Friedrich Durrenmatt's use of allusions in order to enhance and describe the characters include the famous Romeo and Juliet, Lais, and Lord Alfred Tennyson. Durrenmatt uses these people in particular to help characterize Claire Zachanassian and Alfred Ill. Durrenmatt first alludes to Lais on page 27. “That conspicuous consumption of husbands; she’s a second Lais.” (Durrenmatt 27) Lais was a prostitute for nobles; she was very attractive and wealthy. Durrenmatt uses Lais to describe Claire and emphasize how Claire had to become a prostitute when she left Guellen and yet, came back still beautiful and wealthy. Durrenmatt uses this characterization to show that she was scorned by love, she scorned other, having nine husbands. We learn later that Claire herself says, “The world turned me into a whore. I shall turn the world into a brothel.” (67) This again alludes to her sexual services, which were bought and she knows through this anything can be bought. To erase this past she wants to erase the beginning of it by killing Ill, and money can do just that. Not only is Lais used to characterize a major character of the play, but also Lord Alfred Tennyson can be used to describe Ill. “Atmosphere like Tennyson” (83) was mentioned by Ill’s Daughter....
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...well.” (89) it is ironic because it alluded to Ill and how his life will end soon as well. It is also ironic in the sense that it is the last song Ill listens to and how he will go Home Sweet Home to heaven after he is killed. Durrenmatt’s use of irony helps show Claire’s evil desire to send Ill to his death.
Durrenmatt uses many allusions in The Visit in which its connections sheds so much more light on the play and helps to emphasize even the smallest aspects of it. Durrenmatt’s implementation of allusions to describe characters at a deeper lever, compare events in Guellen to its contrasting Westernized culture and show the irony of what Claire does to what others say, helps us understand The Visit at a much deeper level and far more interesting way.
Dürrenmatt, Friedrich. The Visit. Trans. Patrick Bowles. New York: Grove Press, 1956.
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