Frank Wedekind

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Frank Wedekind
FrankWedekind1883.JPG
in 1883
Born
Benjamin Franklin Wedekind

(1864-07-24)July 24, 1864
DiedMarch 9, 1918(1918-03-09) (aged 53)
NationalityGerman
Occupation playwright

Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (July 24, 1864 March 9, 1918), usually known as Frank Wedekind, was a German playwright. His work, which often criticizes bourgeois attitudes (particularly towards sex), is considered to anticipate expressionism and was influential in the development of epic theatre. [1]

A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays.

Expressionism modernist art movement

Expressionism is a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists have sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.

Contents

Before 2006 Wedekind was best known for the "Lulu" cycle, a two-play series -- Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904) -- centered on a young dancer/adventuress of mysterious origin. In 2006 his earlier play Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening, 1891) became well-known because of a Broadway musical adaptation.

Earth Spirit (1895) (Erdgeist) is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the first part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays; the second is Pandora's Box (1904), both depicting a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed". In German folklore an erdgeist is a gnome, first described in Goethe's Faust (1808). Together with Pandora's Box, Wedekind's play formed the basis for the silent film Pandora's Box (1929) starring Louise Brooks and the opera Lulu by Alban Berg.

Pandora's Box is a 1904 play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the second part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays, the first being Earth Spirit (1895), both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed".

<i>Spring Awakening</i> (play) play by Frank Wedekind

Spring Awakening is the German dramatist Frank Wedekind's first major play and a seminal work in the modern history of theatre. It was written sometime between autumn 1890 and spring 1891, but did not receive its first performance until 20 November 1906 when it premiered at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin under the direction of Max Reinhardt. It carries the sub-title A Children's Tragedy. The play criticises the sexually oppressive culture of nineteenth century Germany and offers a vivid dramatisation of the erotic fantasies that it breeds. Due to its controversial subject matter, the play has often been banned or censored.

Life and career

Benjamin Franklin Wedekind was born on July 24, 1864 in Hanover, German Confederation. His mother was Swiss and became pregnant with him in San Francisco. His father, a German, had a Swiss castle in which Wedekind grew up. Until World War I, when he was forced to obtain a German passport, he was an American citizen and traveled throughout Europe. [2] He lived most of his adult life in Munich, though he had a brief period working in advertising, for the Maggi soup firm, in Switzerland in 1886. [3]

Hanover Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Hanover or Hannover is the capital and largest city of the German state of Lower Saxony. Its 535,061 (2017) inhabitants make it the thirteenth-largest city of Germany, as well as the third-largest city of Northern Germany after Hamburg and Bremen. The city lies at the confluence of the River Leine and its tributary Ihme, in the south of the North German Plain, and is the largest city of the Hannover–Braunschweig–Göttingen–Wolfsburg Metropolitan Region. It is the fifth-largest city in the Low German dialect area after Hamburg, Dortmund, Essen, and Bremen.

German Confederation association of 39 German states in Central Europe from 1815 to 1866

The German Confederation was an association of 39 German-speaking states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries and to replace the former Holy Roman Empire, which had been dissolved in 1806. The German Confederation excluded German-speaking lands in the eastern portion of the Kingdom of Prussia, the German cantons of Switzerland, and Alsace within France which was majority German speaking.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Having worked in business and the circus, Wedekind went on to become an actor and singer. In this capacity he received wide acclaim as the principal star of the satirical cabaret Die elf Scharfrichter (The Eleven Executioners), launched in 1901. [4] Wedekind became an important influence on the tradition of German satirical writing for the theatre, paving the way for the cabaret-song satirists Kurt Tucholsky, Walter Mehring, Joachim Ringelnatz and Erich Kästner among others, who after Wedekind's death would invigorate the culture of the Weimar Republic; "all bitter social critics who used direct, stinging satire as the best means of attack and wrote a large part of their always intelligible light verse to be declaimed or sung". [5] At the age of 34, after serving a nine-month prison sentence for "lèse-majesté" (thanks to the publication in Simplicissimus of some of his satirical poems), Wedekind became a dramaturg (a play-reader and adapter) at the Munich Schauspielhaus. [6]

Satire Genre of arts and literature in the form of humor or ridicule

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

Kurt Tucholsky German-Jewish journalist, satirist and writer

Kurt Tucholsky was a German-Jewish journalist, satirist, and writer. He also wrote under the pseudonyms Kaspar Hauser, Peter Panter, Theobald Tiger and Ignaz Wrobel. Born in Berlin-Moabit, he moved to Paris in 1924 and then to Sweden in 1929.

Walter Mehring German writer

Walter Mehring was a German author and one of the most prominent satirical authors in the Weimar Republic. He was banned during the Third Reich, and fled the country.

His sex life was promiscuous and he frequented prostitutes, contracting syphilis. He also enjoyed the pleasure of platonic female company and kept his tendencies toward homosexuality and sadism in check. [2] He had an affair with Frida Uhl who bore him a child. [7] In 1906, he married the Austrian actress Tilly Newes, 22 years his junior and became strictly monogamous. His relationship with his wife was turbulent, with Wedekind prone to jealousy and he felt pressure to maintain strenuous creative and sexual activity in order to please her. They had two daughters, Pamela and Kadidja, [8] but his jealousy led his wife to attempt both separation and suicide. [2]

Syphilis Sexually transmitted infection

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The signs and symptoms of syphilis vary depending in which of the four stages it presents. The primary stage classically presents with a single chancre though there may be multiple sores. In secondary syphilis, a diffuse rash occurs, which frequently involves the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. There may also be sores in the mouth or vagina. In latent syphilis, which can last for years, there are few or no symptoms. In tertiary syphilis, there are gummas, neurological problems, or heart symptoms. Syphilis has been known as "the great imitator" as it may cause symptoms similar to many other diseases.

Frida Uhl Austrian writer

Maria Friederike "Frida" Cornelia Strindberg (née Uhl was an Austrian writer and translator, who was closely associated with many important figures in 20th-century literature.

Near the end of his life, Wedekind underwent an appendectomy and immediately began acting again, leading to a hernia. His doctor refused to operate immediately but Wedekind insisted and complications from the surgery led to his death at the age of 53 on March 9, 1918. [2]

Appendectomy Surgical removal of the vermiform appendix

An appendectomy is a surgical operation in which the vermiform appendix is removed. Appendectomy is normally performed as an urgent or emergency procedure to treat acute appendicitis.

Hernia type of digestive system disease

A hernia is the abnormal exit of tissue or an organ, such as the bowel, through the wall of the cavity in which it normally resides. Hernias come in a number of different types. Most commonly they involve the abdomen, specifically the groin. Groin hernias are most common of the inguinal type but may also be femoral. Other hernias include hiatus, incisional, and umbilical hernias. Symptoms are present in about 66% of people with groin hernias. This may include pain or discomfort especially with coughing, exercise, or going to the bathroom. Often it gets worse throughout the day and improves when lying down. A bulging area may occur that becomes larger when bearing down. Groin hernias occur more often on the right than left side. The main concern is strangulation, where the blood supply to part of the bowel is blocked. This usually produces severe pain and tenderness of the area. Hiatus or hiatal hernias often result in heartburn but may also cause chest pain or pain with eating.

Tilly Wedekind went on to appear in such films as Travelling People and was romantically linked to the author Gottfried Benn. [8] In 1969, at age 83, she published an autobiography in German, Lulu: Die Rolle meines Lebens (Lulu: The Role of My Life). [9]

Works

Wedekind's first major play, Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening, 1891), which concerns sexuality and puberty among some young German students, caused a scandal as it contained scenes of homoeroticism, implied group male masturbation, actual male masturbation, sado-masochism between a teenage boy and girl, rape and suicide, as well as references to abortion.

The "Lulu" plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904) were probably his best known works until the 2006 adaptation of Spring Awakening . Originally conceived as a single play, the two pieces tell a continuous story of a sexually-enticing young dancer, who rises in German society through her relationships with wealthy men but who later falls into poverty and prostitution. [10] The frank depiction of sexuality and violence in these plays, including lesbianism and an encounter with Jack the Ripper (a role which Wedekind played in the original production), [11] pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on the stage at the time. Karl Kraus also helped Wedekind stage it in Vienna. [12]

Der Kammersänger (The Court-Singer, 1899) is a one-act character study of a famous opera singer who receives a series of unwelcome guests at his hotel suite.

In Franziska (1910), the title character, a young girl, initiates a Faustian pact with the Devil, selling her soul for the knowledge of what it is like to live life as a man (reasoning that men seem to have all the advantages).

A number of Wedekind's works have been translated into English by Samuel Atkins Eliot, Jr.

Wedekind in later life Frank Wedekind.jpg
Wedekind in later life

List of major works

Adaptations

The "Lulu" plays formed the basis for G. W. Pabst's acclaimed silent film Pandora's Box (1929), starring Louise Brooks as Lulu and also Alban Berg's opera Lulu (1937), which is considered to be one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century opera. [13] Walerian Borowczyk based his 1980 film Lulu on these plays. Currently the plays are being adapted into comics by John Linton Roberson. [14] They also form the basis for the 2011 album Lulu , a collaboration between the rock musician Lou Reed and the heavy metal band Metallica. [15]

Hidalla was used as a source for a libretto by Franz Schreker, intended to be set by Alexander von Zemlinsky, but later set by Schreker himself in 1915 as the opera Die Gezeichneten . [16]

Der Kammersänger was adapted by composer Hugo Weisgall for his English-language opera "The Tenor."

Wedekind's symbolist novella Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls (1903) was the basis for the films Innocence (2004) by Lucile Hadžihalilović and The Fine Art of Love (2005) by John Irvin.

In 2006, Frühlings Erwachen was adapted into the successful Broadway musical Spring Awakening .

Related Research Articles

Lulu may refer to:

<i>Pandoras Box</i> (1929 film) 1929 film by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Pandora's Box is a 1929 German silent melodrama film based on Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora (1904). Directed by Austrian filmmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner and Francis Lederer. Brooks' portrayal of a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring ruin to herself and those who love her, although initially unappreciated, eventually made the actress a star.

Karl Valentin Bavarian comedian, cabaret performer, clown, author and film producer

Karl Valentin was a Bavarian comedian, cabaret performer, clown, author and film producer. He had significant influence on German Weimar culture. Valentin starred in many silent films in the 1920s, and was sometimes called the "Charlie Chaplin of Germany". His work has an essential influence on artists like Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Loriot and Helge Schneider.

Deutsches Theater (Berlin) theatre and theatre company in Berlin, Germany

The Deutsches Theater in Berlin is a well-known German theatre. It was built in 1850 as Friedrich-Wilhelm-Städtisches Theater, after Frederick William IV of Prussia. Located on Schumann Street (Schumannstraße), the Deutsches Theater consists of two adjoining stages that share a common, classical facade. The main stage was built in 1850, originally for operettas.

Arthur Kutscher German academic

Arthur Kutscher was a German historian of literature and researcher in drama. Together with Max Herrmann he can be seen as a founding father of theatre studies in Germany. He was a professor at Munich University, where he taught a famous seminar in theatre history. Kutscher was a friend of the iconoclastic dramatist and cabaret-star Wedekind. His work influenced many playwrights, poets, and directors. His students included Bertolt Brecht, Erwin Piscator, Peter Hacks, Hanns Johst, Klabund, and Erich Mühsam. Brecht's first full-length play, Baal, was written in response to an argument in one of Kutscher's drama seminars. While Kutscher was responsible for inspiring an admiration for Wedekind in the young Brecht, he was "bitterly critical" of Brecht's own early dramatic writings.

Non-Aristotelian drama, or the 'epic form' of the drama, is a kind of play whose dramaturgical structure departs from the features of classical tragedy in favour of the features of the epic, as defined in each case by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in his Poetics

Refunctioning is a core strategy of the aesthetic developed by the German modernist theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht.

The Messingkauf Dialogues is an incomplete theoretical work by the twentieth-century German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht. John Willett translates "Der Messingkauf" as "Buying Brass". According to one Brecht scholar "Brecht worked on [the Messingkauf] primarily during the late 1930s and early 1940s. In Brecht’s words it contains, “a lot of theory in dialog form.”"

Señora Carrar's Rifles is a one-act play by the twentieth-century German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, written in collaboration with Margarete Steffin. It is a modern version of the Irish dramatist John Millington Synge's play Riders to the Sea (1904). The play's setting is re-located to Spain during the height of the Civil War. Teresa Carrar, the mother, wants to protect her children but ends up fighting on the side of the oppressed. Brecht wrote it in 1937 and it received its first theatrical production in the same year, opening in Paris on 16 October. This production was directed by Slatan Dudow and Helene Weigel played Señora Carrar.

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<i>Der Jasager</i> opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht

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Bertolt Brecht German poet, playwright, theatre director

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht, known professionally as Bertolt Brecht, was a German theatre practitioner, playwright, and poet.

<i>Lulu</i> (1962 film) 1962 film by Rolf Thiele

Lulu is a 1962 Austrian crime drama film written and directed by Rolf Thiele. The film is an adaptation of Frank Wedekind's Lulu plays—Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box —and stars Nadja Tiller, O. E. Hasse, and Hildegard Knef.

References

Notes

  1. See Banham (1998) and Willett (1959). In his Messingkauf Dialogues , Brecht cites Wedekind, along with Büchner and Valentin, as his "chief influences" in his early years: "he", Brecht writes of himself in the third person, "also saw the writer Wedekind performing his own works in a style which he had developed in cabaret. Wedekind had worked as a ballad singer; he accompanied himself on the lute." (1965, 69).
  2. 1 2 3 4 John Simon; John Simon is the former theater critic of New York magazine and National Review. (1990-11-18). "How Sex Killed Frank Wedekind - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-08-11.
  3. Willett (1959, 98n).
  4. See Banham (1998) and Willett (1959, 87)
  5. Willett (1959, 87).
  6. Willett (1959, 87, 106).
  7. Meyer, Michael. Strindberg: A Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, p.363.
  8. 1 2 Bio of Tilly Wedekind on the IMDB website
  9. "DER SPIEGEL 47/1969 - Ehe und Atlas". Spiegel.de. 1969-11-17. Retrieved 2014-08-11.
  10. Mueller, Carl R. "Introduction" toFrank Wedekind: Four Major Plays, Vol 1, Lyme, New Hampshire: Smith and Krauss, 2000
  11. Willett (1959, 73n).
  12. Bru, Sascha and Martens, Gunther (2006) The invention of politics in the European avant-garde (1906–1940) pp.52-3
  13. Harewood, Earl of. The Definitive Kobbe's Opera Book, New York: Putnam, 1987. p.875
  14. Roberson, John Linton. "Lulu"
  15. "Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu". Loureedmetallica.com. Retrieved 2014-08-11.
  16. "Les Stigmatisés: Festival Les Jard". Opera-Lyon. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2017.

Bibliography