You are here:
Synopsis index
Gegen Thorheit giebt es kein Mittel

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Gegen Thorheit giebt es kein Mittel
There is No Cure for Stupidity

A merry tragedy with songs in 3 acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 3rd November 1838

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Richard Berg, 28/35/65 years old,
Simplicius Berg, his brother, 23/30/60 years old (originally played by Nestroy)
Anselm, 25/32/62 years old, servant to Simplicius / caretaker in Richard's service
Florfeld, 22/29/59 years old, a poet
Wernau, a lawyer
Frau von Perlthau, a widow
Aglaja, her daughter
Monsieur Narcissus
Madame Foulard, a milliner
Josephine, her girl
Christoph, Florfeld's servant
Kathi, 19/26 years old. Head waitress / maid to Blandine
Anton, Joseph, Gottfried, Jakob, all waiters
Gabriel, a baker's boy
2 clerks
Schirling, owner of a casino
Blandine, his daughter
Patschiparoli, once a trapeze artist, now a croupier, 32 years old / later the impresario of a touring group of trapeze artists, aged 62
Filou, croupier
Jean, all porters in a hotel (silent)
Friedrich, servant to Schirling
A clerk of court
Barbara, Anselm's wife
Lenchen, Anselm and Barbara's daughters
Heinrich Feldner, an official
Lorenz, a coachman, Martin, Leopold, servants, all in the service of Richard Berg
Mademoiselle Sophie
Monsieur Balance
Vitzliputzli (Pagliacci)
Waiter, waitress, cooks, sentries, porters, servants, peasants, gentlemen, musicians, milliners

There is an interval of 7 years between Acts 1 and 2, and 30 years between Acts 2 and 3.

Act 1. [Chorus of girls] – In accordance with his father's will, Richard must pay his brother Simplicius 80,000 guilders. In his last letter, his father also exhorted Richard to protect Simplicius from his own stupidity. So Richard decides to conceal part of his brother's inheritance from him to ensure he doesn't waste it all at once.
Richard now learns from the poet Florfeld that his brother has been in town for three days, has already fallen in love and is demanding his inheritance to pay for the wedding and a splendid gown for his bride. Florfeld believes that Aglaia, the young woman in question, is only too happy to have a rich stupid husband. Richard decides that he must dissuade his brother from marrying her.
Soon afterwards, Aglaia comes to see Florfeld about a novel she had submitted for his opinion. When she hears Simplicius coming, she hides behind a screen. An angry Simplicius challenges Florfeld to a duel, accusing him of shrugging his shoulders when mentioning Aglaia's name. Florfeld tries to placate him, but Simplicius raises his pistol and aims at his opponent, who is standing in front of the screen. Aglaia emerges in terror from her hiding-place. Simplicius immediately assumes she has been unfaithful, whereupon Aglaia breaks off the engagement.
[Song, Anselm: "I have wanted to marry so many times, but there has always been an obstacle"] - Simplicius is sitting in the tavern with his servant Anselm, Richard, Florfeld and Wernau, and is so depressed over the end of his engagement that he can't even be cheerful about the 50,000 guilders he has received from his inheritance. When Simplicius discovers that Aglaia and her mother are also in the tavern, he gladly agrees to Anselm's suggestion that they take the waiter's place and serve the ladies their food. Aglaia and her mother are dining with Monsieur Narcissus, Aglaia's lover, who had actively encouraged her engagement to the wealthy simpleton. Aglaia's mother is angry at her daughter for ending what would have been a lucrative relationship. Narcissus is kissing Aglaia just as Simplicius enters, and in shock he drops their food. He threatens Narcissus, then faints on the spot. When he revives, Narcissus and the mother have no difficulty persuading him that Aglaia is purity and fidelity incarnate and that he has done her wrong. The wedding is back on. Richard, who has been watching this touching scene with Florfeld and Wernau, is appalled. As Simplicius cannot be dissuaded, they leave the tavern. - [Chorus]


Act 2. [Chorus of croupiers] - Seven years later, Aglaia has got through all of her husband's fortune but has since died. Simplicius pleaded poverty with his brother and promptly received the remaining 30,000 guilders. But he has now lost this money gambling. Again he asks his brother for help. Richard demands that he live on his estates where he can keep an eye on him. Simplicius reluctantly agrees and they arrange to depart next day.
In the meantime a furious quarrel has broken out between the cash-strapped casino owner Schirling and his croupier Patschiparoli, whom Schirling blames for the casino's recent losses. When he is sacked, an angry Patschiparoli suddenly remembers that Schirling once asked him to find a stupid rich man to marry his daughter Blandine. He decides to use Simplicius to get even with his boss. He tells Simplicius that he has found the answer to all the latter's problems: a millionaire's daughter who is looking for a husband. All he needs to do is pretend to be wealthy himself and throw some money around. He can easily pay off his debts after the wedding. Simplicius is delighted with this plan. Anselm is enlisted to play the wealthy uncle who will set up the young couple in luxury after the wedding. Simplicius and Anselm then write Richard an abrupt farewell letter.
Schirling is taken in by the ruse and believes that Simplicius is rich. But Blandine is unhappy, as she is in love with someone else (who turns out to be Florfeld). She confesses this to Simplicius in the hope that he will release her, but Simplicius won't be put off. The croupier cunningly ensures that the two parties quickly reach agreement. However, Simplicius' deceit is exposed by one of his IOU's, and Schirling is arrested because he can't pay his creditors. Patschiparoli gives Blandine a document proving that Schirling is not her real father, and she and Florfeld elope. Patschiparoli is delighted with his revenge, and a servant arrives to fetch Simplicius to join Richard, who has heard all about his brother's latest fiasco.


Act 3. - [Chorus of servants] - 30 years later, Richard is about to depart for America. Anselm, now a caretaker for Richard, is trying to break up his daughter Clair's relationship with a trapeze artist, Monsieur Balance. By coincidence, Simplicius is employed to put up posters for the company of trapeze artists that employs Balance. He brings Clair a letter from her lover. Anselm is about to seize the go-between when he suddenly recognises his former master. Simplicius tells him that 30 years ago he had left Richard's estate after only 3 days, taking with him 3,000 guilders. After losing his job as croupier, Patschiparoli had established a trapeze company and given Simplicius a job as a Pagliacci figure. He is now too old for the part, so earns a crust hanging up posters. He doesn't want his brother to know the truth.
But Richard suddenly visits the troupe to fetch his brother. As Simplicius refuses to go to America with him, Richard leaves him 50,000 guilders to live out the rest of his life in comfort. - [Song, Simplicius: "The road of life is very wide"]
Anselm's other daughter Lenchen and her lover Heinrich may not marry until Clair has been made a bride. When Anselm introduces Simplicius to his daughters, the latter can't take his eyes off Clair. Seeing an opportunity to get one over on the insufferable Monsieur Balance, he asks her to marry him. - [Chorus]
Just before he leaves for America, Richard is informed of the impending marriage by Florfeld, who adds that Simplicius has already made over his entire fortune to his bride. In that moment Simplicius enters. Clair has run off with his money. Richard appoints Florfeld to administer Simpiciuss funds, with instructions to pay out only what he needs from day to day. He has to agree with Florfeld's dictum: "Against stupidity even the gods are helpless". - [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