Kessel, owner of a brewery
Pauline, his ward
Mathilde, his sister-in-law
Fass, the brewery’s delivery man
Franz, a relative of Kessel, his head waiter
Staub, a scholar
Wachtl (originally played by Nestroy)
Scene: Kessel’s brewery and tavern,
near a large town.
Act 1. Franz wants to marry Pauline,
but the wish of her dead father was that she
should wed the son of his boyhood friend who is now an architect
in Rome. Pauline has never met him, but she has fallen in love with
Her guardian Kessel wants to marry her himself, and hatches a plan
to ensure she doesn't marry Franz or the architect. He tells his
delivery man Fass (Barrel) to find someone who will impersonate the
from Rome, someone so boorish and uneducated that Pauline will lose
interest in him. Fass has been inspired by the 1848 revolution to
admire everything German as opposed to Austrian, so when Kessel promises
a reward, he asks only that when he is dead, German oaks be planted
on his grave.
Mathilde and Pauline discuss the impending arrival of the bridegroom
from Rome. If all goes well they will be married in a week. To test
the groom's true feelings for her, Pauline asks Mathilde to take
while she will play an ordinary servant. Mathilde warns her of the
risks involved in such masquerades, but agrees nonetheless.
Franz is distraught at the impending arrival of the architect, and
threatens to shoot himself. Agnes snatches the pistol from him in
the nick of time
and discovers it is only a metal pipe. Pauline is alienated by Franz's
display of emotion, but Agnes takes pity on him and comes up with
an idea. She tells Franz to find someone unpleasant to impersonate
so that Pauline will call off the wedding.
Meanwhile Fass has been searching for suitable candidates and chosen
Wachtl for the bridegroom's role, a man he regards as a philistine
utterly without enthusiasm for the German democratic project and
contemptible for the job. Wachtl is brought to Kessel to receive
his instructions and appropriate attire. He will be paid 100 guilders
impersonate an architect living in Rome called Stern, and shower
his "fiancee" with
foolish compliments in a way that will make her dislike him. What Kessel
doesn't realise is that Wachtl is the real Stern's servant, and that
his master is on his way from Rome to meet his bride.
Kessel finds Pauline and Mathilde's planned masquerade entirely suitable
for his own purposes. As arranged, with Pauline listening from her
hiding place, Mathilde is literally deluged with compliments by Wachtl,
tactlessly asks her about the size of the legacy she can expect.
Pauline is suitably put off, and Kessel is delighted with the success
plan. Wachtl, meanwhile, is worried at having impersonated his master
but is also sorely tempted by the bride's legacy. Fass now enters
to announce that a man called Stern has arrived from Rome, and, in
Wachtl hurriedly confesses to Kessel that he is actually Stern's
servant. To keep up the charade in front of Pauline, Kessel promises
a hefty reward if he will continue in the deception. Stern is outraged
at his servant's behaviour, but astonished when Kessel claims that
knows Stern well and can personally vouch that this is he. Wachtl
joins in, addressing Stern as if he were a drunken servant, and the "imposter" is
thrown out of the brewery by Kessel's employees.
Act 2. Mathilde is delighted
by the compliments paid her by "Stern" and convinced he has
fallen in love with her. She hopes he will not be disappointed when he
discovers that she is not an heiress. Pauline, on the other hand, suspects
that the second man, whom she didn't see, may be the real bridegroom.
She encounters Stern in the garden and he takes her for a servant girl
and asks her about his intended bride's feelings for him. The "servant
girl" replies that her mistress is puzzled by the discrepancy
between his love letters and his prolonged absence in Italy. Pauline
by Stern's reply, that he had to wait until litigation had been resolved
in his favour, to avoid meeting his bride in straitened financial circumstances.
However, Stern refuses to believe that the woman he saw with Kessel
is his intended. On the contrary, he imagines his bride to be someone
like the servant girl he is addressing. Pauline flees inside to avoid
giving the game away.
Stern then finds out about the plot and Wachtl's involvement in
it from Fass, and decides on a little revenge. - Meanwhile Wachtl
worried, having recognised in Agnes a former girlfriend who might
- By now Franz has engaged Staub (Dust) to impersonate the groom.
As Staub waits to meet the bride and her guardian, he meets Wachtl
Staub's speech is studded with incomprehensible Latinisms, but
they eventually understand that he likewise claims to be the architect
warns him that the real Stern is standing before him, and Kessel
and Pauline are equally amazed at the appearance of a third supposed
Fass ushers in Stern, now dressed as a servant, and he addresses
Wachtl as his master and begs his forgiveness. Wachtl is puzzled
to go along with the charade. Stern then asks Wachtl to ask on
behalf for "the servant girl's" hand in marriage, but Pauline
confuses matters by giving her hand to Kessel and declaring that she
marry her guardian than a servant. When Franz enters and addresses
her as Pauline, Wachtl realises he has been tricked. Mathilde confesses
swap with Pauline, and Wachtl rejects her out of hand and proposes
instead to Agnes. Stern confirms his identity by producing Pauline's
and Kessel is left empty-handed as Pauline confirms that she loves
Stern as much in the flesh as on the page. Fass, however, is thoroughly
by this happy ending. To him, the marriage of gentleman to lady and
servant to servant girl merely consolidates the class system and demonstrates
that Austria, unlike Germany, is not yet ready for the spirit of 1848.