1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grabbe, Christian Dietrich
GRABBE, CHRISTIAN DIETRICH (1801–1836), German dramatist, was born at Detmold on the 11th of December 1801. Entering the university of Leipzig in 1819 as a student of law, he continued the reckless habits which he had begun at Detmold, and neglected his studies. Being introduced into literary circles, he conceived the idea of becoming an actor and wrote the drama Herzog Theodor von Gothland (1822). This, though showing considerable literary talent, lacks artistic form, and is morally repulsive. Ludwig Tieck, while encouraging the young author, pointed out its faults, and tried to reform Grabbe himself. In 1822 Grabbe removed to Berlin University, and in 1824 passed his advocate’s examination. He now settled in his native town as a lawyer and in 1827 was appointed a Militärauditeur. In 1833 he married, but in consequence of his drunken habits was dismissed from his office, and, separating from his wife, visited Düsseldorf, where he was kindly received by Karl Immermann. After a serious quarrel with the latter, he returned to Detmold, where, as a result of his excesses, he died on the 12th of September 1836.
Grabbe had real poetical gifts, and many of his dramas contain fine passages and a wealth of original ideas. They largely reflect his own life and character, and are characterized by cynicism and indelicacy. Their construction also is defective and little suited to the requirements of the stage. The boldly conceived Don Juan und Faust (1829) and the historical dramas Friedrich Barbarossa (1829), Heinrich VI. (1830), and Napoleon oder die Hundert Tage (1831), the last of which places the battle of Waterloo upon the stage, are his best works. Among others are the unfinished tragedies Marius and Sulla (continued by Erich Korn, Berlin, 1890); and Hannibal (1835, supplemented and edited by C. Spielmann, Halle, 1901); and the patriotic Hermannsschlacht or the battle between Arminius and Varus (posthumously published with a biographical notice, by E. Duller, 1838).
Grabbe’s works have been edited by O. Blumenthal (4 vols., 1875), and E. Grisebach (4 vols., 1902). For further notices of his life, see K. Ziegler, Grabbes Leben und Charakter (1855); O. Blumenthal, Beiträge zur Kenntnis Grabbes (1875); C. A. Piper, Grabbe (1898), and A. Ploch, Grabbes Stellung in der deutschen Literatur (1905).