Skip to main content
Skip table of contents

Johann Nestroy


Johann Nepomuk Eduard Ambrosius NESTROY

Date, place of birth

1st of December 1801 in Vienna, Austria

Date and place of death

25th of May 1862 in Graz, Austria


Invalid file id - UNKNOWN_MEDIA_ID

Andreas Geiger (engraver), Johann Christian Schoeller (artist), "Der Talisman". Posse by Nestroy; Carl Carl as Spund, Johann Nestroy as Titus Feuerfuchs et al. (costume picture no. 85 for the theatre newspaper), 1841, Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 98808/22, CC0 (


Johann Nepomuk Nestroy is still one of Austria's most important dramatists. He was born in Vienna on 7 December 1801 and attended the Akademisches Gymnasium and the Schottengymnasium. His father wanted him to become a lawyer. But even before he began his studies, Nestroy discovered his passion for singing and spoken theatre and defied his parents' wishes. After initially working as a singer (first in Vienna, then in Amsterdam), Nestroy begins to work as an actor (Brno and Lemberg) and, from 1827, to write plays himself. He is engaged by the Theater an der Wien and the Theater in der Leopoldstadt. Finally, in 1833, one of his best-known plays appeared: "Lumpazivagabundus", at the same time his first great success. From then on he wrote about three plays a year, "Der Talisman" was written in 1840. From 1854 Nestroy was director of the Carl Theatre (the former Leopoldstadt Theatre), a post he held until 1860. Finally he retired to Graz, where he spent the rest of his life. Nestroy dies on 25 May 1862 as the result of a stroke. He has been buried in a grave of honour in Vienna's Central Cemetery since 1881.

Johann Nestroy is also considered the "Viennese Aristophanes" and was successful both as a playwright, actor and manager. Nestroy's work is full of irony and a deep scepticism . He holds up a mirror to human weaknesses and hardly believes that man can improve himself. Nestroy himself constantly creates new combinations of words and plays with his tremendous wordplay. He loved aphorisms and wordplay. The names of his characters alone usually reveal the most important trait of the character. Much of it is difficult for us to understand today. Nestroy's plays were often based on French comedies, which he adapted to Viennese conditions.

During his 40 years on the stage, Nestroy played about 880 roles.


Famous plays by Johann Nestroy

  • Lumpazivagabundus (1833)

  • At Ground Level and First Floor (1835)

  • The Talisman (1840)

  • Das Mädl aus der Vorstadt oder Ehrlich währt am längsten (1841)

  • He Wants to Have a Joke (1842)

  • Love Stories and Heurath Matters (1843)

  • The Torn Man (1844)


"Luck and good sense seldom go hand in hand." - The Talisman

"Ditching a girl is definitely cheaper than marrying her."

Interview / Profile

Birthday: 7 December 1801

Birthplace: Vienna

Star sign: Sagittarius

Eye colour: brown

Family: Divorced, "wild marriage" with Marie Weiler

For mental strength alone, it sounds fatal to choose horsepower as a symbol, as an ideal. (The protégé, IV, 10)

What is the greatest misfortune for you?
When one is often hungry, that one does not know where to sleep at night because of thirst! (Former circumstances, 5)

What qualities do you value most in a man?
There is no knowledge of human nature in men, because if you know them, you get to know them as unhumans. (The Dyer and his Twin Brother, I, 13)

What qualities do you value most in a woman?
Curious, the one I see last, that's always the one I like best. (The Monkey and the Bridegroom, I, 16)

Your main character trait?
I believe the worst of everyone, even of myself, and I've rarely been wrong. (The Two Nightwalkers, I, 16)

Your favourite pastime?
Putting the sausage of pleasure on the sour herb of life. (The two gentleman sons, I, 11)

Your favourite flower? Your favourite animal?
The plant kingdom only vegetates, the animals are stupid. (Fear of Hell, I, 6)

Historical context

Brief history of Austria during Nestroy's lifetime

Nestroy was born in the time of constant wars between Austria and revolutionary France (1792-1815). These are important years: at the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, the reorganisation of Europe is determined. The Empire of Austria gets back the lost lands and then some. Austria also presides over the newly created German Confederation.

Emperor Franz I (1792-1835) is very interested in technical progress. He founds the Polytechnic, (today's Technical University) and thus also favours industrial entrepreneurship. But he is extremely suspicious of scholars, writers, philosophers - in other words, of all intellectuals. That is why he introduces a very meticulous censorship: Every book, every play must be submitted to a censor before it is published or before the (premiere) performance. The secret police monitored all prominent personalities and their private lives. From about 1812 onwards, the first large associations are formed - above all the Gesellschaft der Musikfreude (Society for the Enjoyment of Music).

At that time, the potato is the most important food for the poor. From about 1845 onwards, potato blight, a plant disease, causes crop failures and bread becomes immensely expensive; demonstrations are the result. In February 1848, the revolution broke out in Paris and Vienna was infected by revolutionary fever. In October 1848 there is a battle for Vienna, imperial troops conquer the city. The "benevolent" Emperor Ferdinand I, the son of Emperor Franz I, is replaced by the young Franz Joseph.

What remains of 1848 was, among other things, the school and university reform of the Minister of Education. Count Leo Thun-Hohenstein created a new grammar school and university system; in doing so, he also laid the foundation stone for our present-day education system. And in 1850 the Viennese suburbs are incorporated into the "city" - now Vienna extends to the Gürtel.

Nestroy's Vienna. A city of contrasts

Until 1870, Vienna is the largest city in the German-speaking world, with enormous growth and many capable entrepreneurs - the famous Biedermeier culture is the first industrial culture in Europe! At the large joinery Josef Danhauser, chairs, tables, fauteuils, canapés or display cabinets can already be ordered from a catalogue. At the same time, Vienna becomes a centre of painting for the first time, music having always played a major role. The waltz is the fashionable dance at this time. But Vienna is also the most important theatre city in the German-speaking world. Here, at the age of 27, Franz Grillparzer was already appointed Burgtheater poet. Alongside Grillparzer, Ferdinand Raimund and Adalbert Stifter were also active.

Vienna is a city of contrasts: Woodcutters and carpenters, plasterers and whitewashers, "partikuliers" (people with money) and speculators, day labourers and street vendors, wandering journeymen, factory workers, lordly footmen and so-called "washer girls" enliven the city. But Vienna is also the city of the court, the government, the most important schools. And while the inhabitants of the "city" (today's 1st district) hurry to the theatres, in the suburbs thousands of journeymen and small masters often worked day and night in tiny workshops or miserable flats to deliver their goods on time.

They all appear in Nestroy's plays - the smug rich and the poor starving, young people in love and grumpy old people, the funny and the sad, old schoolmasters, shopkeepers and hawkers with their assistants, who occasionally allow themselves a joke...

JavaScript errors detected

Please note, these errors can depend on your browser setup.

If this problem persists, please contact our support.