Herr Stachelbaum, an elderly millionaire
Victor, his grandson
Marie, his ward
Edelschein, a schemer (originally played by Nestroy)
Betty, his daughters
Lampl, Edelschein's valet
Frau von Schmollinger, Edelschein's sister-in-law
Herr von Kammberg, her cousin
Herr von Fakler, Herr von Gluth, Herr von Nebling
Wolkner, an adventurer
Schwimmel, his companion
Schriftmann, an agent
Rottner, an apprentice to Edelschein
Frau Blum, a landlady
Franz, a waiter, Salerl, a maid
Frau Platzerin, a nurse
Christian, servants to Frau Schmollinger
A maid to Edelschein
The action takes place partly in town, and partly on Stachelbaum's estate.
There is a week between Acts 1 and 2, and between Acts
2 and 3, a year
between Acts 3 and 4, and a month between Acts
4 and 5
Act 1. Stachelbaum is ill, and knows
that all his wealth cannot keep death at bay for long. In his mind's
eye he can already see his relatives
quarrelling over his will, for he knows that "The blooms that grow
most profusely on the graves of the rich are the flowers of litigation".
Against his will, a quack is sent for, and Stachelbaum, with some
irritation, recognises the doctor as his own cousin Edelschein, whom
Edelschein tries disingenuously to convince his rich relative that
he is not interested in his money. On the contrary, he has come to
on behalf of his nephew Victor, the old man's grandson, whom Edelschein
took in after he was turned out of his grandfather's house.
Meanwhile Victor tells Edelschein's servant Lampl why he has asked his
uncle for help: Stachelbaum had arranged a marriage for him, but Victor
refused, having already fallen in love with his grandfather's ward Marie,
who has also been nursing the old man. As punishment for his disobedience,
Stachelbaum promptly disinherited him. The reason Victor went to Edelschein
for help is that he knew his grandfather detested him more than any other
of his relations.
Edelschein presents himself to Victor as a loving father surrounded by
his adoring daughters. He pretends to have to go to town with his daughters
on urgent business. In fact he is hoping that, having now met Euphrosine
and Betty, Victor will be prompted by their departure into recognising
the depth of his feelings for them. Edelschein persuades Victor to enter
a competition for inventors designed to find better ways of manufacturing
paper. Rottner warns Victor about Edelschein's devious character, but
the valet Lampl implores him not to speak ill of his beloved master.
Victor is unconcerned by Rottner's warning and convinced he will get
on well with Edelschein.
Against Stachlbaum's strict instructions, Edelschein is admitted to see
the invalid, who is asleep. Edelschein hopes to get Stachlbaum in his
delirious state to sign documents in his favour. Marie enters, worried
by the intruder, and Edelschein, seeing his plans foiled, speaks sharply
to her, so that Stachlbaum wakes. While Marie kneels at the old man's
bedside in relief, Edelschein secretly curses the invalid's unexpected
Act 2. Frau von Schmollinger recommends
her cousin Kammberg to Edelschein as a bridegroom for one of his daughters.
Edelschein replies that he
already has Victor lined up as a son-in-law. Betty is convinced
that Victor has eyes only for her, which evokes the scorn of her elder
A letter from Stachlbaum announcing his imminent arrival puts Edelschein
in a spin. Yet Stachlbaum's manner is apologetic, and he humbly
asks forgiveness for his earlier unfriendliness. Edelschein now
does his best
to make a favourable impression on the old man, and readily agrees
when Stachelbaum demands that Victor be turned out of his house.
The old man
also asks that Marie be treated with kindness, explaining that
she is not his heir, merely his nurse. Euphrosine and Betty tenderly
to treat her as if she were their own sister.
Wolkner, a parasitical adventurer, has come to Victor for money.
Since Victor has lost his fortune, he is prepared only to pay the
hotel bill. Disappointed, Wolkner sends his servant Schwimmel to
ask the gullible Lampl for money for thes journey. Although Lampl
afford it, he gives him 10 guilders. As "interest" on the
payment he asks only that Wolkner should cease to speak ill of Edelschein.
When the Edelscheins return from town, Victor is puzzled by the
sisters' sudden coldness towards him. When Edelschein ignores him
he demands an explanation. Put on the spot, Edelschein refers to
from the path of virtue", citing them as an excuse for now turning
him out of the house. In fury, Victor leaves, prophesying to Lampl
that even he will one day recognise his master's true nature.
secretly overhears a conversation between Victor, Marie and Rottner.
Victor plans to emigrate to America, make his fortune and return
to claim Marie as his wife. To avoid Stachlbaum discovering their
letters will be conveyed via Lampl. Rottner will accompany Victor
In the Edelschein household they are banking on a marriage between
Kammberg and one of the sisters. Lampl asks Euphrosine to intercede
on his behalf,
since his master is still angry with him for carrying Victor's
bag. Although Euphrosine is convinced that Kammberg has chosen
continuously sings her praises in his presence, Kammberg is more
interested in Betty. When he asks Euphrosine to put in a good
word for him with
her sister, she flies into a rage. Betty rejects Kammberg out
of hand. Undeterred, Kammberg begins negotiating the dowry with
To get her own back on Kammberg, Euphrosine tries to stir up
Lampl to violence
against him by telling him she heard Kammberg call her father
a miser. But Lampl is afraid of damaging the wedding prospects.
behaves with appalling condescension to Lampl and goes on to
comments about Edelschein, things get violent after all. Stachlbaum
arrives and is again treated with exaggerated affection, as is
Marie. When Stachlbaum
asks Edelschein to put him up for a year, the latter is only
too delighted. Asked about the projected wedding of Betty and
admits that Kammberg's expectations of the dowry may be a stumbling
who has been injured in the tussle with Lampl, pretends to have
fallen against a fence. Lampl is delighted when Euphrosine, thinking
has fought on her behalf, gives him a kiss.
Act 4. One year later,
is convinced that he has Stachlbaum exactly where he wants him.
Furthermore, he has fallen in love with Marie and won't be deterred
her as his future wife. He threatens to cause terrible problems
for Victor if Marie refuses to marry him. Under Edelschein's
has apparently turned against Marie. Nevertheless, she refuses
contemplate marriage with Edelschein. – [Song, Edelschein: "For
serious times like these, there are some pretty laughable people"]
Edelschein observes Lampl secretly giving Marie a letter from
Victor, and hears Marie tell Lampl about Edelschein's advances
against Victor. Lampl is appalled. Edelschein promptly dismisses
Lampl in the
presence of Stachlbaum, depicting himself as the victim of treachery
by his previously loyal servant. Edelschein declares emotionally
that, despite this disappointment, he will still try to believe
the best of
people. Lampl departs without even attempting to justify himself
Act 5. Victor has returned from
America broke. He learns from Schriftmann that Stachlbaum has decided
to make over his property
during his own lifetime. The documents are to be signed that
very day. But first,
Schriftmann must gives Edelschein a Diploma in recognition
of his invention of a papermill machine. It was of course Victor's
affected modesty Edelschein announces that he has already invested
the 200 ducats prize money.
Victor gets the better of his fears and decides to go and see
Stachlbaum. But he is intercepted by Edelschein, anxious to
spare the old man
any unnecessary excitement. Stachlbaum, however, is prepared
to listen to
his nephew. Victor swears that despite his misfortunes he will
never renounce Marie. Seemingly unmoved by this, Stachlbaum
to speak for him. Edelschein orders Victor out of the house
and forbids any further contact with his grandfather. Stachlbaum
appears to agree,
but is prepared to pay back whoever lent Victor the money to
return from America. He appears not to hear Victor's reply,
such gifts if he received the prize money that was due to him.
Stachlbaum hands Edelschein the document transferring the property
and asks him to check it for errors. Edelschein retires to
the next room,
emphasizing that he is only interested in Stachlbaum's health,
not his money.
While Edelschein is out of the room, Lampl and Rottner reproach
Stachlbaum for his unrelenting enmity to Victor. Marie also
tries to plead for
him, but Stachlbaum seems to be entirely on Edelschein's side.
Edelschein returns, declares himself entirely satisfied with
the document, but
irritated by the presence of Victor, Rottner and Lampl. Stachlbaum
suggests he just ignore them. Edelschein now watches with growing
Stachlbaum prepares to enter Edelschein's name on the document.
Stachlbaum writes the name, but when the others look at the
document they see
he has written "My grandson Victor". At that moment the
invalid jumps out of bed and gives Edelschein a mighty whack with
leaving him stunned on the floor. Stachlbaum embraces Victor and
explains that he conceived his plan of revenge a year ago when Edelschein
to sully Marie with his disgusting advances. He has undergone these
humiliations for a year without ever seeing the slightest sign of
remorse from Edelschein.
He now admits to his grandson that he was just as much to blame for
their quarrel, especially as the bride he wanted him to marry is
than Marie. So naturally he has no objection to their wedding. Edelschein
pretends to be deeply hurt, but magnanimous in forgiving the deception.
Lampl is so touched by his former master's reaction that he whispers
a promise that he will try ensure that Stachlbaum's will does not
leave Edelschein entirely empty-handed.