Karl Friedrich Abt

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Karl Friedrich Abt (1743, in Stuttgart – 20 November 1783, in Bremen) was an early German actor.

Abt began acting in 1766, mostly in southern and south-west Germany. In Biberach, he abducted his wife Felicitas from a reputable family which refused to give her away. She was born in 1746 in Biberach, and gained a reputation as an excellent actress and as the first German actress which played the Hamlet.

Abt ventured through Saxony and Thuringia, finally opening up a stage in Den Haag with the support of the Court and the high society on 16 October 1772 with the intention to introduce the young German theatre to the Netherlands. He greatly contributed to popularise the German dramatic literature there. On his stage, Abt played the first translations of Christian Felix Weiße's Romeo and Juliet and Lessing's Emilia Galotti.

After a stay in Düsseldorf, the historical recordings find Abt again in 1773, travelling in Leiden where he had built a transportable wooden theatre. With this stage he continued travelling to 's-Hertogenbosch, Utrecht, Kleve, Nijmegen and finally again to Den Haag where he was ruined by a local competitor. He travelled on to Haarlem where he finds support from the Friends of the Arts. In Amsterdam his performance was prohibited by the authorities. Abt visited several villages in North Holland, finally Diemer-Meer near Amsterdam where he became very popular.

A severe illness in his family and the theatre company put an end to his luck and forced him to sell the theatre to private investors. Abt himself became artistic supervisor. In 1776 however also this company went bankrupt. He recruited a new troupe and settled in Münster, visiting Göttingen, Hanover, Bremen and other towns in the wider area. He lost the direction of the troupe in 1780, hired a new troupe in 1781 and continued travelling the area. Abt died in Bremen in 1783.


  • August Förster (1875), "Abt, Karl Friedrich", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), 1, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 24–25