Frank Wedekind

Frank Wedekind

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Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (Hanover
Hanover
Hanover or Hannover, on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony , Germany and was once by personal union the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain, under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg...

 July 24, 1864 – Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 March 9, 1918), usually known as Frank Wedekind, was a German playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

. His work, which often criticizes bourgeois attitudes (particularly towards sex), is considered to anticipate expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

, and he was a major influence on the development of epic theatre
Epic theater
Epic theatre was a theatrical movement arising in the early to mid-20th century from the theories and practice of a number of theatre practitioners, including Erwin Piscator, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold and, most famously, Bertolt Brecht...

.

Biography


He was born on July 24, 1864 and lived most of his adult life in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

, though he had a brief period working in advertising, for the Maggi
Maggi
Maggi is a Nestlé brand of instant soups, stocks, bouillon cubes, ketchups, sauces, seasonings and instant noodles. The original company came into existence in 1872 in Switzerland, when Julius Maggi took over his father's mill. It quickly became a pioneer of industrial food production, aiming at...

 soup firm, in Switzerland in 1886. He had an affair with Frida Uhl
Frida Uhl
Frida Uhl was an Austrian writer and translator, who was closely associated to many important figures in 20th-century literature. She was married to August Strindberg. She was the daughter of the well-known Friedrich Uhl, editor of the Wiener Zeitung, and Maria Uhl, a devout Catholic...

 who bore him a child. Having initially worked in business and the circus
Circus
A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists...

, Wedekind went on to become an actor and singer. In this capacity he received wide acclaim as the principal star of the satirical
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 cabaret
Cabaret
Cabaret is a form, or place, of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue: a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables watching the performance, as introduced by a master of ceremonies or...

 Die elf Scharfrichter (The Eleven Executioners), launched in 1901. It was thanks to Wedekind's success that the tradition of German satirical writing was established in the theatre, producing the cabaret-song satirists Kurt Tucholsky
Kurt Tucholsky
Kurt Tucholsky was a German-Jewish journalist, satirist and writer. He also wrote under the pseudonyms Kaspar Hauser, Peter Panter, Theobald Tiger and Ignaz Wrobel. Born in Berlin-Moabit, he moved to Paris in 1924 and then to Sweden in 1930.Tucholsky was one of the most important journalists of...

, Walter Mehring
Walter Mehring
Walter Mehring was a German author and one of the most prominent satirical authors in the Weimar Republic. He was banned during the Third Reich, and fled the country.-Biographical:...

, Joachim Ringelnatz
Joachim Ringelnatz
Joachim Ringelnatz is the pen name of the German author and painter Hans Bötticher. His pen name Ringelnatz is usually explained as a dialect expression for an animal, possibly a variant of Ringelnatter, German for Grass Snake...

 and Erich Kästner
Erich Kästner
Emil Erich Kästner was a German author, poet, screenwriter and satirist, known for his humorous, socially astute poetry and children's literature.-Dresden 1899–1919:...

 among others, who invigorated the culture of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

; "all bitter social critics who used direct, stinging satire as the best means of attack and wrote a large part of their always intelligible light verse to be declaimed or sung." At the age of 34, after serving a nine-month prison sentence for "lèse-majesté
Lèse majesté
Lese-majesty is the crime of violating majesty, an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.This behavior was first classified as a criminal offence against the dignity of the Roman republic in Ancient Rome...

" (thanks to the publication in Simplicissimus
Simplicissimus
Simplicissimus was a satirical German weekly magazine started by Albert Langen in April 1896 and published through 1967, with a hiatus from 1944-1954. It became a biweekly in 1964...

of some of his satirical poems), Wedekind became a dramaturg
Dramaturge
A dramaturge or dramaturg is a professional position within a theatre or opera company that deals mainly with research and development of plays or operas...

 (a play-reader and adapter) at the Munich Schauspielhaus
Munich Kammerspiele
The Munich Kammerspiele is a successful German language theatre in Munich. The Schauspielhaus in the Maximilianstrasse is the major stage.-History:...

.

Works


Wedekind's first major play, Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening, 1891), which concerns sexuality
Human sexuality
Human sexuality is the awareness of gender differences, and the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality can also be described as the way someone is sexually attracted to another person whether it is to opposite sexes , to the same sex , to either sexes , or not being...

 and puberty
Puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

 among some young German students, caused a scandal, as it contained scenes of homoeroticism
Homoeroticism
Homoeroticism refers to the erotic attraction between members of the same sex, either male–male or female–female , most especially as it is depicted or manifested in the visual arts and literature. It can also be found in performative forms; from theatre to the theatricality of uniformed movements...

, implied group male masturbation
Masturbation
Masturbation refers to sexual stimulation of a person's own genitals, usually to the point of orgasm. The stimulation can be performed manually, by use of objects or tools, or by some combination of these methods. Masturbation is a common form of autoeroticism...

, actual male masturbation, sado-masochism between a teenage boy and girl, rape, and suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

, as well as references to abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

. In 2006, it was adapted into a successful Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 musical
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

, Spring Awakening.

The "Lulu" plays Erdgeist
Earth Spirit (play)
Earth Spirit is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the first part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays , both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed". In German folklore an erdgeist is a gnome, first described in Goethe's Faust...

(Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora
Pandora's Box (play)
Pandora's Box is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the second part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays , both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed".G. W. Pabst directed a silent film version , which was loosely based on the play, in 1929...

(Pandora's Box, 1904) are probably his best known works. Originally conceived as a single play, the two pieces tell a continuous story of a sexually-enticing young dancer who rises in German society through her relationships with wealthy men, but who later falls into poverty and prostitution. The frank depiction of sexuality and violence in these plays, including lesbianism and an encounter with Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper
"Jack the Ripper" is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter, written by someone claiming to be the murderer, that was disseminated in the...

 (a role which Wedekind played himself in the original production), pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on the stage at the time. Karl Kraus
Karl Kraus
Karl Kraus was an Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. He is regarded as one of the foremost German-language satirists of the 20th century, especially for his witty criticism of the press, German culture, and German and Austrian...

 helped Wedekind to also stage in Vienna.

The "Lulu" plays formed the basis for G W Pabst
Georg Wilhelm Pabst
-Biography:Pabst was born in Raudnitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary , the son of a railroad employee.Returning from the United States, he was in France when World War I began...

's acclaimed silent film
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 Pandora's Box
Pandora's Box (film)
Pandora's Box is a 1929 German silent melodrama film based on Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora . Directed by Austrian filmmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, and Francis Lederer...

(1929), starring Louise Brooks
Louise Brooks
Mary Louise Brooks , generally known by her stage name Louise Brooks, was an American dancer, model, showgirl and silent film actress, noted for popularizing the bobbed haircut. Brooks is best known for her three feature roles including two G. W...

 as Lulu, and Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

's incomplete opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 Lulu
Lulu (opera)
Lulu is an opera by the composer Alban Berg. The libretto was adapted by Berg himself from Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora .-Composition history:...

(1937), which is considered to be one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century opera. (Berg's opera Lulu
Lulu (opera)
Lulu is an opera by the composer Alban Berg. The libretto was adapted by Berg himself from Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora .-Composition history:...

was ultimately completed by composer Friedrich Cerha
Friedrich Cerha
Friedrich Cerha is an Austrian composer and conductor.-Biography:Cerha was born in Vienna.He received his education at the Viennese Music Academy and at the University of Vienna...

, based on Berg's nearly completed manuscripts released long after the composer's 1935 death. A full three act version was first performed in Paris in 1979 under the musical direction of Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

). Currently the plays are being adapted into comics by John Linton Roberson
John Linton Roberson
John Linton Roberson , also known as JLRoberson, is an American writer, illustrator, and cartoonist.-Biography:His father was Lt. John Linton Roberson III, who served under Col...

. They also form the basis for the 2011 album Lulu
Lulu (Lou Reed and Metallica album)
Lulu is a collaborative album between rock singer-songwriter Lou Reed, and heavy metal band Metallica. The album was recorded in San Rafael, California during April through June of 2011, after Reed had played with Metallica at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary Concert which led to...

, a collaboration between the rock musician Lou Reed
Lou Reed
Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed is an American rock musician, songwriter, and photographer. He is best known as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground, and for his successful solo career, which has spanned several decades...

 and the heavy metal
Heavy metal music
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States...

 band Metallica
Metallica
Metallica is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1981 when James Hetfield responded to an advertisement that drummer Lars Ulrich had posted in a local newspaper. The current line-up features long-time lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo ...

.

Der Kammersänger (The Court-Singer, 1899) is a one-act character study of a famous opera singer who receives a series of unwelcome guests at his hotel suite. An opera in English, under the title "The Tenor" was written by composer Hugo Weisgall. In Franziska
Franziska (play)
Franziska is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind, first produced in 1912. Subtitled "a modern Mystery in five acts", it presents the heroine as a "female Faust" by way of conscious parody and commentary on episodes from Goethe’s Faust.-Plot:...

(1910), the title character, a young girl, initiates a Faustian pact
Faust
Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend; a highly successful scholar, but also dissatisfied with his life, and so makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Faust's tale is the basis for many literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical...

 with the Devil, selling her soul for the knowledge of what it is like to live life as a man (reasoning that men seem to have all the advantages). Wedekind's symbolist
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

 novella
Novella
A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative usually longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000...

 Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls
Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls
Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls is a novella by German dramatist Frank Wedekind, first published in its final form in 1903.-Plot:...

(1903) was the basis for the film Innocence
Innocence (2004 film)
Innocence is a 2004 French film written and directed by Lucile Hadžihalilović, based on the novella Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls by Frank Wedekind, and starring Marion Cotillard. It takes place at a mysterious girls' boarding school, where new students arrive in coffins...

(2004) by Lucile Hadžihalilović
Lucile Hadžihalilović
Lucile Hadžihalilović is a French filmmaker. She became the first woman to win the Stockholm International Film Festival annual Bronze Horse award for best film for her 2004 film Innocence....

 and The Fine Art of Love (2005) by John Irvin
John Irvin
John Irvin is an English film director. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, he began his career by directing a number of documentaries and television works, including the BBC adaptation of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy...

.

A number of Wedekind's works were translated into English by Samuel Atkins Eliot, Jr.
Samuel Atkins Eliot, Jr.
Samuel Atkins Eliot, Jr. was an American author, born in Denver, Colo. and educated at Harvard. He was the son of Samuel Atkins Eliot, a prominent Unitarian clergyman, and the grandson of Charles W. Eliot, a president of Harvard University. Samuel Eliot Jr. wrote books on the theatre and made...


Major works


  • Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening / Spring's Awakening, 1891)
  • Erdgeist
    Earth Spirit (play)
    Earth Spirit is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the first part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays , both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed". In German folklore an erdgeist is a gnome, first described in Goethe's Faust...

    (Earth Spirit, 1895)
  • Die Kammersänger (The Court-Singer or The Tenorist, 1899) [one-act play]
  • Der Marquis von Keith (The Marquis of Keith, 1901)
  • Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls
    Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls
    Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls is a novella by German dramatist Frank Wedekind, first published in its final form in 1903.-Plot:...

    (1903) [novella]
  • König Nicolo oder So ist das Leben (King Nicolo, or Such is Life, 1902)
  • Die Büchse der Pandora
    Pandora's Box (play)
    Pandora's Box is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the second part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays , both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed".G. W. Pabst directed a silent film version , which was loosely based on the play, in 1929...

    (Pandora's Box, 1904)
  • Musik (Music, 1906)
  • Totentanz (The Dance of Death, 1908)
  • Schloss Wetterstein (Castle Wetterstein, 1910)
  • Franziska
    Franziska (play)
    Franziska is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind, first produced in 1912. Subtitled "a modern Mystery in five acts", it presents the heroine as a "female Faust" by way of conscious parody and commentary on episodes from Goethe’s Faust.-Plot:...

    (1912)
  • Bismarck (1916)
  • Herakles (Heracles, 1917)

Works cited

  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. "Wedekind, Frank." In The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521434378. p. 1189-1190.
  • Boa, Elizabeth. 1987. The Sexual Circus: Wedekind's Theatre of Subversion. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 0631142347.
  • Brecht, Bertolt
    Bertolt Brecht
    Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...

    . 1965. The Messingkauf Dialogues
    Messingkauf Dialogues
    The Messingkauf Dialogues is an incomplete theoretical work by the twentieth-century German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht. John Willett translates 'Der Messingkauf' as "Buying Brass"....

    . Trans. John Willett. Bertolt Brecht: Plays, Poetry, Prose Ser. London: Methuen, 1985. ISBN 0413388905.
  • Mueller, Carl R. 2000. Introduction to Frank Wedekind: Four Major Plays, Vol 1. Lyme, New Hampshire: Smith and Kraus.
  • Willett, John. 1967. The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects. Third rev. ed. London: Methuen, 1977. ISBN 041334360X.

External links