Wedekind, (Benjamin) Frank(lin) 1864-1918 (Cornelius Minehaha)

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WEDEKIND, (Benjamin) Frank(lin) 1864-1918 (Cornelius Minehaha)

PERSONAL: Born July 24, 1864, in Hanover, Germany; died March 9, 1918, in Munich, Germany; son of a physician and an actress; married Tilly Newes (an actress; died, 1917); children: two daughters. Education: Attended University of Lausanne, 1884, University of Munich, 1884-85, and University of Zurich, 1888.

CAREER: Playwright. Worked in advertising, 1866-68; secretary with a circus, 1888; also worked as a staff member of satirical magazine Simplizissimus, and as a singer and actor; acted in some of his own plays.



Frühlings Erwachen (title means "Spring's Awakening"; produced in Berlin, Germany, November 22, 1906), Gross, 1891; translation by Francis J. Ziegler published as The Awakening of Spring, Brown, 1909; also translation by S. A. Eliot published as Spring's Awakening (also see below); translation by Eric Bentley published in The Modern Theatre, Volume 6, 1960; translation by Tom Osborn published as Spring Awakening, 1969; and translation by Edward Bond, 1980.

Kinder und Narren: Lustspiel in vier Aufzugen, Warth, 1891, revised as Die junge Welt: Komödie in drei Aufzugen und einem Vorspeil (first produced in Munich, Germany, April 22, 1908), Langen, 1896.

Der Erdgeist (title means "Earth Spirit"; produced in Leipzig, Germany, February 25, 1898), published as Der Erdgeist: Eine Tragödie, Langen, 1895; translation by S. A. Eliot published as Erdgeist (Earth-Spirit): A Tragedy in Four Acts (also see below), Boni, 1914.

Der Kammersänger (produced in Berlin, Germany, December 10, 1899), published as Der Kammersänger: Drei Szenen, Langen, 1899, translation published as Heart of a Tenor, 1913; translation by Alber Wilhelm Bösche published as The Court Singer, German Publication Society, 1914; translation by André Tridon published as The Tenor, 1921.

Der Schnellmaler; oder, Kunst und Mammon (first produced in Munich, Germany, July 29, 1916), Schnabelitz, 1889.

Liebestrank (first produced in 1900; produced in Nuremberg, Germany, October 24, 1903), published as Der Liebestrank: Schwank in drei Aufzugen, Langen, 1899.

Der Marquis von Keith (produced in Berlin, Germany, October 11, 1901), published as Der Marquis von Keith (Münchner Scenen): Schauspiel in fünf Aufzugen, Langen, 1901, translation by Beatrice Gottlieb published as The Marquis of Keith, University of Denver Press (Denver, CO), 1952, new edition edited by Wolfgang Hartwig, 1965; translation by Carl Richard Müller published in The Modern Theatre, edited by R. W. Corrigan, 1964.

So ist das Leben (produced in Munich, Germany, February 22, 1902, revised as König Nicolo; oder, So ist das Leben, produced in Leipzig, Germany, January 15, 1919), published as So ist das Leben: Schauspiel in fünf Akten, Langen, 1902, translation by Francis J. Ziegler published as Such Is Life, Brown, 1912.

Die Kaiserin von Neufundland (pantomime), first produced, 1902.

Die Büchse der Pandora: Eine Tragödie in drei Aufzugen (produced in Nuremberg, Germany, February 1, 1904; produced as Die Büchse der Pandora: Eine Monstretragödie, in Hamburg, Germany, February 13, 1988), Cassirer, 1904, revised edition, Müller, 1911; translation by Carl Richard Müller published as Pandora's Box (also see below), 1918.

Hidalla; oder, Sein und Haben: Schauspiel in fünf Akten (first produced, 1905), Larchlewski, 1904, revised as Karl Hetmann, der Zwerg-Riese (Hidalla): Schauspiel in fünf Akten (produced in Munich, Germany, February 18, 1905), Müller, 1911.

Lulu (produced in Nuremberg, Germany, April 18, 1905), published in Lulu: Tragödie in fünf Aufzugen mit einem Prolog, Müller, 1913; translation by Carl Richard Müller published as The Lulu Plays, 1967.

Totentanz (produced in Nuremberg, Germany, May 2, 1906, revised as Tod und Teufel, in Berlin, Germany, April 29, 1912), published as Totentanz: Drei Szenen, Langen, 1906; translation by Samuel Eliot published as Damnation!; translation by Stephen Spender and Frances Fawcett published as Death and Devil (also see below).

Musik (produced in Nuremberg, Germany, January 11, 1908), published as Musik: Sittengemälde in vier Bildern, Langen, 1908.

Die Zensur (produced in Munich, Germany, July 27, 1909), published as Die Zensur: Theodizee in einem Akt, Cassirer, 1908.

Oaha: Die Satire der Satire (produced in Munich, Germany, December 23, 1911, revised as Till Eulenspiegel, in Munich, Germany, December 1, 1916), published as Oaha: Schauspiel in fünf Aufzugen, Cassirer, 1908, revised as Der Stein der Weisen; oder, Laute, Armbrust und Peitsche: Eine Geisterbeschworung (produced in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 1911), Müller, 1920.

In allen Sätteln gerecht: Komödie in einem Aufzug, Müller, 1910.

Mit allen Hunden gehetzt: Schauspiel in einem Aufzug, Müller, 1910.

In allen Wassern gewaschen: Tragödie in einem Aufzug, Müller, 1910.

Felix und Galathea (produced in Munich, Germany, July 25, 1914), Meyer, 1911.

Schloss Wetterstein (produced in Zurich, Switzerland, November 17, 1917), Müller, 1912; translation by Stephen Spender and Frances Fawcett published as Castle Wetterstein, in Five Tragedies of Sex (also see below), 1952.

Franziska (produced in Munich, Germany, November 30, 1912), Müller, 1912.

Simson; oder, Scham und Eifersucht (produced in Berlin, Germany, January 24, 1914), Müller, 1914.

Bismarck (produced in Weimar, Germany, October 30, 1926), Müller, 1916.

Überfurchtenichts (produced, 1919), Müller, 1917.

Herakles (produced in Munich, Germany, September 1, 1919), Müller, 1917.

Elins Erweckung, produced in Hamburg, Germany, March 16, 1919.

Das Sonnenspektrum (produced in Berlin, Germany, September 23, 1922), translation by D. Faehl and E. Vaughn published as The Solar Spectrum, in Tulane Drama Review, Volume 4, 1959.

Tragedies of Sex, translation by Samuel A. Eliot, Jr., Henderson, 1923.

Ein Genussmensch: Schauspiel in vier Aufzugen, edited by Fritz Strich, Müller, 1924.

Five Tragedies of Sex (includes Spring's Awakening,Earth-Spirit, Death and Devil, and Castle Wetterstein); translation by Frances Fawcett and Stephen Spender, Vision, 1952, Theatre Arts, 1952, reprinted without Spring's Awakening as The Lulu Plays and Other Sex Tragedies; translation by Stephen Spender, Riverrun, 1977.

The Lulu Plays (includes Pandora's Box); translation by Carl Richard Müller, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1967.

The First Lulu, Applause Theatre Books, 1993.


Gesammelte Werke, nine volumes, edited by Artur Kutcher and Joachim Friedenthal, Müller, 1912-21.

Ausgewählte Werke, five volumes, edited by Fritz Strich, Volksverband der Bücherfreunde, 1924.

Prosa, Dramen, Verse, two volumes, edited by Hans-Georg Maier, 1954-60.

Werke, three volumes, edited by Manfred Han, Aufbau, 1969.

Frank Wedekind: Four Major Plays, translation by Carl Richard Müller, Smith & Kraus (Lyme, NH), 2000.


Die Fürstin Russalka (fiction), Langen, 1897, translation by Frederick Eisemann published as Princess Russalka, Luce, 1919.

Mine-Haha; oder, Über die körperliche Erziehung der jungen Mädchen: Aus Helene Engels schriftlichem Nachlass heraugegeben (fiction), Langen, 1903.

Die vier Jahreszeiten: Gedichte (poetry), Langen, 1905.

Feuerwerk: Erzählungen (short stories), Langen, 1906, translation by Francis Ziegler published as The Grisley Suitor, Brown, 1911.

Schauspielkunst: Ein Glossarium (nonfiction), Müller, 1910, translation by Carl Richard Müller published as "The Art of Acting: A Glossary," in The Modern Theatre, Macmillan, 1964.

Rabbi Ezra; The Victim: Two Stories (originally published in German as Rabbi Esra), translation by Francis J. Ziegler, Brown, 1911.

Lautenlieder: 53 Lieder mit eigenen und fremden Melodien (poetry), edited by Artur Kutscher, Drei Masken, 1920.

Gesammelte Briefe (correspondence), two volumes, edited by Fritz Strich, 1924.

Das arme Mädchen: Ein Chanson (song), Thorbecke, 1948.

Chansons (songs), Desch, 1951.

Selbstdarstellung, edited by Willi Reich, 1954.

Ich hab meine Tante geschlachtet: Lautenlieder und"Simplizissimus": Gedichte (poetry), edited by Manfred Hahn, 1967.

Der vermummte Herr: Briefe, 1881-1917 (correspondence), edited by Wolfdietrich Rasch, 1967.

Gedichte und Chansons (poems and songs), Bucherei, 1968.

Die Tagebücher: Ein erotisches Leben, edited by Gerhard Hay, Athenaeum, 1986, translation by W. E. Yuill published as Diary of an Erotic Life, Blackwell, 1990.

Lieder zur Gitarre (songs), selected and edited by Johannes Tappert, Hofmeister (Leipzig, Germany), 2001.

Sometimes published under the name Cornelius Minehaha.

SIDELIGHTS: German playwright Frank Wedekind's dramas are primarily concerned with attacking the hypocrisies of society, particularly the prohibitions against discussing sexuality. Though Wedekind avoided identification with any literary movement, his attacks on naturalism and his theatrical innovations made him a forerunner of both expressionism and the theater of the absurd. Wedekind's works introduced many of the techniques of modern dramaturgy to the German stage, including stylized, nonrealistic dialogue, an episodic format, grotesque characters, and bizarre plots.

The son of a physician and an actress, Wedekind moved with his family to Switzerland to escape Germany's instability and social repression. As a young man he reluctantly obeyed his father's request to attend classes at the University of Zurich's law school, foregoing his literary interests, but his father's unexpected death freed Wedekind from his studies, and his inheritance allowed him to enjoy life in Paris and London for some time. Whether abroad or back home in Germany, Wedekind chose the bohemian life, expressing contempt for what he considered the repressed, hypocritical middle class.

One of Wedekind's first plays, Frühlings Erwachen (later translated as Spring's Awakening), shocked its audience, for it dealt graphically with adolescent sexuality. Critics commended the work for shedding light on a taboo subject; enraged citizens, however, attacked Wedekind's portrayal of parents and teachers as repressive for keeping children ignorant of basic biological facts. The theme of sex and its power recurs in many of Wedekind's works. In the "Lulu" plays, Der Erdgeist ("The Earth-Spirit") and Die Büchse der Pandora: Eine Tragödie in drei Aufzugen (translated as Pandora's Box) Lulu, the sensual, predatory female, attracts and destroys men through their own passions until she meets a grisly death at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Though Lulu is sexually adept, she is portrayed by Wedekind as a primitive individual in constant conflict with a hypocritical society. Such characters are found throughout Wedekind's works. Because his aim was to force his audience to recognize how distorted conventional views of life were, Wedekind's characters are not fully realized portraits but exaggerated caricatures that embody specific ideas. They speak not to each other, but at each other, suggesting the alienation of modern life. The plays themselves are often disjointed and loosely connected and invariably concern the confrontation between society and the social outcast. Because Wedekind considered antisocial behavior heroic, criminals and prostitutes are usually the most admirable characters in his dramas. For example, in Der Marquis von Keith (The Marquis of Keith) the protagonist is a clever conman who almost succeeds in duping society by preying upon its weaknesses.

The audience of Wedekind's day regarded his plays as pornographic, and his work was repeatedly banned by the German censors. In addition, he received a prison term in 1899 for writing a poem satirizing Kaiser Wilhelm. Although his professed aim was usually to shock, Wedekind did so with the hope of enlightening and reeducating the public; for this reason he became very outspoken in defense of his work. After the turn of the century his plays became more autobiographical, often portraying a misunderstood artist in revolt against society. He acted in major roles in these plays, and often entertained in cabarets by performing his ballads. The public eventually grew used to him and his later dramas were met with a modest level of acclaim.

Wedekind's work exerted a strong influence on twentieth-century German drama, particularly on the plays and aesthetic theories of Bertolt Brecht, who called Wedekind "one of the great educators of the new Europe." His work forms a solid bridge between naturalistic realism and modern German drama. Though banned by the Nazis and neglected after World War II, his plays were frequently revived throughout the 1960s, when the shock value of his work had been dissipated and more serious attention could be paid to his ideas.



Encyclopedia of World Literature, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Boston University Journal, Volume 23, number 2, 1975, pp. 40-47.

Central European History, September, 1979, pp. 203-236.

Chicago, May, 1992, pp. 71-72.

Colloquia Germanica, Volume 19, 1986, pp. 47-67.

Germanic Review, Volume 43, 1968, pp. 163-87; summer, 1982, pp. 115-122.

German Life and Letters, April, 1985, pp. 205-232; January, 1989, pp. 113-128.

German Quarterly, March, 1966.

German Studies Review, February, 1984, pp. 27-38.

Modern Language Review, July, 1979, pp. 631-647; April, 1984, pp. 336-355; January, 1987, pp. 119-141.

Monatshefte, Volume 72, 1980, pp. 26-38.

New Literary History, winter, 1983, pp. 359-372.

New Statesman & Society, March 22, 1991, p. 37; November 6, 1992, p. 45.

New York, August 22, 1988, pp. 141-142.

New York Times Book Review, November 18, 1990, p. 13.

Opera News, March 26, 1988, pp. 28-32.

Oxford German Studies, Volume 9, February, 1978, pp. 105-118.

Performing Arts Journal, Volume 30, number 10, 1986-87, pp. 102-117.

Publications of the English Goethe Society, Volume 56, 1987, pp. 56-73.

Seminar, spring, 1969, pp. 21-35; Volume 15, 1979, pp. 235-243, pp. 244-250.*