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Austrian literature: Johann Nestroy

Johann Nepomuk
Eduard Ambrosius Nestroy (1801–1862)

Johann Nestroy is often dubbed the Austrian Shakespeare. Quite rightly: like the great master of English literature, Nestroy impersonated the one or other character of his plays himself until he died.

In 1833 Nestroy lands his first coup: The play ‘Lumpacivagabundus‘ was an immediate success.
He become a leading figur of Austrian Biedermeier and Vormerz culture and society. Together with forerunner Ferdinand Raimund, Nestroy started off the tradition of Viennese popular theater (‘Wiener Volkstheater’) paving the way for Arthur Schnitzler or Ödön von Horvath.

In contrast to Raimund’s interest in romantic and magical fantasies, Nestroy emphasizes the comedy’s facilities for parody and criticism even though his texts were adapted to snuggle around the strict zensurship of his time, the era of conservative minister Metternich. His interest in word play was legendary often blending Viennese dialect with his figure’s failed attempt at educated speech.
In all his plays music is an important artistic means with songs elaborating the theme or helping on with the plot.

Like Shakespeare, Nestroy was highly prolific. Among the most important are ‘Lumpacivagabundus’, ‘Liebesgeschichten und Heiratssachen’, ‘Der Talisman’, ‘Einen Jux will er sich machen’ or ‘Der Zerissene’ all of them burlesque comedies, a genre called ‘Posse’ on German, which he adapted to carry social criticism and biting satire.

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