Heinrich von Kleist

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Heinrich von Kleist
Kleist, Heinrich von.jpg
BornBernd Heinrich Wilhelm von Kleist
18 October 1777
Frankfurt (Oder), Margraviate of Brandenburg, Holy Roman Empire
Died21 November 1811(1811-11-21) (aged 34)
Kleiner Wannsee, Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia
Occupationpoet, dramatist, novelist, short story writer
NationalityGerman
Literary movement Romanticism
Notable works The Broken Jug , The Marquise of O , Michael Kohlhaas , Penthesilea , The Prince of Homburg

Signature Kleist Signature.gif

Bernd Heinrich Wilhelm von Kleist (18 October 1777 21 November 1811) was a German poet, dramatist, novelist, short story writer and journalist. His best known works are the theatre plays Das Käthchen von Heilbronn , The Broken Jug , Amphitryon, Penthesilea and the novellas Michael Kohlhaas and The Marquise of O. Kleist committed suicide together with a close female friend who was terminally ill.

Contents

The Kleist Prize, a prestigious prize for German literature, is named after him, as was the Kleist Theater in his birthplace Frankfurt an der Oder.

Life

Kleist was born into the von Kleist family in Frankfurt an der Oder in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. After a scanty education, he entered the Prussian Army in 1792, served in the Rhine campaign of 1796, and retired from the service in 1799 with the rank of lieutenant. He studied law and philosophy at the Viadrina University and in 1800 received a subordinate post in the Ministry of Finance at Berlin.

In the following year, Kleist's roving, restless spirit got the better of him, and procuring a lengthened leave of absence he visited Paris and then settled in Switzerland. There he found congenial friends in Heinrich Zschokke and Ludwig Wieland  [ de ] (1777–1819), son of the poet Christoph Martin Wieland; and to them he read his first drama, a gloomy tragedy, The Schroffenstein Family  [ de ] (1803).

In the autumn of 1802, Kleist returned to Germany; he visited Goethe, Schiller, and Wieland in Weimar, stayed for a while in Leipzig and Dresden, again proceeded to Paris, and returning in 1804 to his post in Berlin was transferred to the Domänenkammer (department for the administration of crown lands) at Königsberg. On a journey to Dresden in 1807, Kleist was arrested by the French as a spy; he remained a close prisoner of France in the Fort de Joux. On regaining his liberty, he proceeded to Dresden, where, in conjunction with Adam Heinrich Müller (1779–1829), he published the journal Phöbus in 1808.

Grave of Kleist and Henriette Vogel at Kleiner Wannsee after renovation in 2011 Grabstatte Bismarckstr 2-4 (Wanns) Heinrich von Kleist 1.jpg
Grave of Kleist and Henriette Vogel at Kleiner Wannsee after renovation in 2011
Suicide letter addressed to his half-sister Ulrike Kleist suicide letter.jpg
Suicide letter addressed to his half-sister Ulrike

In 1809 Kleist went to Prague, and ultimately settled in Berlin, where he edited (1810/1811) the Berliner Abendblätter  [ de ]. Captivated by the intellectual and musical accomplishments of the terminally ill Henriette Vogel(de), Kleist, who was himself more disheartened and embittered than ever, agreed to do her bidding and die with her, carrying out this resolution by first shooting Vogel and then himself on the shore of the Kleiner Wannsee (Little Wannsee) near Potsdam, on 21 November 1811. [1]

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition , "Kleist's whole life was filled by a restless striving after ideal and illusory happiness, and this is largely reflected in his work. He was by far the most important North German dramatist of the Romantic movement, and no other of the Romanticists approaches him in the energy with which he expresses patriotic indignation." [2]

A life with a plan

In the spring of 1799, the 21-year-old Kleist wrote a letter to his half-sister Ulrike  [ de ] in which he found it "incomprehensible how a human being can live without a life plan" (Lebensplan). [3] In effect, Kleist sought and discovered an overwhelming sense of security by looking to the future with a definitive plan for his life. [3] It brought him happiness and assured him of confidence, especially knowing that life without a plan only saw despair and discomfort. [3] The irony of his later suicide has been the fodder of his critics.

Relationship with Henriette Vogel and murder-suicide

Kleist met Henriette Vogel in 1809 through his friend Adam Müller and a friendship flourished between them. They shared a fondness for music, and according to Ernest Peguilhen, Henriette Vogel asked her friend to explain to her the art of war, as well as to teach her fencing, for the dramatist had been a soldier. The relationship between the two became more intimate in the autumn of 1811. According to their contemporaries, there was no fire of passion but a purely spiritual love. It was Adam Müller's point of view, who in fact had been in love with Henriette for a while. Marie von Kleist, who was the most important sponsor and confidant of Heinrich von Kleist, also made sure that this claim was widely spread.

On November 21, 1811, the two traveled from Berlin to Wannsee. Prior to their departure, they both penned farewell letters, which along with an account of the final night they spent at the inn Gasthof Stimming, are now part of world literature. Upon their arrival in the vicinity of the Wannsee in Potsdam, Kleist first shot Henriette and then turned the gun on himself. They were buried together in a common grave at Kleine Wannsee (Bismarckstrasse), which has become a tourist attraction. It was redesigned by the time of the bicentenary of their deaths. On that occasion direct access from Wannsee station to the grave was built. The gravestone, erected by the Nazis in 1936, was turned round and now shows engraved original text written by Max Ring and the Pater Noster's request: "forgive us our guilt" as well as the names and data of Henriette Vogel and Heinrich von Kleist. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Kleist Monument in Frankfurt (Oder) Heinrich von Kleist Monument.jpg
Kleist Monument in Frankfurt (Oder)

Literary works

His first tragedy was The Schroffenstein Family (Die Familie Schroffenstein). The material for the second, Penthesilea (1808), queen of the Amazons, is taken from a Greek source and presents a picture of wild passion. More successful than either of these was his romantic play, Käthchen of Heilbronn (Das Käthchen von Heilbronn) (1808), a poetic drama full of medieval bustle and mystery, which retained its popularity for many years. [1]

In comedy, Kleist made a name with The Broken Jug (Der zerbrochne Krug) (1808), while Amphitryon  [ de ] (1808), an adaptation of Molière's comedy, received critical acclaim long after his death. Of Kleist's other dramas, Die Hermannsschlacht (1809) is a dramatic work of anti-Napoleonic propaganda, written as Austria and France went to war. It has been described by Carl Schmitt as the "greatest partisan work of all time". [8] In it he gives vent to his hatred of his country's oppressors. This, together with the drama The Prince of Homburg (Prinz Friedrich von Homburg oder die Schlacht bei Fehrbellin), which is among his best works, was first published by Ludwig Tieck in Kleist's Hinterlassene Schriften (1821). Robert Guiskard, a drama conceived on a grand plan, was left a fragment. [1]

Kleist was also a master in the art of narrative, and of his Gesammelte Erzählungen (Collected Short Stories) (1810–1811), Michael Kohlhaas , in which the famous Brandenburg horse dealer in Martin Luther's day is immortalized, is one of the best German stories of its time. [1] The Earthquake in Chile (Das Erdbeben in Chili) and St. Cecilia, or the Power of Music (Die heilige Cäcilie oder die Gewalt der Musik) are also fine examples of Kleist's story telling as is The Marquise of O (Die Marquise von O). His short narratives influenced those of Kafka [9] and the novellas of the Austrian writer Friedrich Halm. [10] He also wrote patriotic lyrics in the context of the Napoleonic Wars.

Work in rhetoric

Kleist's work also delved into the realm of rhetoric. Most notable for his use of error and understanding its importance, Kleist's devices used were misspeaking, misunderstanding, mistaken identities, and other confusions of the sort. In his works one can see the most prevalent use of rhetoric within Penthesilea. In the story moments of violence, seduction and war all hinge upon errors in language. Through these errors, Kleist shows how error can influence everyday situation and can be the causation of serious problems. As a sum, Kleist's use of error explores what one can make of ironic errors within speech. [11]

Philosophical essays

Kleist is also famous for his essays on subjects of aesthetics and psychology which, to the closer look, show a keen insight into the metaphysical questions discussed by philosophers of his time, such as Kant, Fichte and Schelling.

On the Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking

In the first of his larger essays, On the Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking ( Über die allmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden  [ de ]), Kleist claims that most people are advised to speak only about what they already understand. [12] Instead of talking about what you already know, Kleist admonishes his readers to speak to others with "the sensible intention of instructing yourself." [12] Fostering a dialogue through the art of "skillful questioning" is the key behind achieving a rational or enlightened state of mind. [12] And yet, Kleist employs the example of the French Revolution as the climactic event of the Enlightenment era whereby man broke free from his dark and feudal chains in favor of liberty, equality, fraternity. It is not that easy though for Kleist. Man cannot simply guide himself into the future with a rational mind as his primary tool. Therefore, Kleist strongly advocates for the usefulness of reflection ex post facto or after the fact. [13] In doing so, man will be able to mold his collective consciousness in a manner conducive to the principles of free will. By reflecting after the fact, man will avoid the seemingly detestable inhibitions offered in rational thought. In other words, the will to power has "its splendid source in the feelings," and thus, man must overcome his "struggle with Fate" with a balanced mixture of wisdom and passion. [13]

Bibliography

His Gesammelte Schriften were published by Ludwig Tieck (3 vols. 1826) and by Julian Schmidt (new ed. 1874); also by Franz Muncker (4 vols. 1882); by Theophil Zolling (4 vols. 1885); by K. Siegen, (4 vols. 1895); and in a critical edition by Erich Schmidt (5 vols. 1904–1905). His Ausgewählte Dramen were published by K. Siegen (Leipzig, 1877); and his letters were first published by Eduard von Bülow, Heinrich von Kleists Leben und Briefe (1848). [1]

Opera adaptations

Films

Related Research Articles

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1811.

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1808.

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<i>Michael Kohlhaas</i> novella by Heinrich von Kleist

Michael Kohlhaas is a novella by the German author Heinrich von Kleist, based on a 16th-century story of Hans Kohlhase. Kleist published fragments of the work in volume 6 of his literary journal Phöbus in June 1808. The complete work was published in the first volume of Kleist's Erzählungen (novellas) in 1810.

Catherine de Heilbronn is a 1980 French TV film made by Éric Rohmer for the television channel Antenne 2. It is a record of Rohmer's stage production of the play Das Käthchen von Heilbronn by Heinrich von Kleist at the Théâtre des Amandiers in 1979. The cast includes Pascale Ogier, Arielle Dombasle, Marie Rivière, Jean-Marc Bory and Pascal Greggory.

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<i>Phöbus</i> periodical literature

Phöbus — Ein Journal für die Kunst was a literary journal published by Heinrich von Kleist and Adam Heinrich Müller in Dresden between January 1808 and December 1808, in twelve issues grouped into nine instalments. Many of Kleist's most famous works appeared in print for the first time within its covers.

Andrea Breth is a stage director. Breth studied German and English language and literature in the University of Heidelberg from 1970 to 1972. In 1999, she became a resident director at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Andrea Breth grew up in Darmstadt. From 1971 to 1973 she studied literature at the University of Heidelberg. Her first directorial engagements took her to Bremen, Wiesbaden, Hamburg and Berlin, the Zurich Schauspielakademie and the Theater Neumarkt in Zurich. From 1983 to 1985, she was director at Theater Freiburg. Her production of Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba won her the first of a number of invitations to the Berlin Theatertreffen in 1985. In the same year, Theater heute voted her Director of the Year. From 1986 to 1989 Breth worked at the Schauspielhaus Bochum. Green’s Southand Gorki's The Last Ones saw Andrea Breth win her second invitation to the Berlin Theatertreffen. In 1990 and 1992 she directed Kleist's Der zerbrochne Krug at the Burgtheater and O'Caseys The End of the Beginning at the Akademietheater.

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The Prince of Homburg, or in German Der Prinz von Homburg or Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, can refer to the following:

<i>The Prince of Homburg</i> (play) play by Heinrich von Kleist

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<i>Das Käthchen von Heilbronn</i> literary work

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Amour Fou is a 2014 Austrian film directed by Jessica Hausner, starring Christian Friedel and Birte Schnöink. The story is set in Berlin in 1810 and 1811, and follows the German writer Heinrich von Kleist and his lover Henriette Vogel in the final stages of their lives. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Peter Beauvais was a German television film director and scriptwriter. As a director for three decades, he helped pioneer and significantly influenced the development of German television.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Kleist, Bernd Heinrich Wilhelm von". Encyclopædia Britannica . 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 845–846.
  2. Chisholm 1911.
  3. 1 2 3 Heinrich von Kleist, The Marquise of O– and other stories. Ed. and translated by David Luke and Nigel Reeves. (New York: Penguin Books, 1978), 7.
  4. Tanja Langer (2011). Wir sehn uns wieder in der Ewigkeit – Die letzte Nacht von Henriette Vogel und Heinrich von Kleist. München: dtv. ISBN   978-3-423-13981-6.
  5. Karin Reschke (1982). Verfolgte des Glücks. Findebuch der Henriette Vogel. Berlin: Rotbuch Verlag. ISBN   3-88022-266-5.
  6. Günter Blamberger (2012). Heinrich von Kleist. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag. ISBN   978-3-596-15346-6.
  7. Gerhard Schulz (2007). Kleist. Eine Biographie. München: Beck. ISBN   978-3-406-61596-2.
  8. Schmitt, Carl, The Theory of the Partisan, page 5
  9. Walter Hinderer, "Kleist bläst in mich, wie in eine alte Schweinsblase" in Franz Kafka und die Weltliteratur, Ed. Manfred Engel, Dieter Lamping. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006) 66-82.
  10. Halms Werke, Vol. 11, ed. by Faust Pachler and Emil Kuh; Carl Gerold's Sohn, Vienna, 1872, p. vii
  11. Sng, Zachary. The Rhetoric of Error from Locke to Kleist. Stanford. Stanford University Press. 2010. Chapter 5.
  12. 1 2 3 Heinrich von Kleist, On the Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking. Ed. and Trans. by David Constantine. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2004), 405.
  13. 1 2 Heinrich von Kleist, On the Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking. Ed. and Trans. by David Constantine. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2004), 410.
  14. Heinrich (1977) on IMDb
  15. Heinrich Penthesilea von Kleist on IMDb
  16. Kohlhaas oder die Verhältnismäßigkeit der Mittel on IMDb
  17. van Hoeij, Boyd (16 May 2014). "'Amour Fou': Cannes Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 May 2014.

Further reading