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August Wilhelm Iffland
(April 19, 1759 - September 22, 1814) Germany

August Wilhelm Iffland

Actor, director, dramatist


German actor and dramatic author, was born at Hanover. His father intended his son to be a clergyman, but the boy preferred the stage, and at eighteen ran away to Gotha in order to prepare himself for a theatrical career. He was fortunate enough to receive instruction from Hans Ekhof, and made stich rapid progress that he was able in 1779 to accept an engagement at the theatre in Mannheim, then rising into prominence.

He soon stood high in his profession, and extended his reputation by frequently playing in other towns. In 1796 he settled in Berlin, where he became director of the national theatre of Prussia; and in 1811 he was made general director of all representations before royalty.

His works are almost entirely destitute of imagination; but they display a thorough mastery of the technical necessities of the stage, and a remarkable power of devising effective situations. His best characters are simple and natural, fond of domestic life, but too much given to the utterance of sentimental commonplace.

His best-known plays are Die Jdger, Dienstpfiicht, Die Advokaten, Die Mundel and Die Hagstolzen. Iffland was also a dramatic critic, and German actors place high value on the reasonings and hints respecting their art in his Almanach für Theater und Theaterfreunde.

In 1798-1802 he issued his Dramatischen Werke in 16 volumes, to which he added an autobiography (Meine theatralische Laufbahn). In 1807-1809 Iffland brought out two volumes of Neue dramatische Werke.

As an actor, he was conspicuous for his brilliant portrayal of comedy parts. His fine gentlemen, polished men of the world, and distinguished princes were models of perfection, and showed none of the traces of elaborate study which were noticed in his interpretation of tragedy. He especially excelled in presenting those types of middle-class life which appear in his own comedies.

Iffland died at Berlin. A bronze portrait statue of him was erected in front of the Mannheim theatre in 1864.


Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition

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