Kleist, Heinrich von

Kleist, Heinrich von hīnˈrĭkh fən klīst [key], 1777–1811, German dramatic poet. He is one of the most evocative and disturbing of the German Romantic writers. Kleist served (1792–99) in the Prussian army and led an unhappy life that ended in suicide. His comedies include Der zerbrochene Krug (1806, tr. The Broken Pitcher, 1961) and Amphitryon (1807), after Molière. Among his passionate tragedies is Penthesilea (1808). Käthchen von Heilbronn (1810) is a tale of chivalry; his masterpiece is The Prince of Homburg, (1821, tr. 1956), a historical tragedy. Kleist's terse, dynamic style and his sense of conflict—between reason and feeling, divine law and human law—are also evident in his novellas. Best known of these is Michael Kohlhaas (1810–11, tr. 1967) and The Marquis of O (1810–11, tr. 1978).

See the biography by J. Maas (1983); studies by W. Silz (1961), J. Gearey (1968), J. M. Ellis (1979).

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