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Die Familien Zwirn, Knieriem und Leim

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Die Familien Zwirn, Knieriem und Leim
oder Der Weltuntergangstag

The Families Zwirn, Knieriem and Leim
or The Day the World Ended

Fairytale in 2 Acts
By Johann Nestroy

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Stellaris, fairy king
Fatum, king of the fates
Fortuna, mistress of luck
Mystifax, an old sorcerer
Hilaris, his son
Brillantine, his wife, Fortuna’s daughter
Jukundus, their son
Konstanze, the good fairy of constancy
Lumpazivagabundus, an evil spirit
Leim, a rich gentlemen,
Peppi, his wife,
Friedrich, their children
Herr von Hobelmann
Knieriem, cobbler
Lenerl, his wife
Gottfried, his son, a carpenter
Natzl, apprentice
Zwirn, a travelling tailor

Rumpf, regular customers at the inn
Madame Göscherl,
Madame Schwert,
Madame Richtaus, Madame Leim’s friends
A waiter
Paracelsus, a travelling doctor, a quack
Mr von Stoppelbach
Mrs von Stoppelbach
Karl, their children
Betty, chambermaid at Leim’s
Therese, Leim’s adopted daughter
Tintensatz, notary
Stephan, servant at Stoppelbach’s
Stiefel, surgeon
A corporal
Mr von Stoppelbach’s creditors, waiters, soldiers, fairies

The first part of the action takes place in the fairy kingdom, the second in the small town of Kieselfeld, twenty years later.

Act 1. [Chorus] Fairies Brilliantine and Hilaris constantly argue over their lazy son, calling on Solaris for help, which leads to wrangling over who has power over whom, and whether laziness and foolishness has the upper hand. They all decide to make a bet over whether the next generation can escape the foolishness of their parents.
Meanwhile on earth, Leim and his wife are also in continual conflict. Leim is however pleased with the marriages that have been arranged between his daughter Sophie and Karl, the son of Stoppelbach, and his son Friedrich and Mathilde, the daughter of Stoppelbach - one of the best families in the area. However Leim has also been bringing up Theres, the daughter of his friend Zwirn, treating her as a servant, and it is discovered that she and Friedrich are having an affair. To save her honour, Theres agrees to marry Stiefel, a surgeon. [Song: Zwirn] [chorus] Song: Knieriem] Knieriem gives his family a hard time, drinking heavily and beating his wife. He continually prophecies the end of the world. His son Gottfried confesses to Knieriem that he is in love with Sophie, Leim’s daughter. Knieriem is overjoyed at the prospect of the marriage bringing in some money, and threatens to put a curse on Gottfried if he doesn’t manage to arrange it by the next day. [Song: Sophie] Sophie is upset at the marriage being arranged for her. [Chorus] Gottfried asks for Sophie’s hand in marriage, but Leim refuses, saying he isn’t good enough for her. The family Stoppelbach arrive to arrange the marriage. Leim says he will give each of his children 50 000 Gilders, but Stoppelbach claims he has no money available at the moment, causing Leim some concern. However the contracts are drawn up, and the couples reluctantly sign them. Knieriem prophecies that a comet will arrive to end the world the next day.

Act 2. [Chorus] Stoppelbach manages to pacify his creditors by showing them the marriage contracts. [Song: Mathilde] To avoid having to marry Stiefel, Therese decides to leave with her father. [Song: Betty] Knieriem announces that the comet will arrive at 10 pm. [Song: Mathilde, Knieriem] To do some good on the last day of the world, Stephan, who has been given a number of private letters incriminating Karl in having lots of affairs, and revealing the extent of his father Stoppelbach’s debt, opens them and passes them on to Gottfried to prevent the marriages. When Leim receives the letter, he invites Stoppelbach round for supper. All are afraid of the imminent end of the world, but when 10 pm comes nothing happens. [Chorus] Leim confronts Stoppelbach with the letter, who leaves in a fury. Theres has helped cure Hobelmann of his gout, and in gratitude Leim lets her marry Friedrich. Finally Gottfried and Sophie are also allowed to marry.


The Plays of Johann Nestroy. A directory of synopses prepared by Julian Forsyth & Zoe Svenson.
Funded by the Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council England. © Moving Theatre 2004