- Category : Dramatist
- Type : PE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Tension 1
German playwright and short story writer best known for plainly written satiric comedies about middle-class values and aspirations. One of the major exponents of German Expressionism, he especially satirized the moral sensibilities of the emerging German middle class during the Wilhelmine period.
Sternheim studied philosophy, psychology, and law at the Universities of Munich, Göttingen, Leipzig, and Berlin and performed his military service in a cavalry regiment. His family’s money and that of his first two wives left him free to write, and he traveled most of his life.
He began writing plays at the age of 15, but his early plays were derivative. His best plays were produced from 1911 through 1916, being collectively titled Aus dem bürgerlichen Heldenleben(“From the Lives of Bourgeois Heroes”). The first play, Die Hose (The Underpants), was published and performed in 1911 under the title Der Riese (“The Giant”) because the Berlin police had forbidden the original title on the grounds of gross immorality. It has as its main character Theobald Maske. He and others of the Maske family also appear in Der Snob (published and performed 1914), 1913 (published 1915 and performed 1919), and Das Fossil (published 1925 and performed 1923), the four plays forming the Maske Tetralogy. The plays portray the family as self-indulgent social climbers masked by bourgeois propriety. Sternheim’s later plays were less successful. The telegram-like language used by Sternheim in the early plays is a kind of bridge between Frank Wedekind (whose daughter Pamela was his third wife) and Bertolt Brecht. Sternheim is frequently named among the Expressionist dramatists, but he straightfacedly maintained he was a realist. The petite bourgeoisie he attacked were, of course, represented by his own family. Sternheim’s short and long fiction was in an avant-garde style that precluded success.
Sternheim was married three times and had three children. He died on 3 November 1942 in Brussels at age 64.