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Judith und Holofernes

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Judith und Holofernes
Judith and Holofernes

Parody Farce in 1 act.
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: Vienna, 13 March 1849.
Adapted from Judith, a tragedy by Friedrich Hebbel.

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Holofernes, commander of the Assyrians
Zepho, leaders of the Assyrians
Achior, Holofernes’ personal servant
A herald
The Mesopotamian ambassador
Head priests at Baal
1st and 2nd priests at Baal

Jojakim, the high priest of Bethulien
Joab, his son, volunteer in the Jewish army
Judith, his daughter, widow
Mirza, maid servant to Jojakim
Daniel, blind and mute, Assad’s brother
Ammon, cobbler
Heman, tailor
Rachel, Assad’s wife
Sara, Ammon’s wife
The inhabitants of Bethulien.

The tyrannical commander, Holofernes, is extremely proud that he has never yet lost a battle – and he decides to continue his trail of victory by besieging and conquering the Jewish people. However, no one in Bethulien, the city he besieges, actually wants to fight back, and while Holofernes’ army surrounds the city, they ponder how best to get out of the situation. Although the city is beginning to starve, there is no sign of anyone wanting to fight, and the suggestion to simply open the gates to Holofernes’ army and capitulate peacefully is also rejected. Jojakim, the high priest, and his son, Joab, bemoan Judith’s absence, as they are sure she would be able to save them. Joab suddenly has an idea – as Jojakim has pointed out, Joab bears more than a passing resemblance to his sister Judith – which means he might be able to get away with passing himself off as her. Holofernes threatens to burn the city to the ground the next day. Disguised as Judith, Joab duly seduces Holofernes, disguised as Judith. While Holofernes is sleeping off a drug-induced stupor, he cuts of his head, only to discover it was not Holofernes after all, who had made someone substitute for him, being suspicious of dirty tricks. However, the soldiers do not notice the difference when told of “Holofernes” death, and are presented with the head, and flee for the lives, enabling the Jewish people to invade Holofernes’ military camp and catch him.


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