The Sudden Madness of Friedrich Nietzsche is a drama investigating the life of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as told through a series of lectures and demonstrations by Dr. Otto Binswanger at an Institute for the Care and Cure of the Insane in Jena, Germany in 1889. Dr. Binswanger is puzzled by aspects of Nietzsche’s clinical condition. He probes various theories as to the cause of his sudden madness with the patient in front of a group of students. Through this probing and the fragmented memories of Nietzsche’s we piece together key events which led to his mental breakdown.
A major focus of the drama is on Nietzsche’s relationship with his sister Elizabeth who both promoted and distorted his work after his mental collapse and went on to become a celebrated figure within Nazi Germany. She comes to look after Nietzsche following his eventual discharge from Binswanger’s care. The drama examines Nietzsche’s troubled relationship with Richard Wagner, with whom he fell out over the composer’s nationalism and anti-Semitism. It also explores the infamous friendship between Nietzsche, the Jewish intellectual Paul Reé and the brilliant young Russian writer Lou Von Salomé. The reading at the Winchester on the 29 th March is of Part 1 of this 4-part drama.