Reflections of Mortality: Triptych. Three Scenic Panels

  • Michael Butler


For a writer whose international reputation rests largely on his contributions to the theatre, it is a surprising fact that Triptych (1978) was not only Frisch’s first play for over a decade, but only the second since Andorra in 1961. In the intervening work, Biography, Frisch had attempted to break new ground by emphasising the creative element of chance as a formal principle. However, what had already proved an effective aesthetic basis for the novel Gantenbein by virtue of the fact that its central character never revealed himself but remained an undefined presence at the centre of a web of shifting inventions, turned out to be untrans-lateable into the concrete terms of the theatre. Kürmann, as we have seen, could not in the event escape the complex interrelationships of his past because his essential self was deeply rooted in that past. The medium of the theatre itself, far from stressing the ‘play’ or arbitrary character of life and thus the possibility of endless variation, merely had an actor confirm Kürmann’s identity and reveal him as effectively chained to his biography.1


Central Panel Creative Element Arbitrary Character Endless Variation Central Scene 
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  1. 14.
    See Klaus Lankheit, Das Triptychon als Pathosformel (Heidelberg, 1959).Google Scholar

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© Michael Butler 1985

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  • Michael Butler

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