Conrad Hans Dietrich Ekhof

* 12.08.1720 ; ✝ 16.06.1778




Ekhof, ‘father of German acting’, emerged from a lower-middle class background. Having begun his working life as a scribe, he joined Schönemann’s acting company in 1740, and went on in 1764 to become a member of Conrad Ackermann’s troupe, making the acquaintance there of Friedrich Ludwig Schröder, Ackermann’s adopted son. It was Ackermann’s troupe which between 1767 and 1769 founded the ‘National Theatre Enterprise’, with which Lessing, too, was involved as dramatic advisor.

This episode can be regarded as crucial in two respects: on the one hand because the friendship with Lessing was to be of decisive importance, on the other hand because the Hamburg National Theatre was seeking to assimilate theatrical praxis to middle class expectations by including bourgeois tragedy in its repertoire, and also by promoting the adoption of a bourgeois way of life among the travelling players themselves. In both respects, Ekhof was a leading figure. After the Hamburg ‘Enterprise’ had come to an end, he at first appeared at the Weimar Court Theatre, before taking over the direction of the newly founded Court Theatre in Gotha in 1774.

Ekhof was heftily built, and his strength as an actor did not lie in the physical performance which we would expect an actor emerging from the travelling-player tradition to excel in, but rather in his mastery of the spoken word. His contemporaries were wont to think of his style as particularly natural. His best role is reckoned to be that of Odoardo in Lessing’s Emilia Galotti.

Shakespeare Roles


Secondary Literature

Album pages with this person

Citation and Licence

Ekhof, Conrad Hans Dietrich, in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: (Accessed on 14.04.2024)

This text is published under the following licence: CC BY-ND 3.0 DE. Digitzed media reproduced with the permission of the library of Birmingham.

Back to overview