The marriage of Mr. Mississippi

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Title: The marriage of Mr. Mississippi
Genus: comedy
Original language: German
Author: Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Publishing year: 1952
Premiere: March 26, 1952
Place of premiere: Münchner Kammerspiele , Munich
  • Anastasia
  • Florestan Mississippi
  • Frédéric René Saint-Claude
  • Count Bodo von Übelohe-Zabernsee
  • The Minister Diego
  • The maid
  • Three clergy
  • Three men in raincoats , their right hand in their pocket
  • Two guards
  • Professor Überhuber
  • Psychiatrists

The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi is a comedy in two parts by the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt . It was premiered on March 26, 1952 at the Münchner Kammerspiele under the direction of Hans Schweikart .


first act

In the year "1947 or 1948", in which the story takes place, the attorney general Florestan Mississippi visits the recently widowed Anastasia at the beginning. The entire piece takes place in a salon that is furnished with Biedermeier furniture without a change of scene. Anastasia soon confesses that she herself killed her husband, but he does not accuse her, instead offering her marriage. When she refuses, he confesses that he too poisoned his recently deceased wife Madeleine, who is said to have committed adultery with Anastasias husband. Marriage should be experienced by both as a punishment in order to atone for their murder.

Attorney General Diego gets the order from the Prime Minister to suggest Mississippi resign from the post of prosecutor. He justifies this with the fact that his radicalism, which is shown in the increased number of death sentences, is wrong in the current world situation, which rather requires moderation and also unnecessarily arouses the left. Mississippi rejects this, however, because as a fighter for the “justice of heaven” he has to keep his post.

Shortly afterwards he meets his childhood friend Saint-Claude, who wants to persuade him to participate in the reorganization of the communist party in the country. In the following dialogue between Saint-Claude and Mississippi, the pasts of this one and Saint-Claude are presented, explaining their actions: Both born as sons of prostitutes, they ran a brothel together. However, in their youth they had various encounters with literature; While Mississippi internalized the teachings of the Bible, especially the Laws of Moses, Saint-Claude had a formative experience with Marx's " Capital " and now they defend the basic ideas of the two works, so that Mississippi for "Justice of Heaven", Saint-Claude for whom the earth fights. When Saint-Claude fails to convince him of his views and to win him over, he threatens a popular uprising against the unpopular public prosecutor.

Suddenly the plot is interrupted by Count Bodo von Übelohe-Zabernsee, who is mentioned at the beginning of the play as Anastasia's old childhood friend. In the following dialogue it turns out that the love between Count Bodo and Anastasia is an old childhood love and that Anastasia killed her husband in order to marry him. Graf von Übelohe-Zabernsee decides to confess this Mississippi.

Second act

When Mississippi entered the house shortly afterwards, she denied adultery.

Diego is now taking advantage of the moment (popular uprising) to be appointed Prime Minister by Parliament. Thereupon he has the revolution begun by Saint-Claude put down; he removes Saint-Claude and Mississippi from their offices and sends Mississippi to a madhouse. Saint-Claude then wants to re-plan the world revolution with Anastasia from Portugal and begin to hand over Anastasia to a brothel or to build one for her because that is her only application for "the good of the world". Anastasia, however, refuses and poisons Saint-Claudes' coffee, which he sees through. On the run from the insane asylum, Mississippi seeks refuge in the drawing room. In the absence of Anastasia, he now also poisons the other cup. During the following dialogue, both of them now know that the other person's cup is fatal, without knowing of their own danger. Mississippi sees this as the last chance to find out whether Anastasia has changed her nature and is now living in accordance with the law of Moses. But even at the sight of death, she lies to Mississippi and swears allegiance. Mississippi also dies as a result of the poison, but in the belief that man can be changed by drastic punishments and that he was on the right track. As he dies, he describes the plans for a new revolution to his brother Saint-Claude, who has returned. Saint-Claude breaks the two cups and shortly afterwards the murder squad that has been sent for him rings. He lets himself be shot without resistance.

At the end of the piece, almost all of the characters appear again and pensively take stock.

Interpretative approaches

According to Elisabeth Brock-Sulzer, it is possible to describe exactly what the individual figures stand for. This representation can also be found to some extent in Goertz. Accordingly, Anastasia is the man of the present, Mississippi is the man of law, Saint-Claude is the man of earthly justice, Diego is the realpolitician ready to adapt and Überlohe is the one who wants to transform through the power of love. According to Brock-Sulzer, the piece now represents the events that would happen if all these different endeavors were to be crammed together and allowed to collide.

In addition, Dürrenmatt makes the plot ridiculous with the stung, parodistically exaggerated and noble language and also the noble behavior of the people and the furnishings of the room. The director's remarks are written accordingly ( "dead pale", "deadly", "frightened", "shuddering", "jubilant" ).

The marriage of Mr. Mississippi shows typical features of a Dürrenmatt comedy, for example the grotesque ending that the three radicalists (Diego, Saint-Claude and Mississippi) do not die, as it seems logical. Instead, exactly what the three are trying to overcome (the present, embodied by Anastasia) and two of the radicalists die, whereas the adaptation and the one who embodies love survive. This dilutes the original statement of the piece that the present (embodied by Anastasia) is impenetrable.

In comedy, the author relies less on stage design, which carries an important message, but is kept simple and does not change, and emphasis than on the statements of the characters involved. According to Brock-Sulzer, this testifies to the poet's self-confidence. On the other hand, the content of the comedy represents a break because, compared to Romulus the Great , for example , it is not balanced and rather "sentimental".

Importance of the work for the author

Friedrich Dürrenmatt wrote the work around 1950 and ultimately found it difficult to hand it over to a theater for the premiere. Ernst Ginsberg even advised Dürrenmatt to burn the manuscript, so that in 1951 Dürrenmatt had again reached a low point in his work. It was only towards the end of 1951 that the set designer Teo Otto was able to recognize the value of the play, who then convinced the artistic director of the Münchner Kammerspiele , Hans Schweikart , to premiere the play under his own direction in 1952.

The style of Dürrenmatt led to the fact that he achieved greater press and public success with one of his dramas for the first time, which, however, did not immediately help out of the economic crisis in which the family was currently. Only a national awareness of Dürrenmatt could be finally guaranteed, which helped Dürrenmatt to even greater success in subsequent performances.


In 1961 a German-Swiss film of the same name was released in cinemas. Directed by Kurt Hoffmann , the main roles were played by OE Hasse as Florestan Mississippi, Johanna von Koczian as Anastasia, Martin Held as Frédéric René Saint-Claude, Hansjörg Felmy as Count Bodo von Übelohe-Zabernsee, Charles Regnier as Justice Minister Sir Thomas Jones, Karl Lieffen as Santamaria, Max Haufler as Van Bosch, Ruedi Walter as McGoy and Edith Hancke as Lukretia.


  • Heinrich Goertz: Dürrenmatt. 12th edition. Rowohlt-Verlag, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-499-50380-1 .
  • Elisabeth Brock-Sulzer: Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Stations of his work. Diogenes-Verlag, Zurich 1986, ISBN 3-257-21388-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. Elisabeth Brock-Sulzer 1986, p. 58.
  2. Goertz 2003, p. 45 ff.
  3. See, for example, Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Komödien. Verlag der Arche, Zurich 1958, p. 138.
  4. See Brock-Sulzer 1986, p. 58.
  5. Goertz 2003, p. 45, lines 32 ff.