Wilhelm König

* 1851 in Milicz; ✝ ?




The identity of the person in the picture could not be absolutely ascertained as probably both Wilhelm König Jr. and his (eponymous) father published on Shakespeare. König Jr. was born in 1851 in Mielitsch, Silesia. After his time at the primary school in Leobschütz we find him at a grammar school in Neu-Ruppin, from where he went to Königliche Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität in Berlin in order to study philosophy. After only a few month, these studies were interrupted by König’s participation in the Franco-German War (1870/71). From 1872 he lived as private tutor in Dresden or Dresden-Lockwitz. Probably at the same time he dedicated himself to modern languages at the Vereinigte-Friedrichs-Universität Halle, from which he gained his doctorate in 1875 with a dissertation in Romance Studies. From there, his biography becomes obscure, although in 1876 he published an article (‘Voltaire und Shakespeare’) in the Shakespeare Yearbook, and in 1877 a monograph on French literary history while still being based in Dresden. According to the administrative files concerning his PhD,  his father worked as notary and scribe. New information from the estate of Hugo Schuchardt indicates that in later years a Wilhelm König became editor at the "Neue Stettiner Zeitung", remarrying the daughter of its publisher Gustav Wiemann.

What supports the thesis of there being two ‘Wilhelm Königs’ is that fact that – contrary to all the other articles published there under that name – only the author of  ‘Voltaire und Shakespeare’ is explicitly designated as  ‘Wilhelm König Jun.’ in the Shakespeare Yearbook. Puzzling is also the monograph Shakespeare als Dichter, Weltweiser und Christ, published by ‘Wilhelm König’ in Leipzig in 1873. In its preface, composed in the Silesian Bunzlau at the end of 1872, the author points to his high age and his being ‘resident of a small town’, without access to any tools for the scientific study of literature. According to the author, he started to occupy himself with Shakespeare when he found himself the victim of a shipwreck off the coast of Africa a few years earlier and had nothing with him but a volume of the plays of Shakespeare.

Although the claims made in this preface are of a rather dubious nature, they are also inconsistent with the known facts of the ‘son’ born in Mielitsch in 1851. We therefore need to assume the existence of two eponymous scholars, connected by familial ties and coming to Shakespeare at roughly the same time, with Leo possibly confusing their addresses at the time of compiling his photo album), or of one highly active ‘Wilhelm König’, who spent some time of 1872 in Silesia, told a fictious story in his book on Shakespeare (maybe to hide his relative inexperience), of whose articles for unclear reasons only one was published as ‘Wilhelm König Jr.’, and who at an early age looked far beyond the confines of his dissertation.



Primary Literature

Secondary Literature

Album pages with this person

Citation and Licence

König, Wilhelm, in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: http://www.shakespearealbum.de/uri/biography/. (Accessed on 30.05.2024)

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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