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H. von Kleist

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H. von Kleist

*  1777 Frankfurt Oder
† 1811 Wannsee bei Berlin


The Prussian dramatist, writer, lyricist, and publicist Heinrich von Kleist was born in Frankfurt an der Oder in 1777. He was sent to the house of the preacher S. Cartel upon his father's early death in 1788 and attended the French Gymnasium. Kleist entered the guard regiment in Potsdam in 1792 and took part in the Rhein campaign against France in 1796. He voluntarily resigned from the army in 1799 and studied philosophy, physics, mathematics, and political science at Viadrina University in Frankfurt an der Oder until 1800. That year he went to Berlin, where he penned his drama "Die Familie Ghonorez". Kleist, who tended to irrationalism and was often tormented by a longing for death, then lit out restlessly through Germany, France, and Switzerland. In 1804, Kleist reentered the Prussian army, working in Berlin and Königsberg, where he wrote "Amphitryon" and "Penthesilea." Kleist was apprehended on suspicion of being a spy after his discharge in 1807. He then went to Dresden, where he edited the art journal "Phoebus" with Adam Müller and completed the comedy "The Broken Pitcher" ("Der zerbrochene Krug") and the folk play "Katchen von Heilbronn" ("Das Käthchen von Heilbronn"). Back in Berlin, the one time Rousseau devotee had become a bitter opponent of Napoleon. He finished "Prinz Friedrich von Homburg" in 1811. Again he found himself in financial and personal difficulties, and together with his lover, the terminally ill Henriette Vogel, Kleist committed suicide near the Wannsee in Berlin in 1811.


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