Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann was born on November 15, 1862, in Obersalzbrunn, Silesia. His grandfather on his father’s side had been a weaver in his youth and was later an innkeeper; his father, Robert Hauptmann, owned a hotel. Silesia forms the background and the inspiration for many of Hauptmann’s works. He said that his works were rooted in his native soil and that he drew his strength as a writer from this region. Between 1874 and 1878, Hauptmann attended Realschule (high school) in Breslau, but he was a mediocre student. In the years following his graduation, he shifted from one possible vocation to another. In 1880, after working as an agricultural apprentice on an uncle’s farm in Silesia, he enrolled in art school in Breslau, intending to become a sculptor. In 1882 and 1883, he studied at the University of Jena, where he heard lectures on history, philosophy, literature, and archaeology. He also heard lectures by the most important disciple of Charles Darwin in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, whose theories were important in Hauptmann’s early plays.
In 1883, Hauptmann visited the Mediterranean and lived several months in Rome as a sculptor. Like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whom Hauptmann emulated, he was fascinated by the Mediterranean world, and it had a strong impact on his writing. In 1884 and 1885, he studied for two semesters at the University of Berlin, during which time he attended many theatrical performances. Indeed, Hauptmann thought for a while that he would...
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