Review: Friedrich Durrenmatt’s The Visit

I was sceptical at first about reading a translated play, purely because sometimes words are not translated correctly and the text can lose some of the fluidity that it would have in its natural language. Furthermore the choice of words and their meaning will differ between languages and so this can often cause the text to lose some of its depth.

However, The Visit for me gained depth because it had been translated, and helped to highlight the intention of Durrenmatt to create a universal setting. The play is set in the town of Guellen which is a run-down place after the Second World War. This comedy focuses on the lives of Alfred Ill and Claire Zachanassian and her ability to manipulate all those who love Ill with her power and wealth. Although intended to be a comedy the dark and often grotesque themes that run throughout make it appear more as a tragicomedy in my opinion.


The question about being able to buy justice is a very disturbing idea. Claire asks the townsfolk if she can buy herself justice after she was abandoned pregnant while Ill was able to create a proper life for him and his new family. Claire on the other hand was forced into prostitution and a life she would not have chosen for herself. When she returns to Guellen with substantial money and power she is able to dehumanize men as she pleases, castrate those who wronged her in the past and ultimately buying herself justice. The lack of active characters also leads the audience to question the role of the institutions in the town because they remain passive and highlight moneys ability to corrupt. The minor characters have been named by their profession: Schoolmaster, Butler, Mayor, Priest etc which shows both their unanimity and also their passivity.

Despite these heavy themes prevalent throughout the play, it is essentially intended to be a comedy. It is very funny. The rhyming of characters names Toby, Loby, Koby and Roby let the audience laugh in between the sinister outbursts. Claire’s treatment of her new husbands also offers a high point, with them being called Husband VI or Husband VII.

This play is great. The way Durrenmatt deals with these controversial but highly apparent issues of Women’s rights, Prostitution and overall the desire for money is so unique. I love his writing style because it is both tragic and comedic simultaneously without making the audience feel like they are watching a tennis match.

The Visit 1964

I highly recommend this play, particularly to anybody who has delved into the world of translated texts. Or even if they have not read anything that was written by a less famous playwright. This play is not to be missed.


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