The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Anzengruber, Ludwig
ANZENGRUBER, ān'tsĕn-groo-bër, Ludwig, German dramatist: b. Vienna, 29 Nov. 1839; d. Vienna, 10 Dec. 1889. In early life he sometimes wrote under the pseudonym L. Gruber. His father's ancestors were Austrian peasants and his mother was of Viennese descent. The elder Anzengruber, who was an admirer of Schiller, tried his hand at writing dramas and stories but without success. He was instrumental, however, in early turning the attention of his boy to the drama and the theatre. The family lived in straitened circumstances and when the father died young Ludwig had to take a position in a bookstore. The duties of the position did not greatly appeal to him, but he had an opportunity to satisfy his taste for wide reading. His early interest in the theatre developed and in 1859 he became a traveling actor, going about the country accompanied by his mother. On these journeys he had opportunity to become acquainted with various types of characters which he later embodied in his dramas and novels. In fact, these travels brought nearly all the knowledge of peasant life that he possessed, as the rest of his days were spent in Vienna.
In 1869, after having been without a theatrical engagement for some time, he took a position as clerk in the Vienna police department. This experience he always valued, as it made him more intimately acquainted with human nature and gave him a knowledge of the seamy side of life. He wrote popular plays all along but had achieved success with none of them, when suddenly in 1870 he became famous with his ‘Pfarrer von Kirchfeld.’ The public was visibly affected when it was presented on the stage and its reputation was helped by the favorable criticism of Heinrich Laube. Anzengruber now resigned his position with the police department and devoted all his attention to literary work. Among his dramas of this period ‘Der Meineidbauer’ (1871), ‘Die Kreuzelschreiber’ (1872), ‘Der G'wissens- wurm’ (1874), ‘Der Doppelselbstmord’ (1875), ‘Der ledige Hof’ (1877), ‘Das vierte Gebot’ (1877) are the most important. In 1878 he was awarded the Schiller prize.
Then followed a period of unproductivity in the drama due largely to the failure of two of his plays in 1879. The years 1880-84 were mostly devoted to the writing of novels and short stories and the editing of a journal, Die Heimat. In 1885 he secured a fixed income as editor of the humorous paper Figaro, Beginning with 1886 the interest in his dramas was agam revived in Vienna. In the meantime he had made his reputation in north Germany. ‘Das vierte Gebot’ had been especially well received in Berlin. In 1886 he was awarded the Grillparzer prize for his drama ‘Heimg'funden’ (1885). Of his later dramas ‘Stahl und Stein’ (1886) and ‘Fleck auf der Ehr’ (1889) should be mentioned. At this time the Vienna theatres were again producing his plays with continued success. When Anzengruber died in 1889 he was the leading dramatist of the German-speaking people of that day.
He also wrote novels of interest and power, the chief ones being ‘Der Schandfleck’ (1876, rewritten 1883) and ‘Der Sternsteinhof’ (1885), and a number of excellent short stories. But his great importance as a writer is in his dramas. He was a reformer of the German stage. He put his plays upon a popular basis. His characters are largely original and selected from among the people, many of them using the dialect of the Austrian peasantry. He depicted life in a realistic manner as he himself saw it and had experienced it. The popular farce, as it existed on the Vienna stage at that time, he developed into a dignified drama of psychological depth. The scenic effect of his plays was heightened by making use of music. He was imbued with optimism and a genuine humor emanates from his characters. Withal he was serious of purpose and didactic, at times extremely so, some of his characters having a tendency to preach and to exhort. (See Priest of Kirchfeld, The.) Consult Gesammelte Werke (10 vols., 1890; 3d ed., 1897); Bettelheim, A., ‘Ludwig Anzengruber, der Mann, sein Werk, und seine Weltanschauung’ (in ‘Geisteshelden,’ Vol. IV, 2d ed., Berlin 1898); Friedmann, S., ‘Ludwig Anzengruber’ (Leipzig 1902).