Klinger, Friedrich Maximilian von

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Klinger, Friedrich Maximilian von (1752-1831): German, Playwright.

Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger, together with writers such as Goethe, Johann Wolfgang and Lenz, Jakob Michael Reinhold, led the German literary revolt against rationalism. Championing emotionalism, the Sturm und Drang literary movement of the 1770s received its name from one of Klinger’s plays, Der Wirrwarr, oder Sturm und Drang (Confusion, or Storm and Stress), completed in 1776.

Klinger lost his father early and was raised by his mother in impoverished, yet loving circumstances. Goethe, a childhood playmate of his, enabled him to attend the University of Giessen and study law. Klinger, however, soon realized that he preferred authoring plays. A prolific writer, Klinger completed six dramas within two years. His best-known plays are The Twins (1776) and Confusion, or Storm and Stress (1776). Characteristic of these plays is an emotional language, themes of social conflict, and Shakespearean dramatic situations.

Like Goethe, Klinger was able to overcome the turbulence of his early life. In 1778, he began a successful military career, first in the Austrian army and then in the Russian marines. In his later years, he was the curator of the University of Dorpat. Beginning around 1780, Klinger wrote principally philosophical novels and satire.

Klinger and other writers of the Sturm und Drang period helped popularize the beliefs and themes of Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. They directed the public’s attention to folk poetry, the theater of Shakespeare, and realism.

Further Reading:

Bruce Kieffer, The Storm and Stress of Language: Linguistic Catastrophe in the Early Works of Goethe, Lenz, Klinger, and Schiller, 1986.

David Witkosky

Auburn Montgomery