1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Werner, Friedrich Ludwig Zacharias
WERNER, FRIEDRICH LUDWIG ZACHARIAS (1768-1823), German poet, dramatist and preacher, was born on the 18th of November 1768 at Königsberg in Prussia. From his mother, who died a religious maniac, Werner inherited a weak and unbalanced nature, which his education did nothing to correct. At the university of his native place he studied law; but Rousseau and Rousseau’s German disciples were the influences that shaped his view of life. For years he oscillated violently between aspirations towards the state of nature, which betrayed him into a series of rash and unhappy marriages, and a sentimental admiration—in common with so many of the Romanticists—for the Roman Catholic Church, which ended in 1811 in his conversion. Werner’s talent was early recognized and obtained for him, in spite of his character, a small government post at Warsaw, which he exchanged afterwards for one at Berlin. In the course of his travels, and by correspondence, he got into touch with many of the men most eminent in literature at the time; and succeeded in having his plays put on the stage, where they met with much success. In 1814 he was ordained priest, and, exchanging the pen for the pulpit, became a popular preacher at Vienna, where, during the famous congress of 1814, his eloquent but fanatical sermons were listened to by crowded congregations. He died at Vienna on the 17th of January 1823.
Werner was the only dramatist of the Romantic movement who — thanks to the influence of Schiller — was able to subordinate his exuberant imagination to the practical needs of the stage. His first tragedy, Die Söhne des Tals (1803-1804), is in two parts, and it was followed by Das Kreuz an der Ostsee (1806). More important is the Reformation drama Martin Luther, oder die Weihe der Kraft (1807), which, after his conversion to Catholicism, Werner recanted in a poem Weihe der Unkraft (1813). His powerful one-act tragedy, Der vierundzwanzigste Februar (1815, but performed 1810), was the first of the so-called “fate tragedies.” Attila (1808), Wanda (1810) and Die Mutter der Makkabäer (1820) show a falling-off in Werner's powers.