Raimund, Ferdinand

Raimund, Ferdinand
   Born in Vienna with the family name Raimann, Raimund, along with Johann Nestroy, was a master of the Viennese popular theater. Like many who plied their talents in the genre from the 17th to the 19th centuries, Raimund worked as actor, director, author, and less frequently, composer. Raimund made his first contacts with the Vienna Burgtheater while still fending for himself as a bakery salesman. From 1814 to 1817, he was associated with the Theater in the Josefstadt, but his most important pieces were produced at the Theater in the Leopoldstadt, where he worked from 1817 to his death. In 1821, he became stage manager of this establishment; from 1828 to 1830 he served as its director.
   Raimund’s most important play, Der Alpenkönig und der Menschenfeind (The King of the Alps and the Misanthrope), was first performed in 1828. It featured the author himself in the leading role of Mr. von Rappelkopf—he has no given name—a well-to-do burgher, whose choleric suspicions of all who come in contact with him is the despair of his family and servants. Through a series of magical interventions, a staple of Viennese popular comedy that owes much to the theater of the Baroque, Rappelkopf is spirited away from his home. Removed altogether from his environment, he is forced to reevaluate his character as he watches a miraculously created double replicate his nasty behavior with his fellow man. Appalled by the spectacle, Rappelkopf comes to see his fellow man more positively. The change allows him to rejoin his household. The members of the latter are at first nonplused by his altered demeanor, but soon adjust to it happily. The piece, which modern psychiatrists have noted employs techniques used in behavior modification, ends with Rappelkopf declaring that his new self is his true self, a theme echoed in many of Raimund’s other works.
   For all that his plays argue for the basic goodness of humankind and the quiet accommodation to one’s station in life, Raimund was himself a tortured soul. His relations with the women he loved were bumpy. He aspired to write tragedy rather than comedies, even when the latter were spectacularly successful. He was prone to melancholia and hypochondria, yet feared that whatever cures were available to him would destroy his theatrical gifts. He committed suicide in 1836, after having been bitten by a dog he believed to be rabid.
   See also Literature.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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