Heiner Mueller


Performances at



“My main interest when I write plays is to destroy things. For thirty years Hamlet was for me an obsession, so I wrote a short text, Hamletmachine with which I tried to destroy Hamlet. German history was another obsession and I tried to destroy this obsession, too, that whole complex. I think my strongest impulse is to reduce things down to their skeleton, to tear off their skin and their flesh. Then I'm finished with them.”

Müller was born in Eppendorf, Saxony. He joined the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in 1947 and began serving for the German Writers' Association in 1954. Müller became one of the most important dramatists of the German Democratic Republic. His relationship with the East German state began to deteriorate, however, as his writing became more and more critical of the GDR’s socialist government. Despite being banned from the Writers' Association and government sensorship of his writing, Müller’s work began to gain popularity both in West Germany and internationally. Many of his best-known plays from this period were premiered in the West: this includes Germania Death in Berlin, The Mission (Der Auftrag), and Hamletmachine (Die Hamletmaschine) in 1979.

English translations introduced Müller to the English speaking world in the mid- and late-1970s. Due to his growing worldwide fame, Müller was able to regain acceptance in East Germany. He was admitted to the Academy of the Arts of the GDR and later readmitted to the East German Writers' Association. After the fall of the Wall, Müller became president of the East German Academy of the Arts for a short time in 1990 before its inclusion in the West German Akademie. In 1992, he was invited to join the directorate of the Berliner Ensemble, Brecht's former company and in 1995, shortly before his death, Müller was appointed as the theatre’s sole artistic director.

Despite the extreme political situations in which Müller was raised – a father sent briefly to a concentration camp, conscription in the Hitler Youth, the family’s rise to power when the Socialist government was established - Müller never considered himself a political poet. The upset of his youth brought out a deeply personal Machiavellianism that he used to justify any behavior, any of his writings. He regarded nearly everything as dramatic material. Once in an interview Müller said, “All questions are allowed. The main point is that I’m a writer. And that is perhaps...my actual existence. The other existence …unfortunately becomes …more and more material for the literature one makes … And that is a problem. That is …I think that has made me mistrustful of myself.” In another interview Müller said, “In fifty years it won’t be important when and where I behaved like a swine, it’ll be important whether I write like a swine or not.”