Johann Nestroy was praised as the “Aristophanes of Vienna” by his contemporaries, and the more than eighty comedies and farces that he wrote during his lifetime support that praise. As dramatist and actor, he marks the culmination and finale of the long tradition of the Viennese folk theater, which had its roots in the baroque age and its first significant representative in the famous Josef Anton Stranitzky , who took over the directorship of the newly constructed comedy house near the Kärntnertor in 1712. Within fourteen years Stranitzky had created that unique Viennese folk theater that achieved its highest expression at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the hands of Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund.
While Raimund seemed to cling to the idealism of a past age in his fairy-laden dream plays, Nestroy was a realist who excelled in the parody of this fairy world as well as in social criticism of the new middle class in the growing metropolis of Vienna and has been called “the first realistic writer of German comedy” as well as “the greatest German comedy writer” altogether.
“Opposition to the spirit of his time, and not only his time, dominated his work,” remarks Franz H. Mautner in his introduction to Nestroy’s plays. One of the great dramatists of the twentieth century, the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt, remarks in the notes to Der Besuch der alten Dame (1956; The Visit, 1958), “One should treat me as a sort of deliberate Nestroy, and one will get far.” In his essay Problems of the Theatre (1955), there is no other author whom Dürrenmatt mentions nearly as often as...
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Harding, Laurence V. The Dramatic Art of Ferdinand Raimund and Johann Nestroy: A Critical Study. The Hague: Mouton, 1974. An examination of the plays of Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund. Bibliography.
Yates, W. E. Nestroy and the Critics. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1994. An analysis of the critical reaction to Nestroy’s works. Bibliography and index.
Yates, W. E. Nestroy: Satire and Parody in Viennese Popular Comedy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1972. A study of satire and parody as they appear in the works of Nestroy. Bibliography.