Franz Grillparzer Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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

Like his dramas, the works that Franz Grillparzer produced in other genres reflect probings of the human spirit that lay bare the fundamental conflicts of humankind’s existence. His poetry is reserved and thoughtful with strong confessional overtones. Especially characteristic in their melancholy self-analysis are the seventeen poems of the cycle Tristia ex Ponto (1835; elegies from the Black Sea). In these lyrics, the author captured the torment of his personal situation as he pondered love relationships that remained unfulfilled. He also wrote pointed political verse and clever, bitter epigrams. Two novellas, Das Kloster bei Sendomir (1827; the monastery at Sendomir) and Der arme Spielmann (1847; The Poor Fiddler, 1946), are closely akin to his dramas in their psychological penetration of life and in their intensity of dramatic effect. The Poor Fiddler, a coded portrait of Grillparzer’s own soul, is particularly powerful in its revelation of his passionate love for the common people. Many significant notes about theater and literature, filled with deep insight into the nature and enduring laws of art, are contained in the fragmentary autobiography and the diaries and letters that were collected, edited, and published after his death.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Only belatedly recognized as the most important Austrian dramatist of the nineteenth century, Franz Grillparzer mediated the influence of German classicism on productions created for the Viennese stage. In so doing, he integrated a multitude of impulses from folk theater, romanticism, Baroque and Spanish tradition, and Shakespearean tragedy, introduced uniquely Austrian historical and cultural substance, gave the resulting creations elevated literary form, and established them in an appropriate relationship to the great Weimar plays of Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Throughout his career, Grillparzer experienced alternating extremes of public success and rejection. His first produced drama, The Ancestress, was greeted with enormous praise when it premiered in 1817, although it also caused him to be branded as a writer of fate tragedies. This circumstance gave him a degree of notoriety in Vienna even when later works were misunderstood or received with harsh criticism. Because of the controversial subject matter of some of his historical tragedies, he encountered repeated difficulties with the Austrian censors; their intervention sometimes delayed performance and publication of individual pieces for years. Grillparzer was extremely sensitive to critical opinion, and the initial failure of the comedy Thou Shalt Not Lie! in 1838 caused him to withdraw from open theatrical involvement for the rest of his life.

At first, the more successful plays enjoyed short-lived popularity. After Grillparzer’s retirement from the stage, however, they were all but forgotten, even in Vienna. Not until Heinrich Laube began to revive the interest of theatergoers with new performances of the tragedies at the Burgtheater did these creations finally gain acceptance as standards of the Austrian stage. In contrast to the disastrous premier twenty years earlier, Laube’s production of Hero and Leander in 1851 was an overwhelming triumph. As a result, Hero and Leander eventually became Grillparzer’s most popular dramatic work. Because of its powerful influence on subsequent German treatments of material from Greek antiquity, the trilogy The Golden Fleece is now regarded as a high point of nineteenth century theatrical art, comparable to Schiller’s Wallenstein trilogy (pr. 1798, 1799, 1799, respectively; pb. 1800), and a significant monument of world literature.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Peck, Jeffrey M. Hermes Disguised: Literary Hermeneutics and the Interpretation of Literature: Kleist, Grillparzer, Fontane. Berne, Switzerland: Lang, 1983. Examines German literature in the nineteenth century, focusing on Grillparzer, Heinrich von Kleist, and Theodor Fontane. Bibliography.

Reeve, William C. The Federfuchser, Penpusher from Lessing to Grillparzer: A Study Focused on Grillparzer’s “Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg.” Buffalo, N.Y.: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995. An examination of Grillparzer that centers on his plays, particularly Family Strife in Habsburg. Bibliography and index.

Reeve, William C. Grillparzer’s “Libussa”: The Tragedy of Separation. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999. This study of Grillparzer’s drama focuses on his play Libussa. Bibliography and index.

Roe, Ian F. Franz Grillparzer: A Century of Criticism. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1995. An analysis of the literary criticism that arose around Grillparzer’s works over time. Bibliography and index.

Roe, Ian F. An Introduction to the Major Works of Franz Grillparzer, 1791-1872: German Dramatist and Poet. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991. A critical look at the major literary works of Grillparzer, including his drama. Bibliography and index.

Thompson, Bruce. Franz Grillparzer. Boston: Twayne, 1981. A basic biography of Grillparzer, covering his life and works. Bibliography and index.

Wagner, Eva. An Analysis of Franz Grillparzer’s Dramas: Fate, Guilt, and Tragedy. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. A study of Grillparzer’s plays, focusing on his views of fate and guilt. Bibliography.