The trial of the donkey's shadow

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The Trial of the Donkey's Shadow is the first radio play by the Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt . The basic motif is the story of the donkey's shadow , which was already known in antiquity. The radio play was based closely on the fourth book The Trial of the Donkey's Shadow from the satirical novel Die Abderiten by Christoph Martin Wieland and was first broadcast on April 5, 1951 by Radio Bern. The piece was first published in print in 1958 by Arche Verlag with the subtitle A radio play [after Wieland - but not very] . A stage version by Jörg Reichlin was performed in Frankfurt am Main in 1994.


The dentist Struthion rents a donkey from the donkey driver Anthrax to travel from Abdera to Gerania, which is three days away. On the way he would like to rest in the shadow of the animal, but the donkey driver wants to charge a fee again because, in his opinion, the rent only includes the movement with the donkey, but not the use of the shadow. Therefore, another payment is appropriate. Since the dentist is unwilling to pay extra for the donkey's shadow, the two return to Abdera and bring the matter to the judge Philippides. The magistrate says that one should come to an amicable agreement and suggests that the dentist pay a small amount and the donkey driver allow him to sit in the animal's shadow. However, the fronts harden because the two fighters are joined by the lawyers Physignatus and Polyphonus, who are turning the matter into a test case for the legal system in Abdera. They appear with pathetic and hostile rhetoric and each claim that the judiciary becomes untrustworthy if you are not right. Eventually the whole city of Abdera is drawn into the dispute and the dispute ends in a great catastrophe.


  • Struthion, the dentist
  • Anthrax, the donkey driver
  • Krobyle, his wife
  • Philippides, the city judge
  • Miltias, the assessor
  • Physignatus, advocate of Struthion
  • Polyphonus, advocate of Anthrax
  • Tiphys, captain
  • Iris, his bride
  • Mastax, helmet smith, brother of Tiphys
  • Peleias, cleaner, Mastax's lover
  • Strobylus, high priest, protector of anthrax
  • Telesia, sweetheart of Strobylus, holy virgin
  • Agathyrsus, archpriest, protector of Struthion
  • Chairman of the animal welfare association
  • Chairman of the Tourist Association
  • Director of Marmor AG
  • agitator
  • Hypsiboas, President of the Senate
  • Awl, guild master
  • Thykidides, weapons director
  • Two emissaries
  • Fire guard and fire chief
  • Two field women
  • Beggar, town crier, saleswoman
  • 5 judges
  • The donkey


The 1974 version is also available as an audio book.


“Dürrenmatt has tightened Wieland's epic text and made radical changes. At Wieland, the dispute over the donkey's shadow ends well and sensibly. At Dürrenmatt it ends with the fall of Abdera. [...] Nonsense wins. "

- Elisabeth Brock-Sulzer

"Dürrenmatt's linguistic and visually powerful radio play based on Christoph Martin Wieland's novel" The Abderites "masterfully demonstrates what absurd consequences sheer greed can have and is therefore timelessly topical."

- DRS 2


  • 1958: Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The trial of the donkey's shadow . A radio play [after Wieland - but not very much]. In: The Little Books of the Ark. Volume 267, Arche , Zurich.
  • 1961: Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The trial of the donkey's shadow . In: Collected radio plays . Ark, Zurich.
  • 1980: Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Hercules and the Augean stable / The trial of the donkey's shadow: Greek pieces. New versions from 1980. Diogenes , Zurich, ISBN 3257208383 .
  • 1998: Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Hercules and the Augean stable / The trial of the donkey's shadow: Greek pieces. In: Friedrich Dürrenmatt: work edition. Volume 8. New versions from 1980. Diogenes Taschenbuch 23048, Zurich, ISBN 3257230486 .
  • 2010: Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The trial of the donkey's shadow. Audiobook 2 CDs, in: The Swiss Radio DRS Audiobook published by Christoph Merian Verlag , Christoph Merian Verlag , Basel, ISBN 3856164316 .

Individual evidence

  1. Dürrenmatt: Hercules and the stable of Augias / The trial of the donkey's shadow . Diogenes 1980. pp. 227-228
  2. Archive link ( Memento of the original from July 3, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (March 30, 2017)  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
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