Ludwig Anzengruber was born in Vienna on November 29, 1839. His father had moved to Vienna from his parents’ farm to become a minor official in the Imperial civil service. At the same time, he tried his hand as a playwright and even had one of his iambic plays performed with moderate success. Anzengruber was keenly aware of his father’s poetic and dramatic attempts, as well as of the fact that the elder Anzengruber never achieved any financial success with his pen. Anzengruber’s early, mostly unpublished literary work refers frequently to his father’s literary talent and his own hope to follow in his father’s footsteps.
After the early death of his father, Anzengruber grew up in the care of his mother and his grandmother. It was particularly the mother who influenced the career of the young man; she allowed him to terminate his schooling and to take up painting and engraving for a short time, and later, after a brief apprenticeship in a bookstore, to try himself as an actor. So strong was his mother’s devotion that she gave up her small business to accompany her son on all his theatrical journeys through the provinces of the Austrian Empire. Many of Anzengruber’s plays have at their center the figure of the self-sacrificing and unfalteringly supportive mother; this focus is the dramatist’s tribute to the woman who helped him through the bitter times of his early career and who died shortly after Anzengruber’s first dramatic success.
Anzengruber had neither talent nor success as an actor: “I had little luck as an actor, and as a writer—I was diligently writing all the while—I had none.” His constant contact with the stage, however lowly, provided him with a thorough knowledge of dramatic and theatrical technique, and the long days spent on the road allowed him considerable time for writing, but none of his early plays, including several librettos, brought him any financial or artistic success. At that time, when he and his mother had to pawn most of their meager possessions simply to survive, Anzengruber turned to the philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach. He...
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