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Der Zerrissene

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der Zerrissene
A Man full of Nothing

Farce with songs in three acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 9 April 1844, Vienna.

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Sir von Lips, a capitalist
Wixer, his friends
Madame Schleyer
Gluthammer, a metal worker
Krautkopf, tenant on von Lips’ property
Kathi, a relative of Krautkopf’s
Staubmann, lawyer
Christian, servants in von Lips’ household

Gluthammer (‘heat hammer’) has been given the job of installing the railings on a balcony at Sir von Lips’ house. Whilst doing so he meets Kathi, who has come to return 100 Gilders to her Godfather Lips, a debt which she promised her mother on her deathbed she would repay. Gluthammer tells Kathi his story – a couple of years before, he fell in love with a woman called Mathilde – he paid for her to do an apprenticeship and bought her a shop to run. However a day before the wedding, she disappeared and was never seen again. Gluthammer still however had to pay the debts for the shop and therefore had to sell his metal worker’s practice. Now he just works as a jobbing metal worker – nevertheless he is convinced that Mathilde was kidnapped, and is being held somewhere. Lips, meanwhile, is bored of his life – he has everything he could wish for, and is aware of his enviable position, but wishes he had more excitement. His three closest friends make lots of suggestions, none of which enthuse Lips – until Stifler suggests getting married. Lips decides to marry the next woman that he meets. Just at that moment, the arrival of a lady is announced. She is a widow who since losing her husband has been in financial trouble, and Lips immediately decides to have her as his bride. He listens to her problems and makes her an offer of marriage, which astounds her. She asks for time to think it over, and Lips gives her quarter of an hour. Meanwhile, Kathi is still waiting for an opportunity to pay off the debt owed to Lips, and thereby witnesses a conversation between the lady and Stifler, who recognises the lady as his old friend Mathilde. Since Mathilde is only interested in Lips money, she and Stifler agree to keep quiet about their acquaintance. Not long later kathi meets an excited Gluthammer who claims to have seen his long lost bride from afar – and tells him that this Mathilde is now Lips bride-to-be. Beside himself with rage, believing that Lips stole his bride, Gluthammer decides to murder Lips. Lips meanwhile has fallen asleep, much to Mathilde’s annoyance, who wants to get married as quickly as possible. Since Lips, once he is awake, also wants to get married as quickly as possible, they arrange to marry the next day. Gluthammer has overheard all of this, and now steps forward to accuse the pair. Lips is astonished, whilst Mathilde recognises her former lover. However, Lips doesn’t find this ‘dirty love’ at all off-putting, on the contrary, he is very much up for entering into things – and it doesn’t take long for things to descend into an all-out scrap, in the course of which they both end up on the balcony, and, falling against the new rails, which haven’t yet been secured, they fall into the lake. General confusion occurs, because the fall is assumed to have killed both men. No one notices the soaked Lips emerge, who flees so as not to be arrested as a murderer.

Kathi is deeply upset by the supposed death of her godfather Lips – and therefore is overjoyed to see him again – now disguised as a farmer, and asking for her help. She manages to get him a position with her relative, Krautkopf, who is actually Lips’ tenant. Krautkopf also helps out Gluthammer, who similarly fears that he will be had up for murder, hiding him in the bakery. Slowly, and with a great deal of effort, Lips gets used to the hard life on the farm, and begins to feel a great affection towards Kathi, whose tender consideration for him he finds deeply touching. One day he hears that his will is to be read and his belongings divided among his survivors. Thus he discovers his supposed friends were only interested in his wealth, and he manages to alter it, unobserved, to benefit Kathi. After much argument, it is decided that the will should be consulted again, whereupon the so-called friends discover the amendment (which they assumed was simply overlooked before) – and are horrified.

Suddenly Lips ‘friends’ show an enormous interest in Kathi – and speak jealously of the new farmhand when she wants to tell him of her unexpected fortune. To protect Lips, she pretends to show affection for Krautkopf. Lips doesn’t understand, and is disappointed by her behaviour, deciding to change his will again to benefit those who are deaf and dumb, because they will not be able to speak ill of him. Shortly after, Kathi and Lips bump into one another, and she manages to persuade him that she is not about to marry anyone, and that she will sell all of the inheritance and send it on to him abroad. She isn’t however quite brave enough to confess her love for him, and just as he is about to say something to her, they are discovered by the ‘friends’ – who are astonished to see Lips alive and well before them. Lips is arrested as the murderer of Gluthammer, and is incarcerated not far from Gluthammer’s hiding place. On inspection of his ‘prison’ Lips thinks at first that Gluthammer is a ghost, but on Krautkopf’s arrival, it emerges that both are alive, and therefore neither is a murderer – so Lips throws his so-called friends out of the house, and declares he has no real interest in Mathilde – for whom Gluthammer has also lost all of his former passion. Finally Lips offers Kathi his hand in marriage.


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