Gryphius was born in Großglogau (Polish: Głogów), in Silesia, the son of Paul Gryphius (1560–1621), Lutheran archdeacon of Glogau, and Paul's third wife, Anna (née Erhard), who was 32 years younger than her husband. The family name was originally "Greif", and had been Latinized to "Gryphius" by Andreas's paternal great-grandfather (Peter Greif of Heringen). Left early an orphan and driven from his native town by the troubles of the Thirty Years' War, he received his schooling in various places, but notably at Freistadt (Polish: Wschowa), where he enjoyed an excellent classical education.
In 1634 he went to Danzig (Polish:Gdańsk) where he met professors Peter Crüger and Johann Mochinger at the Danzig Gymnasium, who introduced Gryphius to the new German language poetry. Crüger had for years close contacts to Martin Opitz, who became known as 'father of German poetry'. Greatly influenced by Crüger, he is the only one Gryphius dedicated poems to. Gryphius wrote Latin language poetry as well as German poems and a number of Sonetten.
The same year that Gryphius arrived, the printer Andreas Hünefeld published Martin Opitz's Buch von der deutschen Poeterey (Book of German Poetry). The same publisher printed Opitz's translation Tetrastichen des Pibrac and Antigone. Among Gryphius' benefactors was the city's secretary Michael Borck, who wrote a German version of the life of Jesus Christ. Borck's illustrated book is still at the Gdańsk library. Coming from war riddled Silesia, taking refuge at the big international harbor and a Polish city, greatly stimulated Gryphius. In 1635 he published his second epos of Herodes Dei Vindicis Impetus et Herodis Interitus. He dedicated this to the city state council.
In 1636, while still in Danzig, he published the Parnassus renovatus in praise of his mentor and patron, the eminent jurist Georg Schönborner (1579–1637). Later the same year Gryphius became the tutor of Schönborner's two sons, on Schönborner's estate near Freystadt, in Silesia (today, Kożuchów, Poland). A highly educated scholar, Schönborner held various government administrative posts and by that time had been honored by Emperor Ferdinand II with the title of Imperial Count Palatine (Hofpfalzgraf). On 30 November 1637, Schönborner recognized Gryphius's poetic talent by bestowing upon him the title of poeta laureatus and master of philosophy, as well as a patent of nobility (of which Gryphius, however, never made use). Schönborner died less than a month later, on 23 December 1637.
While staying with Schönborner, Gryphius completed his first collection of poems, Sonnete ("Sonnets"), which was published in 1637 by Wigand Funck in Lissa (today Leszno, Poland), and is also known as the Lissaer Sonettbuch, after the town. The collection of 31 sonnets includes some of his best known poems, such as "Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas", later titled "Es ist alles eitel" (All is vanity), about the effects of war and the transitoriness of human life; "Menschliches Elende" (Human misery); and "Trawrklage des verwüsteten Deutschlandes" (Lament of devastated Germany).
In 1632, he had witnessed the pillaging and burning of the Silesian town of Freystadt by Swedish troops, and immortalized the event in his poem Fewrige Freystadt. Also in 1637 he went to continue his studies at Leiden, where he remained for six years, both hearing and delivering lectures. Here he fell under the influence of the great Dutch dramatists, Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft and Joost van den Vondel, who largely determined the character of his later dramatic works.
In 1635 with the Prager Frieden (Peace of Prague), the Habsburgs took control over in Silesia again and persecuted Protestants and closed their churches. In 1638 Paul Gryphius, the brother of Andreas, received a position as Superindendant at Crossen an der Oder (Krosno Odrzańskie) in Brandenburg from the Elector Georg Wilhelm of Brandenburg. Paul was for several years banned from Silesia for of being a Protestant, and Andreas dedicated and sent him several poems for the start of his new position.
After travelling in France, Italy and South Germany, Gryphius settled in 1647 at Fraustadt, where he began his dramatic work, and in 1650 was appointed syndic of Glogau, a post he held until his death. A short time previously he had been admitted under the title of The Immortal into the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft ("Fruitbearing Society"), a literary society, founded in 1617 by Ludwig, prince of Anhalt-Köthen on the model of the Italian academies.
Gryphius grew up during the Thirty Years' War and witnessed the destruction of large parts of Germany, which had lasting effects for centuries. Not yet an adult himself, he saw the child of a benefactor (Crüger) die, and prepared another (Schönborner) for his approaching death. It is therefore not surprising that some morbid disposition, and his melancholy temperament, fostered by the misfortunes of his childhood is largely reflected in his lyrics, of which the most famous are the Kirchhofsgedanken ("Cemetery thoughts", 1656). His best works are his comedies, one of which, Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz (1663), is evidently based on the comic episode of Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Die geliebte Dornrose (1660), written in a Silesian dialect, contains many touches of natural simplicity and grace, and ranks high among the comparatively small number of German dramas of the 17th century. Horribilicribrifax (1663), founded on the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus, is a rather labored attack on pedantry. Besides these three comedies, Gryphius wrote five tragedies. In all of them the tendency is to become wild and bombastic, but he had the merit of at least attempting to work out artistically conceived plans, and there are occasional flashes both of passion and of imagination. His models seem to have been Seneca and Vondel. In Carolus Stuardus (1657) he dramatised events of his own day, namely the death of King Charles I of England; his other tragedies are Leo Armenius (1650); Catharina von Georgien (1657), Cardenio und Celinde (1657) and Papinianus (1659). No German dramatic writer before him had risen to so high a level, nor had he worthy successors until about the middle of the 18th century.
Asteroid 496 Gryphia is named in his honour.Cardenio and Celinde (1647) - tragedy
Leo Arminius (1650) - historical tragedy
Carolus Stuardus (1657 - first version; 1663 - second version) - historical tragedy
Catharina von Georgien (1657) - historical tragedy
Absurda Comica oder Herr Peter Squenz (1658) - comedy
Papinianus (1659) - historical tragedy
The Beloved Rose with a Thorn (1661) - comedy
Horribilicribrifax (1663) - comedy