Wedekind, Frank

PLAYWRIGHT, POET, ACTOR (GERMANY)
BORN 24 Jul 1864, Hannover, Niedersachsen - DIED 9 Mar 1918, München
REAL NAME Wedekind, Benjamin Franklin
GRAVE LOCATION München, Bayern: Waldfriedhof (17-W-88)

Frank Wedekind was born in Hanover as the son of the physician F.W. Wedekind. His father, an American citizen, was opposed to the new German empire and the family moved to Lenzburg in Switzerland in 1871. Because of trouble at school Frank was educated privately. In 1884 he started to study Literature in Lausanne but according to his father's wishes he went to Munich to study Law.

In 1885 he wrote some poetry, some prose and a comedy. After he quarreled with his father he worked for the press agency Maggi & Co. In 1888 his father died and Wedekind settled in München. In 1891 he finished his play "Frühlings Erwachen. Eine Kindertragödie". After travelling to Paris, London and Berlin he publsied "Der Erdgeist. Tragödie in vier Aufzügen" in 1895. In 1896 he joined the staff of the "Simplicissimus" magazine in Munich. In the same year he had an affair with Frida Strindberg, whose marriage to August Strindberg was failing. In 1897 a son was born, Friedrich.

In 1897 his "Erdgeist" was performed in Leipzig, but Wedekind fled to Zürich in 1898 after he had insulted Wilhelm II in his writings for "Simplicissimus". He returned to Germany in 1899 to serve six months in prison at Königstein near Dresden, where Thomas Theodor Heine was imprisoned as well at the time.

In 1901 he had another son by house maid Hildegard Zellner, Frank. This son probably never saw his father. Wedekind had spent his inheritance and from 1902 onwards he acted in his own plays to make a living. But often his work was censored or forbidden. It was regarded as pornographical because he used themes like sexual freedom and man's instincts.

In 1906 he married the young actress Tilly Newes. She had jumped into the Spree in Berlin after he had insulted her and the next day he proposed to her. It was a difficult marriage, but together they acted in his plays and they had two daughters, Pamela (1906) and Kadidja (1911). They moved to Munich where Wedekind was at the centre of a intellectual circle at the Torggelstube near the Hofbrauhaus.

In 1912 his work was performed at Max Reinhardt's Deutschem Theater. The censors still haunted him, but by now he slowly became famous and the public was curious to see him and Tilly perform. But Wedekind was a jealous man and he couldn't cope with getting older. His health failed and he frequently threatened to leave his young wife. Tilly tried to commit suicide in December 1917, but she survived.

Their marriage had fallen apart, but before the divorce was final Wedekind died after an operation. After the First World War his work was performed all over Germany. Alban Berg based his opera Lulu (1934) on Wedekind's work "Die Büchse der Pandora".

Family
• Daughter: Wedekind, Pamela
• Wife: Wedekind, Tilly

Related persons
• knew Bergner, Elisabeth
• had work performed by Eysoldt, Gertrud
• knew Harden, Maximilian
• cooperated with Kraus, Karl
• knew Orloff, Ida
• was a friend of Ploetz, Alfred
• cooperated with Reinhardt, Max
• knew Sandrock, Adele
• has a connection with Wille, Bruno

Events
1905/5/29: Private performance in Vienna of Frank Wedekind's "Die Büchse der Pandora"
The play was first performed at 1 Feb 1904 at the Intime Theater in Nürnberg, but banned by the German censors afterwards. Karl Kraus organised a private performance at the Trianon Theatre in Vienna. Tilly Newes played Lulu and Albert Heine played Schigolg and was the director. Adele Sandrock had the part of Gräfin Geschwitz, Ida Orloff was Kadidja di Santa Croce and Karl Kraus was Kungu Pote. Wedekind himself played the murderer Jack.
1929/3/28: Performance of Frank Wedekind's "Der Maquis von Keith" in honour of the recently deceased Albert Steinrück
It took place at the Schauspielhaus at the Gendarmemarkt in Belrin. Director was Leopold Jessner and Heinrich Mann speeched. Among the participating actors were Heinrich George, Werner Krauss, Carola Neher, Tilla Durieux, Jakob Tiedtke, Conrad Veidt, Max Pallenberg, Elisabeth Bergner, Paul Wegener, Hans Albers, Käthe Dorsch and Veit Harlan.

Sources
Biographie: Frank Wedekind, 1864-1918
Schriftsteller Lexikon, VEB Bibiographisches Institut Leipzig, Leipig, 1990
• Regnier, Anatol, Du af deinem höchtsten Dach, Tilly Wedekind und ihre Töchter, BTB Verlag, 2005

Images

The grave of Frank, Tilly and Kadidja Wedekind at the Waldfriedhof in Munich.
Picture by Androom (23 Aug 2010)

 


Wedekind, Pamela

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 18 Dec 2010