This dark comedy is set in a town that is being regularly attacked by arsonists. Disguised as hawkers, they talk their way into people's homes and settle down in the attic, where they set about the destruction of the house. Written in the years following World War II, as a metaphor for Nazism and Communism, the play shows how "normal" citizens can be taken in by evil. The central character, a businessman called Biedermann, is seen at the outset reading newspaper reports of arson, convinced that he could never be taken in. Within minutes, the first "hawker" has appeared (Schmitz), and through a combination of intimidation and persuasion he talks his way into spending the night in the attic. As the play unfolds, a second arsonist appears (Eisenring), and before Biedermann can do anything to stop it, his attic is piled high with oil drums full of petrol. He even helps them to measure the detonating fuse and gives them matches, refusing to believe the full horror of what is happening. He soon becomes an accomplice in his own downfall. The action is observed by a Greek-style chorus of "firemen", and the increasingly surreal flavour culminates in a final scene when Biedermann and his wife Babette find themselves at the gates of hell. Here they once again meet Schmitz and Eisenring who turn out to be Beelzebub and the Devil respectively. The name Biedermann is itself a play on the German word "bieder" meaning conventional, conservative, worthy, upright and is frequently used in a pejorative or ironic context. Thus the name equates to der biedere Mann or the worthy man.