August von Kotzebue Analysis

Other Literary Forms

August von Kotzebue also wrote poems, novels, reviews, historical treatises, travel descriptions, autobiographical works, essays, opera librettos, anecdotes, and apologies and retractions. He edited several journals, such as Der Freimüthige (1803-1807), Die Biene (1808-1810), and Die Grille (1811-1812). Editions of his letters to his mother and to his publisher also exist, as well as letters and papers published from his estate. The most important collections of these works are Ausgewählte prosaische Schriften (1842-1843), Kleine gesammelte Schriften (1787-1791), Vom Adel (1792), and Unparteiische Untersuchung über die Folgen der französischen Revolution auf das übrige Europa (1795). Among the English collections and translations is Historical, Literary, and Political Anecdotes and Miscellanies (1807).


It is no exaggeration to say that few German writers influenced European literature as much as did August von Kotzebue. His tremendous success with the theatergoing public in Germany, England, France, Russia, and other European nations engendered a multitude of translations, adaptations, and emulations of his dramatic style; his popularity also caused literary feuds in the artistic community and generated suspicion about Kotzebue’s political loyalties in his dealings with foreign powers and governments. The perceived inconsistencies in his views, for example, the depiction of a degenerate nobility in his plays and the apology for hereditary nobility in his treatise Vom Adel, or his apparent support of the French Revolution, his polemics against Napoleon, and his lifelong fascination with Russia and its czars, led to misunderstandings and finally to his assassination. Literary historians, far from celebrating the king of dramatists in his time, viewed with disdain his admitted goal to please the public and did not forgive him his quarrels with (and frequently his verbal victory over) the giants of German literature such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the brothers August William von Schlegel and Friedrich von Schlegel. The playwright, whose productivity was so immense that he himself lost count of the number of tragedies, comedies, librettos, and farces that he had written (he thought them to number 211, but he actually wrote at least 230), was accused of...

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Mandel, Oscar. August von Kotzebue: The Comedy, the Man. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990. A basic biography of Kotzebue that covers his life and works. Bibliography and index.

Taylor, Harley U., Jr. “The Dramas of August von Kotzebue on the New York and Philadelphia Stages from 1798 to 1805.” West Virginia University Philological Papers 23 (1977) 47-58. A look at Kotzebue’s plays as they were presented on the early American stage.

Williamson, George S. “What Killed August von Kotzebue? The Temptations of Virtue and the Political Theology of German Nationalism, 1789-1819.” The Journal of Modern History 72, no. 4 (December, 2000): 890-943. An examination of how Kotzebue’s reputation as a “seducer of virtue” helped lead to his assassination by a German nationalist. He also describes the state of nationalism in Germany at the time of the killing.