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Die beiden Herren Söhne

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Die beiden Herren Söhne
The Two Sons

A farce in 4 Acts with songs.
by Johann Nestroy
Written 1844
Premiere: Vienna, 16 January, 1845.

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Herr von Eckheim, landowner
Moritz, his son
Kunigunde Helmbach, Eckheim’s sister
Vincenz, her son
Jakob Balg, Schaffner auf Frau von Helmbachs Besitzung
Pumpfinger, Landlord
Suse, his sister
Barbara Stiegel
Pauline, her niece
Theresia Stern, widow and a relative of Pumpfinger’s
Ruppicha, a speculator
Herr von Lohrmann
Lebl, pedlar
Clerk of the Court

Konrad, servant to Lord von Eckheim
Knight von Steinheim, Oberforstrat [Forestry Commissioner I think]
Emilie, his daughter
Lord von Strom
Heinrich, servant

The action takes place partly in the country, on the estates of Lord von Steinheim and Lady von Helmbach, and partly in the city. Act 2 takes place three months after Act 1, Act 3 takes place four months after Act 2, and Act 4 takes place two months after Act 3.

Act 1. Eckheim warns Kunigunde of the dangers of financing the idle lifestyle of her son Vincenz, and himself refusing to consent to a union between his own son, Moritz and Pauline. [Song: Vincenz]. Vincenz, who is thoroughly spoiled by his mother, Kunigunde, has no profession, because unlike his cousin Vincenz, he doesn’t consider education necessary. Although Kunigunde allows her son to do as he likes, she is keen that he marry to continue the family line. For this reason she decides to send him to the city, so that he can move in the most elegant circles and chose a bride, providing him with an ample allowance to facilitate this. Moritz watches the ever jolly Vincenz with his silly friend Suse. He is himself full of worry, because his father will not budge on the issue of his marrying Pauline, and what’s more, Pauline’s aunt, Barbara, has forbidden their liaison. Moritz doesn’t think he can live without Pauline and asks Vincenz for his advice. Vincenz has a good laugh at his expense, although he does advise him to flee to the city with Pauline – he too is planning to elope with Suse, to avenge himself on her father Pumpfinger, who gave him a beating on discovering Vincenz’s relationship with his daughter.

Act 2. Pauline has fled to the city with Moritz, followed by her aunt. Pauline and her aunt are currently living with Moritz, at his expense. Barbara continues to try and separate the pair. She would prefer Pauline to marry the old and rich Baron Tschutschikopf. After a long search, Moritz eventually finds a job, but when he tells Pauline and Barbara how much he will be earning, Barbara makes it clear that this is far too little. Even Pauline feels that it is not enough. Balg, who has been sent by Kundigunde to watch over Vincenz in the city, advises Moritz to borrow money from his cousin, who spends an enormous amount simply to retain his position in fashionable circles. Moritz is disappointed to discover that a letter from his mother only contains 2000 Gulden, and leaves it to his friends to read the letter, who neglect to tell him that his mother has said she can give him no more money as her resources are exhausted. Instead they tell him that he can continue to rely on her support. Meanwhile, Vincenz gets through 30 000 Gulden. Whilst Vincenz thinks he has all the money he could wish for, Moritz is struggling to keep his head above water, receiving nothing from his father. Vincenz agrees to lend him 1000 Gulden, and full of joy, Moritz rushes to pay his debts, causing Vincenz a good deal of mirth. Pumpfinger insists Balg, Kundigunde’s spy on Vincenz, give him information on the whereabouts of his daughter Suse and Vincenz. AfterPumpfinger has threatened him with a beating, Balg confesses that they will be going to a ball that evening, and Pumpfinger does indeed manage to surprise them there. He furiously leads his still laughing daughter from the ball. Vincenz is not particularly bothered by this loss, and dances on with Theresia. Nor does Vincenz’s despair prove a distraction, when he tells of how his beloved Pauline has run off with a baron.


Act 3. Vincenz has been let out of debter’s prison by his mother. He doesn’t have any money so he goes to see Moritz. He meets Balg there, who is horrified by Vincenz’s rundown appearance, and who tell him that Moritz is working for the Forestry Commissioner Steinheim as head of the household. When Moritz arrives home, he promises Vincenz that he will help him out – he doesn’t have much time now though, as he has been invited to dinner at Steinheim’s. Balg and Vincenz drink themselves stupid, and Balg tearfully tells Vincenz of Moritz’s undying love for Steinheim’s daughter, adding that Moritz doesn’t dare ask for her hand in marriage. Lohrmann arrives, bringing Moritz 100 Gulden from his father, Eckheim. Vincenz pretends he is Moritz, takes the money, and tells the indignant Lohrmann to say to Eckheim that it is nowhere near enough. Vincenz his convinced he has thereby done his cousin a great service, and is determined to help him in his affairs of the heart as well. Moritz is shocked when a servant at Steinheim’s announces Vincenz’s arrival. He tries to send his cousin away again immediately, but Steinheim insists on welcoming him. Vincenz immediately begins to tell everyone how kind Moritz has been to him, whereas when he was rich, he only helped Moritz out with a few Gulden. Vincenz also manages to reveal to Steinheim and his daughter Emilie, who are faint with horror, all about Moritz’s former love affair. In despair, Moritz tries desperately to shut Vincenz up, but Vincenz is having none of it. When Vincenz asks for Emilie’s hand on Moritz’s behalf, Steinheim finally completely loses his temper and sacks Moritz on the spot. The adverse effect of his words takes Vincenz completely by surprise.

Act 4. Astonished, Eckheim discovers that Kunigunde has been forced to sell everything she owns to pay off her son’s debts. Eckheim is happy to help her out, as she now has to survive on a tiny income. Nevertheless she maintains she sold up out of her own free will, and denies she is in any need. Even when others demonstrate the opposite, to her her son remains a good, dutiful boy. Balg, Moritz and Vincenz are now living together in a squalid attic room. While Moritz tries to earn money to support them by working copying texts, Balg and Vincenz lie about all day – nevertheless Moritz continues to support them. Moritz refuses to take Vincenz’s advice and ask Eckheim for money, especially as he receives back unopened a letter he sent his father. They receive an unexpected visit from Theresia, who has also fallen on hard times. Nevertheless she doesn’t hesitate in inviting all three to lunch, especially as Vincenz is extremely candid about their poverty. Moritz on the other hands insists that they do have an income. In order to avoid having to take up Theresia’s offer, Moritz makes out that he has to deliver the work he has just finished. While he is out, Vincenz decides to sell their last possessions so as to be able to return the invitation to Theresia the following day. For four Gulden he sells the feather bed, a pouch of tobacco and Balg’s boots (unbeknown to him) to a Jewish man(!?). On his return, Moritz is grateful for this, because although his employer has given him new work, he has not paid him yet. Moritz goes out to buy necessities, and while he is gone, Balg notices that his boots are missing, and flies into a rage. [Song: Vincenz]. The Jewish man returns, bringing an unopened letter that he found in the feather bed. Balg had forgotten it there, unread. It contains a bill for 500 Gulden, signed by Lohrmann, and is addressed to Moritz. Vincenz is forced to confess how he pretended to be Moritz, and demanded more money. Believing that he has lost his father’s love, Moritz is unwilling to forgive Vincenz this time. However, Balg reads the letter, which says that Lohrmann has discovered the substitution, and wants to do all he can to rectify things. At that moment, Eckheim and Kunigunde arrive. Eckheim says that Moritz has atoned enough for the sins of his youth, and should now look forward to a happier future. He has already arranged with Steinheim that Moritz and Emilie should marry. With Kunigunde’s agreement, he will also take Vincenz under his wing, and ensure he changes his lifestyle for the better. Balg’s lot will also improve – but he continues to mourn his boots. Vincenz is already planning to run off with Theresia – and the play ends with Balg’s recognition that no blessing on earth can remain entirely unsullied.


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