Authors: Franz Grillparzer

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Austrian playwright

Author Works


Blanca von Kastilien, wr. 1809, pb. 1912

Die Ahnfrau, pr., pb. 1817 (The Ancestress, 1938)

Sappho, pr. 1818 (English translation, 1928)

Das goldene Vliess, pr. 1821 (The Golden Fleece, 1942; includes Der Gastfreund [The Guest], Die Argonauten [The Argonauts], and Medea [English translation])

König Ottokars Glück und Ende, pb. 1824 (King Ottocar: His Rise and Fall, 1938)

Ein treuer Diener seines Herrn, pr. 1828 (A Faithful Servant of His Master, 1941)

Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen, pr. 1831 (Hero and Leander, 1938)

Melusine, pr., pb. 1833

Der Traum ein Leben, pr. 1834 (A Dream Is Life, 1946)

Weh’dem, der lügt, pr. 1838 (Thou Shalt Not Lie!, 1939)

Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg, pr., pb. 1872 (Family Strife in Habsburg, 1949)

Libussa, pb. 1872 (English translation, 1941)

Die Jüdin von Toledo, pr. 1872 (The Jewess of Toledo, 1913-1914)

Sämtliche Werke, 1892-1894 (10 volumes)

Long Fiction:

Das Kloster bei Sendomir, 1827 (novella)

Der arme Spielmann, 1847 (novella

The Poor Fiddler, 1946)


Tristia ex Ponto, 1835

Gedichte, 1872


Sämtliche Werke: Historischkritische Gesamtausgabe, 1909-1948 (42 volumes)

Sämtliche Werke, Ausgewählte Briefe, Gespräche, und Berichte, 1960-1964 (4 volumes)


Franz Grillparzer (GRIHL-pahrt-sur) was born in Vienna and lived there almost his entire life. Although he often felt that the city had a stultifying atmosphere for artists, he knew he could not live anywhere else. His father, a lawyer, was a man of cold and unsocial nature, while Grillparzer’s mother was emotional and warm. The young man entered the University of Vienna as a law student in 1807, but his father’s death and the resulting shortage of funds forced him to leave and engage in private tutoring. He soon became a government clerk, later a librarian. Grillparzer held various civil service posts until his retirement in 1856.{$I[AN]9810000619}{$I[A]Grillparzer, Franz}{$I[geo]AUSTRIA;Grillparzer, Franz}{$I[tim]1791;Grillparzer, Franz}

Franz Grillparzer

(Library of Congress)

He was an unstable man, given to fits of depression and melancholy. His family history (both his mother and a brother committed suicide) may be a partial explanation of this gloomy tendency. His dark moods may also have been caused by his dissatisfaction with the political situation in Vienna. Metternich was then in power, and Grillparzer’s plays were subjected to strict censorship, which was a constant harassment for the sensitive playwright.

The first of his plays, The Ancestress, was a dark and bloody verse tragedy that made him famous. Even this early work revealed Grillparzer’s unerring dramatic sense and his ability to write fine poetry. His next play, Sappho, is based on classical material and contains the essence of classical directness and simplicity. Grillparzer’s historical tragedies, the trilogy The Golden Fleece, which tells two sides to the story of Jason’s search for the Golden Fleece, and King Ottocar: His Rise and Fall, caused him further trouble with the censor. These early tragedies enforce a fairly constant theme of his work, the vanity of human desires and the pettiness of worldly glory. Grillparzer believed that people should remain in the stations in life into which they had been born and that ambition should not be encouraged. He himself favored a simple life.

In 1826, Grillparzer suffered a particularly deep period of depression, which fortunately did not impair his dramatic abilities and his later work. Hero and Leander and A Dream Is Life show him at his height as a poetic dramatist. In these plays, he unites a deep understanding of human psychology, sound dramatic technique, and excellent verse. His only comedy, Thou Shalt Not Lie!, was unsuccessful.

Grillparzer’s failure to find sufficient appreciation during his lifetime was one cause of his despondency (though a national festival was declared on his eightieth birthday). This gloom and the tension between his life and his art can be read in his plays. He wrote, really, about the emotional disturbances of his own life. As a writer he had a tremendous influence on later dramatists, and in his tragic stature he has been compared to William Shakespeare.

BibliographyPeck, Jeffrey M. Hermes Disguised: Literary Hermeneutics and the Interpretation of Literature: Kleist, Grillparzer, Fontane. Berne, Switzerland: Lang, 1983. Examines German literature in the nineteenth century, focusing on Grillparzer, Heinrich von Kleist, and Theodor Fontane. Bibliography.Reeve, William C. The Federfuchser, Penpusher from Lessing to Grillparzer: A Study Focused on Grillparzer’s “Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg.” Buffalo, N.Y.: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995. An examination of Grillparzer that centers on his plays, particularly Family Strife in Habsburg. Bibliography and index.Reeve, William C. Grillparzer’s “Libussa”: The Tragedy of Separation. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999. This study of Grillparzer’s drama focuses on his play Libussa. Bibliography and index.Roe, Ian F. Franz Grillparzer: A Century of Criticism. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1995. An analysis of the literary criticism that arose around Grillparzer’s works over time. Bibliography and index.Roe, Ian F. An Introduction to the Major Works of Franz Grillparzer, 1791-1872: German Dramatist and Poet. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991. A critical look at the major literary works of Grillparzer, including his drama. Bibliography and index.Thompson, Bruce. Franz Grillparzer. Boston: Twayne, 1981. A basic biography of Grillparzer, covering his life and works. Bibliography and index.Wagner, Eva. An Analysis of Franz Grillparzer’s Dramas: Fate, Guilt, and Tragedy. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. A study of Grillparzer’s plays, focusing on his views of fate and guilt. Bibliography.
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