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GERHART HAUPTMANN (1862-1946)

The following biography was originally published in The Continental Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914. pp. 85-6.

Gerhart Hauptmann was born at Obersalzbrunn, Silesia, November 15, 1862. His early schooling he received in his native town and in Breslau; this was followed by work on his uncle's farm. But Hauptmann preferred to study sculpture, and went to the art school in Breslau, then Jena, and finally to Italy. In 1885 he married, and made Berlin his home until 1891, when he returned to Silesia -- after embarking in a new dramatic venture inaugurated in 1889, the German Free Theater -- having by that time begun to win recognition as one of the leaders of the new Naturalistic school. His first play, Before Dawn, was produced at the Free Theater in 1889, and was considered the first important example of the new movement in Germany. Besides numerous plays, Hauptmann [wrote] poems, and a few novels and stories. [He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912 and died in 1946].

Hauptmann [was] undoubtedly one of the finest poets of [his time], and his choice of the field of drama is by some critics regretted. He [was] far from successful as a dramatist, and [seemed] uncertain as to which kind of play form best [suited] him. Owing to this hesitancy he ... often failed, owing first to the unsuitability of his medium, and second to his lack of experience. Hauptmann [was] ever experimenting with form; it would be difficult to name any more than two or three of his plays which are built on a noticeably similar plan and are akin either in structure or subject matter. The Weavers is most unusual, for it is concerned with a whole community, rather than a few "important" characters, and there seems to be little relation between the acts. The Sunken Bell, on the other hand, centers around one man; while Michael Kramer is an almost equally divided study of two men. There are likewise poetic tragedies, and comedies, and folk dramas and middle-class tragedies. It is doubtful whether Hauptmann ever [found] exactly the best form into which to mold his thoughts. Still, by his exquisite poetry, his delicately attuned temperament for the reception of every impression, and his incontestable dramatic genius, he [was] easily one of the greatest dramatists [of his day].


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