Frank Wedekind Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Benjamin Franklin Wedekind was born on July 24, 1864, in Hanover. His father, a physician, had been one of the German liberals who, in 1848, fought for a democratic Germany and for constitutional reform. Disillusioned after the failure of the liberal cause, he emigrated to the United States, where he practiced medicine in San Francisco and Oakland, California.

It was during a visit of the Wedekinds to Hanover in 1864 that Frank Wedekind was born as the second son of Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm and Emilie Wedekind. Frank’s father never returned to the United States. As his liberalism could not be reconciled with the repressive and reactionary political climate in Germany, he decided to settle in Switzerland.

During the 1870’s, Frank Wedekind, through an intensive correspondence with his aunt Olga Plümacher, became acquainted with the pessimistic philosophy of Eduard von Hartmann (1842-1906) and the writings of Romantics Nikolaus Lenau and Heinrich Heine as well as with the works of the German dramatists Christian Dietrich Grabbe and Georg Büchner.

After having attended high school in Aarau, Switzerland, Wedekind went to Munich, where—according to his father’s wishes—he was to prepare himself at the university for the career of a lawyer. In the Munich literary circles, Wedekind encountered the theories of naturalism as the German followers ofÉmile Zola propagated them. Wedekind, however, never approved of or felt at ease with the pseudoscientific methods of this literary school, which demanded of the writer a faithful reproduction of observed reality in a “realistic” mode. He did share, though, the naturalists’ outrage against social injustice.

After a violent argument with his father, Wedekind had to find a way to support himself and found work as chief of the advertising bureau of the Swiss manufacturer of bouillon cubes, Maggi, in Zurich. Half a year later, he ended his brief involvement with the...

(The entire section is 802 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (VAY-duh-kihnt), one of the most controversial of fin de siècle German writers, was the son of a world-traveling doctor who, at sixty-four, had married an actress less than half his age. Born in Hanover, Kingdom of Hanover, on July 24, 1864, Wedekind graduated from Lenzburg in Switzerland in 1883. Later he worked as a journalist and as traveling secretary for Herzog’s Circus. While he was with the circus he became convinced that humans are essentially animals who are healthiest when they live entirely by their instincts, uncorrupted by bourgeois education.

After a brief period as secretary to a Parisian art dealer, Wedekind went to Munich and wrote his first play, Der Schnellmaler (the world of youth), the story of a girls’ boarding school. It was followed by Spring’s Awakening, which presents an adolescent youth tormented by sexual drives and ruthlessly curbed by the iron discipline of society—an attempt on Wedekind’s part to out-Nietzsche Friedrich Nietzsche. He also attacked Henrik Ibsen and the realists of the preceding generation for being too genteel and middle-class. As writer, actor, and director of the Munich Theater, he believed that the stage needed “beasts of prey,” and he proceeded to supply them.

Lulu, the heroine of Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, is a Dionysiac character who becomes sex incarnate and is finally cut down by Jack the Ripper....

(The entire section is 412 words.)