Robert (Levin), Ludwig

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ROBERT (Levin ), LUDWIG (1778–1832), German playwright. Born into a prosperous and "enlightened" Berlin family, Robert was the younger brother of Rahel *Varnhagen von Ense. Rejecting a business career to become a writer, he devoted himself mainly to the drama, and was the first Jew to have his plays performed on the German stage. Although he converted to Christianity, he was never allowed to forget his Jewish origin, and his lack of success was partly due to the prejudices of his contemporaries. Neither his adaptation of Molière's Les Précieuses Ridicules (staged in Berlin, 1804) nor his verse tragedy Die Tochter Jephthas (staged in Prague, 1813) aroused much enthusiasm. His staunch German patriotism during the Napoleonic era found expression in his verse collection, Kaempfe der Zeit (1817), whose technique influenced some of the poems of his young friend Heinrich *Heine. Robert's outstanding work, the tragedy Die Macht der Verhaeltnisse (1819), reflects the ambiguity of his position as a converted Jew. Based on the controversy between Achim von Arnim and Moritz Itzig that led to a duel in 1811, the play deals with class conflicts and the avenging of insults and was the forerunner of the great social dramas of Hebbel and Ibsen, but was not appreciated in its time. His correspondence with his sister Rahel Varnhagen appeared in 2001, edited by C. Vigliero.


W. Haap, Ludwig und Friederike Robert (1895); S. Liptzin, Germany's Stepchildren (1948), 55–57; S. Kaznelson (ed.), Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich (19623), 16, 874. add. bibliography: L. Weissberg, "Das Drama eines preussischen Patrioten. Ludwig Roberts 'Jephthas Tochter,'" in: G. Biegel and M. Graetz (eds.), Judentum zwischen Tradition und Moderne (2002), 95–116.

[Sol Liptzin]