Portland State College. Department of Foreign Languages
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in German
Friedrich Dürrenmatt -- Criticism and interpretation
1 online resource (iii, 108 leaves)
In each of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's ten plays that appeared between 1946 and 1965 there are two protagonists. One of them is powerful and egocentric, strives for fame and power and challenges the world. To destroy his rivals he becomes a 'Judge', sometimes even an executioner.
His antagonist is humble and pious, believes in God, and considers life as God's gift. Christian ethics determine his decisions. He is the 'Righteous'.
Dürrenmatt's work divides into four periods which reflect the author’s times and beliefs.
The first three plays (Es steht geschrieben, Der Blinde, Romulus der Grosse show hope for a better world after the horrors of World War II. The 'Righteous' resists the temptations of the 'Judge' and re establishes Christian values.
The second phase of Dürrenmatt's work is a period of expectation for a better world. The 'Righteous' becomes more worldly, no longer prays, but lives in the confidence that God exists. The 'Judge' becomes more powerful and unrestrained. (Die Ehe des Herrn Mississippi, Ein Engel kommt nach Babylon, Herkules und der Stall des Augias).
The third group reflects disillusionment. The hopes and expectations of the first post-war years were disappointed. Only in a crisis does the 'Righteous' gain insight into the divine order of the world; the 'Judge' gains superhuman powers and plans to destroy mankind. (Der Besuch der alten Dame, Frank der Fünfte, Die Physiker).
Dürrenmatt's last play to date (published in 1965), Der Meteor, depicts an inhuman egocentric who by his mere presence destroys all men around him. The 'Righteous' is expelled from a world which is ruled by the arbitrary power of the 'Judge' and where God is dead.
The moral of Dürrenmatt's work is that man should return to humility under God.
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Schlichtherle, Helga, "Der Richter und der Gerechte in Dürrenmatts Dramen" (1968). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 498.