Arthur Schnitzler Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Arthur Schnitzler was born in Vienna on May 15, 1862. His father was a physician and the director of the Vienna General Hospital. Schnitzler grew up in the enlightened liberal atmosphere that was typical of emancipated Viennese Jews. He was at first taught by a governess (who introduced him to the dramatic works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Friedrich Schiller, and William Shakespeare, and to the Viennese folk theater) and by private tutors. He then attended the Akademisches Gymnasium (high school), from which he was graduated in 1879. In the fall of that year, he began studying medicine at the University of Vienna, mostly to please his father. Except for nervous and mental diseases, Schnitzler was not really interested in medicine, and his early efforts at writing were not very promising either. Starting in 1882, he had to fulfill his military obligation by serving as a medical assistant. He hated life in the army and all forms of militarism and indulged in a “melancholy-cynical feeling of the world.” This feeling and a series of fleeting love affairs seem to have coalesced into the psychological substratum from which he eventually created the cycle of one-act plays that make up the drama Anatol. In 1885, Schnitzler completed his master’s degree and began working as a physician at the Vienna General Hospital.

The period of Schnitzler’s university studies coincided with a marked change in the political climate in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy: The political power of the enlightened liberal parties declined considerably. At the same time, the clerical and nationalist parties gained majorities, both in the parliament and in the Vienna city council. Simultaneously with this shift in political power there occurred a marked increase in the hostility exhibited toward...

(The entire section is 732 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Arthur Schnitzler (SHNIHTS-lur) was one of the most prominent writers living in the city of Vienna during the highly productive and creative late nineteenth, early twentieth century era that produced individuals such as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Johannes Brahms. Born in that city on May 15, 1862, Schnitzler was the son of a famous Jewish professor of medicine and became himself a practicing physician upon graduation from the University of Vienna in 1885. For a time he was involved in studies in psychology. He was, however, more interested in a literary career and rather unsuccessful as a man of medicine. Schnitzler was somewhat of a dandy and a compulsive seducer but was at the same time always a keen observer of his own and his contemporaries’ behavior. He married in 1903 and had several children, one of whom, his daughter Lili, committed suicide in 1928. Schnitzler died on October 21, 1931, in Vienna and is buried there.

From 1888 to 1891, Schnitzler worked on the Anatol cycle of loosely connected dialogue sketches centering on the romantic obsessions of the young and frivolous bachelor Anatol, who becomes infatuated with a new woman—and attempts to seduce her—in every scene. The overwhelming mood of the sketches is one of a melancholy boredom, as Anatol, in repetitive but vain attempts, seeks to gain some sense of the authentic experience of himself and others. He is never able to penetrate to his true emotions and remains fixed in an illusory vision of life.

Light-O’-Love depicts two young frivolous women, Mizi and Christine, working girls from the outskirts of Vienna, who pursue love affairs with men of higher social status, in the vain illusion that they might elevate their class position. They are the prototypes of Schnitzler’s frequent character figures, the “sweet girl” (susses Madel), a kind of young, lower-class woman common to Viennese social circles and with whom the author was very familiar in his personal life. The young men of the play take such affairs and seductions lightly, and the ending is inevitably tragic. One of the men, Fritz, is killed in a duel because he has seduced a married woman. The Green Cockatoo is another of Schnitzler’s well-known one-act plays and takes place in France at the time of the 1789 revolution. As in many of his works, the action...

(The entire section is 966 words.)