Johann Fischart (1546-1590): German Satirist and Master of Language


Explore the life and works of Johann Fischart, a German satirist known for his sharp critiques of society and the Roman Catholic Church. From his satirical pieces like “Flöhhatz” and “Das Jesuitenhütlein” to his imaginative adaptations of French and Dutch literature, Fischart’s mastery of language and keen observation of human nature are evident. Discover how he used satire to illuminate social foibles and celebrate the geniality of humanity in works like “Das glückhaft Schiff von Zürich.”

Johann Fischart


Born in Strasbourg but sometimes known as “Mentzer” due to his father’s Mainz origins, Johann Fischart was a German satirist whose works left a lasting mark on literature. He pursued his education in Ghent and Siena before obtaining a doctorate in law from Basel in 1574. Fischart’s literary career flourished in Strasbourg, where he wrote prolifically, with many of his works published by his brother-in-law, Bernhard Jobin. Later, he practiced law in Speyer from 1580 to 1583 before assuming a magisterial role in Forbach.

An impassioned man and devout Protestant, Fischart used his writing to satirize social quirks and lampoon the Roman Catholic Church, which he believed propagated superstitious teachings. His satirical style bordered on caricature, often employing archetypal characters to convey his critiques of society. Known for his mastery of language, Fischart excelled in describing the fantastical and conjuring the wildly exotic in his works.

Many of Fischart’s pieces are adaptations or loose translations from French and Dutch literature. “Aller Praktik Grossmutter” (1572; “The Grandmother of All Almanacs”) and “Geschichtsklitterung” (1575; “Mixed-up History”) draw inspiration from Rabelais, while “Bienenkorb des heiligen römischen Immenschwarms” (1579; “The Beehive of the Holy Roman Swarm”) is based on a work by Flemish author Philipp van Marnix. In “Flöhhatz” (1573; “Flea Persecution”), Fischart satirizes various aspects of society, while “Das Jesuitenhütlein” (1580; “The Jesuits’ Little Hat”) mocks the church.

However, Fischart’s versatility also reveals a genial side, notably in the poem “Das glückhaft Schiff von Zürich” (1577; “The Lucky Ship from Zürich”). In this work, he celebrates a boat’s crew that brought goodwill and wishes from the people of Zürich to those of Strasbourg, showcasing his ability to capture moments of warmth and humanity amidst his satirical endeavors.


Johann Fischart’s legacy as a German satirist and linguistic virtuoso endures through his incisive critiques of society, his imaginative adaptations of foreign works, and his ability to evoke both laughter and contemplation through his writings.

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