Slike strani
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

translation and explanatory notes (London Greek and Latin apocryphal literature and sim1916); (accented) Berneker, E., Russisches ilar productions in the West. As an example of Lesebuch' (Leipzig 1897). DICTIONARIES: (All these may serve (The Holy Virgin's Descent Russian). Dictionary of the Russian_Lan- into Hell, which contains elements akin to guage) (Imperial Academy of Sciences, Petro- those worked up by Dante in his Divine Comgrad 1891; only two volumes have so far ap- edy.' No appreciable addition to literary style peared of this new edition); (all Russian) is to be observed before the 16th century, when Dal, V. I., Dictionary of the Living Great Polish scholastic learning at Kiev began to Russian Language (3d ed., 4 vols., Petrograd penetrate into Russia at the same time that 1903–09); (with English) Aleksandrov, A., Western ideas found their way to Moscow Complete Anglo-Russian Dictionary) (Petro- through the protection given to foreigners by grad 1879); Complete Russian-English Dic- Ivan the Terrible. It is then that we get the tionary) (ib. 1904); (with English) Freese, feeble beginnings of Russian history by the J. H., New Pocket Dictionary of the English exiled Andrey Kurbski and the Book of Manand Russian Languages! (New York 1916); agement,' the Domostroy,' by Ivan's adviser, (with English) Luboff, S. J., Handy Rus- Sylvester. This is apparently, an attempt to sian-English and English-Russian Dictionary create for Russia a manual of manners, such and Self-Instruction' (Philadelphia 1916); as at that time appeared in Italy and else(with German) Pavlovski, I. Y., Russisch- wh Its unusual harshness has made the deutsches Wörterbuch (2d ed., Riga 1879). Domostroy) a by-word for the Asiatic rude

LEO WIENER, ness of the pre-Petrine civilization. Only at Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, the end of the 17th century does a weak light Harvard University.

enter from the West in the writings of Simeon 4. RUSSIAN LITERATURE. Nothing

Polotski, who came entirely under the influence whatsoever is known of any literary activity

of the Kiev scholasticism. He thus precedes in Russia previous to the introduction of Chris

the period of Peter the Great, with whom a tianity in the 10th century, and even for a

new era dawns upon Russia. long period afterward it found its expression,

Peter the Great abolished the old Church not in Russian, but in the language of the

script, and introduced in its place the modern Church, that of the proto-apostles Cyril and

alphabet, which leaned to some extent on the Methodius, which in all likelihood was the

Latin script. With this, Peter the Great broke Bulgarian, as spoken in the neighborhood of

with the ecclesiastic tradition, and by degrees Saloniki. This Old Church Slavic was

the vernacular Russian, at first strongly imclose to the Russian dialects that it could be

pregnated with the Church Slavic, makes its understood with little exertion by the clergy

entrance into the written language. The time and those rare intellectuals who found any need

of Peter was productive only of utilitarian to give expression to their thoughts. Up to the works on mathematics and the applied sciences, 12th century there is only a slim collection of but we have even then the remarkable economic sermons and exhortations, but at the end of this work (The Book on Poverty and Wealth,' by period we have the noteworthy Instruction of Ivan Pososhkov, the peasant manufacturer, Vladimir Monomakh to his Children, which

who was called the Russian Adam Smith. "The compares favorably with similar spiritual tes- History of Russia) by Tatishchev did not see taments of the period, such as that of Saint its light until the end of the century, as there Stephen of Hungary. A little later we get the was no interest as yet in such literary producadmirable account of the Holy Land by Abbot tion in the time of Peter, but the Spiritual Daniel the Palmer, which even

now elicits

Reglement of Prokopovich, who advocated praise for its realistic account of the time of Peter's liberal reforms, was one of the first the first crusades. To the same period belongs

Russian books to be translated into English. Nestor's Chronicle of Kiev,' that set the pace Kantemir's satires, based on those of Boileau for a considerable number of local chronicles, and Horace, appeared in the time of Queen from which in modern times the history of Anna, and about the same time talentless ancient Russia has been reconstructed. There Tredyakovski established the prosody for the must have existed, at that time, a considerable Russian poetry, and a little later the manysecular literature, but the Church ruthlessly sided Lomonosov, in his poetical productions persecuted any such manifestation, and only and scentific labors, laid the foundation for folk epics, for the first time collected in the the literary norm, which half a century later 19th century, give us any poetical reminiscences was to be perfected in its present form by of Kiev in the days of its greatest glory. Only

Karamzin. The second half of the 18th cenone literary, production of exceptional beauty tury is especially rich in the drama, where, has escaped the persecution of the Church, however, nothing notable was produced, except "The Word of Igor's Armament, a prose poem in the comedy. Here we have the classical dealing with a disastrous expedition of Prince Odd People, by Knyazhnin, "The Minor,' Igor against the nomad Polovtses of the South. by von Visin, and Thé Pettifogger,' by KapThis, too, was first published in the beginning nist. Among the writers of historical dramas of the 19th century, when it immediately at- are Sumarokov, the creator of the Russian tracted universal attention and was translated theatre; Knyazhnin, whose republican sentiinto many foreign languages. There also has ments in Vadim of Novgorod created quite a been preserved a 14th century imitation of this stir, and Ozerov, whose (Dmitri Donskoy) approduction in The Exploits Beyond the Don,' peared opportunely on the eve of the Napolewhich is an interesting account of the battle at onic War. Catherine herself tried her hand at Kulikovo in 1380. The Middle Ages are in the drama of manners, and by her example enRussia unusually rich in a mass of apocryphal couraged the creation of the satirical journals, stories, bestiaries and romantic adventures, in which Novikov was most prominent. which serve as important links between the The first half of the 18th century did not

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

rise above an imitation of the French pseudo- in which he mercilessly flayed the old order of classic school, but toward the end of the cen- things, the servility, militarism and superficialtury, the English influence, especially that of ity which harked back to the days of Catherine, Addison, becomes more prominent. In 1790 remained for a long time a classic on the there appeared Radishchev's Journey from stage. The romantic movement of the English Saint Petersburg to Moscow,' whose very title type, which reveled in the past and in adventure indicates its obligation to Sterne's (Sentimental under exotic conditions, appealed to the younger Journey,' and with it a spirit of liberalism,

generation in the beginning of the 19th cencoupled with the sentimentality which held

tury, and some notable results were achieved. sway in the West, entered Russia. Of the

Bestuzhev (1797–1837), who himself led a poets of the time, who were also falling under Italian and Latin influence, the most prom

Byronic existence, wrote some good novels of

martial adventure, such as Ammalat Bek,' inent is Derzhävin, who bridges over from the

and the historical novels of Lazhechnikov 18th to the 19th century, and who, by his violent attack on the turgid ode of the preceding

(1794–1869), “The Heretic, (The Last Noviks,'

(The Ice House,' have lately been resuscitated period, put an end to the slavish imitation of

from oblivion and are read with pleasure. But foreign models, and himself produced noteworthy poems. His Ode to the Deity' was

the poets of this school, Pushkin (1799–1837) translated into several languages and breathes

and Lermontov (1814_41) have gained the an advanced Deism, Karamzin, who had lived

greatest reputation. Pushkin began his career in England, introduced the simpler English

with some extravagant romantic poems, but style into literature, and in his voluminous

during his banishment to the Crimea and the History of Russia,' in his sentimental novels,

Caucasus he found the proper setting for the such as the famous Poor Liza, and in his

Byronism which was then taking possession many sentimental poems, made the Russian

of the nation, and to this he gave utterance in language a perfect vehicle of thought. The

(The Bakhchisaray Fountain, (The Gypsies, romantic movement, then prevalent in Germany,

(The Prisoner of the Caucasus, etc. His had little effect upon Russia. Kameney's ro

masterpiece is Evgeni Onyegin,' a novel in mantic poems and Zhukovski's excellent trans

verse, which is considered as the prototype of lations from the German did not create a school a long series of Russian novels, in which the in Russia.

Russian hero is discussed. He tried himself The end of the 18th and the beginning of the

in the historical drama and produced Boris 19th centuries are rich in talents who made the Godunov,' a splendid poem, which is hardly West accessible to Russia in all literary en

fit for the stage. Having devoted himself to deavors. The influence of the French fabulists,

historical studies, he wrote A History of the especially La Fontaine, is seen in Sumorokov, Pugachev Rebellion,' and on his investigation the dramatist, in the poet Maykov, in Izmaylov, based a series of stories, of which «The Capbut reaches its apogee in the genius Krylov,

tain's Daughter is probably the best. Lermonwho entered the literary field with some medio

tov even surpassed Pushkin in the facility of cre comedies, but gained universal recogni- his verse, but his career was cut short at the tion by his a little more than 100 fables,

age of 27, when he had already produced sevless than two for each year of his life, because

eral volumes. Besides a number of tunable he was the first to place the foreign models

songs, he wrote a number of romantic poems, in a distinctive Russian setting. The senti

of which "The Demon' is the most notable. mentalism, which was introduced by Radish- Of his prose tales the most important is (The chev, found its continuators in a number of Hero of Our Time,' which, as the title indipoets, among whom Kozlov (1779–1840) is cates, is a continuation of the question created probably the most talented. In Vyazemski by Pushkin in his Evgeni Onyegin,' and the (1792–1878) sentimentalism, which came other

hero of this new novel is the same blasé type wise to an end in the 40's, survived until the

as created by the Byronic attitude of the time. end of the 70's. These poets sang not only of

The first half of the 19th century, was parsolitude, but also of the gentle home associa- ticularly rich in poets, and among them must tions and the awesome sentiment of religion in especially be mentioned Koltsev (1808-42), beplaces sanctified by age, and thus they intro

cause he followed out the suggestion made duced the worship of antiquity, which found its

some time before by Delvig that the popular expression in the laudation of Moscow and element should find a place in the artificial Kiev, and the holy places, and led to a series poetry, and created a series of scenes from of poets, not distinctly sentimental, who may the homely life of the peasant and laborer, be denominated as the patriotic and religious which at once made the poetry accessible to poets. Thus Glinka (1788–1880) published a the masses, who still read him. At the same series, Spiritual Songs,' and Rylyeev (1796 time Gogol (1809–52) struck out in a similar 1826), by his historical ballads, in which there direction, by depicting the life of his native breathes a spirit of liberty, incurred the sus- Ukraine, and the sordid existence of the small picion of the government, and was one of the officials. His short stories, (The Mantle,? (The literary lights to fall a victim of the December Nose,' etc., were the forerunners of his own Revolution. The Italian influence, especially longer tales and of the whole mass of realisthat of Tasso, is discernible in Bätyushkov tic stories with which Russian literature has (1787–1855), whose (The Dying Tasso' is a enriched the world. His Dead Souls' shows poem of unusual merit, but who unfortunately his obligation to Cervantes, but the story, in was lost to literature for the last 35 years of which we get a series of pensketches of counhis life, having become hopelessly insane. try people, is unique and true to life. His (The

In the drama Griboyëdov_(1795–1829) con- Revizor,'' the best-constructed comedy, to be tinued the tradition begun by Fonvizin and Kap- found anywhere, in which he depicted the rasnist, and his Intelligence Comes to Grief, cality of town officials, has remained a classic until the present, and his romantic stories, 77), Ryeshetnikov (1841-71). To the same such as "Taras Bulba,' are still enjoyed in period belong the authoresses Marko-Vovchok Russia and abroad. Gogol is the last of the (1830-1907) and Kokhanovskaya (1825-84), men of the new period of Russian literature, though they did not belong to the worshippers and his appearance is the more significant, since of the people. The best novelist who dealt it is correlated with that of the critic Byelinski, with the peasants was Slyeptsov (1836–78), the first of a series of writers who viewed the whose masterpiece is Difficult Times.) Russian world of letters as an organic whole The 70's are denominated the epoch of the and who attached themselves more especially highest development of altruism.” In this to some prominent author of his time. It was period Saltykov-Shchedrin (1826–89) produced Byelinski (1811-48) who created the name of his masterly Family Golovlev and Poshek«The Natural School as a specific manifesta- hon Antiquity, Dostoevski (1821-81), has tion of literature in Russia and illustrated his Memoirs from the Deal House) and Crime conception with an analysis of Gogol's works. and Punishment... Although Dostoevski had

With Byelinski begins the newest period of been met with indifference in the 60's, he now Russian literature, which during his activity is was acclaimed, on account of his later writings, characterized by an attempt to find itself. The as a moral teacher from whom one did not years 1848–55, that is, up to the Crimean War, learn what to love, but only to love." Leo Tolsare the period of the "Censorship_Terror," toi (1828–1910), who had equally been received when the new authors, Shchedrin, Turgenev, coldly in the 60's, and whose Anna Karenin Nekrasov and others were crushed and litera- was viewed merely as a novel of high life, ture has no conquests to record. The next six now attracted universal attention by his (Conyears have been denominated «The honeymoon fession and his religious writings. The period of Russian progress. The belles-lettres be- was rich in authors of less pronounced talent. come (accusing," the foundation for this type Lavrov (1823–1900), around whom gathered of didactic writing being laid by the humorous the progressive elements, exerted a great inSaltykov-Shchedrin with his (Provincial fluence with his historical writings, especially Sketches. Everybody was interested in the his Introduction to a History of Thought.' burning questions of the day, hence the impor- Mikhaylovski (1842–1902), by his enormous tance of Chernyshevski's (1828–89) What to number of sociological critiques, in which he, Do?) in which he applied the acid test to the in opposition to Spencer, tried to show that questions of life. Turgenev (1818-83), who the ideal” is the most important part of the had written his epoch-making Memoirs of a historical personality in history, created a whole Hunter' at the end of the 40's, now developed school of “idealizing” novelists, among whom his literary activity in his famous novels, the most prominent are Zlatovratski (1845–), “Rudin,' A Nobleman's Nest,' and in 1861 Naumov (1828–1901), Nefedov (1848-1902). expressed the struggle of two generations in This also led to the narodnichestvo, the worhis famous Fathers and Sons. During the ship of the masses,” which resulted in a very same period appeared Goncharov's (1812-91) great number of scientific essays on the con(Oblomov, a novel of the Russian hero) dition of the peasant, among the writers of type, which brought out a detailed analysis of which the most noteworthy are Vorontsov and the characteristic Russian novel by the critic Engelhard, and in the field of belles-lettres Dobrolyubov (1836-61). Pisemski (1820-81) Glyeb Uspenski (1840–1902), by far the most produced his best novel, (A Thousand Souls, talented author who dealt with the peasant. and his best drama, Bitter Fate, in which he Other noteworthy authors, who did not dewas still constructively active, and not de- vote themselves to the people, are Garshin Structively hostile to the manifestations of (1855-88), who wrote some remarkable short progress. Ostrovski (1822–86) wrote his "hu- stories, Minski (1855–), the translator of mane) drama, which culminated in The Storm Homer, Potapenko (1856–) and Korolenko (1860). Only the poets did not fare well dur- (1853–), whose charming stories have been ing these six years and the following period, widely translated, the melancholy Nadson (1862because they continued the tradition of art 87), the poet of the struggle,”. Yakubovich for art's sake," which was violently attacked (1860–), the novelist Boborykin (1836-), by the critic Pisarev. Thus the admirable whose voluminous activity tried to seize the poems of Maykov (1821-97), Fet (1820–92), transient phase of life. A similar activity was Tyutchev (1803–73), Mey (1822–62) and many developed by the novelists Sheller (1838–1900) others suffered almost complete oblivion, as and Stanyukevich (1844–1903), who preached did the historical novel, Prince Serebryany, an intelligent progressivism, which also led to and the dramas in verse by Alexis Tolstoi the critical labors of Pypin (1833-1905), whose (1817-75).

History of Russian Literature is a work of The first half of the 60's is an epoch of the highest order. Among the great host of reaction and Nihilism. It was then that Pisarev authors of that period may be mentioned Melni(1841-68) developed his destructive criticism kov (1819–83), who devoted himself to the porwhich led to the abandonment of art for art's traying of the dissenters, Lyeskov (1831-95), sake and the enthronement of the poetry of who at first wrote stories about Nihilists, and the people) by Nikitin (1824-61), which was later from the sordid provincial life, Karazin developed in its fullest form by the people's (1848–), the Russian Fenimore Cooper, who idol Nekrasov (1818–77). The period of Nihil depicted central Asiatic scenes, Nemirovichism brought forward a considerable number of Danchenko (1842–), the militarynovelist, writers from the middle and lower classes of Mamin-Sibiryak (1852–), who revels in Ural society, who devoted all their energy to the scenes. peasants and the submerged. The most talented The eighties have been denominated (the among these

were Pomyalovski (1835-63), epoch of despair, which was ushered in by Nicholas Uspenski (1842–89), Levitov (1842- the Pobyedonostsev reaction. Pobyedonostsev

[ocr errors]

22

RUSSIA - RUSSIAN DRAMA (5)

(1827–1907) despised all progress and crushed modernists are the poet Ivanov, Blok and all free thought, hence the ensuing pessimism pessimistic Solugub. The latter has also disand weakness of will, as it appears chiefly in tinguished himself in a number of novels, Chekhov's (1860–1904) short stories and among which «The Imp) is the best. A very dramas, and even Leo Tolstoi's mysticism and prolific story-writer is Remizov, who portrays desire for self-perfection is ascribed to the chiefly provincial scenes. It has not been posdisheartening condition of the political life in sible to follow the literary activity in Russia the last two decades of the 19th century. since the beginning of the war, and nothing Among the large number of feuilleton writers can be said of the outlook for the future. of this period there stands out Amfiteatrov Bibliography.- In the Russian language

(1864–) as a champion of freedom, while there are numerous aids to the study of its Others, like Menshikov (1859–) turned sordid literature. One should consult the works of opportunists, and Tikhomirov (1850–) became Aikhenvald, Arabazhin, Chukovski, Gornfeld, a violent reactionary. Another result of the Milyukov, Morozov, Ovsyaniko-Kulikovski, suppression of free thought was the resurrec- Pypin, Skabichevski, Tikhonavov, Vengerov, tion of art for art's sake,) and here we find A. N. Veselovski. Russian literature as a the poet Fofanov (1862–), Andreevski whole has been treated in English in the fol(1847–), Apukhtin (1841-93), Golenishchev- lowing works: Baring, M., Landmarks in Kutuzov (1848–). Far more genuine was Frug Russian Literature (New York 1910); An (1860_), who sang of his Jewish compatriots,

Outline of Russian Literature (London and under the oppressive sensations of the pogroms.

New York 1914); Brandes, G., Impressions The period was rich in women who made a of Russia' (New York 1889); Hapgood, I. F., place for themselves in literature, such as A Survey of Russian Literature, with selecShapir (1850-), Krestovskaya-Kartavtsevaya tions? (New York 1902); Kropotkin, P. A., (1862–), Dmitrieva (1859–), who depicted

(Russian Literature (New York

1905); scenes from peasant life.

Waliszewski, K., A History of Russian LiteraThe 90's are a period of regeneration, as ture! (New York 1900). There are the followthe previous decade had been more properly ing collections in English: Bechhofer, C. E., a period of decadence. It is particularly marked

A Russian Anthology in English) (London hy the growth of Marxian socialism, which finds and New York 1917); Tollemache, B. L., its expression in a large number of scientific Russian Sketches, Chiefly of Peasant Life and popular treatises on political economy by (London 1913); Wiener, L., Anthology of RusPlekhanov (1857–), Tugan-Baranovski (1865

sian Literature from the Earliest Period to -), Bulgakov (1871–), and especially Lenin,

the Present Time) (New York 1902–03); Newthe leader of social democracy. In the belles- march, R., Poetry and Progress in Russia) lettres this socialistic tendency was represented (London 1907); Bianchi, M. G. D., Russian by Chirikov (1864–), Veresaev (1867-) and

Lyrics, Songs of Cossack, Lover, Patriot and Pyeshkov (1869–), who writes under the

Peasant? (New York 1910); Bowing, Sir J., pseudonym of Maxim Gorky. Chirikov later

(Specimens of the Russian Poets) (Boston busied himself with psychological studies, while

1822); Pollen, J., Russian Songs and Lyrics) Veresaev gained his reputation by his merci

(London 1916); Selver, P., Modern Russian less analysis of a physician's activity in his

Poetry (London 1917). A number of poets Memoirs of a Physician. Gorki, who has

and novelists are dealt with in The Russian risen from the slum to be the famous author

Review (London 1912—). of the slums, revels in bright colors and

LEO WIENER, "through beauty arrives at truth.” He is the

Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature,

Harvard University. most pronounced follower of Marxism, and, in the spirit of his master, despises alike the 5. RUSSIAN DRAMA. In Russia, as in bourgeoisie and the peasant, saving, all his

Greece, the drama arose from the sympathy for the submerged "who dare." mingling of the religious and secular elements.

In 1897 Andreev, who was discovered by Mystery plays were imported through Poland Gorki, began to write his gloomy stories, in and Kiev from western Europe and introduced which appear decadents, half-insane, neurotic into Moscow by Semyon Polotski in the time characters. Since 1904 he has fallen prey to of Tsar Alexis (1645-76). Johann G. Gregori, symbolism, although he still deals with realis- a German Lutheran pastor, translated German tic scenes. At the same time modernists made mystery plays, and Dmitri Rostovski produced their appearance, who, like the poet Balmont some akin to the moralities, in which Biblical and the novelist Merezhkovski, have taken for characters were supplemented by allegorical their subject beauty and not morality. In his personifications. The introduction of these trilogy, Julian the Apostate, Leonardo da crude beginnings was to some extent facilitated Vinci” and Peter and Alexis,' Merezhkovski by the previous existence in Russia of religious dealt with the conflict of Christianity with the ceremonies (deistva) having a slightly dramatic Antichrist, taking his part with the latter. character, Gradually moral reflections and Hence he, in his critical essays on Tolstoi, local touches were introduced into the religious condemned the author for his Christian meek- dramas, Western plays of non-religious content ness. Similarly Balmont has taken to poetry, were produced, French comedies (Molière), in order to treat art for art's sake, thus translated, and finally plays on Russian themes reverting to the older school. The most talented were staged. Four theatres are mentioned in poet of this new movement is Bryusov, who Petrograd in Peter's time (1702-24). in a dispassionate way describes the passions Thus was paved the way for Sumarokov and dissolving death. He has also written a (1717-77), the first Russian literateur by pronumber of fantastic stories, such as "The Fiery fession, who in some 20 plays, imitations of Angel, a story of mediæval witchcraft. Other Racine and Voltaire, popularized in Russia the

com

con

a

pseudo-classical drama with its rigid «unities,” and artificiality. The theatre now became firmly grounded and the profession of actor (Volkov, Dmitrevski) was established. This type of play remained extremely popular until the middle of the 19th century and still finds some favor. But the great wave of democracy which has been rolling over Europe since 1775, and which brought the French and American revolutions, the insurrections of 1848, the liberation of the American slaves and the Russian serfs, and which has at last culminated in the Russian Revolution and the plans for a League of Nations — this wave swept away the old drama and brought on its crest the modern national, Russian Realistic Drama.

Even as early as 1769 the Empress Catherine's favorite, D. I. von Visin, to a considerable extent abandoned the artificial ways of his predecessors. He represented contemporary life in a fairly faithful manner and gave his plays a direct social purpose

the satirizing of the effete nobility. He was followed by Krylov (the wonderful fable writer) with similar but inferior plays. During the entire first half of the 19th century (during which period the romantic school – represented by Lermontov's Demon,' - exercised a considerable temporary influence in Russia) only three important dramas approaching the newer type appeared: Griboedov's comedy Woe from Wit,' Gogol's comedy The Inspector and Pushkin's tragedy Boris Godunov.? Although the first drew much from Molière's Misanthrope and although the last bears considerable resemblance to Shakespeare's historical dramas, yet all are undoubtedly long steps in advance toward the realistic drama. This is particularly true of The Inspector. In 1850 appeared the first of the 48 plays of Ostrovski, who is rightly regarded as the father of the national drama, since he not only developed its distinctive characteristics to a high degree but also won for it a permanent place on the Russian stage.

Ostrovski, in keeping with the democratic trend of contemporary thought, turns away from the nobility and the official classes, which up to his time had been the chief subjects of drama, and devotes himself to the large middle and lower classes of the Russian cities, particularly to the merchants of Moscow. He raised his voice against everything among them that stood as a bar to human liberty. In method and style he is frank, direct and simple. Simplicity is revealed in the plot, which offers a striking contrast to the relatively complex plots of most Western plays. Often there is scarcely any trace of a traditional plot. His plays are more like a series of pictures of daily life quietly unfolding, than like a series of unusual events combined with a view to revealing their complex interrelations and collisions of interests. There are comparatively few characters, sometimes astonishingly few (four, five or six), which precludes the massing of characters for striking effects upon the stage. Simplicity is revealed also in the language, which is the language of the people and not the stilted artificial language of the classic stage. The simplicity of Ostrovski's art also appears in the small amount of action on the stage and the relatively calm emotional tone that pervades his

plays. Many Russians think that this is characteristic of modern life in general as trasted with, for example, mediæval life; they believe that thought (reasoning) are coming to decide men's fortunes more than violence. In most Russian dramas at any rate, the actors appear and disappear without great bustle or excitement. They talk about the most ordinary events of life, the weather, the town gossip; yet little by little it becomes clear that these apparently trifling matters are really the most important of all, and that these people are passing their most critical days and deciding, though half unconsciously, questions that will determine, not only their own fortunes, but the future of society as well. The comedy» (and tragedy) (of Ostrovski is not the comedy of intrigue or of character, but something quite new, which could be called the drama of life, if the term were not too wide and indefinite. I mean that throughout his plays he puts into the foreground the general conditions of life which are not dependent upon any of the characters of the play. He does not punish either the miscreant or the victim. They both arouse our pity, sometimes our mirth. But it is not upon them that our emotion centres. We see that their environment controls their actions, and that they have not the energy to oppose it. So the conflict demanded by the theory of the drama is not comprised in the dialogue, but in the conditions which control the characters. Often the characters have no appreciation of their own position or of this conflict. But the conflict goes on in the listener, who is incensed by the conditions of life that beget it." Dobroliubov.

All these qualities of Ostrovski's art may be summed up in the word realism. But Russian realism is of a peculiar type, because the Russian writers are not simply realists; they are also intense idealists. Yet they understand that man cannot attain Utopia by mounting above the clouds on the golden wings of fancy. Though guided by his ideals, he must erect a staircase slowly and with toil out of acts of his daily life. Russian realism is a fusion of realism and idealism. Through its pictures of the realities of life shimmers life's religious, moral and social significance.

Contemporary with Ostrovski were Turgenev and Potekhin. The plays of the former, though inferior to his other writings, are of a high merit. Potekhin's plays, being outspokenly democratic, met serious opposition from the censor. Pisemski's, A Bitter Lot,' is the most effective peasant drama before Leo Tolstoi's (The Power of Darkness.

The chief writers of drama since Ostrovski are Chekhov, Gorki and Andreev. Chekhov, who was primarily a short story writer, wrote five regular plays and several short dramatic pieces. A few years ago statistics of the public libraries showed that he was the most widely read of Russian authors. In his plays he treats the middle and upper classes of the reactionary period of the age of reconstruction following the emancipation of the serfs. Only one of them, however, Ivanov,' was written in the earlier, more pessimistic period of his career. He is particularly remembered for the marvelous success of his (Sea Gull when it was staged by the Moscow Art Theatre of Stanis

« PrejšnjaNaprej »