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FRANK WEDEKIND (1864-1918)

The following biography was originally published in The Continental Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914. pp. 115-6.

Frank Wedekind was born in Hanover in 1864. He was forced to study law, though his natural inclination was for writing, which he found time at an early age to do. In Zurich, where he later continued his studies, he came into contact with the "Moderns," among them Hauptmann and Strindberg. In 1888, after the death of his father, Wedekind went to Munich, and thence visited London, Paris, and all the centers of European culture, all the sinks of its perversity and crookedness. He squandered his money and his beliefs recklessly. In 1891 he returned again to Munich. A few years later he was imprisoned for lèse majesté, was soon released and became a vaudeville performer, then acted in his own plays, and eventually settled in Munich, after his marriage in 1908. [He would remain there until his death in 1918].

Wedekind is of no school, he recognizes no established laws, he sets at defiance morality and accepted belief; some of his plays contain scenes that "would sicken a police reporter," while the most innocuous often contain scenes that are sickeningly brutal. Yet withal, he is a genius -- if by that term we mean one who has the art of presenting life and character, of creating illusion, one capable at times of producing a thing of power and beauty. If this is granted, then Wedekind is an exceptional genius. His unparalleled audacity, his reckless iconoclasm, his absolute disregard for accepted forms in art, cannot fail to command respect. He has been well called a great Denier ... an inspired pessimist.