Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Hauptmann, Gerhart from Philip's Encyclopedia

German dramatist, poet, and novelist. His play Vor Sonnenaufgang (1889) marked the birth of German naturalist drama. He received the 1912 Nobel Prize in literature. He is chiefly remembered for his early, naturalistic works.

Summary Article: Hauptmann, Gerhart Johann Robert
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German dramatist. A strong proponent of an uncompromising naturalism in the theatre, Hauptmann's work has been widely produced. Die Weber/The Weavers (1892), his finest play, is an account of a revolt of Silesian weavers in 1844. His other plays include Vor Sonnenaufgang/Before Dawn (1889), the comedy Der Biberpelz/The Beaver Coat (1893), and a tragicomedy of the Berlin underworld Die Ratten/The Rats (1910). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912.

Hauptmann was born in Obersalzbrunn, studied art at Breslau and, after a period at Jena University and travel in Europe, became a sculptor in Rome. In 1885 he made a rich marriage and was able to settle to literary work in Berlin. His first notable play, Vor Sonnenaufgang, in the naturalist vein of Henrik Ibsen and Emile Zola, reproduced the harshness of Silesian working-class life; this was followed by Die Weber. Die versunkene Glocke/The Submerged Bell (1896) is an introspective fairy-tale play, whereas Hanneles Himmelfahrt/Little Hanne's Journey to Heaven (1894) portrays the fevered visions of a dying child. His realistic social dramas include Fuhrmann Henschel (1898) and Rose Bernd (1903); Der arme Heinrich/Poor Heinrich (1902) is a historical drama based on a medieval poem by Hartmann von Aue. He wrote few comedies, among them Der Biberpelz, later revived by Brecht and given a Marxist slant for East Berlin. During the 1920s he wrote several plays which reflect a pessimistic attitude to life, and a long philosophical poem, Till Eulenspiegel (1925).

The advent of the Nazi regime found Hauptmann too old to care very deeply about its political and social implications and he did not go into exile, though his writings showed more hopelessness concerning the future of Western civilization. He also wrote some surrealistic pieces, as Das Meerwunder (1934) and Der grosse Traum (1942), but in his last great work, Die Atridentetralogie (1941–46), the myth of Iphigenia is treated in classically noble style.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Hauptmann, Gerhart (1862 - 1946)
The Cambridge Guide to Theatre

From the production of his first play Before Dawn (1889) at the Freie Bühne , Hauptmann was celebrated as the leader...

Full text Article Hauptmann, Gerhart (1862 - 1946)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

After studying sculpture he turned to writing plays, making his reputation with Before Dawn (1889). Early work was...

Full text Article Hauptmann, Gerhart (1862 - 1946)
The Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature

Much of the play is written in the Silesian dialect. The Thieves' Comedy (1904) was shown by Harley Granville Barker as...

See more from Credo