Ferdinand Freiligrath

* 17.06.1810 in Detmold; ✝ 18.03.1876 in Cannstatt

Poet, Translator



Before he established himself as a freelance writer, Ferdinand Freiligrath completed a commercial apprenticeship and worked as a clerk in Soest, Amersterdam and Barmen.  He began devoting much time to Shakespeare during this period, having acquired expertise in modern languages during his apprenticeship. From 1842 onwards an honorary bursary bestowed by Friedrich Wilhelm IV guaranteed his financial survival; however, in 1844 Freiligrath renounced this support, seeing that his radical liberal position was becoming apparent even in his literary works. In the same year, Freiligrath published his influential poem ‘Hamlet’, thereby becoming one of the first Germans to establish a link between the “national condition” and the character of Hamlet.  

He left Germany to evade political persecution, but returned in 1848.  This sojourn did not last long, and in 1851 he again fled to London.  He had made good use of his time in Germany, though, in the preparations of a translation of Venus and Adonis.  Even in his London exile his literary activities were mostly limited to translations.  He did not return to his home country until 1868, when he was welcomed back in triumph.  1870, with its air of radical change, lent his political poetry – to which he now returned for the last time – a strongly patriotic flavor.  Ferdinand Freiligrath referred to himself as the ‘trumpeter of the revolution’ and remained true to his liberal principles until his death in 1876.


  • ‘Horaz und Shakespeare’ (miscellany), Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, 9 (1874). P. 336.


  • ‘Hamlet’. In: Ein Glaubensbekenntniß. Mainz, 1844.



Primary Literature

Secondary Literature

Album pages with this person

Citation and Licence

Freiligrath, Ferdinand, in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: http://www.shakespearealbum.de/uri/gnd/118535196. (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.

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