Heinrich von Kleist: Penthesilea

(2019 words)

Heinrich von Kleist’s emotional investment in his tragedy Penthesilea was considerable. His friend Ernst von Pfuel claimed that Kleist announced to him the death of his heroine with tears in his eyes. Kleist claimed that it was Pfuel himself who wept, but the story of Kleist’s lachrymosity is consistent with other evidence. In the autumn of 1807 he told Marie von Kleist: “my innermost being is in it […] all the filth and radiance of my soul”. The high degree of self-expression that was involved in the composition of the play in part explains some of its extraordinary features, such as its forceful, often tortuous linguistic construction and the uncommon violence of the action. The psychologically extreme states …

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Griffiths, Elystan. "Penthesilea". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 December 2004
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=13126, accessed 30 September 2016.]