Der Besuch der alten Dame

Der Besuch der alten Dame, Durrenmatt, essay, summary, A level German, IB

 

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Written in 1955, Durrenmatt's hugely popular Der Besuch der alten Dame has been performed on practically every stage in the German speaking world.  In common with other critically acclaimed plays of the 50s the play takes on big themes in a highly personalised way, asking theatre goers/readers to challenge their own value systems.  

Claire Zachanassian, now one of the richest women in the world is returning to Güllen, the small town in which she grew up.  A welcoming committee is pondering its chances of being able to relieve the Milliardärin of a sizeable amount of her fortune to restore the fortunes of the bankrupt town.

Alfred Ill, the mayor in waiting, and most popular person in the town is designated to escort Claire around her old haunts and hopefully to win her over.  No one is aware of the price she is going to exact on the population for restoring its fortunes.

Described as a Tragische Komödie the play combines also many elements of the grotesque.  The work will come as quite a surprise to young Anglophones, unused to works of this kind.  It lends itself to discussion of many themes, not the least of which is the way in which money corrupts, a very contemporary issue.

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