‘Christian Dietrich Grabbe

His Life and His Works’

Author: Maurice Edwards


By Eve Berliner






The erudite Maurice Edwards.




               Christian Dietrich Grabbe




By Eve Berliner



        Maurice Edwards, a scholar of literature, language, drama and civilizations, has embarked on a monumental excursion into the life and work of Christian Dietrich Grabbe, an unknown German genius madman dramatist with a poisonous pen. 


        Born in 1801 in Detmold, Westphalia, the son of a prison officer, Grabbe began to write plays at age 16 and achieved quick recognition for his shock and awe. His life was tormented and his work brutal, vicious, anti-God, anti-humanity, Sturm und Drang, nihilism mixed with black pessimism.


Grabbe died in 1836 at age 34, a misfit, an alcoholic, stricken by syphilis of the spinal cord and bitterness of the soul.  He fell into obscurity.


        In his lifetime, he was a hated figure and a failure. But his work seeped into later German culture, echoed in German Expressionist theatre and Realism, and reflected in the existential Theatre of the Absurd.  Grabbe himself was deeply influenced by his great predecessor, William Shakespeare. 


He was a man ahead of his time.


His first play, a tragedy, Herzog Theodor von Gothland was performed in 1892 in Vienna.


Among his greatest works:


Scherzm Satire, Ironie und Tiefere Bedeutung [Jest, Satire, Irony and

Deeper Significance];

Marius und Sulla;

Uber die Shakespearo-Manie [Essay: On the Shakespeare Mania];

Don Juan and Faust [the only play that was to be performed while he was, in fact, alive, with only     one performance.]

Kaiser Heinrich VI;

Napoloeon or the Hundred Days; and



Grabbe’s resurrection  as a major German historical dramatist came with his rediscovery by the Naturalist and Expressionist artists of the first half of the twentieth century.


In 1936, Grabbe was honored by the Nazis as a “Great poet and dramatist” citing his intense nationalism, virulent anti-Semitism and idolatry of the Germanic master race prevalent in Nazi ideology. 


To be noted, it was sixty years ago that author Maurice Edwards, a student of classical history, culture, philosophy, art, theatre et al, became fascinated with the 19th century Biederweier playwright, Christian Dietrich Grabbe. 


Edwards was the first to translate into English Grabbe’s provocative comedy Jest, Satire, Irony and Deeper Significance and his bold tragi-comedy, Don Juan and Faust.  This book of Grabbe’s life is thus a culmination of a lifelong fascination with this strange, brilliant and demonic man.



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