The Visit

Claire Zachanassian Character Analysis

Claire is a fateful figure, having returned to Güllen after forty-five years to seek revenge upon Alfred Ill, a man who betrayed her in her youth. She was driven from town at seventeen after Ill falsely denied fathering her child and bribed two men to corroborate his claims. Exiled and without resources, Claire turned to prostitution, through which she met her first husband, the incredibly wealthy oil tycoon Zachanassian. Now the wealthiest woman in the world, Claire intends to buy herself justice, offering the townspeople of Güllen one billion dollars to improve their failing town in exchange for Ill’s execution. Claire is a formidable presence, disarming people with her brutal honesty and her low regard for the lives or feelings of others. She treats her husbands poorly, casually divorcing and marrying them to satisfy her own whims. Worse, she had Koby and Loby castrated, blinded, and shipped around the world like chattel. Perhaps her disregard for human life stems in part from her own apparent inhumanness—she is not a mere woman, but something “indestructible,” “an avenging goddess,” an assemblage of prostheses seemingly held together by hate. But as terrible as she is, Claire is also sympathetic—a woman scorned, who never stopped loving the man who wronged her.

Claire Zachanassian Quotes in The Visit

The The Visit quotes below are all either spoken by Claire Zachanassian or refer to Claire Zachanassian. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of The Visit published in 2010.
Act 1 Quotes

Two gangsters from Manhattan, sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing. Released at my request to carry my sedan chair. One million dollars per petition is what it cost me. The sedan chair comes from the Louvre, a gift from the French president. A nice gentleman. Looks just like he does in the papers. Carry me into town, Roby and Toby.

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker), Roby and Toby
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

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ILL: I wish time were suspended, my little sorceress. If only life hadn’t torn us apart.

CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: You wish that?

ILL: Just that, nothing else. You know I love you! (He kisses her right hand.) The same cool white hand.

CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: You’re wrong. Another prosthesis. Ivory.

ILL: (Dropping her hand, horrified) Clara, is everything about you artificial?!

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker)
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

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You have remained unforgettable. Truly. Your academic achievements are still held up as an example by our educators, especially the interest you showed in the most important subject, botany and zoology, thus expressing your sympathy with every living being, indeed with all creatures in need of protection. Even then, your love of justice and your charitable nature were widely admired.

Related Characters: Mayor (speaker), Claire Zachanassian
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

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CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: I will tell you the condition. I will give you a billion, and with that billion I will buy myself justice.

MAYOR: What exactly do you mean by that, Madam?

CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: I mean what I said.

MAYOR: But justice can’t be bought!

CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: Everything can be bought.

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker), Mayor (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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Correct. Chief Justice Hofer. Forty-five years ago I was Chief Justice of Güllen and then moved on to the Court of Appeal in Kaffigen, until twenty-five years ago Mrs. Zachanassian offered me the opportunity to enter her service as her butler. I accepted. A peculiar career for a man of learning, perhaps, but the salary was so fantastic—

Related Characters: Butler (speaker), Claire Zachanassian
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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BUTLER: What happened to you?

CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: I became a prostitute.

BUTLER: Why?

CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: The court’s verdict turned me into one.

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker), Butler (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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Life has gone on, but I have forgotten nothing, Ill. Neither the woods of Konradsweil nor Petersen’s barn, neither Widow Boll’s bedroom nor your treachery. Now we have grown old, the two of us, you down at the heels and me cut to pieces by surgeons’ knives, and now I want us both to settle accounts: you chose your life and forced me into mine. You wanted time to be suspended, just a moment ago, in the woods of our youth, so full of impermanence. Now I have suspended it, and now I want justice, justice for a billion.

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker), Alfred Ill
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mrs. Zachanassian, we are still in Europe; we’re not savages yet. In the name of the town of Güllen I reject your offer. In the name of humanity. We would rather be poor than have blood on our hands.

Related Characters: Mayor (speaker), Claire Zachanassian
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2 Quotes

Zachanassian’s favorite piece. He always wanted to hear it. Every morning. He had class, all right, that old tycoon with his tremendous fleet of oil tankers and his racing stables, and billions in the bank. A marriage like that was still worthwhile. A great teacher, a great dancer, a master of all sorts of devilry. I learned all his tricks.

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3 Quotes

Human kindness, gentlemen, is made for the purses of millionaires. With financial power like mine, you can afford yourself a new world order. The world made a whore of me, now I’ll make a whorehouse of the world. Pay up or get off the dance floor. You want to join the dance? Only paying customers merit respect. And believe me, I’ll pay. Güllen for a murder, boom times for a corpse.

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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If he tries to expose Clara by claiming she put a price on his head or something like that, when actually it was just an expression of unspeakable suffering, we’ll just have to take action.

Related Characters: First–Fourth Men (speaker), Claire Zachanassian
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

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The temptation is too great and our poverty is too wretched. But I know something else. I too will take part in it. I can feel myself slowly turning into a murderer. My faith in humanity is powerless. And because I know this, I have turned into a drunk. I am scared, Ill, just as you have been scared. I still know that some day an old lady will visit us too, and that then what is happening to you now will happen to us, but soon, maybe in a few hours, I will no longer know it.

Related Characters: Teacher (speaker), Claire Zachanassian, Alfred Ill
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

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ILL: The town’s holding a meeting this evening. They’ll sentence me to death and one of them will kill me. I don’t know who he will be or where it will happen, I only know that I’m ending a meaningless life.

CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: I loved you. You betrayed me. But the dream of life, of love, of trust—this dream that was a reality once—I haven’t forgotten that. I want to rebuild it with my billions, I will change the past, by destroying you.

Related Characters: Claire Zachanassian (speaker), Alfred Ill (speaker)
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

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MAYOR: The Claire Zachanassian Endowment has been accepted. Unanimously. Not for the sake of the money—

THE COMMUNITY: Not for the sake of the money—

MAYOR: But for the sake of justice—

THE COMMUNITY: But for the sake of justice—

MAYOR: And to allay our conscience.

THE COMMUNITY: And to allay our conscience.

MAYOR: For we cannot live if we sanction a crime in our midst—

THE COMMUNITY: For we cannot live if we sanction a crime in our midst—

Related Characters: Mayor (speaker), Claire Zachanassian, Alfred Ill
Page Number: 104-105
Explanation and Analysis:

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Claire Zachanassian Character Timeline in The Visit

The timeline below shows where the character Claire Zachanassian appears in The Visit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...to stop in their town pass it by. They anticipate the arrival of the billionairess Claire Zachanassian (née Wäscher), from whom they and their fellow citizens hope to secure a donation... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...Ill, Güllen’s “most popular personality,” arrive at the railway station and review their preparations for Claire’s arrival. They hope to move the billionairess to donate to their town with an elaborate... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
As Ill helps the Mayor prepare for his speech, the two of them discuss Claire. She was born and raised in Güllen, and was Ill’s lover. Ill remembers her fondly,... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
The Mayor recognizes that his speech alone will not secure an endowment from Claire; he calls on Ill to exploit his connection to the billionairess—to appeal to her nostalgia... (full context)
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...charted for Stockholm makes an unscheduled stop in Güllen, throwing the townspeople into a frenzy; Claire Zachanassian has arrived, and two hours early at that. She is a sight to behold,... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Claire’s early arrival has thrown Güllen into total disarray. The performers aren’t ready, the Mayor is... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
As Claire takes her leave of the Supervisor, Ill steps forward to welcome her, bringing the two... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...taken their places upstage, and all are ready to extend an enthusiastic formal welcome to Claire. The ceremony starts inauspiciously, however; the clattering of a passing express train drowns out the... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
At Claire’s request, the welcome parade moves from the railway station to the town. Claire herself cannot... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
While her things are delivered to her room at the “Golden Apostle” hotel, Claire expresses a desire to revisit the sites of her youth with her former lover and... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
...she and Ill once kissed and the trees and bushes under which they made love, Claire reminisces about their love affair. They cared deeply for one other, she recalls, but Ill... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Ill expresses regret about how things turned out, but newly pledges himself to Claire, eager to make things right (and, of course, secure a donation). His ploy appears to... (full context)
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
A scene change relocates Ill, Claire, the entourage, and the tree-men (who are men once again) to the Golden Apostle, where... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
The announcement catches the Gülleners off-guard, but their suspicions of Claire are quickly forgotten when the Mayor finally gives the speech he prepared earlier in the... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Nevertheless, Claire says, she does want to help Güllen. She announces then and there at the banquet... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
...him as Güllen’s former Chief Justice Hofer. The Butler proceeds to explain that he entered Claire’s service twenty-five years ago, lured away from a prestigious post at Kaffigen’s Court of Appeal... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
...he was the Chief Justice of Güllen, he arbitrated a paternity case that a seventeen-year-old Claire had brought against Ill. Ill falsely denied fathering Claire’s love child, and brought two witnesses... (full context)
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Claire explains that she left Güllen following the trial and fell into prostitution to support herself... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
After a lengthy digression, Claire finally announces the only condition Güllen must satisfy before receiving her billion-dollar endowment: someone must... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Mayor, speaking on behalf of his mortified constituents, immediately and emphatically refuses Claire’s offer, citing the town’s commitment to a rich humanistic tradition that values human life over... (full context)
Act 2
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The act opens with a view of Claire’s balcony at the dilapidated Golden Apostle Inn, foregrounded by Ill’s general store opposite what seems... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...Toby ominously carrying wreaths and flowers across the stage to place on the empty coffin Claire brought with her to Güllen. Ill anxiously looks on through the window of his shop,... (full context)
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Claire’s entourage tries to appease their demanding mistress: Boby the Butler searches for her prosthetic leg,... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Ill and his customers look on, condemning Claire for sitting high and mighty on her balcony and smoking such expensive cigars. “Conspicuous consumption,”... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
...pursued by Toby. The lady customers in Ill’s shop momentarily turn their derisive gaze from Claire to Louise, continuing to eat their chocolate all the while. (full context)
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Back at the Golden Apostle, we see Claire’s soon-to-be eighth husband join her on her balcony. (A stage direction allows the same actor... (full context)
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...own doom: the greater the Gülleners’ debts, the greater their need to kill Ill for Claire’s money. (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
A nervous Ill rushes out of his shop to the Policeman, demanding that he arrest Claire for inciting his murder. The Policeman downplays Ill’s concerns, assuring him that no one in... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...The Mayor explains away the gun, indicating that he has only armed himself in case Claire’s escaped panther approaches him. Ill remains suspicious of the Mayor (whom he notices is also... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...Mayor’s office, we cut once again to the balcony of the Golden Apostle Inn, where Claire is having breakfast with her fiancée. He dolefully shares that Güllen depresses him: it lacks... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...Pastor. The Pastor, like the Mayor, totes a shotgun with which to defend himself from Claire’s panther. When Ill shares his concerns about the potentially malevolent intentions of the townsfolk, the... (full context)
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Claire mourns her pet, and the Gülleners assemble before her balcony to offer their condolences. But... (full context)
Act 3
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Claire sits alone—completely motionless and wearing her wedding garb—in the Petersen’s barn on the outskirts of... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Teacher and Doctor announce that they have come to Claire to discuss her offer: they explain that the townspeople have recently drawn up exorbitant debts... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
But to the horror of the Teacher and Doctor, Claire informs them that she already owns Güllen’s industrial sites—and that it was she who orchestrated... (full context)
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Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Claire takes leave of the disheartened Teacher and Doctor and we cut to Ill’s general store.... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...Zachanassian.” The customers also discourage anyone from mentioning Ill’s situation to the newly-arrived journalists covering Claire’s wedding and visit. (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
...general store and abruptly begin interviewing the gossiping Gülleners, hoping to gauge their reactions to Claire’s visit. The villagers respond with calculated enthusiasm, being sure not to say anything negative about... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...expose their scheming and lying, launching into a lofty speech about the true nature of Claire’s visit. The other Gülleners attempt to silence him before he can lay bare their betrayals... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
When a photographer passing by the general store announces that Claire has found a ninth husband only a few hours after marrying (then divorcing) her eighth,... (full context)
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Coincidentally, Claire is also in the woods, together with her new (ninth) husband and entourage (minus Koby... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...as are swarms of reporters that are anticipating an announcement the Mayor will make in Claire’s name. The Mayor welcomes everyone, then announces that Claire intends to donate one billion dollars... (full context)
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Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...but to make Güllen “a just community.” When he urges his fellow townspeople to accept Claire’s offer and the conditions attached, they cheer him on. The press, blithely unaware of what... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...the floor and he asks Ill if he will respect the town’s decision to accept Claire’s offer. Ill responds in the affirmative. No one protests when the Mayor invites objections—not the... (full context)
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...auditorium, the Gülleners alert them that Ill has “died of joy”—that all the excitement about Claire’s donation made his heart give out. The journalists accept the story without question. (full context)
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Claire enters and collects the body. When she examines Ill’s corpse, she sees the boy she... (full context)
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...a Greek tragedy, the Gülleners form two choruses and celebrate their newfound prosperity. They watch Claire as she boards her express train accompanied by her “noble entourage”—her husband, her attendants, and... (full context)