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Der gemüthliche Teufel

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der gemüthliche Teufel oder Die Geschichte vom Bauern und der Bäuerin
The Cosy Devil or The Story of the Farmer and His Wife

A Magic Play with songs and dances in 1 Act
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 20th December 1851
Based on a popular fairy tale

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Satanas, his secretary (originally played by Nestroy)
Fulminaria, Lucifer’s wife
Hydra, a Fury
Devils in hell
The farmer
The farmer’s wife
The old woman
Servants, neighbours

Scene: Hell, then a village with farms.

[Chorus of devils in hell] - There is an entry in Lucifer's diary recording that three years ago he sent Beelzebub to find a married couple that was very much in love and somehow split them up. At the time Lucifer's wife Fulminaria bet against her husband that the couple would stay together. If she wins, he must give her a carriage drawn by twelve dragons. To Lucifer's annoyance, Beelzebub has not succeeded in splitting the couple in the allotted time, though he claims to have tried every trick in the book. Fulminaria is delighted with her victory. Satanas now asks Lucifer to let him go on earth and achieve what Beelzebub could not. He is confident he can complete the task by midnight and make Lucifer win the bet after all. Lucifer gives Satanas a full purse and orders Beelzebub to accompany him and return only when he has done something to enhance hell's reputation.
Together, Beelzebub and Satanas observe the loving couple, a farmer and his wife. Beelzebub confesses that he is in love with the wife himself. Satanas tells him "You're not cut out to be a devil". Satanas remembers an old woman of his acquaintance, who is thought to be a witch by the villagers and is also feared by the farmer and his wife. Satanas and Beelzebub tell her about the task and Satanas promises her 50 ducats reward. The old woman is glad to help, especially as the farmer's grandfather once forgot to say good day to her on a religious holiday 65 years ago. Beelzebub is appalled at such animosity. The old woman accosts the farmer's wife on her way home and tells her that her husband is having an affair with the miller's wife. The wife refuses to believe it. The old woman tells her there is a way to ensure that her husband will always be faithful, and that is, while saying the Lord's Prayer, to run the back of a razor three times across her husband's throat when he is asleep at night. The wife decides to think about it. The old woman then tells the farmer that his wife is having it off with the young farmhand and is planning to cut her husband's throat when he is asleep. - [Duet, Satanas/Beelzebub: "People are bad, people are good"]
Back home, the wife tries to find out from the farmhand if anything is going on between her husband and the miller's wife. The farmer notices this furtive conversation and becomes suspicious. At night in bed he pretends to be asleep. His wife picks up the razor, but as she bends over him he jumps up, snatches the razor from her hand and throws her out of the house before she can say a word. Beelzebub feels sorry for the wife, and decides to rectify things for her sake, though he is afraid of being caught in the act. Satanas has already telegraphed the news to hell and claimed the success as his own.
Beelzebub and the farmer watch as Satanas praises the old woman for her cunning and pays her the 50 ducats. - [Song, Satanas: "We are very grateful"] - The farmer is ready to kill the old woman but Beelzebub wants her for himself. He warns the farmer that his desperate wife is about to drown herself in the river, and the poor man dashes off to save her. The farmhands, stirred up by news of the old woman's treachery, decide to take revenge, but just as they arrive at her house it is struck by lightning and bursts into flames. In the fire they see Beelzebub descending into hell with the old woman in his arms. The farmer and his wife congratulate each other on their narrow escape. "In future we will never believe anything of each other that we don't see with our own eyes. Then even hell can't touch us."


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