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German poet, dramatist, novelist and short story writer. It is presented as a simulated dialogue between a fictional dancer and a narrator. In the essay, Kleist has one of the interlocutors comment that marionettes possess a grace humans do not. Kleist was part of the Romantic tradition. Indeed, other artists of Romanticism, such as E. Hoffmann, J. Kerner, S. Mahlmann, Jean Paul Johann Paul Friedrich Richter and Ludwig Tieck, considered the puppet as the antagonist of the actor and thus expressed their deep dissatisfaction with the art of the flesh and blood performer.
This judgement, that above all criticized the Berlin style of August Wilhelm Iffland, was symptomatic of the theatrical situation of the time. For Kleist, the marionette is subject to the laws of mechanics, avoiding the unilateral nature of human individuality, and obeying the wishes of the puppeteer, which thus makes it the perfect interpreter.
It is nothing other than the path taken by the soul of the dancer. The puppeteer can transpose himself into the centre of gravity of the marionette. In other words, the puppeteer dances. Self-consciousness gets in the way and can disturb natural grace. On the one hand, Kleist poses the question of ideal theatricality. Only the marionette would be likely to represent this theatricality, because it has no life outside the theatre.
That is, in the puppet or in the god. They offered an aesthetic justification for an unconscious quality that Kleist projected into his marionettes, to the extent that it, as an artistic character, had no reflexive consciousness. The comparison between the aesthetic qualities of live performers and those carved from wood has not ceased since the Romantic era and is being used to affirm the art of puppetry as a genre in its own right.
Fiche technique Heinrich von Kleist Country Germany. Birth Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany See Germany. The Major Works of Heinrich von Kleist. New York: New Directions, Janz, Rolf-Peter. Walter Hinderer. Stuttgart: Reclam, Proceedings of a Franco-German Symposium]. Montpellier: Maison de Heidelberg, Studies and Interpretations]. Berlin: Erich Schmidt, Kleist, Heinrich von. On the Marionette Theatre. Lamport, Francis John. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.
Press, Lemahieu, Daniel. Maass, Joachim. Kleist: a Biography. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Meldrum Brown, Hilda.
Heinrich Von Kleist. The Ambiguity of Art and the Necessity of Form. Oxford: Clarendon Press, Parry, Idris. Hand to Mouth ; repr. Heinrich von Kleist. Paris: Julliard, In French, German Theisen, Bianca. German Issue April Press, , pp.
On a Theatre of Marionettes
At first glance is seems like a narrative, but it quickly turns into a kind of speculative essay, with philosophical or even theological overtones. It is mysterious, perplexing and thought-provoking. It takes the form of a conversation between the narrator and a friend who is principal dancer at the local theatre. Having noticed that his friend has often attended performances of marionettes in the town square, the narrator asks him why he is so interested in such vulgar and mechanical performances. The dancer replies that for him these puppets move with more grace and freedom than their human counterparts. The turning point of the piece is when the dancer gives his explanation for this superiority. The main reason, he argues, is that unlike a human, a puppet can never be guilty of affectation:.
Kleist on Puppets
One evening in the winter of I met an old friend in a public park. He had recently been appointed principal dancer at the local theatre and was enjoying immense popularity with the audiences. I told him I had been surprised to see him more than once at the marionette theatre which had been put up in the market-place to entertain the public with dramatic burlesques interspersed with song and dance. He assured me that the mute gestures of these puppets gave him much satisfaction and told me bluntly that any dancer who wished to perfect his art could learn a lot from them. From the way he said this I could see it wasn't something which had just come into his mind, so I sat down to question him more closely about his reasons for this remarkable assertion. He asked me if I hadn't in fact found some of the dance movements of the puppets and particularly of the smaller ones very graceful. This I couldn't deny.
Heinrich von Kleist
Kleist committed suicide together with a close female friend who was terminally ill. The Kleist Prize , a prestigious prize for German literature, is named after him, as was the Kleist Theater in his birthplace Frankfurt an der Oder. Kleist was born into the von Kleist family in Frankfurt an der Oder in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. After a scanty education, he entered the Prussian Army in , served in the Rhine campaign of , and retired from the service in with the rank of lieutenant. He studied law and philosophy at the Viadrina University and in received a subordinate post in the Ministry of Finance at Berlin. In the following year, Kleist's roving, restless spirit got the better of him, and procuring a lengthened leave of absence he visited Paris and then settled in Switzerland.