1912 : Gerhart Hauptmann

1912 : Gerhart Hauptmann

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“primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art”



November 15, 1862

Place of birth


Obersalzbrunn, Then Germany, Now Poland



June 6, 1946

Place of death


Agnetendorf, Poland







Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1912


Since the school in his hometown came to Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) and then was sent to learn agriculture to the farm of his uncle Jauer. As did not like this kind of life, soon returned to Breslau tried to become a sculptor, from where he went to Dresden. From there he went to study c and natural sciences at the University of Jena. He spent most of the years 1883 and 1884 in Italy. In May 1885 Hauptmann married and settled in Erkner, a suburb of Berlin, decanters finally in the literature in which soon achieved a reputation as one of the leading representatives of modern drama. In 1891 it withdrew to Schreiberhau in Silesia. The first drama of Hauptmann, Vor Sonnenaufgang (Before Sunrise, 1889) opened the naturalist movement in modern German literature, he won the enmity of critics Orthodox and the enthusiastic support of young German writers. It was followed by Des Friedensfest (1890), EinSame Menschen (1891) and Die Weber (The weavers, 1892), powerful drama that represents the uprising of the Silesian weavers in 1844. In the following work of Hauptmann include comedies Kolleg Crampton (1892), Der Biberpelz (The skin of beaver, 1893) and Der Rote Hahn (1901), the “dramatic poem,” Hannele (1893), and a historical drama, Florian Geyer (1895). He also wrote two tragedies connected with the past of Silesia, Fuhrmann Henschel (1898) and Rose Berndt (1903), and dramas Die versunkene Glock (The black hood, 1897) and Und Pippa tanzt (Pipa And dance!, 1905). The poetic mysticism characterizes many of her later works such as Der NAERO in Christo Emanuel Quint (The madman in Christ Emanuel Quint, 1910), Der Ketzer von Soana (The heretic of Soana, 1918), Die Insel der Grossen Mutter (The Island of the Great Mother, 1921). He acquired a reputation for intellectual radical fame that followed for many years, despite being an ascetic who managed to survive aristocratic calmly to all the events of both the Weimar Republic as Hitler’s Third Reich. In 1912 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Selected works:


  • FASCHING, 1887 – Carnival

  • BAHNWARTER THIEL, 1988 – Lineman Thiel and Other Tales (translated by Stanley Radcliffe) / The Signalman Thiel and Other Stories (tr. N. Jacobs, 1993)

  • VOR SONNENAUFGANG, 1889 – Before Daybreak (tr. by Peter Bauland) / Before Dawn (tr. by Leonard Bloomfield)

  • DAS FRIEDENSFEST, 1890 – The Coming of Peace (tr. by Janet Achurch and C. E. Wheeler)

  • EINSAME MENSCHEN, 1891 – Lonely Lives (tr. by Mary Morrison)

  • DIE WEBER, 1893 – The Weavers (tr. by Carl Richard Mueller; Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner, in Three Plays, 1977) – Kankurit (suom. Kaarle Halme) – film 1927, dir. by Frederic Zelnik, starring Paul Wegener, Valeska Stock, Hermann Picha, Hertha von Walther

  • DER BIBERPELZ, 1893 – The Beaver Coat (tr. by Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner, in Three Plays, 1977) – Majavannahkaturkki – films: 1928, dir. by Erich Schonfelder, starring La Jana, Paul Henckels, Lucie Hoflich; 1937, dir. by Jurgen von Alten; 1949, dir. by Erich Engel, starring Fita Benkhoff, Werner Hinz, Kathe Haack

  • HANNELES HIMMELFAHRT, 1894 – Hannele, a Dream Poem (tr. by Charles Henry Meltzer) / Hannele (tr. by Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner, in Three Plays, 1977) – Hannele (suom. Eino Kalima) – films: 1922, dir. by Urban Gad, starring Margarete Schlegel, Margarete Schon; Chichi yo izuko e, 1923, dir. by Norimasa Kaeriyama; 1934, dir. by Thea von Harbou, starring Inge Landgut, Kathe Haack, Theodor Loos

  • DER VERSUNKENE GLOCKE, 1896 – The Sunken Bell (tr. by Charles Henry Meltzer) – Uponnut kello – film Kanashiki koi no genso, 1925, dir. by Yoshinobu Ikeda

  • FLORIAN GEYER, 1896 – Florian Geyer

  • FUHRMANN HENSCHELL, 1898 – Drayman Henschell (tr. 1913) – films: Yama no senroban, 1923, dir. by Yasujiro Shimazu; 1956, dir. by Josef von Baky

  • ROSE BERND, 1903 – films: 1919, dir. by Alfred Halm; Irz dusmanlari, 1955, dir. by Nuri Akinci; 1957, dir. by Wolfgang Staudte, starring Maria Schell, Raf Vallone



  • DER NARR IN CHRISTO EMMANUEL QUINT, 1910 – The Fool in Christ, Emmanuel Quint (translated by Thomas Seltzer, 1912)

  • DIE RATTEN, 1911 – The Rats (tr. 1913) – films: 1921, dir. by Hanns Kobe; 1955, dir. by Robert Siodmak, starring Maria Schell, Curd Jurgens, Heidemarie Hatheyer

  • ATLANTIS, 1912 – Atlantis (tr. by Adele and Thomas Seltzer, 1912) – Atlantis (suom. Toini Havu) – film 1913, dir. by August Blom, starring Olaf Fonss, Ida Orlov, Ebba Thomsen

  • GABRIEL SCHILLINGS FLUCHT, 1912 – Gabriel Schilling’s Flight

  • DIE INSEL DER GROSSEN MUTTER, 1912 – The Island of the Great Mother (translated by Willa and Edwin Muir, 1925)

  • The Dramatic Works 1912-1929 (9 vols.)

  • GESAMMELTE WERKE, 1912 (6 vols.)


  • PARSIVAL, 1914 – Parsival (tr. by Oakley Williams, 1915)

  • The Maiden of the Mount, 1915 (translation)


  • DER KETZER VON SOANA, 1918 – The Heretic of Soana (translated by Bayard Quincy Morgan) – Soanan kerettilainen (suom. Alpo Kupiainen)

  • ANNA, 1921

  • PETER BRAUER, 1921

  • PHANTOM, 1922 – Phantom (tr. by Bayard Quincy Morgan, 1922) – film 1922, dir. by F.W. Murnau starring Alfred Abel, Grete Berger, Lil Dagover

  • FASCHING, 1925

  • DOROTHEA ANGERMANN, 1926 – film 1959, dir. by Robert Siodmak, starring Ruth Leuwerik

  • WANDA, 1928


  • VOR SONNENUNTERGANG, 1932 – films: Der Herrscher, 1937, dir. by Veit Harlan, starring Emil Jannings, Paul Wagner, Hannes Stelzer, Hilde Korber; 1956, dir. by Gottfried Reinhardt, starring Hans Albers, Annemarie Duringer, Martin Held, Claus Biederstaedt









  • MAGNUS GARBE, 1942



  • GESAMMELTE WERKE, 1942 (17 vols.)




  • MIGNON, 1947



  • Five Plays by Gerhart Hauptmann, 1961 (tr. by Theodore H. Lustig)

  • SAMTLICHE WERKE, 1962-1974 (11 vols.)



  • Three Plays, 1977 (tr. by Horst Frenz and Miles Waggoner)

  • DIARIUM 1917-1933, 1980

  • NOTIZKALENDER 1889-1891, 1982

  • TAGEBUCH 1892-1894, 1985


1912: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Hans Hildebrand, Acting Secretary of the Swedish Academy, on December 10, 1912

There is an old saying that times change and men change with them. If we look back on past ages we discover its truth. We, who are no longer young, have had the opportunity in our bustling lives to experience the truth of the saying, and every day confirms it anew. As far back as history extends we find that new things emerged, but were not at first recognized although they were to be important in the future. A seed came alive and grew to magnificent size. Certain names in contemporary science illustrate the discrepancy between modest beginnings and later developments.

The same is true of dramatic poetry. This is not the place to trace its development through twenty-five centuries. There is a tremendous difference, however, between the satyr choruses of the Dionysiac festivals, called tragedies because of the goat skins worn by the chorus, and the demands the modern age makes on dramatic poetry, and this difference indicates considerable progress.

In our time Gerhart Hauptmann has been a great name in the field of drama. He turned fifty recently; he is thus in his prime of life and can look back on an exceptionally rich career as an artist. He submitted his first work to the stage at the age of twenty-seven. At the age of thirty he proved himself a mature artist with his play Die Weber (1892) [The Weavers]. This work was followed by others which confirmed his reputation. In most of his plays he deals with conditions of the low-class life which he had numerous occasions to study, especially in his native Silesia. His descriptions are based on keen observations of man and his milieu. Each of his characters is a fully developed personality – there is not a trace of types or cliches. Nobody even for a moment could doubt the truthfulness of his observations; they have established Hauptmann as a great realist. But he nowhere praises the life of these so-called low characters. On the contrary, when one has seen or read these plays and identified himself deeply with the conditions they represent, he feels the need for fresh air and asks how such misery can be abolished in the future. The realism in Hauptmann’s plays leads necessarily to brighter dreams of new and better conditions and to the wish for their fulfilment.

Hauptmann has also written dramas of a totally different nature: he calls them Marchendramen. Among them is the delightful Hanneles Himmelfahrt (1893) [The Assumption of Hannele], in which the misery of life and the bliss of heaven emerge with such striking contrast. Among these plays is also Die versunkene Glocke (1897) [The Sunken Bell], the most popular of his plays in his own country. The copy used by the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy bore the stamp of the sixtieth impression.

Hauptmann has also distinguished himself in the genres of historical drama and comedy. He has not published a collection of his lyrical poems, but incidental poems in his plays bear witness to his talent in this field.

In his early years he had published a few short stories, but in 1910 he brought out his novel Der Narr in Christo Emanuel Quint [The Fool in Christ: Emanuel Quint], the result of many years of work. The story Der Apostel of 1892 is a sketch of the final work in which we learn about the inner life of a poor man who, without any education other than that acquired from the Bible and without any critical judgment of what he has read, finally reaches the conclusion that he is the reincarnation of Christ. It is not easy to give a correct account of the development of a human soul that can be considered normal, in view of all the forces and circumstances that affect its development. But it is even more difficult to attain the truth if one describes the inner development of a soul that is in certain respects abnormal. The attempt is bold; its execution took decades of creative work. Judgment of the work has differed widely. I am happy to join the many who consider Emanuel Quint a masterly solution of a difficult problem.

Hauptmann’s particular virtue is his penetrating and critical insight into the human soul. It is this gift that enabled him in his plays and in his novels to create truly living individuals rather than types representing some particular outlook or opinion. All the characters we meet, even the minor ones, have a full life. In his novels one admires the descriptions of the setting, as well as the sketches of the people that come in more or less close contact with the protagonist of the story. The plays reveal his great art by their powerful concentration which holds the reader or spectator from beginning to end. Whatever subject he treats, even when he deals with life’s seamy side, his is always a noble personality. That nobility and his refined art give his works their wonderful power.

The preceding remarks were intended to sketch the reasons why the Swedish Academy has awarded this year’s Nobel Prize to Gerhart Hauptmann.

Dr. Hauptmann – In your significant and controversial book Der Narr in Christo Emanuel Quint you say: It is impossible to uncover the necessary course of a human life in all its stages, if only because every human being is something unique from beginning to end and because the observer can comprehend his object only within the limits of his own nature.

That is indeed true. But there are many kinds of observers. The everyday man in the midst of his bustling life has neither the opportunity nor the will to study his fellow men in greater depth. We see the outside but do not care to see beneath it unless we happen to have a special interest in learning another’s motives. Even those who are not drawn into the turmoil of present life, who limit their intercourse with the outside world and are on intimate terms with their immediate surroundings, do not generally go very far in their study of the human soul. We are attracted or repelled; we love or hate, if we are not indifferent. We praise or blame.

The poet, however, is not an everyday man. He is able to extend the scope of his imagination much further. For he has the divine gift of intuition. And you, Dr. Hauptmann, possess this wonderful gift to the highest degree. In your many works you have created innumerable characters. But they do not exist merely as so many types of such and such a nature. To the reader and spectator of your plays, each of your characters is a fully developed individual, living and acting together with others, but different from all of them. That is the reason for much of the magic of your work.

It has been said that at least in some of your works you have been a marked realist. You have had rich opportunities to use your gift of observation and become acquainted with the misery of whole classes of people, and you have described it faithfully. If after seeing or reading such a play one is deeply moved by it, he cannot help thinking, These conditions must be improved.» One cannot deny the existence of the seamy side of life, and it must have its place in literature in order to teach wisdom to the living.

Your manifold activities as a writer have given us other marvellous works. I shall mention only two here, Hanneles Himmefahrt and Die versunkene Glocke. The latter seems to enjoy great popularity in your country.

Through the mouth of the ambitious and unfortunate Michael Kramer you say:

If someone has the effrontery to paint the man with the crown of thorns – it will take him a lifetime to do it. No pleasures for him: lonely hours, lonely days, lonely years. He must be alone with himself and with his God. He must consecrate himself daily. Nothing common must be about him or in him. And then when he struggles and toils in his solitude the Holy Ghost comes. Then he can sometimes catch a glimpse. It swells, he can feel it. Then he rests in the eternal and he has it before him in quiet and beauty. He has it without wanting it. He sees the Saviour. He feels him.

Although in your work you have not represented the Saviour with the crown of thorns, you have represented a poor man ultimately driven to the delusion that he is the second Christ. But Kramer’s words reflect your own attitude. Your novel Der Narr in Christo Emanuel Quint appeared in 1910, but the story Der Apostel of 1892 shows that the plan for writing the novel had occurred to you twenty years earlier.

True art does not consist in writing down and handing to the public the thoughts of the moment, but rather in subjecting potentially useful ideas to close scrutiny, to the conflict of different opinions and the apprehensive consideration of their eventual effect. This process will gradually lead the true artist to the precious conviction, I have finally reached the truth. You have attained the highest rank of art by painstaking but never pedantic preparatory research, by the consistency of your feelings, thoughts, and actions, and by the strict form of your plays.

The Swedish Academy has found the great artist Gerhart Hauptmann worthy of receiving this year’s Nobel Prize, which his Majesty the King will now present to him.

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