Arthur Schnitzler and Venice



 André J. Fabre        June 2013

Arthur Schnitzler was born in Leopoldstadt, nearby Vienna, where his father, renowned otorhinolaryngologist and voice expert had his office crowded with all sorts of actors, actresses and opera singers .

Arthur Schnitzler was fascinated by the world of artists and as early as twelve, heban to write theatre plays.


However, Arthur's father wanted to see his son follow the same path. Arthur did not at any time think to disobey his father  and he entered, as soon as his studies were over, the Medicine School of Vienne.

In 1885 he obtains his diploma and starts an hospital, career at the Algemeines Krankenhaus  in Vienna.

Anyway, as soon as his father was dead, Arthur jumped into his beloved theater world.


Hardly 23 yrs old, he was  already a success playwright also author of many short stories and novels. He knew how to bring in his books a dreamlike atmosphere, of anguish mixed with sensuality.

Despite or perhaps because of his triumphant career, Schnitzler aroused much hostility around him and the high-society of Vienne often appeared  shocked by the cynicism underlying in all Schnitzler's books…  .

At the same time, is it only mere coincidence ?, Sigmund Freud became a great name in Vienne and, on several occasions, showeda great interest for Schnitzler's books. On his 60 yrs birthday Schnitzler received a message from Freud acknowledging  that they had much in common to say.


Very much alike Freud  Arthur Schnitzler had a true passion for Venice. That could explain his fascination for  Casanova.  He wrote a book called "The Return of Casanova" showing the Venetian seducer at the end of his career. He wants to see a last time the city where he lived twenty years earlier, before being thrown to jail for his "crimes" of atheism and libertinism. Sib=nce that time, much time has passed, the seducer is no longer the "lover of a thousand and three women" but only a shivering old man in threadbare clothes. He meets a young and brilliant girl, Marcolina, to him, the living symbol of perfection in  women. After a last firework of seduction, Casanova remains the greatest of all lovers, but at  the cost of a double crime.

In this tale, Arthur Schnitzler wanted to promote his ideas, very similar to  Freud's doctrines,  on the strength  of erotic impulses in any human life, with Venice, temple of seduction,  as background scenery.


In fact, Venice occurred to be fatal for the disciple of Casanova : his beloved  daughter, Lili, longtime reluctant to marriage ended up as wifeto a handsome Italian officer, veteran of the  fascist march to  Rome, Arnoldo Cappellini. Unfortunately, the marriage turned out  rapidly ito a  nightmare ; Lili since long time haunted by anxiety and depression, shot herself to death  in an hotel room of  Venice.

Broken by grief, Arthur Schnitzler made every year a Journey of mourning to Venice, standing hours and hours at  his beloveddaughter's grave in the old Jewish cemetery of Lido.

As would have commented Schnitzler's master in analysis of the Psyche, Sigmund Freud, : "the loop was closed" ...

Date de dernière mise à jour : 30/07/2013

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