Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872) is generally considered to be Austria's greatest playwright. His plays are well-written dramas of sentiment and psychological conflict, which often express a resigned attitude toward the problems of life.
At the beginning of the 19th century Austrian literature was not very far advanced in comparison with the literature of northern and western Germany. This may be attributed in part to the strictness of state censorship and a reluctance to support or encourage talented writers. Whatever the reasons, Austrian literature had remained largely unaffected by such developments as the Enlightenment or philosophical romanticism. The Austrian stage tended toward popular farces or old-fashioned bombastic tragedies. Although Franz Grillparzer was not without some talented predecessors in the Austrian drama, he was the first Austrian playwright fully to assimilate contemporaneous developments in German literature and to write plays equal to those being written in Germany itself.
Grillparzer was born in Vienna on Jan. 15, 1791. His father was an unsuccessful lawyer whose fortunes were ruined by Napoleon's invasion, and his mother came from the Viennese upper bourgeoisie. Franz studied law at the University of Vienna from 1807 to 1811. He became a government official in 1813 and eventually became imperial librarian. He was to remain in the state employment throughout his literary career, a fact which complicated his relationship to the government censors.