1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gryphius, Andreas

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14785511911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12 — Gryphius, Andreas

GRYPHIUS, ANDREAS (1616–1664), German lyric poet and dramatist, was born on the 11th of October 1616, at Grossglogau in Silesia, where his father was a clergyman. The family name was Greif, latinized, according to the prevailing fashion, as Gryphius. Left early an orphan and driven from his native town by the troubles of the Thirty Years’ War, he received his schooling in various places, but notably at Fraustadt, where he enjoyed an excellent classical education. In 1634 he became tutor to the sons of the eminent jurist Georg von Schönborn (1579–1637), a man of wide culture and considerable wealth, who, after filling various administrative posts and writing many erudite volumes on law, had been rewarded by the emperor Ferdinand II. with the title and office of imperial count-palatine (Pfalzgraf). Schönborn, who recognized Gryphius’s genius, crowned him poëta laureatus, gave him the diploma of master of philosophy, and bestowed on him a patent of nobility, though Gryphius never used the title. A month later, on the 23rd of December 1637, Schönborn died; and next year Gryphius went to continue his studies at Leiden, where he remained six years, both hearing and delivering lectures. Here he fell under the influence of the great Dutch dramatists, Pieter Cornelissen Hooft (1581–1647) and Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679), who largely determined the character of his later dramatic works. After travelling in France, Italy and South Germany, Gryphius settled in 1647 at Fraustadt, where he began his dramatic work, and in 1650 was appointed syndic of Glogau, a post he held until his death on the 16th of July 1664. A short time previously he had been admitted under the title of “The Immortal” into the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft, a literary society, founded in 1617 by Ludwig, prince of Anhalt-Köthen on the model of the Italian academies.

Gryphius was a man of morbid disposition, and his melancholy temperament, fostered by the misfortunes of his childhood, is largely reflected in his lyrics, of which the most famous are the Kirchhofsgedanken (1656). His best works are his comedies, one of which, Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz (1663), is evidently based on the comic episode of Pyramus and Thisbe in The Midsummer Night’s Dream. Die geliebte Dornrose (1660), which is written in a Silesian dialect, contains many touches of natural simplicity and grace, and ranks high among the comparatively small number of German dramas of the 17th century. Horribilicribrifax (1663), founded on the Miles gloriosus of Plautus, is a rather laboured attack on pedantry. Besides these three comedies, Gryphius wrote five tragedies. In all of them his tendency is to become wild and bombastic, but he had the merit of at least attempting to work out artistically conceived plans, and there are occasional flashes both of passion and of imagination. His models seem to have been Seneca and Vondel. He had the courage, in Carolus Stuardus (1649) to deal with events of his own day; his other tragedies are Leo Armenius (1646); Katharina von Georgien (1657), Cardenio und Celinde (1657) and Papinianus (1663). No German dramatic writer before him had risen to so high a level, nor had he worthy successors until about the middle of the 18th century.

A complete edition of Gryphius’s dramas and lyric poetry has been published by H. Palm in the series of the Stuttgart Literarische Verein (3 vols., 1878, 1882, 1884). Volumes of selected works will be found in W. Müller’s Bibliothek der deutschen Dichter des 17ten Jahrhunderts (1822) and in J. Tittmann’s Deutsche Dichter des 17ten Jahrhunderts (1870). There is also a good selection by H. Palm in Kürschner’s Deutsche Nationalliteratur.

See O. Klopp, Andreas Gryphius als Dramatiker (1851); J. Hermann, Über Andreas Gryphius (1851); T. Wissowa, Beiträge zur Kenntnis von Andreas Gryphius’ Leben und Schriften (1876); J. Wysocki, Andreas Gryphius et la tragédie allemande au XVIIᵉ siècle; and V. Mannheimer, Die Lyrik des Andreas Gryphius (1904).