The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Das Kätchen von Heilbronn

The Encyclopedia Americana
Das Kätchen von Heilbronn

Edition of 1920. See also Das Käthchen von Heilbronn on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

DAS KÄTCHEN VON HEILBRONN (‘Katie of Heilbronn’). This romantic drama by Bernt Heinrich von Kleist, first produced in 1810, long remained one of the favorities in German theatrical repertory. It is the most romantic work of its author, himself perhaps the most romantic of Germany's poet-dramatists, and is a representative product of ‘Storm and Stress’ in individual and national life. Goethe, who was director of the theatre at Weimar when it was written, refused, at first, to present it, calling it “a jumble of sense and nonsense,” and an abstract criticism of the play amply justifies his judgment. Yet the work has undeniable charm and merit in spite of its faults, or perhaps because of them, since its very exaggeration of romance in situation, characterization and poetic fervor is what has given it its vogue. The quick shifts from darkness to light, from verse to prose, the contrast between the luminous Kätchen who sacrifices everything for love and her wicked rival Kunigunde are typical of Kleist, both of his work and of his life. He himself called “Kätchen von Heilbronn” the obverse of “Penthesilea,” the Amazon-feminist heroine of an earlier play, “her opposite pole, a creature as powerful through submission as Penthesilea is through action.” It is as a type like Griselda that Kätchen survives, not as a story, for the tale of her blind devotion to Graf Wetter von Strahl, of the intrigue and mystery and treachery that bar her path and of her final emergence as a lost Kaisers-tochter are too well-worn for distinction.