In 1799 he left the army as a second lieutenant and went to study philosophy, mathematics, and political science at the University of Frankfurt.
After three semesters of arduous labor he came to the conclusion that all knowledge is relative.
In 1801 he ended his studies and began a period of wandering, visiting various countries.
The first product was Die Familie Schroffenstein, a tragedy of mistrust, the catastrophe resulting from mere chance.
This drama the poet rejected before it was published (1803) and began work on Robert Guiskard, aimed at a fusion of the full character delineation of Shakespeare with the dramatic compactness of Sophocles.
A year later he was sent to Konigsberg, where he found refuge in creative work: he recast Molière'sMoliere's court comedy, Amphitryon, into a more serious mold and completed his own realistic comedy, Der zerbrochene Krug; he also tried his hand at the prose tale (Novelle).
This was followed immediately by Das KäthchenKathchen von Heilbronn, its romantic, fairy-tale counterpart.
Kleist could not take this backward step; instead he wrote his poetic drama, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (1810).
Meanwhile Kleist had settled in Berlin, the center of coming events.
But the king was Napoleon's ally; the drama could not be staged and bankruptcy threatened the journalistic enterprise.
Amphytrion, an adaptation of Molière's play by the same name, tells how the god Jupiter assumes the appearance of the Greek general Amphytrion in order to gain access to the general's faithful wife, Alkmene.
In the fall of 1810 he had published a volume of Erzahlungen, the first of which was Michael Kohlhaas, his prose masterpiece.
The next June a second volume appeared.
These stories are born of a soul in torment.
They are dramatically compact and vivid, but their heroes are victims of a cruel and inscrutable fate, of blind chance and circumstance.
The plays and stories of the German author Heinrich von Kleist show a preoccupation with intense feelings and the problems these feelings may cause.