1900, he devoted most of his creative energy to the stage and published more than twenty additional books of dramatic writings before his death. Such works as Elektra (pr. 1903; Electra, 1908), Jedermann (pr., pb. 1911; Everyman, 1917), Der Schwierige (pb. 1920; The Difficult Man, 1963), and Das Salzburger Grosse Welttheater (pr., pb. 1922; The Salzburg Great Theatre of the World, 1958) became very popular. Hofmannsthal achieved his greatest theatrical success, however, as librettist for the operas of Richard Strauss. Because of his lyric virtuosity, Electra, which he revised for Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier (pr., pb. 1911; The Cavalier of the Rose, 1912; also known as The Rose Bearer), and Arabella (1933; English translation, 1955) received lasting acclaim. Hofmannsthal also wrote a few excellent short stories, parts of a novel, scenarios for several ballets, and more...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Hugo von Hofmannsthal (HOHF-mahn-stahl) was subject to a multitude of influences. His aristocratic parentage included Jewish, German, and Italian elements. In addition, he was exposed to the stimulating, multifaceted Viennese culture, which was showing signs of an era on the wane. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler made Vienna a center of revolutionary discoveries about human motivations. Vienna coffeehouses were crowded with intellectuals from Munich, Berlin, Prague, and Rome. Hofmannsthal absorbed much from the continuous stream of new ideas, but his aristocratic and Roman Catholic heritage prevented him from becoming a mere innovator.
As a student he was regarded as a wunderkind. Because school regulations prohibited students from publishing, he started his literary career writing under the pen name of Loris. A Viennese publisher who printed some of these early works was speechless when he learned that Loris was a sixteen-year-old boy. When Arthur Schnitzler heard Hofmannsthal recite one of his verse plays, the older, established writer recognized his talent and confided to his friend Stefan Zweig: “Someone who starts like this at sixteen, must become a brother of Goethe and Shakespeare.”
Soon Hofmannsthal was a well-respected writer of the coffeehouse elite. There he met the poet Stefan George, who published the...
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Hugo Laurenz August von Hofmannsthal was born on February 1, 1874, in Vienna, Austria, the only child of Ann Maria Josefa Fohleutner and Hugo August Peter, the director of an investment bank. Von Hofmannsthal was raised in a prominent bourgeois family, which enjoyed both inherited wealth and professional success. His mother’s father, originally Jewish, converted to Roman Catholicism to marry the daughter of an Austrian court official, and von Hofmannsthal’s parents considered themselves fully assimilated into Austrian culture. Although they lost considerable assets in the stock market crash of 1873, his parents maintained a high standard of living, and von Hofmannsthal grew up with all the privileges of an elite education, cultural experiences such as regular opera and theater attendance, leisure activities such as fencing and riding lessons, and international travel.
Von Hofmannsthal attended Akademisches Gymnasium from 1884 to 1892. From 1892 to 1894, he attended law schools at the University of Vienna, but he left before earning a degree. From 1894 to 1895, he served in the Austrian army. In 1899, Von Hofmannsthal received a Ph.D. in philology, with a specialization in French literature, from the University of Vienna. However, he turned down the opportunity to pursue an academic career in favor of devoting himself to writing essays and plays. In 1901, he married Gertrud Schlesinger, with whom he had three children. During World War I, von...
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Dramatist, poet, novelist, and essayist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal was born on February 1, 1874, in Vienna, Austria. He was the only son of Hugo August (a bank director) and Anna Maria von Hofmannsthal. Von Hofmannsthal attended the Wiener Akademisches Gymnasium, where he wrote his first poetry, drama, and essays. He was considered a precocious talent. After graduating in 1892, he entered law school at the University of Vienna, but dropped out in 1894 to join the military. Returning to the same school a year later, he studied for four years, receiving a Ph.D. in Romance philology in 1899. By that time, he had already established himself as a writer, much admired by prominent men of letters in Austria and Germany. He helped to form the Jung Wien (Young Vienna), a group of writers who rejected naturalism in literature and adopted the principles of the French Symbolist tradition.
Von Hofmannsthal’s work is often divided into three periods. The earliest phase lasted from about 1890 to the turn of the century. It consisted mainly of poetry and lyric drama, including such works as Der Tod des Tizian (1901; trans. The Death of Titian, 1914), and Der Thor und der Tod (1900; trans. Death and the Fool, 1913). The second period, from about 1900 to the beginning of World War I, was a transitional one. Von Hofmannsthal placed less emphasis on the precept of ‘‘art for art’s sake’’ that had characterized his earlier works and...
(The entire section is 419 words.)