Frank Wedekind

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Frank Wedekind
Wedekind's signature at the Cabaret Walk of Fame in Mainz

Frank Wedekind (* July 24, 1864 as Benjamin Franklin Wedekind in Hanover , † March 9, 1918 in Munich ) was a German writer , playwright and actor . His dramaturgical concepts went beyond the naturalistic style and paved the way for anti-illusionistic theater. With his socially critical plays, he was one of the most played dramatists of his era.



Wedekind belongs to the Wedekind family to Horst . His father, the gynecologist Friedrich Wilhelm Wedekind, (1816-1888) emigrated to San Francisco ( Forty-Eighter ) after the failed March Revolution of 1848/1849 , where he made a significant fortune with property speculations during the California gold rush . In San Francisco he married Emilie Kammerer (1840–1916), the daughter of the inventor Friedrich Kammerer , who was involved with matches . In 1863 the first son Armin was born. In 1864 the young family returned to Germany and lived in Hanover until 1872. Frank was born there in 1864 at Große Aegidienstraße 13 (Friedrichswall 10) and three more siblings were born in the following years. The youngest sister was born in Switzerland in 1876 as a latecomer.

Frank Wedekind's five siblings were:

School time in Switzerland

Frank Wedekind, 1883

In 1872 the family emigrated to Switzerland in opposition to the newly founded Prussian-German Empire. The father had bought Lenzburg Castle in the canton of Aargau . Frank Wedekind spent his youth there. From autumn 1872 he went to the Lenzburg community school and then to the local district school .

In 1879 he switched to the canton school in Aarau . He founded the Senatus Poeticus poets association , together with Walter Laué, Adolf Vögtlin and Oskar Schibler . The children's epic Der Hänseken was created for his sister Emilie , with drawings by his brother Armin ( first edition 1896). From 1881 he received largely individual lessons because of school difficulties.

Academic years

After graduating from high school in 1884, Wedekind began studying German and French literature at the University of Lausanne . In the same year, at his father's request, he moved to Munich to study law, which he again broke off. Wedekind worked, among other things, as a journalist and as head of the advertising department at Maggi . This was followed by a brief activity as a secretary at the Herzog Circus. His circle of friends at that time consisted of artists and circus people. The circus performances fascinated Wedekind for a lifetime and inspired his poetry. The first publications of his individual works are available from this time. He wrote poetry, prose and a comedy. In 1886 his father withdrew his financial support because of a lack of academic performance. In the summer of 1888, in line with his father's expectations, he began again to study law in Zurich . After his father died in October 1888, Wedekind broke off this course. His father left him a considerable legacy that seemed to give him financial independence and freedom for his artistic work, but after a few years it was used up.

Life as a writer and artist

In 1889 Wedekind moved to Munich, where he got in touch with the writer Otto Julius Bierbaum . In 1891 he moved to Paris , where he met the later publisher Albert Langen . In the same year he completed the drama Spring Awakening . In 1895 the play Der Erdgeist was published by Albert Langen in Munich . Tragedy in four acts . Stays in Switzerland, London and Berlin followed. Wedekind returned to Munich in 1896 and became a co-founder of the satirical magazine Simplicissimus , in which he worked under various pseudonyms , a. a. published under the pseudonym "Hieronymos". In the same year, the children's epic Der Hänseken , written for his sister Emilie, was premiered . The son Friedrich Strindberg emerged in 1897 from a love affair with Frida Strindberg , August Strindberg's wife .

"In the Holy Land" , satirical poem on the Palestinian journey of Emperor Wilhelm II in October 1898, published in Simplicissimus pseudonym ("Hieronymos").

The spread of the satirical poem In the Holy Land about Kaiser Wilhelm II. Palestine trip in 1898 forced Wedekind to flee to Paris. When he returned in 1899 to Germany, he was charged with " treason condemned" and for six months in imprisonment made, which he in the Koenigstein fortress was serving on 21 September 1899 to the pardon in February 1900's. In his drama Oaha , Wedekind created a travesty on the publisher of Simplicissimus , Albert Langen, his wife Dagny Bjørnson and the editorial team of the magazine in 1908 .

In 1901/1902 he worked in the Munich cabaret Die Elf Scharfrichter , where he sang his guitar songs based on his own compositions . Following the example of the Parisian Chat Noir , the actors showed how a modern attitude to life could be, far from the bourgeois world of appearance. Wedekind also appeared as an actor in his own plays, which provoked the bourgeois audience with their seemingly grotesque representations. Still known and performed is the 1902 morality of the aunt murderer, I slaughtered my aunt ... He wrote especially against the bourgeoisie and its pseudo- morality . In 1902 he finished work on The Pandora's Box . The first performance took place in 1904, at the same time as the publication of the book by the Bruno Cassier publishing house. Even before it was delivered, the first edition was confiscated for indecency. In the criminal proceedings against the author and the publisher in 1906 they were acquitted of the charge of disseminating lewd writings. Contrary to the moral conventions of his time, Wedekind had changing partners and several children with them, including Hildegard Zellner, the housemaid of the Wedekind family. From this relationship the son Frank Zellner-Wedekind emerged, born on May 22, 1902 in Munich.

He experienced the peak of his literary and dramaturgical work from 1910 in Berlin. The first Wedekind cycle and in 1914 the second Wedekind cycle were performed at the Berlin Deutsches Theater under the direction of Max Reinhardt (1873-1943) with enormous public success. At the same time, Wetterstein Castle appeared as a book edition.

In 1906 he married the actress Tilly Newes (1886-1970), who played the leading role in many of his plays. They lived together in Munich until his death and had two daughters, Pamela and Kadidja .

When at the beginning of the First World War , the conservative - nationalist forces gained the upper hand, Wedekind came again into financial difficulties. On September 18, 1914, he gave a speech at the “Patriotic Evening” of the Münchner Kammerspiele entitled Germany brings freedom . The text appeared in the Berliner Tageblatt on September 27, 1914 . The nationalist tones that Wedekind struck caused irritation and controversial reactions. The interpretation of the text and Wedekind's attitude to war are still controversial.


Frank Wedekind's grave

Wedekind died on March 9, 1918 as a result of complications after an appendix operation . He was buried in the forest cemetery in Munich (old part, grave no. 17-W-88). His funeral, which was attended by many artists (including Bertolt Brecht ) and numerous women from the red light district , became a scandal. Ludwig Ganghofer gave the funeral speech .

Wedekind's estate is in the Monacensia Literature Archive of the City of Munich and in the Aargau Cantonal Library in Aarau.


Memorial plaque on Lenzburg Castle

Wedekind worked as a poet, actor, cabaret artist and journalist. In his plays he was sharply critical of society. Wedekind has made a name for himself above all as a playwright. He was one of the most played dramatists of his time. With dramas such as Spring Awakening and Lulu , he turned against school training, bourgeois hypocrisy and prudish. His texts were often viewed as immoral and confiscated.

One reason for the repeated censorship of Wedekind's works was the sexually offensive content. So contains z. B. Spring awakening sadomasochistic motifs: Ilse is violently subjugated by various men, Wendla begs Melchior for blows with the rod, and Hänschen's conversation with the nude also clearly shows sadomasochistic aspects. The piece was only performed in full very late and has repeatedly been subject to performance bans. Sadomasochistic tendencies can also be seen in The Marquis of Keith , for example Molly asks the Marquis for blows at the beginning of the piece and immediately afterwards for permission to " kiss at least one hand " (first act). The shaping of sexuality in plays like Lulu also attracted attention, especially in psychoanalytically oriented literary studies.


Wedekind's dramas Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora served as models for the unfinished opera Lulu by Alban Berg (premiered in 1937) and the German silent films Lulu (1917), Erdgeist by Leopold Jessner (1923) and Die Büchse der Pandora by Georg Wilhelm Pabst (1929 ). Later sound films were also inspired by the figure of Lulu in Wedekind's work, including Lulu (1962), Something Wild (1986), Lulu on the Bridge (1998) and The Fine Art of Love (2005). The rock band Metallica released a CD called Lulu in 2011 together with former Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed , which was also influenced by Wedekind's character.

The early stage play Spring Awakening was successfully performed in a musical adaptation on New York's Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in late 2006 . Duncan Sheik (music) and Steven Sater (book and lyrics) were responsible for the musical arrangement . You have been recognized worldwide for your Spring Awakening (musical) adaptation. Nuran David Çalış filmed Spring Awakening 2009 in a contemporary adaptation for ZDF. A film adaptation had already been published in 1923 .


"Man is trained or he is executed."

- Frank Wedekind : in The best punch lines of the 20th century

Works (selection)

Spring Awakening , cover of the original 1891 edition

See also


Primary literature

Work editions (chronological)

  • Frank Wedekind: Collected Works. 9 vols. Müller, Munich 1912–1921.
  • Frank Wedekind: Works. 3 vol. Edited by Manfred Hahn. Construction-Verlag, Berlin, Weimar 1969.
  • Frank Wedekind: Works. 2 vols. Edited by Erhard Weidl. Winkler, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-538-05323-5 .
  • Frank Wedekind: Critical study edition of the work. Darmstadt edition. 8 volumes (in 15 partial volumes). Edited by Elke Austermühl, Hartmut Vinçon, Rolf Kieser et al. Häusser, Darmstadt 1994–2011, ISBN 3-927902-95-0 (critical study edition, which philologically largely corresponds to the type of a historical-critical edition ).
  • Frank Wedekind: Collected Works. 10 vols. Edited by Walter Schmitz and Uwe Schneider. Thelem, Dresden 2003–, ISBN 978-3-935712-46-0 (reading edition).

Letter issues (chronological)

  • Frank Wedekind: Collected Letters. 2 vols. Edited by Fritz Strich . Müller, Munich 1924.
  • Elke Austermühl (Ed.): No more spark, no star from the old world. Frank Wedekind. Texts, interviews, studies. Georg Büchner Buchhandlung, Darmstadt 1989, ISBN 3-925376-38-0 (Pharus; 1). (In this compilation, three significant correspondence are published for the first time: 1. Wedekind and Minna von Greyerz (edited by Elke Austermühl), pp. 343-420; 2. Wedekind and Hermann Plümacher (edited by Martin Luchsinger); pp. 421–442; 3. Wedekind and Oskar Schibler (edited by Rolf Kieser), pp. 311–342.)
  • Frank Wedekind. Thomas Mann. Heinrich Mann. Correspondence with Maximilian Harden. Edited by Ariane Martin. Häusser, Darmstadt 1996, ISBN 3-89552-036-5 (Pharus; 5).
  • Correspondence: 1903 to 1917 / Karl Kraus; Frank Wedekind. Edited by Mirko Nottscheid. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8260-3701-6 (Wedekind readings; 5).
  • Frank and Tilly Wedekind: Correspondence 1905-1918 . Edited by Hartmut Vinçon. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2018, ISBN 978-3-8353-3171-6


  • Frank Wedekind: The diaries. An erotic life. Edited by Gerhard Hay. Athenaeum, Frankfurt a. M. 1986, ISBN 3-423-11092-9 .

Secondary literature

Introductory overall presentations

  • Elke Austermühl, Hartmut Vinçon: Frank Wedekind's dramas. In: Hans Joachim Piechotta, Ralph Rainer Wuthenow, Sabine Rothemann (Ed.): The literary modernity in Europe. 2. Vol. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1994, ISBN 3-531-12512-5 , pp. 304-321.
  • Elke Austermühl: Frank Wedekind (1864–1918). In: Alo Allkemper, Norbert Otto Eke (ed.): German dramatists of the 20th century. Erich Schmidt, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-503-04975-4 , pp. 63-79.
  • Reto Caluori: Frank Wedekind . In: Andreas Kotte (Ed.): Theater Lexikon der Schweiz . Volume 3, Chronos, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-0340-0715-9 , pp. 2056 f.
  • Hans-Jochen Irmer: The theater poet Frank Wedekind. 2nd edition Henschel, Berlin 1979.
  • Franz Norbert Mennemeier : Frank Wedekind. In: Walter Hinck (Hrsg.): Handbuch des Deutschen Dramas. Bagel, Düsseldorf 1980, ISBN 3-513-02440-1 , pp. 360-373.
  • Hartmut Vinçon: Frank Wedekind. Metzler, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-476-10230-0 .

life and work

  • Hans Kempner: Frank Wedekind as a person and an artist. 2nd expanded edition. Oskar Linser Verlag, Berlin 1911.
  • Rolf Kieser: Benjamin Franklin Wedekind: Biography of a youth. Arche, Zurich 1990, ISBN 3-7160-2113-X .
  • Artur Kutscher : Frank Wedekind: his life and works. Müller, Munich 1922–1931. (Even if individual statements are no longer tenable today, they are still the authoritative reference for biographical questions.)
  • Anatol Regnier : You on your highest roof - Tilly Wedekind and her daughters. A family biography. Knaus, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-8135-0223-6 . (The author is the grandson of Frank and Tilly Wedekind )
  • Anatol Regnier: Frank Wedekind: A tragedy for men. Knaus, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-8135-0255-8 .
  • Günter Seehaus: Frank Wedekind. 8th edition (1st edition 1974) Rowohlt, Reinbek 2008, ISBN 978-3-499-50213-2 .
  • Hartmut Vinçon (ed.): Frank Wedekind's Maggi time. Häusser, Darmstadt 1992, ISBN 3-927902-71-3 .
  • Anatol Regnier: You on your highest roof. Tilly Wedekind and her daughters; a family biography. Knaus Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-8135-0223-6 .


  • Ruth Florack : Bibliography on Frank Wedekind. In: Text + Critique 1996, Issue 131/132, ISBN 3-88377-539-8 , pp. 178-183. ( Issue 131/132 is dedicated to Frank Wedekind)
  • Robert A. Jones, Leroy R. Shaw: Frank Wedekind. A Bibliographic Handbook. 2 vols. Saur, Munich a. a. O. 1996, ISBN 3-598-11306-4 .
  • Carsten Niemann, Brigitta Weber, Rolf Kieser and Karljosef Kreter : Frank Wedekind, b. 1864 in Hanover. Prinzenstraße (Hannoversche Hefte zur Theatergeschichte), Hanover 1995, ISBN 3-931266-00-1 .

Recent research literature (selection)

  • Alwin Binder , Heinrich Richartz: Lyric Analysis. Instructions and demonstrations using poems by Benjamin Schmolck , Frank Wedekind and Günter Eich . Scriptor, Frankfurt / M. 1984, ISBN 3-589-20832-5 .
  • Sigrid Dreiseitel: "I do natural, lively propaganda for him." On the importance of Heinrich Heine for Frank Wedekind's early work and positions on literature and politics. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2000, ISBN 3-8260-1812-5 (Wedekind readings; 1).
  • Sigrid Dreiseitel, Hartmut Vinçon (ed.): Continuity - Discontinuity. Discourse on Frank Wedekind's literary production (1903–1918). Conference proceedings with the contributions to the international symposium of the Editions- und Forschungsstelle Frank Wedekind at the FH Darmstadt in October 1999. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2001, ISBN 3-8260-2130-4 (Wedekind lectures; 2).
  • Anke Finger, Gabi Kathöfer: A Reputation Reassessed. Unraveling Wedekind's Early Writings. In: Colloquia Germanica 36 (2003), Issue 1, ISSN  0010-1338 , pp. 27-44.
  • Ortrud Gutjahr (Ed.): Frank Wedekind. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2001, ISBN 3-8260-2077-4 , (Freiburg literary psychological discussions. Yearbook for literature and psychoanalysis; 20).
  • Georg W. Forcht: The mediality of the theater with Frank Wedekind. Centaurus, Herbolzheim 2005, ISBN 3-8255-0529-4 .
  • Georg W. Forcht: Liebesklänge and other selected poetry manuscripts by the young Frank Wedekind. Centaurus, Herbolzheim 2006, ISBN 978-3-8255-0659-9 .
  • Georg W. Forcht: Frank Wedekind and the beginnings of German cabaret. Freiburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8255-0744-2 .
  • Dieter Kafitz: Modern tendencies in Frank Wedekind's dramas. In: Benedikt Descourvières, Peter W. Marx, Ralf Rättig (eds.): My drama no longer takes place. German-language theater texts in the 20th century. Lang, Frankfurt a. M. u. a. O. 2006, ISBN 3-631-54115-5 , pp. 21-40.
  • Ingo Müller: Lulu . Literature processing and opera dramaturgy: A comparative analysis of Frank Wedekind's Lulu dramas and Alban Berg's opera Lulu in the light of reflections on genre theory (= Rombach Sciences: Litterae Series, Vol. 177), Freiburg i. Br. 2010.
  • Johannes G. Pankau: Sexuality and Modernity. Studies on the German drama of the fin de siècle. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005 (Wedekind-Lektüren; 4), ISBN 3-8260-2356-0 , esp. Pp. 86-196.
  • Stefan Riedlinger: Appropriations. Frank Wedekind's Nietzsche reception. Tectum, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-8288-8858-5 .
  • Friedrich Rothe: Frank Wedekind's Dramas: Art Nouveau and Philosophy of Life. Metzler, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3-476-00137-7 .
  • Hartmut Vinçon: The prologue is wonderful! On Frank Wedekind's concept of dramaturgical communication. In: Euphorion 95 (2001), Issue 1, ISSN  0014-2328 , pp. 69-82.
  • Hartmut Vinçon: Staging Sexuality. On the scientification and literarization of the sexual discourse in the 19th century using the example of Frank Wedekind's "Eden" concept. In: Matthias Luserke-Jaqui (Ed.): “All the world has become media.” Literature, technology, natural science in classical modernism. International Darmstadt Musil Symposium. Francke, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-7720-8123-1 , pp. 261–292 ( PDF )
  • Frank Wedekind - critic of the regime? Some reflections on the 'lese majesty' in the 'Simplicissimus poems'. In: A Journal of Germanic Studies . University of Toronto Press. Volume 15, Number 4/1979, pp. 235-243

Web links

Commons : Frank Wedekind  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Frank Wedekind  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Address books from Hanover since 1864 as well as research by Christian Heppner ( City Archives Hanover ) and Walter Selke
  2. Documentation from the Bröhan Museum for the exhibition Greif wacker after sin from January 2001.
  3. Hartmut Vinçon: Frank Wedekind and the First World War: References to unknown texts and connections to a controversial topic. In: . August 3, 2014, accessed February 24, 2019 .
  4. Markus M. Ronner : The best punchlines of the 20th century: Humorous-satirical flashes of inspiration, sorted alphabetically by keywords . Gondrom, Bindlach 1990, ISBN 3-8112-0670-2 .