In this modern Greek tragedy, including choirs (of the villagers), Friedrich Dürrenmatt confronts the spectator with the state of our world, with the 'real' nature of our Western civilization and its 'real' principles and the `real' nature of the human species.
In our world, horror abounds: earthquakes, mountains that spit fire, heavy storms at sea, and, not to forget, war with its roaring tanks ravaging wheat fields and the terrible stellar mushroom of the atomic bomb.
The whole of humanity (the village of Güllen as pars pro toto) becomes unequivocal dancers around the Golden Calf and pure slaves of the Mammon at the first opportunity. This play shows man's fundamental hypocrisy (not for money, but for justice) and his stigma of corruption which he tries to cover up by `legitimate' means.
But the angel of death, in the person of a wealthy old lady, is an all too perfect expert in matters of human nature, of Western civilization and its true principles. She exploits cleverly, shamelessly and mercilessly those principles to take revenge. Her target is not only her former lover, but the entire village (world): individual physical death should go hand in hand with a spectacle of a general moral death.
This play, one of the best of all times, should be read and seen by all those interested in an illustration of the real nature of mankind.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2001
I studied this play on a Brecht course as an undergraduate and found it very refreshing: it is funny, sad, original and enjoyable. Claire is a fantastically strong character and Ill's destitute neighbours are predictably mercenary - buying items on credit in anticipation of Claire's wish being fulfilled. It explore's the power of consumerism and industry while also looking at the more standard themes of love and betrayal.
on 18 April 2015
Astonishing play about the pernicious effects of materialism. I saw a production at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich decades ago and it left a deep impression, but to read it now after all these years has been a revelation. And it's so scrupulously written, from end to end not a glitch anywhere. The real visit is that of a brilliantly perceptive and eloquent observer, Durrenmatt himself, to the small, conformist world built on atrocity so many of us inhabit.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2011
I love this play but I was disappointed to find that it is not possible to get performance rights for this translation. The only English language translation which I could find with performance rights attached is the one by Maurice Valency and the amateur rights to perform this version are currently embargoed (presumably because of a forthcoming professional production).
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2005
This play is wonderful. When I first read it I thought bleuck, but as I had to analyse it I realised just how good it is!
One problem though.... this translation mistakes the german word for billion as million and million as thousand. It doesn't matter much to the play itself but if doing it for exams etc, it's important to know