Heinrich Laube

* 18.09.1806 in Szprotawa (Silesia); ✝ 01.08.1884 in Vienna

Actor, Theatrical Advisor, Artistic Director



Emerging from a lower-middle class milieu, Laube began his studies in Halle und Breslau, where he joined student fraternities and the national-liberal movement. From 1829 he was active as a theatre critic and author, supplementing his income with teaching positions from time to time.  From 1832 onwards he worked as a journalist in Leipzig and published various works which critically confronted the situation in Germany. He was arrested in Berlin in 1834 and was not freed from custody until 1835, after he had renounced his earlier political activities. The legal after-effects continued until 1840, and it was only on account of various appeals for clemency that the seven-year sentence pronounced in 1836-1837 was reduced to six months. Having completed this sentence he lived in Paris for an extended period, until in 1840 he settled in Leipzig with his wife to devote himself once and for all to the theatre.

He published a series of dramas which, however, were badly received by critics, and a sequence of articles in which he critiqued  the contemporary theatrical establishment, and he came into ever closer contact with artistic circles in Vienna. Finally, in 1849 he was made ‘artistic director’ of the Burgtheater, a post which he was to retain for the next eighteen years. Laube promoted an extensive aesthetic and dramatic reform programme, associated – in a way typical of this epoch – with the watchwords ‘ensemble performance’, ‘repertory development’ and ‘systematic direction’. It was his activity in the Burgtheater which not only founded that institution’s fame – which endures to this day – but also marked a whole generation of actors, among them Sonnenthal and Dawison. Laube developed the concept of a ‘world-repertory’ which would reflect cultural traditions from all over the earth.

Given this consideration, he cultivated Shakespeare in a particularly meritorious way. Laube recognized Shakespeare’s preeminence above all authors so far as ‘performative power’ (as he phrased the matter on page 158 of Das Burgtheater, published in 1868) was concerned, and regularly included his works in the repertory. As a result of his differences with the new theatre director, Halm, he left the Burgtheater in 1867, directing for a short period (1869-1870) the Leipzig City Theatre, before taking over the direction of the Vienna City Theatre in 1872 – a position he held until 1880.


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Secondary Literature

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Citation and Licence

Laube, Heinrich, in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: http://www.shakespearealbum.de/uri/gnd/118570080. (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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