Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

Definition

Theater

  • (1809 - 52) Russian playwright and novelist, a pioneer of realism inthe Russian theater. Born in Ukraine, the son of a petty landowner, he actedin plays and wrote for magazines while at school. When he failed to secure anacting job at the St Petersburg state theater, he decided to emigrate toAmerica using funds embezzled from his parents, but only reached Germany beforechanging his mind. In 1831 he found sudden fame with a volume of short storiesand formed an important friendship with the poet Alexander Pushkin, whosuggested the plots for both the novel Dead Souls (1842) and Gogol'smost successful play, The Government Inspector (1836).

    Gogol's early works include the comedies The Gamblers(1832) and An Utterly Incredible Affair (1835) and a historicalplay, Alfred the Great (1835), which portrayed the Englishking as an ideal ruler. He abandoned his first attempt at a satireon Russian bureaucracy from fear of censorship, later destroying themanuscript. His satirical masterpiece The Government Inspectorsurvived mainly owing to the support of Tsar Nicholas I, who enjoyedits performance in 1836. The play was attacked so severely by others,however, that Gogol left Russia for 12 years abroad, most of whichhe spent in Rome. He returned in 1848 in poor physical and mentalhealth. Among the works written during this period abroad was Marriage(1842; produced in London in 1956 as The Marriage Broker).The novel Dead Souls was dramatized in 1928 by Stanislavskyat the Moscow Art Theatre and performed in 1964 in Russian at London'sAldwych Theatre as part of the World Theatre Season. Gogol's lastyears were clouded by his failed attempts to produce a sequel to his greatnovel and an ever deepening religious mania.

    In 1959 the Moscow Transport Theatre was renamed the GogolTheatre in honour of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

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