The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Halbe, Max

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Edition of 1920. See also Max Halbe on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HALBE, häl'bẽ, Max, German dramatist: b. Guettland, near Danzig, 4 Oct. 1865, of an old family of peasants who had immigrated two centuries earlier from Westphalia. He attended the gymnasium at Marienburg, and the universities of Heidelberg (where he studied law, 1883), Munich (1884), and Berlin (1885-87), where he studied history and Germanic philology. In both the latter cities he became acquainted with the leaders of the new naturalistic movement in German literature, and was associated with the Freie Bühne (Free Stage) Movement in 1889. He was strongly influenced by the association with, and the works of Johannes Schlaf and Arno Holt (q.v.), and in the spring of 1890 wrote the play ‘Freie Liebe’ (Free Love). He married the same year. Halbe was not entirely in accord with the Freie Bühne, and with consistent naturalism (see Hauptmann, Gerhart), as the latter deviated considerably from his own tendencies. Accordingly it was difficult for him to place ‘Eisgang’ (1892) and ‘Jugend’ (1893) on the stage, although the latter did have a performance on the Freie Volksbühne in 1892. ‘Jugend’ was especially difficult to place; famous theatre managers in Berlin (L'Arronge, Barnay, Blumenthal) refused it, but Lautenburg accepted and performed it with great success in 1893. Theatre-goers considered Halbe as having displaced Hauptmann in the primacy of contemporary German drama. But the theatrical public of Berlin is very fickle and requires a succession of favorable impressions, and when Halbe's next play, the comedy ‘Der Amerikafahrer’ (‘The Tourist in America’), made the impression of being witless, his reputation rapidly declined. Constant laments were uttered by critics, as to his failure to fulfill the promise of his early work. Halbe decided to absent himself from the hothouse atmosphere of literature in the capital, and settled in the country at Kreuzlingen, on Lake Constance, in 1894. In 1895 he settled in Munich, where he again began to write; the dramas ‘Lebenswende’ and ‘Mutter Erde’ (the latter and ‘Jugend’ are his most famous works) and the “novelle” ‘Frau Mesek’ are of this period. In 1895, together with Ruederer, Halbe founded the Intimate Theatre at Munich in which writers and poets appeared on the stage. Among the other members of this circle were Hartleben, Hirschfeld, Wedekind, Gumppenberg, Karl Hauptmann, Ludwig Thoma and Count Keyserling. A complete list of his dramas includes ‘Ein Emporkömmling’ (1889): ‘Freie Liebe’ (1890, later called ‘Ein Verhältnis’ 1895); ‘Eisgang’ (1892); ‘Jugend’ (1893); ‘Der Amerikafahrer’ (1894); ‘Lebenswende’ (1896); ‘Mutter Erde’ (1897); ‘Der Eroberer’ (1898); ‘Die Heimatlosen’ (1899); ‘Das Tausendjährige Reich’ (1899); ‘Hans Rosenhagen’ (1901); ‘Walpurgistag’ (1902); ‘Der Strom’ (1903); ‘Die Insel der Seligen’ (1905); ‘Das wahre Gesicht’ (1907); ‘Blaue Berge’ (1909); ‘Der Ring des Gauklers’ (1912). Of ‘Mutter Erde,’ a translation into English, ‘Mother Earth,’ appeared in ‘German Classics’ (Vol. XX, New York 1914). Consult Eisner, Richard, ‘Moderne Dramatik in kritischer Beleuchtung’ (Berlin 1908); Stern, Adolf, ‘Studien zur Literatur der Gegenwart’ (Berlin 1905); Glaser, J., ‘Max Halbe’ (in Nord und Süd, 1889).

Jacob Wittmer Hartmann.