Otto Ludwig Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

It was as a writer of fiction that Otto Ludwig achieved distinction as one of the foremost writers in nineteenth century German literature. He began by writing a series of stories on small-town life in Thuringia; with a graphic visual sense, he depicts social reality in his village tales. In 1856, he published an outstanding work, the novel Zwischen Himmel und Erde (Between Heaven and Earth, 1911), which was widely acclaimed as his best. In general, Ludwig’s fiction is characterized by careful psychological analysis and attention to detail, showing at times even a cumbersome meticulousness. In addition to prose, Ludwig wrote some poetry, but his contribution was negligible.

Ludwig’s major critical work is a collection entitled Shakespeare Studien (1871; Shakespearean studies). In addition to an analysis of William Shakespeare’s technique, there are valuable reflections on many of the fundamental questions of poetry, especially of the drama, and they confirm Ludwig as a discriminating critic. Other critical writings are collected in Dramaturgische Aphorismen (1891; dramatic aphorisms). As a representative of poetischer Realismus (poetic realism), a term that he seems to have coined, Ludwig defines künstlerischer Realismus (stylized realism) as a balance between subjectively idealistic and objectively naturalistic art. Perhaps he admired Shakespeare so much precisely because he saw in Shakespeare’s art the supreme embodiment of this principle.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although Otto Ludwig’s dramatic works are very uneven, he was one of the significant figures in nineteenth century German drama. According to Ludwig, modern drama must serve the common needs of the people. He regarded the theater as a place where people go to seek release from the burdens of life. His heroes, therefore, are often village people, his settings, frequently local. Within this framework, he continually emphasized the value of literature that was regional in inspiration. His reputation as one of Germany’s outstanding representatives of regionalist literature seems secure. In his critical writings and choice of projects, Ludwig was dependent to an excessive degree on other examples, such as on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story “Das Fräulein von Scuderi” (“Mademoiselle de Scudéri”), on which he based one of his early comedies by the same name, or, the drama Der Engel von Augsburg, Agnes Bernauerin (the angel from Augsburg, Agnes Bernauerin), believed to be based on Friedrich Hebbel’s theme of Agnes Bernauer. Ludwig is, nevertheless, accorded the praise due him as one of those dramatists who replaced with a greater variety of elementary human passions that rich, superficial life, which, through Friedrich Schiller’s influence, had prevailed on the German stage. Ludwig attempted a faithful representation of reality. He demanded subjects suited to the times and wanted to reconcile art and life. Proceeding from a regional base, he showed that literature within a local framework need not be provincial.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Thomas, Lionel. Otto Ludwig’s “Zwischen Himmel und Erde.” Leeds, England: W. S. Maney, 1975. Although this work focuses on Ludwig’s novel Between Heaven and Earth, it sheds light on his dramatic work and life.

Turner, David. Roles and Relationships in Otto Ludwig’s Narrative Fiction. Hull, England: University of Hull, 1975. An examination of Ludwig’s prose that also provides insights into his plays.