First Advisor

Franz Langhammer

Term of Graduation

Summer 1967

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in German


Foreign Languages




Johann Nestroy (1801-1862)



Physical Description

1 online resource (124 pages)


This thesis proposes to show the satirical element in the works of Nestroy. Nestroy was playwright and actor, producer and director. His dramatic art represents the highest development in the three hundred year tradition of the "Wiener Volkstheater". For this reason, the thesis begins with a summary of the evolution of the "Wiener Volkstheater".

Following a brief chapter appraising comedy, various definitions of satire have been summarized. The theories have been examined with the intention of finding a general definition of the genre. It has been concluded that each author of satire has an individualized style and use of satire, based on his selection of models and their subsequent interpretation by him. Thus diverse definitions of satire must be incorporated in evaluating Nestroy's works, as his satire ranges from fine irony to invective. As the satiric element in Nestroy's plays evolves out of familiar comic conventions, it represents an unusual blend in the history of the "Wiener Volkstheater" (satirical farce).

For Nestroy the stage was not a means of transforming a poetic vision into reality, but for reflecting with satiric wit upon man's caricatured image. The hilarious framework of his plots are a concession to the audience, as is the reference to local institutions, topography and habits.

Despite a surprising variety of language technique, which he inherited from the "Wiener Volkstheater", he created new forms of language usage. In his satirical attacks, he exposes the shortcomings of his contemporaries through deliberately unpoetic dialogues, witty antithesis, vivid figures of ironic speech, provocative aphorisms and series of questions and definitions that reveal the weaknesses of his characters. By interweaving technical terminology in his dialogues, Nestroy achieved comic and parodistic effects; through these hilarious incongruities he satirized various professions. Nestroy's dramatic satire originates in his hyperbolic portrayal of human shortcomings.

Behind a gay facade, the sceptic views presented in Nestroy's plays are not immediately obvious. However, a pessimistic outlook dominates Nestroy's satire. His satirical contrasts demonstrate the imperfection of man, and reveal Nestroy's doubt about the validity of ideals. Nestroy recognized, perhaps intuitively, that measuring reality against the ideal on the stage might create a "Schaubühne als moralische Anstalt." As a result, Nestroy often refers to transcendence through intellect. Nestroy found it sufficient to portray human shortcomings, often in hyperbolic manner, without reference to an acceptable ideal. He leaves the interpretation of his satirical attack to his audience.

All of the elements of stage technique heighten the masterly dialogue in Nestroy's plays, making his unique satirical farces among the most admirable within the German tradition of comedy.


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