Dramatist born in Konolfingen, Switzerland on January 5th, 1921. His grandfather was a well-known political poet and satirist. The old man encouraged the questioning and rebellious spirit in his grandson. Throughout his career, Dürrenmatt was inspired by his trouble-making idol. He has said:

"My grandfather was once sent to prison for ten days because of a poem he wrote. I haven't been honoured in that way yet."

In his late teens, Dürrenmatt enrolled at the University of Bern, where he studied a broad range of subjects including literature, theology, philosophy and science. It was at university that young Friedrich began to show an interest in writing plays. He attended mays operettas, and particularly enjoyed the works of Aristophanes and Thornton Wilder.

Dürrenmatt soon decided to leave his studies in order to concentrate on writing plays. At the age of twenty-two, he set about composing his first play, a lyrical and apocalyptic comedy which was never performed.

In the years which followed, the writer was finding it impossible to earn a living as a playwright, and so turned to other sources of income. He wrote radio plays, short stories and mystery novels to make ends meet.

1952 saw Dürrenmatt's breakthrough, with The Marriage of Mr Mississippi. This was the play in which his unique style was first truly honed. He writes about a dark, dream-like world populated by frighteningly real characters who at the same time have something of a caricature about them. The dramatist seems to have realised that the most effective way to express his view of the grotesque nature of the human condition is to employ dark comedy. In this, he reminds us of contemporaries of his such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Samuel Beckett.

Dürrenmatt's most popular plays are Romulus The Great (1949), The Physicists (1962), The Visit and Play Strindberg (1969). During his career, he was awarded The Drama Critics' Circle Award and The Schiller Prize. He died in 1990.

with thanks to theatrehistory.com for information

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