Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit is his only theatrical piece and he termed it not simply a comedy, but a tragicomedy. Dürrenmatt said that although tragedy is impossible in our modern times, it hides in the depths of our grotesque stories in almost every case. “The flow of the tragic stream” has been given a new form by the society of our times, since today it is society and not fate that eliminates its heroes. Dürrenmatt is interested in this tragic element in comedy, just like Shakespeare, whose comedies reveal a certain cruelty that suddenly pops up from underneath the surface.
The Visit is a pathological report of a small rural town. A town where the local community repeating moral clichés and forming “little circles”, “little public bodies”, societies, assemblies and other alliances of interests is proud of its own blamelessness, while its every inch is corrupt and mercenary.
Claire Zachanassian’s revenge is not so much against Alfred Ill who played her false, but against this community, living in the bonds of its own pettiness, whose corruption she exposes. Tragedy, writes Dürrenmatt, is devoid of objectivity. Moreover it makes it impossible, while comedy practically creates it. I think that this indispensable aesthetical objectivity could help us to see more clearly, and to understand the community of which we are part.