Authors: Georg Büchner

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

German playwright

Author Works


Dantons Tod, pb. 1835 (Danton’s Death, 1927)

Leonce und Lena, wr. 1836, pb. 1850 (Leonce and Lena, 1927)

Woyzeck, wr. 1836, pb. 1879 (English translation, 1927)

The Plays of Georg Büchner, pb. 1927

Long Fiction:

Lenz, 1839 (novella; English translation, 1963)


Der Hessische Landbote, 1834 (with Friedrich Ludwig Weidig; The Hessian Messenger, 1963)


Lukretia Borgia, 1909 (of Victor Hugo’s play Lucrèce Borgia)

Maria Tudor, 1909 (of Hugo’s play Marie Tudor)


The Complete Collected Works, 1977


Karl Georg Büchner (BOOK-nur), who died in his twenty-fourth year at the beginning of a promising career in both science and letters, achieved fame almost a century later as a brilliant dramatist and a significant literary figure inspired by the revolutionary Young Germany movement of the 1830’s. The oldest of six children, Büchner grew up in Goddelau, near Darmstadt, where his father, a former medical officer in Napoleon’s army, had taken service with the duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. From all accounts, his mother was of mild and pleasant disposition, but his father was a severe, freethinking martinet.{$I[AN]9810001430}{$I[A]Büchner, Georg}{$I[geo]GERMANY;Büchner, Georg}{$I[tim]1813;Büchner, Georg}

Having shown an early interest in science, Büchner prepared himself for a career in medicine at the University of Strasbourg and later at Giessen. During his two years at Strasbourg, he became engaged to the parson’s daughter, who later destroyed some of his manuscripts. In Giessen, he became a member of a secret revolutionary society and in 1834 wrote his famous political pamphlet Der Hessische Landbote (The Hessian Messenger). This document, widely circulated at the time, fell into the hands of the authorities, whereupon Büchner was forced to leave Giessen to avoid imprisonment. He returned to his father’s house and there, under police surveillance and in constant danger of arrest, wrote his first play, Danton’s Death, a powerful drama based on the personalities and events of the French Revolution.

After Büchner escaped to Strasbourg, he wrote Leonce and Lena, a short satirical comedy in which he ridicules conventions and praises the self-realization of the individual. During this time, he also worked on his fragmentary but impressive Woyzeck, a psychological tragedy that has for its theme the exploitation of the common man, in this case a conscript driven by jealousy to commit a murder. He wrote a fourth play, Pietro Aretino, but of this drama little more is known than the title; the frankness of the work so shocked Büchner’s fiancé that she destroyed it after Büchner’s death. Büchner also translated two of Victor Hugo’s plays. While engaged in these activities, he also completed his dissertation for his doctoral degree in medicine and wrote several scientific papers. Büchner’s understanding of medicine was remarkable for his time. His vivid novella, Lenz, written sixty years before schizophrenia was described as a syndrome, accurately and sympathetically portrays the distressing mental disintegration suffered by someone with that condition.

By 1836, Büchner was ready to abandon his revolutionary activities and political propaganda for a career in science. He was appointed lecturer in comparative anatomy at the University of Zurich, but he had served there only a few months before he died of typhus on February 19, 1837. His literary remains were not published until 1879. Woyzeck was first presented in 1913, Danton’s Death in 1916. Alban Berg’s atonal opera Wozzeck (1925) is based on Büchner’s tragic play.

BibliographyChen, Jui-Min. Inversion of Revolutionary Ideals: A Study of the Tragic Essence of Georg Büchner’s “Dantons Tod,” Ernst Toller’s “Masse Mensch,” and Bertolt Brecht’s “Die Massnahme.” Studies on Themes and Motifs in Literature 33. New York: P. Lang, 1998. This study of revolutionary themes in German literature examines Büchner’s Danton’s Death as well as two other works by German writers. Includes bibliography.Crighton, James. Büchner and Madness: Schizophrenia in Georg Büchner’s “Lenz” and “Woyzeck.” Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998. A view from the medical perspective on Büchner’s Woyzeck and Lenz. Contains bibliography and index.Grimm, Reinhold. Love, Lust, and Rebellion: New Approaches to Georg Büchner. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. Grimm analyzes Büchner’s life and works, paying special attention to his themes of rebellion and love. Includes index and bibliography.Hauser, Ronald. Georg Büchner. New York: Twayne, 1974. A standard biography from Twayne’s World Authors series.Hilton, Julian. Georg Büchner. New York: Grove Press, 1982. A concise biography examining the writer and his works. Includes bibliography and index.Holmes, T. M. The Rehearsal of Revolution: Georg Büchner’s Politics and His Drama “Dantons Tod.” New York: P. Lang, 1995. Holmes examines Büchner’s Danton’s Death in the light of its political overtones. Includes bibliography.Mills, Ken, and Brian Keith-Smith, eds. Georg Büchner: Tradition and Innovation: Fourteen Essays. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. A collection of papers from a symposium on Büchner that took place at the Institute of Germanic Studies, University of London, in 1987. Includes bibliography.Reddick, John. Georg Büchner: The Shattered Whole. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. A scholarly examination of Büchner’s life and works. Includes bibliography and index.Richards, David G. Georg Büchner’s “Woyzeck”: A History of Its Criticism. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2001. This study of Büchner’s Woyzeck attempts to place the literary criticism of the work into perspective. Includes bibliography and index.
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