Black and white image of German dramatist Heinrich von Kleist.

Heinrich von Kleist

(1777 - 1811)

Heinrich von Kleist entered the Prussian military as a corporal at the age of fourteen in 1792; he quit after “the loss of seven valuable years,” studied law and mathematics briefly, and experienced a spiritual crisis brought on by reading Immanuel Kant. After successfully completing his first play in 1803, Kleist burned the manuscript of his second. After trying to enter French-occupied Berlin in 1807 without a passport, he was arrested on suspicion of being a spy. After becoming impoverished in March 1811 by the shuttering of the Berlin daily newspaper he had founded, he shot a terminally ill female friend, upon her request, as well as himself, on the shore of the Kleiner Wannsee.

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