German subscription cinema and literature
6. Der Besuch der alten Dame
Reasons to study this work
Still one of the most popular German plays, Der Besuch is frequently performed; it has been converted into a musical and been filmed on a number of occasions. Its critique of materialism and the corruption it leads to is still utterly relevant.
The interest of the work
A town awaits at the station the arrival of its most famous and richest inhabitant who has the power to save it from terminal decline. Already she has bailed out other towns in the locality and everyone is expectant that now it is Güllen's turn.
On Clara Zachanassian's arrival, however, it quickly transpires that she has a bone to pick with her childhood lover Alfred who is part of the welcoming committee and has apparently forgotten why the multi-millionaire should want revenge on him.
The play demonstrates the extent to which money can corrupt even the most outwardly honest and well-meaning.