The Visit


Friedrich Dürrenmatt

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The Empty Coffin Symbol Analysis

The Empty Coffin Symbol Icon

The empty coffin is also among the possessions Claire brings with her to Güllen. Its presence is foreboding from the moment it appears: when the Teacher first sees it, he senses that Claire is the type to toy with life and death like a Fate from Greek myth. After it is revealed that the coffin is intended for Ill, it becomes a symbol for the grim fate that awaits him. Act II opens with Roby and Toby adorning the casket with wreaths, just as they might at Ill’s funeral. The repetition of this ritual—and the reiteration of implied threats in general—are so relentless and demoralizing that they crush the Gülleners’ hope of resisting Claire’s offer and Ill’s hope of surviving. The coffin, in other words, becomes a symbol of the inevitable, of the fate into which Ill is literally boxed.

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The Empty Coffin Symbol Timeline in The Visit

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Empty Coffin appears in The Visit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Justice, Morality, and Money Theme Icon
...and Toby back for her luggage, which includes not only many suitcases, but also a coffin and a caged black panther. Claire has also brought along two small, blind eunuchs named... (full context)
Act 2
Irony and Artifice Theme Icon
...and 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... (full context)
Act 3
Love and Prostitution Theme Icon
Humanism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...she loved forty-five years ago—her dear “black panther.” She has the body put in her coffin and, true to her word, she grants Güllen the billion dollars she promised. (full context)