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[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Eulenspiegel
oder Schabernack über Schabernack

or Trick after Trick

A Farce in four acts
By Johann Nestroy

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Lord Hermann von Nelkenstein
Heinrich, his huntsman
Specht, government official
Dorothea, his daughter
Mehlwurm, a rich miller
Lenchen, his ward
Cordula, his sister, a widow
Natzi, her son
Eulenspiegel, a vagabond
Peppi, a maid in the miller’s household
Sebastian, servants at the castle
Jacob, workers at the mill
Servants and boys and girls from Nelkenstein.

Act 1. Chorus. The miller’s huntsman, Heinrich, is in love with Lenchen, but Mehlwurm (the name means ‘flour worm’) wants to marry his ward himself. Distracted by observing this, he doesn’t pay any attention to Specht, who wants to discuss marriage between Dorothea, his daughter, and Natzi, Mehlwurm’s nephew [Song: Eulenspiegel]. Eulenspiegel has perfected the ‘great’ art of living off others, and decides to help the young lovers in their hour of need. He watches as Mehlwurm throws Heinrich, his huntsman, out of the house. Heinrich is glad of Eulenspiegel’s help. For a suitable fee, Eulenspiegel promises to ensure that Lenchen and Heinrich are married by the end of the next day. [Song: Natzi] The conceited Natzi is annoyed at Lenchen’s love for Heinrich: to his mind, she ought to be grateful that Mehlwurm wishes to marry her. Despite Cordula and Mehlwurm’s efforts, Lenchen remains loyal to Heinrich and refuses Mehlwurm’s offer of marriage. Eulenspiegel, in disguise, asks for work at Mehlwurm’s, and when Mehlwurm notes his positive effect on Lenchen, is offered a job for a trial period. Eulenspiegel has already let Lenchen know of his plans in secret. He wins over the spinster Cordula by pretending to be an Italian Marquis in disguise, and flirting with her in secret. Their conversation is interrupted by an excited Natzi, who announces the arrival of Lord Nelkenstein. [Chorus]. The whole of the village prepares a great reception – Dorothea is going to read a poem aloud for him, but trips up over it, and not even Natzi’s attempts to help her can mitigate the embarrassment of the situation.

Act 2. Nelkenstein immediately notices Heinrich’s low spirits, and because Heinrich once saved his life, he promises him a pretty property near his castle, but even this cannot however distract Heinrich from his problems in love. He tells Nelkenstein about Eulenspiegel the vagabond, and how he has promised to help him. Just as Nelkenstein says how much he would like to meet him, Eulenspiegel appears in the doorway. Eulenspiegel’s audacity pleases Nelkenstein, and he asks to hear about the plan to help Heinrich. On hearing the plan he makes a bet with Eulenspiegel: each will work to help Heinrich, and whoever is the most successful prankster, wins. If this should be Eulenspiegel, Nelkenstein will give him 100 ducats and a holding on his lands. If Nelkenstein however, Eulenspiegel will give him 500 ducats payable in 50 years. Eulenspiegel plans to smuggle Heinrich into the miller’s house in a barrel. [Eulenspiegel’s song]. Meanwhile Natzi follows Lenchen everywhere and won’t let her out of his sight. Nevertheless the maid, Peppi, manages to exploit Natzi’s simple-mindedness and manages to get a letter from Heinrich to Lenchen. [Peppi and Natzi’s duet]. Peppi makes eyes at Natzi in order to distract him from watching Lenchen, and their increased intimacy is noticed by Cordula. Between them Lenchen and Peppi manage to place the blame for the flirtation on Natzi, and Cordula threatens to give him a beating for his improper behaviour. Mehlwurm meanwhile notices with annoyance that a couple of servants from the castle have left a barrel in his house. While he is looking for someone to take the barrel to the mill, Natzi is supposed to guard Lenchen’s door. Heinrich doesn’t realise that anyone is there, and climbs out of the barrel. Natzi sees him straight away and runs out of the room screaming for help. In no time at all, Eulenspiegel hides Heinrich in a clothes chest, and nonchalantly meets Natzi on his return. Natzi tells him conspiratorially of the huntsman in the barrel, but when they look inside, it is empty. Moreover, Eulenspiegel maintains that a person wouldn’t fit in there. In order to prove that a person can indeed fit, Natzi climbs in, whereupon Eulenspiegel quickly shuts the lid. Mehlwurm rushes in, and Eulenspiegel tells him of what Natzi discovered. The miller takes Natzi, who is raging inside the barrel, for Heinrich, and orders that the barrel be brought to Nelkenstein’s room immediately. [Chorus]


Act 3. Johann suggests to his master that it would be easy to abduct Lenchen while she is fetching water from the well, and that he would be happy to take on this task. Eulenspiegel overhears the conversation without being noticed. Nelkenstin is astonished to see two servants roll a barrel into his room. He is even more astonished when a thoroughly frightened Natzi climbs out. He tells Nelkenstein his story and demands Eulenspiegel be punished. Nelkenstein however is highly amused and dismisses Natzi’s protestations. Dorothea admits her unhappiness to Natzi – the other girls have been laughing at her unfortunate recital of the poem, and furthermore they have been calling him a donkey, too: Natzi’s response is to ask her to marry him – and Dorothea gladly agrees. Eulenspiegel tells Mehlwurm of Nelkenstein’s abduction plan, and suggests he doesn’t let Lenchen out of the house. Mehlwurm, who is not in the least suspicious of him, is extremely grateful for this information. Instead of Lenchen, it is decided that Cordula will go to the well. She is not at all enamoured of her task, since she is desperately waiting for the opportunity to speak in private to Eulenspiegel – whom she still takes for a disguised Marquis. Mehlwurm is hoping that Specht will enable him to force a legal ‘yes’ from Lenchen the following day, but Specht has drunk so much that he immediately falls asleep. To arouse his friend from his stupor, Mehlwurm decides to fetch a wine from the cellar – while he is looking for the key, he leaves the key to Lenchen’s room on the table. Heinrich and Eulenspiegel quickly free Lenchen, who is disguised as a huntsman, and lock the sleeping Specht in her room. Disguised in Specht’s hat and coat, Heinrich sits in his chair, whilst Eulenspiegel seems to be throwing the huntsman out of the house. Once more, Mehlwurm is indebted to Eulenspiegel, who promptly offers to escort ‘Specht’ home. Just at this moment though, Dorothea arrives to fetch her father. She doesn’t notice who it really is, and with Natzi’s help escorts Heinrich from the house. After everybody has left, Specht suddenly falls off his chair. Alarmed by the noise, Mehlwurm opens the door to Lenchen’s room, and realises that she has gone. Meanwhile, Heinrich has escaped his escort and Lenchen is wandering the neighbourhood, looking for the place they arranged to meet. Elsewhere, the servants Stefferl and Sebastian capture the wrong woman – mistaking Cordula for Lenchen. Mehlwurm and his servants eventually find Lenchen wandering the village. [Chorus].

Act 4. Nelkenstein is amazed at Heinrich’s choice of lover, who has nothing at all lovely about her. Cordula takes his confusion as a sign of his attraction to her, but Heinrich clears up the mistake. Laughing, Eulenspiegel confesses his part in the substitution. Since though his own plans have fallen through he can hardly gloat. To set a new, secret, plan in motion, Eulenspiegel requests the aid of all Nelkenstein’s available servants. Mehlwurm arrives and accuses Heinrich of abducting his bride, demanding of Nelkenstein that the huntsman be punished. However, following Eulenspiegel’s advice, Lenchen insists she ran away of her own accord. Nelkenstein accuses Mehlwurm of slander and demands he make a public apology at the mill. Under his guise as a marquis, Eulenspiegel rejects Cordula, accusing her of unfaithfulness, giving as grounds her night away from the mill. Cordula is devastated. Eulenspiegel persuades Mehlwurm, to order his servants to hold Heinrich’s head under water in the mill stream, until Lenchen agrees to marry Mehlwurm. Mehlwurm gives his indifferent consent to Natzi and Dorothea’s wedding. [Song: Natzi]. When Mehlwurm gives the order to his servants to attack Heinrich, the castle servants spring out from their hiding places. Nelkenstein has accompanied them, and Mehlwurm is arrested for attempted assault. Since he cannot act as a guardian whilst under arrest, Nelkenstein takes over Mehlwurm’s guardianship of Lenchen and in this role, gives his consent to her marriage with Heinrich. Finally, Eulenspiegel, to the complete shock of Mehlwurm and Cordula, reveals his true identity. Between gritted teeth, Mehlwurm gives his consent to the wedding, and with that is freed from arrest. [Final chorus].


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