The Death of Empedocles

A Mourning-Play

By Friedrich Holderlin
Translated by David Farrell Krell
Introduction by David Farrell Krell
Notes by David Farrell Krell

Subjects: Continental Philosophy, Drama, German Studies, Literature, Poetry
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791476482, 328 pages, July 2009
Hardcover : 9780791476475, 328 pages, October 2008

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Friedrich Hölderlin: A Brief Chronology
General Introduction

1. The Frankfurt Plan

2. The Death of Empedocles, First Version

3. The Death of Empedocles, Second Version

4. Essays toward a Theory of the Tragic
The Tragic Ode
The General Basis of Tragic Drama
The Basis of Empedocles
The Fatherland in Decline

5. Plan of the Third Version of The Death of Empedocles

6. The Death of Empedocles, Third Version

7. Sketch toward the Continuation of the Third Version

Facsimile Pages from Der Tod des Empedokles

The definitive scholarly edition and new translation of all three versions of Hölderlin’s poem, The Death of Empedocles, and his related theoretical essays.


On the eve of his final odes and hymns, Friedrich Hölderlin composed three versions of a dramatic poem on the suicide of the early Greek thinker, Empedocles of Acragas. This book offers the first complete translation of the three versions, along with translations of Hölderlin's essays on the theory of tragedy. David Farrell Krell gives readers a brief chronology of Hölderlin's life, an introduction to the life and thought of Empedocles—including Hölderlin's Empedocles—detailed explanatory notes, and an analysis of the play and the theoretical essays, allowing for a full appreciation of this classic of world literature and philosophy.

David Farrell Krell is Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University. He is the author and editor of many books, including the SUNY Press titles The Recalcitrant Art: Diotima's Letters to Hölderlin and Related Missives Edited and Translated by Douglas F. Kenney and Sabine Menner-Bettscheid; Archeticture: Ecstasies of Space, Time, and the Human Body; Nietzsche: A Novel; and Son of Spirit: A Novel.


"Krell has not only admirably translated the sense of the original—his knowledge of German is obviously first-rate, and he has a sovereign understanding of the philosophical currents of Hölderlin's time—but also generally maintained the meter … Even the reader who knows German will want to consult this fine piece of scholarship." — CHOICE

"It is hardly surprising that this book is a masterly achievement that will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on the study of Hölderlin's work by Anglophone philosophers and literary theorists. The detailed accounts of Hölderlin's life and works and of the circumstances surrounding the project of The Death of Empedocles are thorough and accurate and are presented in a manner that is enlivening and even—in the most positive sense—provocative. There is no philosopher today who is more knowledgeable about Hölderlin than David Krell." — John Sallis, author of The Gathering of Reason, Second Edition

"The importance of Friedrich Hölderlin's literary writings and philosophical prose for readers from Hegel and Schelling to Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno, de Man, and beyond cannot be overstated, and Hölderlin's unfinished mourning-play, The Death of Empedocles, is one of his most enigmatic creations. David Farrell Krell's supremely sensitive translation of the three extant versions of the play itself and of Hölderlin's related theoretical meditations, together with a meticulously well-informed introduction and analytical essay, make this volume indispensable. Hölderlin would have relished the thought of a poetically and philosophically kindred spirit such as Krell following him across languages and centuries." — Gerhard Richter, author of Thought-Images: Frankfurt School Writers' Reflections from Damaged Life