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Zwei ewige Juden und Keiner

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Zwei ewige Juden und Keiner
Two Wandering Jews and None

A Burlesque in 2 Acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 4th August 1846

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Herr von Auerhahn, a country nobleman
Pauline, his daughter
Wandling, a millionaire
Kranz, an old painter (originally played by Nestroy)
Wilhelm, his nephew
Holper, an investor
Mummler, a theatre impresario
Rosamunde, his daughter
A theatre director

von Distelbrand, an adventurer
Klipp, a factory owner
Busch, an ironmonger
An innkeeper

Babette, a waitress
Josef, a waiter
Ignatz, a servant
Sepherl, a cook
Johann, servant to Herr von Auerhahn
A notary, 3 village constables, servants, countryfolk, theatre spectators, travellers

The action of Act 1 takes place in a country inn, and of Act 2 at the mansion of Herr von Auerhahn.

Act 1. Among the guests at a country inn the moneylender Holper recognizes Kranz, whom he had long believed dead. Kranz was supposed to have shot himself in America after borrowing a large sum of money from Holper, and the money had never been repaid. Holper goes off to fetch the constables. - Kranz, who is accompanied by his nephew Wilhelm, is in conversation with another guest, Wandling, and recognizes him as the man whose life he had once saved in Boston. The life-saver had disappeared before Wandling had a chance to thank him, and Kranz admits that he frequently has to make quick getaways and even faked his own death in America to avoid paying landlord's bills. Wilhelm is adamant that he will one day pay off his uncle's debts. The impetuous young man has already been challenged to a duel twice by a certain Chevalier Distelbrand. - Wilhelm is in love with a rich young lady, though his poor financial prospects give him little hope of winning her. But when Wandling promises to pay Kranz 3,000 guilders a year in gratitude for saving his life, Wilhelm's hopes are raised. - The deeds for the annuity are about to be drawn up and Wandling asks Kranz his name. When he hears it, Wandling turns pale, tears up the deeds, announces that he cannot pay Kranz a penny, and promptly leaves the inn. Alas, the astonished, Kranz has already celebrated his good fortune by donating a sum to a theatre company and treating the actors to champagne. Confronted by the waitress Babette, he is yet again in the embarrassing position of being unable to pay his bills. However, it turns out the actors are short of a leading man and an older character actor, so the theatre manager Mummler offers the roles to Kranz and Wilhelm. In the forthcoming performance Kranz will play the part of the Wandering Jew. - Pauline, the object of Wilhelm's affections, now arrives at the inn and Wilhelm declares his love, to which the lady responds with an amiable reserve. Wilhelm, aware that the lady would not suffer such amorous attentions from a poor and humble actor, must delay getting into costume for his performance until Pauline and her father Auerhahn have left the inn. But Mummler, who is keen to have the Auerhahns in his audience in the hope of winning their patronage, has deliberately crippled a wheel of their carriage. They delay their departure and decide to watch the performance. - Meanwhile Wandling has returned. He converses with people as they arrive and seems to check their identities against some notes in his possession. - During the performance the Wandering Jew realizes that Holper and three constables in the audience are watching him with particular attention. When Wilhelm, about to make his first appearance, spies Pauline in the audience, the two men make a dash for it, still in costume. Lightning strikes a tree as they run away, illuminating the fleeing figure of the Wandering Jew.


Act 2. Holper and his fiancee Babette, who is now employed at the Auerhahn's mansion, go to see Pauline. Holper wants to invest 40,000 guilders with Wandling, who is a guest of Auerhahn. He tells Pauline that he has received a mysterious letter, worded as follows: "You will receive news of great importance on the first of next month in (such and such a) town." A letter with exactly the same wording has been sent to Auerhahn. That day Auerhahn is expecting two arrivals: a new accountant, and the husband he intends for Pauline. The accountant is none other than Wilhelm, who has been recommended for the post by a friend of his uncle. However, his hopes of Pauline are dashed when Wandling tells him of the impending arrival of a bridegroom. The young man begs Wandling to use his influence and further his claims as an alternative husband, and Wandling agrees on condition that, if Wilhelm comes into money by marrying Pauline, he mustn't give any to his uncle! But it seems Kranz now has high hopes of a mysterious letter he has received, with the same wording as the others. - The bridegroom arrives, and turns out to be Chevalier Distelbrand. Wilhelm intercepts him and challenges him to yet another duel. Two pistols are available but only one is loaded. Chance will determine who will have the single shot. Wilhelm draws the loaded pistol but offers to refrain from shooting, on one condition: that Distelbrand will agree to disappear for three days, so that Wilhelm can impersonate him. - Pauline now meets her intended, and is surprised to discover that he is the same young man who paid her so much attention at the inn. Why did he not reveal himself then as the bridegroom her father had chosen?
Unbeknown to Wilhelm, Wandling's plot to discredit Distelbrand is already in motion: a letter arrives for Distelbrand. Pauline's suspicions are aroused by the feminine handwriting, so Wilhelm is made to read it aloud. The letter is from a former lover of Distelbrand's, complaining that he has abandoned her and threatening to set fire to the Auerhahn mansion. An actress, Mummler's daughter Rosamunde, has been engaged by Wandling to play the jilted lover, and duly arrives at the mansion brandishing a torch. She is prevented in the nick of time by Kranz, still in his Wandering Jew outfit. Auerhahn insists on paying him the Jew reward, but is firmly dissuaded from offering him any money by Wandling. - Eventually, the whole business is exposed as a piece of theatre and Pauline forgives her betrothed. - Then a carriage accident is reported as having happened nearby and the passengers are brought to the mansion. Among them are Klipp and Busch, who have received identical letters to Auerhahn and Kranz, as has the real Distelbrand, who now reappears. - Wandling now announces that chance has brought all the principal players together and admits he is the author of the letters. He tells the following story: The mothers of Auerhahn, Distelbrand, Kranz, Busch, Klipp, Holper and Mummler were sisters, whose uncle died as a rich man in India. On his deathbed he made Wandling's father executor of his will, by which his entire fortune of 3 million guilders should go to whichever of his nieces' sons had no money whatsoever. All the other possible heirs are to receive nothing. Holper now insists he is poor as a church mouse, but Wandling reminds him that he has just invested 40,000 guilders on his behalf. Distelbrand has just been paid 300 ducats by Wandling who had contrived to lose them to him at cards. Mummler has just received an advance of 1,000 guilders. Thanks to Wandling's interventions, Kranz is the only one without a bean. He immediately promises Wilhelm half of the legacy so he can marry Pauline without delay. Since being left in the lurch by his new character actor, Mummler has taken on the role of the Wandering Jew himself: "We now have two Wandering Jews, so let's share the part tonight".


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