Heinrich von Kleist, in full Bernd Heinrich Wilhelm von Kleist (born October 18, 1777, Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg [now in Germany]—died November 21, 1811, Wannsee, near Berlin), German dramatist, among the greatest of the 19th century. Poets of the Realist, Expressionist, Nationalist, and Existentialist movements in France and Germany saw their prototype in Kleist, a poet whose demonic genius had foreseen modern problems of life and literature.
Having grown up in military surroundings, Kleist became dissatisfied with the career of an army officer, which had been chosen for him, and resigned his commission after “the loss of seven valuable years.” For a time he studied law and mathematics, but his reading of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant destroyed his faith in the value of knowledge. Despairing of reason, he decided to place his trust in emotion. The unresolved conflict between them lies at the heart of his work.
After Kleist had abandoned his studies, he went… read more