Gerhart Hauptmann

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Gerhart Hauptmann
Gerhart Hauptmann nobel.jpg
Born (1862-11-15)15 November 1862
Obersalzbrunn, Silesia, Prussia
Died 6 June 1946(1946-06-06) (aged 83)
Agnetendorf (Jagniątków), People's Republic of Poland
Occupation dramatist
Nationality German
Literary movement Naturalism
Notable work(s) The Weavers, The Rats
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature (1912)
Goethe Prize (1932)


Gerhart Hauptmann (15 November 1862 – 6 June 1946) was a German dramatist and novelist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1912.

Life and work[edit]

Hauptmann was born in Obersalzbrunn, a small town of Silesia, today known as Szczawno-Zdrój, a part of Poland since 1945. He was the son of a hotel-keeper. After attending the village school he went to the Realschule in Breslau, after which he was sent to learn agriculture on his uncle's farm at Jauer. Having no taste for country life, Hauptmann soon returned to Breslau and entered the art school with the intention of becoming a sculptor. There he met his lifelong friend Josef Block. He later studied at the University of Jena and spent the greater part of 1883 and 1884 in Italy. In May 1885, Hauptmann married and settled in Berlin and, devoting himself entirely to literary work, soon attained a reputation as one of the chief representatives of the modern drama.

In 1891 he moved to Schreiberhau in Silesia. Hauptmann's first drama, Before Dawn (1889) inaugurated the naturalistic movement in modern German literature. It was followed by The Reconciliation (1890), Lonely People (1891) and The Weavers (1892), a powerful drama depicting the uprising of the Silesian weavers in 1844 for which he is best known outside of Germany.

Hauptmann's subsequent work includes the comedies Colleague Crampton (1892), The Beaver Coat (1893), and The Conflagration (1901), the symbolist dream play The Assumption of Hannele (1893), and an historical drama Florian Geyer (1895). He also wrote two tragedies of Silesian peasant life, Drayman Henschel (1898) and Rose Bernd (1903), and the dramatic fairy-tales The Sunken Bell (1896) and And Pippa Dances (1906).

Hauptmann's marital life was difficult and in 1904 he divorced his wife. That same year he married the actress Margarete Marschalk, who had borne him a son four years earlier. The following year he had an affair with the 17-year-old Austrian actress Ida Orloff, whom he met in Berlin when she performed in his play The Assumption of Hannele. Orloff inspired characters in several of Hauptmann's works and he later referred to her as his muse.

In 1911 he wrote The Rats. In 1912, Hauptmann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art."

His 1912 novel, Atlantis became the basis for a Danish silent film of the same name. The novel was written one month before the RMS Titanic disaster, and the film's 1913 release was less than one year after the event. The storyline for both involved a romance aboard a doomed ocean liner, and the similarity to the disaster became obvious. This coincidental untimeliness caused the film to be banned in Norway[1] due to perceived insensitivity.

During the First World War Hauptmann was a pacifist. In this period of his career he wrote several gloomy historical-allegorical plays, such as The Bow of Odysseus (1914), The White Saviour (1912–17), and Winter Ballade (1917). After the war, his dramatic abilities appeared to diminish. He wrote two full-length plays that are similar to the early successes: Dorothea Angermann (1926) and Before Sunset (1932). He remained in Germany after Hitler's Machtergreifung and survived the bombing of Dresden. His last work was the Atriden-Tetralogie (1942–46). His works in German were published by S. Fischer Verlag.

Hauptmann died at the age of 83 at his home in Agnetendorf (now Jagniątków, Poland) in 1946. Since the Polish communist administration did not allow Hauptmann's relatives to bury him in Agnetendorf (although even the Soviet military government had recommended this), his body was transported in an old cattle wagon to occupied Germany more than a month after his death. He was buried near his cottage on Hiddensee.

Under Wilhelm II Hauptmann enjoyed the reputation of a radical writer, on the side of the poor and outcasts. During the Weimar Republic (1918–33) he enjoyed the status of the literary figurehead of the new order, and was even considered for the post of state president. Under Hitler he kept his distance from the regime, but never publicly criticized it. This, and the fact that (unlike many other writers and academics) he stayed in Germany, was strongly held against him after the war. A collected edition of his works appeared in the 1960s, and stimulated new studies of his work (e.g. those by Peter Sprengel), but the tide of critical and public opinion remained negative. A few of his plays are still revived from time to time, but otherwise he is neglected.

Thomas Mann met Hauptmann at an Alpine resort and wrote to his brother, "I hobnob every evening with Hauptmann, who is a really good fellow." He used Hauptmann as the model (especially physically) for the character Mynheer Peeperkorn in The Magic Mountain.[2]


Poster for a Federal Theatre Project presentation of The Weavers in the 1930s.


  • Der Narr in Christo Emanuel Quint (1910)
  • Atlantis (1912)
  • Wanda, der Dämon (1926)
  • Die Insel der grossen Mutter (1928)
  • Um Volk und Geist (1932)
  • Im Wirbel der Berufung (1936)
  • Der Abenteuer meiner Jugend (1937)

Short novels[edit]

  • Bahnwärter Thiel (1888)
  • Der Ketzer von Soana (1918)
  • Phantom (1923)
  • Marginalien (selected works, reports: 1887–1927)
  • Das Meerwunder (1934)
  • Sonnen (1938)
  • Der Schuss im Park (1939)

Verse novels[edit]

  • Promethidenlos (1885)
  • Anna (1921)
  • Die blaue Blume (1924)
  • Till Eulenspiegel (1927)
  • Der grosse Traum (1912–42)


  • Before Sunrise (Vor Sonnenaufgang, 1889)
  • The Reconciliation (Das Friedensfest, 1890)
  • Lonely People (Einsame Menschen, 1891)[3]
  • The Weavers (play) (Die Weber, 1892)
  • Colleague Crampton (College Cramption, 1892)
  • The Beaver Coat (Der Biberpelz, 1893)
  • The Assumption of Hannele (Hanneles Himmelfahrt, 1893)
  • Florian Geyer (1896)
  • Elga (1896)
  • Helios (1896) fragment
  • The Sunken Bell (Die versunkene Glocke, 1896)
  • Pastoral (Das Hirtenlied, 1898) fragment
  • Drayman Henschel (Fuhrmann Henschel, 1898)
  • Schluck and Jau (Schluck und Jau, 1900)
  • Michael Kramer (1900)
  • The Conflagration (Der rote Hahn, 1901)
  • Henry of Auë (Der arme Heinrich, 1902)
  • Rose Bernd (1903)
  • And Pippa Dances (Und Pippa Tanzt!, 1906)
  • The Maidens of the Mount (Die Jungfern von Bischofsberg, 1907)
  • Charlemagne's Hostage (Kaiser Karls Geisel, 1908)
  • Griselda (1909)
  • The Rats (play) (Die Ratten, 1911)
  • Gabriel Schilling's Flight (Gabriel Schillings Flucht, 1912)
  • Peter Brauer (1912)
  • Commemoration Masque (Festspiel in deutschen Reimen, 1913)
  • The Bow of Odysseus (Der Bogen des Odysseus, 1914)
  • Magnus Garbe (1914, second version: 1942)
  • Indipohdi (1920)
  • Veland (1925)
  • Herbert Engelmann (1921–26)
  • Spuk (two plays: Die schwarze Maske and Hexenritt, 1928)
  • Die goldene Harfe (1933)
  • Hamlet in Wittenberg (Hamlet im Wittenberg, 1935)
  • Die Finsternisse (1937)
  • Ulrich von Lichtenstein (1936–37)
  • Die Tochter der Kathedrale (1935–38)
  • Die Atriden-Tetralogie:
  1. Iphigenie in Aulis (1944)
  2. Agamemnons Tod (1948; written in 1942)
  3. Elektra (1948; written in 1944)
  4. Iphigenie in Delphi (1941)


  1. ^ Pedersen, Sune Christian, The Titanic Myth , Post & Tele Museum of Denmark, 3rd Quarterly, (2001)
  2. ^ Hayman, Ronald. Thomas Mann: A Biography. Scribner, 1995, p. 344.
  3. ^ Also translated as Lonely Lives.



Further reading[edit]

  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, ed. 1912. The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann. By Gerhart Hauptmann. Volume One: Social Dramas. New York: Huebsch. Contains: Before Dawn, The Weavers, The Beaver Coat, and The Conflagration. Available online.
  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, ed. 1913. The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann. By Gerhart Hauptmann. Volume Two: Social Dramas. New York: Huebsch. Contains: Drayman Henschel, Rose Bernd, and The Rats. Available online.
  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, ed. 1914. The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann. By Gerhart Hauptmann. Volume Three: Domestic Dramas. New York: Huebsch. Contains: The Reconciliation, Lonely Lives, Colleague Crampton, and Michael Kramer. Available online
  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, ed. 1914. The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann. By Gerhart Hauptmann. Volume Four: Symbolic and Legendary Dramas. New York: Huebsch. Contains: The Assumption of Hannele, The Sunken Bell, and Henry of Auë. Available online.
  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, ed. 1915. The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann. By Gerhart Hauptmann. Volume Five: Symbolic and Legendary Dramas. New York: Huebsch. Contains: Schluck and Jau, And Pippa Dances, and Charlemagne's Hostage. Available online.
  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, ed. 1915. The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann. By Gerhart Hauptmann. Volume Six: Later Dramas in Prose. New York: Huebsch. Contains: The Maidens of the Mount, Griselda, and Gabriel Schilling's Flight. Available online.
  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, ed. 1917. The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann. By Gerhart Hauptmann. Volume Seven: Miscellaneous Dramas. New York: Huebsch. Contains: Commemoration Masque, The Bow of Odysseus, Elga, and the fragments Helios and Pastoral. Available online.

External links[edit]