Franz Grillparzer Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 687 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207664-Grillparzer.jpg Franz Grillparzer Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Franz Grillparzer (GRIHL-pahrt-sur) was born in Vienna and lived there almost his entire life. Although he often felt that the city had a stultifying atmosphere for artists, he knew he could not live anywhere else. His father, a lawyer, was a man of cold and unsocial nature, while Grillparzer’s mother was emotional and warm. The young man entered the University of Vienna as a law student in 1807, but his father’s death and the resulting shortage of funds forced him to leave and engage in private tutoring. He soon became a government clerk, later a librarian. Grillparzer held various civil service posts until his retirement in 1856.

He was an unstable man, given to fits of depression and melancholy. His family history (both his mother and a brother committed suicide) may be a partial explanation of this gloomy tendency. His dark moods may also have been caused by his dissatisfaction with the political situation in Vienna. Metternich was then in power, and Grillparzer’s plays were subjected to strict censorship, which was a constant harassment for the sensitive playwright.

The first of his plays, The Ancestress, was a dark and bloody verse tragedy that made him famous. Even this early work revealed Grillparzer’s unerring dramatic sense and his ability to write fine poetry. His next play, Sappho, is based on classical material and contains the essence of classical directness and simplicity. Grillparzer’s historical...

(The entire section is 463 words.)