The external life of Franz Serafikus Grillparzer was rather quiet and lonely. Following a colorless childhood, he matriculated at the University of Vienna, where he studied law with little enthusiasm. When his father died in 1809, he was forced to go to work to help support his mother and three brothers. A close relationship with his overly sensitive mother contributed to the development of a personality that caused him to have extreme difficulty in adapting to normal public life and basic human associations. Experience as a tutor and unpaid assistant in the court library preceded his entry into a full-time civil service career in 1814. Between those beginnings and 1856, when he retired from his official duties with the title of Privy Councilor, he worked variously in the customs department, the finance ministry, and the state archives, of which he became director in 1832. In 1861, he was elected to the Herrenhaus, where he continued to participate in political affairs for a number of years.
While still a student, Grillparzer wrote his first play, Blanca von Kastilien. Although it was rejected when he submitted it to the Burgtheater, he continued to cultivate his interest in the stage. A turning point in his life occurred in 1816, when he became acquainted with Josef Schreyvogel, who was then director of the Burgtheater. Schreyvogel encouraged his literary efforts, giving him the stimulus that he needed to write The Ancestress. Embittered by the criticism of the play as a fate tragedy following its sensational premier, Grillparzer looked for less controversial substance for his next work. Sappho, which he completed in the summer of 1817, was...
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