By Henry B. Garland
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Additional info for A Concise Survey of German Literature
And this immense quantity is in itself a judgement on their merit. They include comedies and tragedies and range over historical subjects, medieval romances and Shakespearean plots drawn from Italian Renaissance sources. One of them (Julius Redivivus) is a German adaptation of a Latin play by Nikodemus Frischlin (1547-90), the last stormy petrel among the German humanists. So humanism, as it faded, had its impact on the German drama, too. An intelligent and strong-willed prince, Duke Heinrich Julius of Brunswick (1564-1613) witnessed in 1592 performances at Brunswick by a troupe of English actors playing Elizabethan dramas.
Bohme may be likened to a more introspective and brooding Bunyan, and like Bunyan he touched a common chord to which many responded in the tribulations of the age. A sense of mystery working at a much lower level animated the belief in witchcraft, so widespread in the seventeenth century. Though witches had from time to time been burned in earlier times, it was just as the Middle Ages faded that a wave of prosecutions, inquisitions and witch-burnings began to spread over Europe, symbolised by the publication in 1489 of the notorious Malleus maleficarum (or 'Witches' hammer') of the Dominican monks Heinrich lnstitoris and Jakob Sprenger.
Among the members of Die Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft was the Silesian Andreas Gryphius (1616-64), one of the best poets and the outstanding dramatist of the seventeenth century. Almost all Gryphius' poetry is of a sombre cast. The sonnets, which make up a great part of his output, reiterate the motifs of vanitas vanitatum and memento mori; they portray man ceaselessly beset by disease, assailed by war and cut off by death. Each New Year is for Gryphius an occasion for ostentatious, yet none the less sincere, melancholy.
A Concise Survey of German Literature by Henry B. Garland