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Gerhart (Johann Robert) Hauptmann (1862-1946)


Prominent German dramatist of the early 20th century. Hauptmann won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912. His naturalistic plays are still frequently performed. Hauptmann's best-known works include The Weavers (1893), a humanist drama of a rebellion against the mechanisms of the Industrial Revolution, and Hannele (1884), about the conflict between reality and fantasy.

"It is a sultry day toward the end of May. The clock points to twelve. Most of the waiting weavers stand like men before the bar of justice where, tortured and anxious, they must await a life-and-death decision. The all give the impression of being crushed, like beggars. Passing from humiliation from humiliation and convinced that they are only tolerated, they are used to making themselves as inconspicuous as possible." (from The Weavers, Act One) 

Gerhart Hauptmann was born in Ober-Salzbrunn (now Szczawno Zdrój, Poland), a fashionable resort in Silesia. His father was Robert Hauptmann, a hotel owner, and mother Marie (Straehler) Hauptmann. After failing at the gymnasium in Breslau, Gerhart was sent to his uncle's estate. There he became aware of Pietism and learned to know the peasants with whom he worked. Already as a child Hauptmann had started to draw, and he entered the art academy in Breslau, intending to become a sculptor. At the age of twenty he moved to Jena, where he studied history at the university.

From 1883 to 1884 Hauptmann studied art in Rome and wrote a romantic poem based on the myth of Prometheus. Ill health forced him to return to Germany. In 1885 he married Marie Thienemann; they had four children. Marie Thienemann was a beautiful, rich heiress, whom he had met in 1881, and who supported him through the four years of their engagement. Hauptmann settled with Marie in Berlin. She admired her husband, but did not much understand literature and was devastated when Gerhart's attention strayed. However, her wealth gave him the freedom to start his career as a writer.

In 1885 Hauptmann set up a home with his wife in the little lakeside village of Erkner. Abandoning his early romantic ideals, he became convinced that life should be depicted as it is. From the intellectual currents of his day he adopted a belief in scientific causality and materialism. His early stories 'Fasching' (1887) and 'Bahnwärter Thiel' (1888) were tales of simple people, although there is also a level which transcends the boundaries of realism.

Vor Sonnenaufgang (1889), Hauptmann's his first play, with its shocking realism, created an uproar among the audience when it was first performed in Freie Bühne in Berlin. In the play, Alfred Loth, a young socialist, falls in love with Helene Krause, the sister-in-law of his former college friend, a ruthless coal-mining engineer, and is corrupted by his power. Alfred leaves Helene, who kills herself. "He is not a realist who sporadically suffers from whimsical fits of philosophical romanticizing", wrote Theodor Fontane later, "but a realist in good style, which is to say that from the beginning to the end he is always the same." In Berlin Hauptmann came in contact with progressive intellectuals, among them the poet and dramatist Arno Holz (1863-1929), whose play Neue Gleise (1892) deeply influenced him. Holz had earlier published Die Kunst, ihr Wesen und ihre Gesetze (1891), in which he tried to give naturalism a theoretic base.

Hauptmann's early dramas reflect the influence of Henrik Ibsen, but the production of Die Weber, a dramatization of the Silesian weavers' revolt of 1844, brought him fame as the leading playwright of his generation. Hauptmann did not only want to give realistic details, but he paid a great deal of attention to historical accuracy, and studied various dialects. His weavers are "flat-chested, coughing creatures of the looms, whose knees are bent with much sitting." The women's clothes are ragged, but some of the young girls are not without charm  they have "delicate figures, large protruding melancholy eyes." Structurally the play, which was at first banned, was innovative there is no single, individual hero in the cast of more than 70 characters.

In Der Biberpelz (1893), a comedy set in the neighborhood of Berlin in the 1880s, and in Hanneles Himmelfahrt (1894), Hauptmann began to try to abandon the naturalistic style, but still focused on the life of ordinary people. The heroine of Hannele is an abused, motherless child who escapes hard reality into dreams and fantasies. After scrupulous studies Hauptmann wrote the passionate and lively Florian Geyer (1896), which dealt with the peasant wars of the sixteenth century. It was not as successful as Hauptmann had expected, but later on it has been considered among his major works.

Die versunkene Glocke (1897), a symbolic story of a master bell founder and his struggle as an artist, has been one of Hauptmann's most popular plays. After this Hauptmann wrote the tragedies Fuhrmann Henschel (1899), Michael Kramer (1900), and Rose Bernd (1903). These works also reflected the personal turmoil Hauptmann was then in he had fallen for a fourteen-year-old girl, a promising violinist Margarete Marschalk. She was the opposite of his wife, interested in his work, and in such outdoor sports as hiking, ice-skating, andf skiing. After Hauptmann wife found out about her rival, she moved with the children to Dresden. Hauptmann had a son, Benvenuto, with Margarete, and in 1904, after a long period of agonising thought, Hauptmann divorced Marie and married Margarete. However, a year later he met a sixteen-year-old actress, Ida Orloff, who became a new object of his obsession. Hauptmann described her in his letters as a moth flirting with flames, as a bewitching Siren, as a mermaid, and as a cruel spider.

Und Pippa tanzt! (1906), about the fragility of beauty, is one of Hauptmann's most poetical works. Pippa also owed much to Hauptmann's study of the legends and myths of Silesia. Ida Orloff played the title role and later she starred in August Blom's film adaptation of Hauptmann's novel Atlantis, in which she performed a "spider-dance". She committed suicide during the final weeks of WW II in Berlin, after being raped and abused by Russian soldiers.

Hauptmann's journey to Greece in 1907 inspired the travel diary Griechischer Frühling (1908), where he brought up the theme of Christian heritage and paganism. Hauptmann returned to the theme in two novels, Der Narr in Christo Emanuel Quint (1910), a summation of his lifelong interest in the figure of Christ, and Die Insel der großen Mutter (1924). Kaiser Karls Geisel (1908) dealt with nymphomania.  In Der Bogen des Odysseus (1914) the hero regains his power through the contact with his native soil.

Wir bringen ein erstes Grüssen
durch Finsternisse getrageb;
wir haben auf unsern Federn
ein erstes Hauchen von Glück.
Wir führen am Saum unsrer Kleider
ein erstes Duften des Frühlings;
es blüht von unsern Lippen
die erste Röte des Tags.
Es leuchtet vor unsern Früssen
der grüne Schein unsrer Heimat;
es blitzen im Grund unsrer Augen
die Zinnen der ewigen Stadt.

"Thanks to this elemental feeling for his fellow men, Hauptmann has remained the foremost social poet of Germany. And thanks to this deep feeling for humanity he is counted among those modern dramatists who, like Ibsen, Strindberg, and Shaw, have outlasted the changes of time and fashion." (Horst Frenz in 'Introduction' to Gerhart Hauptmann's Three Plays, 1977) In the 1920s Hauptmann took the subjects for his plays from fantasy, mythical symbolism and folklore. He himself considered Till Eulenspiegel (1928), an epic in hexameters fusing reality and fantasy, his greatest. Vor Sonnenuntergang (1932) was a tragic love story of an old man and a young girl, which had some autobiographical basis. Im Wirbel der Berufung(1936), Hauptmann's last novel, was followed by Das Abenteuer meiner Jugend (1937), a book of memoirs of his first 26 years. Throughout the Nazi regime, Hauptmann remained in Germany, which Goebbels used as a propaganda tool, claiming that he had made his peace with the Nazis. The Third Reich refused to allow him to receive the Schiller Prize, for which he was almost continuously recommended. A complete seventeen- volume edition of his works came out in 1942. Hauptmann died on June 6 1946 of pneumonia, at his home in Agnetendorf. His last work, the unfinished Der neue Christophorus, was again a story of suffering humanity.

For further reading: Gerhart Hauptmann by P. Schlenther (1897); Gerhart Hauptmann by K. Holl (1913); Gerhart Hauptmann by P. Fechter (1922); Gerhart Hauptmann by H.F. Garten (1954); Gerhart Hauptmann, His Life and Work by C.F.W. Behl (1956); Gerhart Hauptmann: The Prose Plays by M. Sinden (1957); Witness of Deceit by R.L. Shaw (1958); Der schwarze Zeus, Gerhart Hauptmanns zweiter Weg by R. Michaelis (1962); Gerhart Hauptmann, der ewige Deutsche by J. Améry (1963); Gerhart Hauptmann oder der letzte Klassiker by H. Daiber (1971); Gerhart Hauptmann and Utopia by P.A. Mellen (1976); The Image of the Primitive Giant in Gerhart Hauptmann by C.T. Dussere (1979); Understanding Gerhart Hauptmann by W.R. Maurer (1982); Gerhart Hauptmann by P.A. Mellen (1984); Understanding Gerhart Hauptmann by Warren R. Mauer (1992); Domination, Dependence, Denial and Despair by C.F. Good (1993)

Selected bibliography:

  • Promethidenlos, 1885
  • Fasching, 1887
  • Das bunte Buch, 1888
  • Bahnwärter Thiel, 1988
    - Lineman Thiel and Other Tales (translated by Stanley Radcliffe, 1989) / The Signalman Thiel and Other Stories (translated by N. Jacobs, 1993)
  • Vor Sonnenaufgang, 1889 (play, prod. 1889)
    - Before Daybreak (translated by Peter Bauland, 1978) / Before Dawn (translated by Leonard Bloomfield, 1908) / Before Sunrise (translated by James Joyce, with an introd. and notes by Jill Perkins, 1978)
    - Ennen auringonlaskua (suom. Esko Elstelä, 1976)
    - film 1956, dir. by Gottfried Reinhardt, starring Hans Albers, Annemarie Düringer, Martin Held, Claus Biederstaedt, Hannelore Schroth, Erich Schellow
  • Das Friedensfest, 1890 (play, prod. 1890)
    - The Coming of Peace (translated by Janet Achurch and C. E. Wheeler, 1900) / The Reconciliation (in Dramatic Works, 1914)
  • Der Apostel, 1890
  • Einsame Menschen, 1891 (play, prod. 1891)
    - Lonely Lives (translated by Mary Morrison, 1898)
    - Yksinäisiä ihmisiä (suom. Aira Pohjavaara, 1981)
    - TV film 1963, prod. Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), dir. by Axel Ivers
  • Die Weber, 1892 (play, prod. 1893)
    - The Weavers (translated by Carl Richard Mueller; Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner, in Three Plays, 1977)
    - Kankurit (suom. Kaarle Halme, 1906)
    - film 1927, dir. by Frederic Zelnik, starring Paul Wegener, Valeska Stock, Hermann Picha, Hertha von Walther; TV film 1971, dir. by Günter Gräwert; TV film 1980, dir. by Fritz Umgelter
  • Der Biberpelz, 1893 (play, prod. 1893)
    - The Beaver Coat (tr. in 1912; Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner, in Three Plays, 1977)
    - Majavannahkaturkki (suom. Jalo Kalima, 1941)
    - films: 1928, dir. by Erich Schönfelder, starring La Jana, Paul Henckels, Lucie Höflich; 1937, dir. by Jürgen von Alten, starring Heinrich George, Ida Wüst and Rotraut Richter; 1949, dir. by Erich Engel, starring Fita Benkhoff, Werner Hinz, Käthe Haack, TV film 1955, dir. by Werner Völger; TV film 1962, dir. by John Olden; TV film 1975, dir. by Franz Peter Wirth; TV film 1983, dir. by Ernstgeorg Hering, Helmut Straßburger and Margot Thyret; TV film 1994, dir. by Thomas Langhoff
  • Hanneles Himmelfahrt, 1893 (play, prod. 1893)
    - Hannele, a Dream Poem (translated by Charles Henry Meltzer, 1908) / Hannele (translated by Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner, in Three Plays, 1977)
    - Hannele (suom. Eino Kalima, 1918)
    - films: 1922, dir. by Urban Gad, starring Margarete Schlegel, Margarete Schön; Chichi yo izuko e, 1923, dir. by Norimasa Kaeriyama; 1934, dir. by Thea von Harbou, starring Inge Landgut, Käthe Haack, Theodor Loos
  • Die versunkene Glocke, 1896 (play, prod. 1896)
    - The Sunken Bell (translated by  Mary Harned, 1898; Charles Henry Meltzer, 1899)
    - Uponnut kello (suom.)
    - film: Kanashiki koi no gensô, 1925, dir. by Yoshinobu Ikeda, starring Toshitaka Furukawa, Eiko Higashi,  Sumiko Kurishima, Shinyo Nara, Shoichi Nodera, Dekao Yoko
  • Florian Geyer, 1896 (play, prod. 1896)
    - Florian Geyer (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1929)
  • Fuhrmann Henschel, 1898
    - Drayman Henschell (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1913)
    - films: Yama no senroban, 1923, prod. Shochiku Kinema, dir. by Yasujiro Shimazu; 1956, dir. by Josef von Báky, starring Walter Richter, Nadja Tiller and Wolfgang Lukschy; TV film 1962, dir. by Kurt Hirschfeld
  • Schluck und Jau, 1900 (play, prod. 1900)
    - Schluck and Jau (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
    - films: TV film 1985, dir. by Rudolf Noelte; TV film 1989, dir. by Siegfried Höchst, Margot Thyret
  • Michael Kramer, 1900 (play, prod. 1900)
    - Michael Kramer (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1914)
    - films: TV film 1955, dir. by Alfred Braun; TV film 1965, dir. by Peter Beauvais; TV film 1984, dir. by Rudolf Noelte
  • Der rote Hahn, 1901 (play, prod. 1901)
    - The Conflagration (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1913)
  • Der arme Heinrich, 1902 (play, prod. 1902)
    - Henry of Auë (in Dramatic Works, 1914)
  • Rose Bernd, 1903 (play, prod. 1903)
    - Rose Bernd (in Dramatic Works, 1913)
    - films: 1919, dir. by Alfred Halm; Irz düsmanlari, 1955, dir. by Nuri Akinci; 1957, dir. by Wolfgang Staudte, starring Maria Schell, Raf Vallone; TV film 1962, dir. by Gustav Burmester
  • Elga, 1905 (play, prod. 1905)
    - Elga (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
    - film: Ne stroi s'chastya svoyevo na zhene i rebyonke, 1917, dir. by Joseph Soiffer, starring Gregori Chmara, Joseph Soiffer and M. Zhdanova
  • Und Pippa tanzt!, 1906 (play, prod. 1906)
    - And Pippa Dances (tr. 1907)
  • Die Jungfern vom Bischofsberg, 1907 (play, prod. 1907)
    - Maidens of the Mount (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
    - film 1943, prod. Prag-Film, adaptation by Erich Ebermayer, dir. by Peter Paul Brauer
  • Kaiser Karls Geisel, 1908 (play, prod. 1908)
    - Charlemagne's Hostage (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
  • Griechischer Frühling, 1908
  • Griselda, 1909 (play, prod. 1909)
    - Griselda (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
  • Der Narr in Christo Emanuel Quint, 1910
    - The Fool in Christ, Emmanuel Quint (translated by Thomas Seltzer, 1912)
  • Die Ratten, 1911
    - The Rats (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1913)
    - films: 1921, dir. by Hanns Kobe; 1955, dir. by Robert Siodmak, starring Maria Schell, Curd Jürgens, Heidemarie Hatheyer; TV film 1959, dir. by John Olden; TV film 1969, dir. by Peter Beauvais; TV film 1977, dir. by Rudolf Noelte
  • Atlantis, 1912
    - Atlantis (translated by Adele and Thomas Seltzer, 1912)
    - Atlantis (suom. Toini Havu, 1936)
    - film 1913, prod. Nordisk Film, adaptation by Axel Garde and Karl-Ludwig Schröder, dir. by August Blom, starring Olaf Fønss, Ida Orloff, Ebba Thomsen
  • Gabriel Schillings Flucht, 1912 (play, prod. 1912)
    - Gabriel Schilling's Flight (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
    - TV film 1962, dir. by William Dieterle, starring Thomas Holtzmann, Gisela Mattishent and Günter Pfitzmann
  • The Dramatic Works 1912-1929 (9 vols., translated by Ludwig Lewisohn, et al.)
  • Gesammelte werke, 1912 (6 vols.)
  • Lohengrin, 1913
  • Festspiel in deutschen Reimen, 1913 (play, prod. 1913)
    - Commemoration Masque (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
  • Der Bogen des Odysseus, 1914 (play, prod. 1914)
    - The Bow of Ulysses (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1919)
  • Parsival, 1914
    - Parsival (translated by Oakley Williams, 1915)
  • The Maiden of the Mount, 1915 (translation)
  • Winterballade, 1917 (play, prod. 1917)
    - A Winter Ballad (in Dramatic Works, 1925)
  • Der ketzer von Soana, 1918
    - The Heretic of Soana (translated by Bayard Quincy Morgan, 1923)
    - Soanan kerettiläinen (suom. Alpo Kupiainen, 1929)
  • Indipohdi, 1920 (play, prod. 1920)
    - Indipohdi (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1925)
  • Der weiße Heiland, 1920 (play, prod. 1920)
    - The White Savior (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1925)
  • Anna: Ein ländliches Liebesgedicht, 1921
  • Peter Brauer, 1921 (play, prod. 1921)
    - TV film 1969, prod. Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), dir. by Peter Mathes, starring Werner Hinz, Käthe Braun and Knut Hinz
  • Ausblicke, 1922
  • Gesammelte werke, 1922 (12 vols.)
  • Phantom, 1922
    - Phantom (translated by Bayard Quincy Morgan, 1922)
    - film 1922, prod. Uco-Film GmbH, dir. by F.W. Murnau, adaptation by Thea von Harbou, starring Alfred Abel, Frida Richard, Aud Egede Nissen, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski, Adolf Klein, Olga Engl
  • Die Insel der großen Mutter, 1924
    - The Island of the Green Mother (translated by Willa and Edwin Muir, 1925)
  • Veland, 1925 (play)
    - Veland (tr. in Dramatic Works, 1929)
  • Dorothea Angermann, 1926 (play, prod. 1926)
    - film 1959, prod. Divina-Film, dir. by Robert Siodmak, starring Ruth Leuwerik, Bert Sotlar and Alfred Schieske
  • Die blaue Blume, 1927
  • Wanda, 1928
    - TV  film: Königin der Arena, 1962, dir. by Rolf Meyer, starring  Maria Litto, Hans Söhnker and Jan Hendriks
  • Till Eulenspiegel, 1928
  • Spuk: Die schwarze Maske; Hexenritt, 1929 (play, prod. 1928)
  • Buch der Leidenschaft, 1930
  • Die Hochzeit auf Buchenhorst, 1931
  • Um Volk und Geist, 1932
  • Gespräche mit Gerhart Hauptmann, 1932 (ed. by Joseph Chapiro)
  • Vor Sonnenuntergang, 1932 (play, prod. 1932)
    - films: Der Herrscher, 1937, dir. by Veit Harlan, starring Emil Jannings, Paul Wagner, Hannes Stelzer, Hilde Körber; 1956, dir. by Gottfried Reinhardt, starring Hans Albers, Annemarie Düringer, Martin Held, Claus Biederstaedt; TV film 1962, dir. by Karl-Heinz Stroux; TV film 1962, dir. by Hagen Müller-Stahl, Margot Thyret; TV film 1970, dir. by  Oswald Döpke; Ennen auringonlaskua, TV film 1976, prod. Mainostelevisio (MTV), dir. by Ritva Nuutinen; TV film 1979, dir. by Oswald Döpke; TV film 2000, dir. by Dagmar Damek
  • Die goldene Harfe, 1933 (play, prod. 1933)
  • Das Meerwunder, 1934
  • Hamlet in Wittenberg, 1935 (play, prod. 1935)
  • Im Wirbel der Berufung, 1936
  • Das Abenteuer meiner Jugend, 1937
  • Die Tochter der Kathedrale, 1939 (play, prod. 1939)
  • Ulrich von Lichtenstein, 1939 (play, prod. 1939)
  • Ährenlese, 1939
  • Die Atriden-Tetralogie: Iphigenie in Aulis; Agamemnons Tod; Elektra; Iphigenie in Delphi , 1941-48 (4 vols., plays, prod. 1940-44)
  • Das Märchen, 1941
  • Iphigenie in Delphi, 1941
  • Magnus Garbe, 1942 (play, prod. 1942)
  • Der große Traum, 1942
  • Der Schuß im Park, 1942
  • Gesammelte Werke, 1942 (17 vols.)
  • Iphigenie in Aulis, 1944
  • Neue Gedichte, 1946
  • Die Finsternisse, 1947 (play)
  • Mignon, 1947
  • Herbert Engelmann, 1952 (play, completed by Carl Zuckmayer, prod. 1952)
    - TV film 1959, dir. by Hans Lietzau, starring Jürgen Goslar, Hilde Körber and Margrit Ensinger
  • Winckelmann, 1954
  • Five Plays by Gerhart Hauptmann, 1961 (translated by Theodore H. Lustig)
  • Sämtliche Werke, 1962-1974 (11 vols., edited by Hans-Egon Hass)
  • Venezianische Blätter: aus dem ungedruckten Tagebuch der Italienischen Reise 1897, 1966  (edited by Hans-Egon Hass)
  • Die grossen Beichten, 1966
  • Italienische Reise 1897, 1976 (edited by  Martin Machatzke)
  • Three Plays: The Weavers; Hannele; The Beaver Coat, 1977 (translated by Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner)
  • Diarium 1917-1933, 1980 (edited by Martin Machatzke)
  • Notiz-Kalender 1889-1891, 1982  (edited by Martin Machatzke)
  • Gerhart Hauptmann, Ludwig v. Hofmann, Briefwechsel 1894-1944, 1983 (edited by Herta Hesse-Frielinghaus)
  • Tagebuch 1892-1894, 1985 (edited by Martin Machatzke)
  • Otto Brahm, Gerhart Hauptmann Briefwechsel 1889-1912, 1985 (edited by Peter Sprengel)
  • Tagebücher 1897 bis 1905, 1987 (edited by Martin Machatzke)
  • Gespräche und Interviews mit Gerhart Hauptmann (1894-1946), 1994 (edited by  H.D. Tschörtner)
  • Plays, 1994 (edited by Reinhold Grimm and Caroline Molina y Vedia)
  • Tagebücher 1906 bis 1913: mit dem Reisetagebuch Griechenland-Türkei, 1994 (edited by Peter Sprengel)  
  • Tagebücher 1914 bis 1918, 1997 (edited by Peter Sprengel) 
  • Zur Charakteristik Jehovas: Glossen zum Alten Testament, 1999 (edited by  H.D. Tschörtner)
  • Berthold Bassfreund vom Hohenhaus: drei autobiographische Fragmente, 2002 (edited by  H.D. Tschörtner)
  • Briefwechsel / Gerhart und Margarete Hauptmann, Oskar Loerke, 2006 (edited by Peter Sprengel)

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