Gerhart Hauptmann 

Author and Nobel Price Winner 

Born on November 19th, 1862 in Silesia, a place he would have a special bond with throughout his life. There in Silesia there were three poles that had an impact on him: The Giant Mountains, Italy and the Baltic Sea. The big city of Berlin was the source and reassurance of his artistic success; it made him famous, but he never lived in a large city for very long. Throughout his life, he was an inquiring, long-term, and avid traveller.

Originally, Hauptmann wanted to become a sculptor. He visited the art schools in Breslau and Dresden, and was inspired by the Greek and Roman antiquity of Italy, but he also attended lectures on philosophy, science, and history, and even took acting lessons, in Jena and Berlin,
When he got married at the age of 23, he didn’t have a degree, but was persuing his artistic talent on his own. His marriage to Marie Thienemann, daughter of a rich merchant from Dresden, assured him financial security, so he was able to build a life for himself as a freelance author. In 1889 he became famous “over night” for his first drama “Before Dawn” at the Berlin Lessing theatre. His enthusiasm and denial were equally great. Theodor Fontane recognized Hauptman’s talent; he wrote that what made the piece stand out was “the innovativeness and boldness of its plot, the artistic simplicity of its language, his gift for characterisation, and at the same time his a consequential realisation of the action”. He also called Hauptmann a classy realist from beginning to end. Hauptmann had just turned 27 at the time and soon after that began acting as a representative, and was in great demand by many groups. Ultimately, he went his own way, following “his inner code”.

Celebrated as one of the most significant German dramatists and most important representative of naturalist drama on the edge of the 20th century, he overcame the naturalism-proclaimed determinism of milieu, inheritance and circumstances through real, life-like character descriptions in his great dramas. His sensual, vital fantasy without philosophical or intellectual arrogance as well as the main themes of his work – despair of the individual and social misery of the masses, decay of the family and the bourgeois world, disdainfulness of bureaucracy, ambition and distress of the artist, and consistently the oppressed or dependent human who collapses from his own libido or the apathy of his social surrounding – are what make his pieces current, explosive and playable to this day. Legend, myth, and fairy tale gimmicks, together with daydreams, parts in verse, as well as pieces with historical and ancient themes can be found in his work. Elements of autobiography and poetry are often mixed together in his novels and stories, which makes them an interesting read. Less successful was his intent at lyric, but one can find unforgettable pieces there as well.
Gerhart Hauptmann managed not only to live relatively untouched during four forms of government – the empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and post-war Germany - but also to be acknowledged, admired and have his work performed, despite his opportunistic attitude. He´s been given high awards, among them, in 1912 he received the Nobel Prize for literature, the Goethe-Prize in 1932, and later the Grillparzer-Prize and was also awarded multiple honorary doctorates.

In the 1920s Hauptmann became the figurehead of the Weimar Republic after the last emperor called him a “gutter poet”. The Nazi regime didn’t approve of him but did honour his work and allowed selected pieces to be performed. After the end of the war, Hauptmann was supposed to be named honorary chairman of the culture alliance in Berlin, but unfortunately he died before that could happen.

During Germany’s divided period, his work was performed and printed in the East and West because his work maintained main themes on human life, suffering and the search for happiness. His work has been translated in forty different languages, but a complete edition including all his later works was not released until 1962. The edition with his personal letters had not seen the light of the day up until now. At the beginning of the 21st century his pieces are going through a rebirth on stage.