The Broken Jug: A Comedy

The Broken Jug: A Comedy

The Broken Jug: A Comedy

The Broken Jug: A Comedy

Excerpt

Bernd Wilhelm Heinrich von Kleist was born in Frankfurt-onthe-Oder October 18, 1777, the scion of a family long prominent in German literature and Prussian military affairs. Possessed of a powerful dramatic genius, but handicapped by a sickly body and an erratic, morose, morbid spirit, he spent his short life in wandering from place to place and shifting from one career to another. Finding peace and satisfaction nowhere, constantly oppressed by pecuniary need, and finally broken in mind and spirit by the humiliation which his fatherland was suffering under the domination of the Napoleonic regime, this patriotic poet found death by his own hand at Wannsee, near Berlin, on November 21, 1811.

A cadet in the Potsdam Guard Regiment at the age of fourteen, he obtained his release as a lieutenant in 1798, returned to his native town, entered its university and devoted himself to the study of mathematics, philosophy and political science. Here he became engaged to Wilhelmine von Zenge.

In 1800 he went to Berlin to enter the civil service, but, after a trip to Würzburg in search of physical health, his restless spirit impelled him to change his plans and set out for Paris to continue his studies. Coming under the influence of the teachings of Rousseau, he went to Switzerland intent upon purchasing a small estate and settling down to a quiet rustic existence. Since Wilhelmine was not in sympathy with his dream of peasant simplicity their engagement lapsed. Already (1802) Kleist declares that his only wish is to die.

In Switzerland he completed The Feud of the Schroffensteins (see Poet Lore, Vol. 27, 1916) a fate-drama, and began his comedy The Broken Jug. After serious illness he returned . . .

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