About Vienna - Your City Travel Guide
About Vienna - Your City Travel Guide
About Vienna - Your City Travel Guide

Literature


Austrian literature: Franz Grillparzer

Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872)

Grillparzer is emblematic of the late Austrian monarchy for several reasons. He described himself as split personality always drawn between rational thought and galloping fantasy. As a son of a well-situated advocate the profession of a civil servant for the Habsburg monarchy seemed the obvious choice.

He never abandoned his interest in theatre and literature and wrote an impressive number of plays and poems. His first play to hit the stage was called 'Die Ahnfrau' (The Ancestress) and earned him the position of official playwright of the Burgtheater. As an artist he combined German classicism inspired by Friedrich Schiller and exuberant lyricism. Franz Grillparzer is generally considered to be the greatest Austrian playwright.

His major works are 'Ein Traum, ein Leben' (A Dream is Life), his comedy 'Weh dem, der lügt', a historical tragedy 'König Ottokars Glück und Ende' (King Ottokars Rise and Fall') and a trilogy inspired by Greek mythology: 'Das goldene Vliess'.
Very often, the power of fate is a central topic in his plays. 'Weh dem, der lügt' investigates the question of the end justifying the means. The conclusion is somewhat philosophical: As long as the good outnumbers the bad, the means do not signify all that much. Truth is a mighty slippery concept.

"Wer deutet mir die buntverworrne Welt!
Sie reden alle Wahrheit, sind drauf stolz,
Und sie belügt sich selbst und ihn; er mich
Und wieder sie; der lügt, weil man ihm log -
Und reden alle Wahrheit, alle. Alle.
Das Unkraut, merk ich, rottet man nicht aus,
Glück auf, wächst nur der Weizen etwa drüber."

Contemporary playwright Nestroy satirized some of Grillparzer's plays.