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The Talisman (Nestroy)


Johann Nestroy


Character comedy, social satire


16th of December 1840, Theater an der Wien, Vienna


Masterpiece, classical farce, the densest expression of Nestroy's art, 112 performances until 1860. The most frequently performed Nestroy play of the present day.

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Roles and characters

Titus Feuerfuchs: a vacant (unemployed) journeyman barber

Salome Pockerl: goose keeper

Frau von Cypressenburg: widow and writer

Emma: daughter of Frau von Cypressenburg

Constantia: chambermaid of Frau von Cypressenburg, also a widow

Flora Baumscheer: gardener, also widow, in the service of Frau von Cypressenburg

Plutzerkern: gardener's assistant: in the service of the Lady of Cypressenburg

Monsieur Marquis: hairdresser

Spund: a beer silverware dealer (beer merchant)

Georg: servant of the Lady of Cypressenburg

Herr von Platt: an acquaintance of the Lady of Cypressenburg

Notarius Falk: a notary

Also: gentlemen, ladies, peasant boys, peasant girls, servants, gardeners


The stage play "with song in three acts" is set at the beginning of the 19th century on Mrs Cypressenburg's estate near a large town.

In brief

Titus Feuerfuchs has red hair and is therefore ostracised by the others in the village. He is also looking for work, and finds none. Not even his rich uncle Spund wants him to work for him because he doesn't like Titus' red hair. Salome Pockerl, a young girl from the village, also has red hair. When Titus and she meet for the first time, she immediately falls in love with him. But when Titus is given a black wig, everything changes. He meets Flora Baumscheer, the gardener and chambermaid of the Countess of Cypressenburg. Both are enthusiastic about him because of his black hair and his clever words and offer him work at the castle. Neither suspects that the hair is not real. Only Salome recognises him, but she reveals nothing. For Titus, the wig is a talisman (lucky charm). But the luck does not last long. Titus hides his red hair under a wig. This leads to confusion, which is revealed in the end.

At the end of the play, Titus decides to become a beer salesman. He marries Salome. She is the only one who loves him despite his red hair.


Titus Feuerfuchs' life is marked by a handicap that makes everything difficult for him: his red hair. He is teased daily for his hair, and he also has difficulty finding a job. The goose-keeper Salome Pockerl is also humiliated by society for the same reason. None of the lads in the village wants to take her to Kirchtag.

When Salome and Titus meet for the first time, they talk about their shared suffering as outsiders and Salome immediately falls in love with him. Titus tells the girl about his only relative, a rich beer merchant, who rejects him because of his red hair and does nothing for him. Salome, who likes Titus' fiery red hair, wants to ask for a job for him with the master baker, but he refuses.

Titus' fate takes a turn, however, when he brings Monsieur Marquis' horse to a halt, thereby preventing a serious accident. For his good deed he is rewarded with a jet-black wig, which from now on is his talisman (bringer of luck). With the help of this wig, Titus tries to ingratiate himself with the gardener's widow Flora Baumscheer, who, charmed by the sight of his black curls, immediately makes him a gardener's assistant. As he pursues his new occupation, he meets the chambermaid Constantia, whom he impresses so much with his flattery that she promotes him to the palace as a fruit supplier. But when the marquis, who has long adored the chambermaid, recognises Titus as a rival, he unceremoniously takes the wig off his head while he sleeps.

Meanwhile, Frau von Cypressenburg and her daughter Emma have also heard about the new journeyman and want to meet him. When Titus wakes up and realises that his wig is gone, he steals a blond wig from the marquis' dressing room, with which he presents himself to the baroness. She promotes him to her secretary, convinced by his bold speeches. However, when he is asked to read from the Freifrau's memoirs in front of an entire evening party, he is exposed as a wig thief by the widows and the jealous Marquis and chased out of the house.

Titus's uncle, the rich beer-silvering bung, who until now had hardly cared for the red-haired nephew, has travelled after him. He wants to set up a barbershop for Titus in town so that the outsider will not bring dishonour to the family. Salome, who pours out her heart to Spund, sends him to the castle where the wanted man is staying.

When they learn at the castle that the expelled man has such a weighty uncle, they hurry to call him back. Before Titus sets off, however, he hides his red hair under the grey wig of the blessed master gardener Baumscheer. To Spund's dismayed question as to where the red hair had gone, Titus replies that grief over his uncle's previous unloving behaviour had caused him to turn grey prematurely. Touched, Spund wants to make him his universal heir. But when the notary wants to sign the will, Titus is unmasked once again. Frau von Cypressenburg appeases the ale-silverman's anger, but Titus declares that he renounces the inheritance and is satisfied if Spund helps him to get a barber's shop. And because he cannot marry anyone who would find red hair forgivable only on a universal heir, he takes the faithful Salome as his wife.


Der Talisman (Aufzeichnung - Salzburger Festspiele 1976)

This is the entire performance, unfortunately the recording is of poor quality.

Austrian Nestroy Society -


Nestroy, Johann: Der Talisman. Text edition with commentary and materials. Martin Neubauer (ed.)

Volume with many interpretations, historical and social backgrounds. Highly recommended if you want to study the Talisman more intensively.

Nestroy, Johann: Der Talisman. Posse with song in three acts

If you decide to read the whole text with the class, the Reclams edition is recommended because of its good glossary

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