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...
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