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Bedbug


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A: Vladimir Mayakovsky Pf: 1929, Moscow Pb: 1929 Tr: 1960 G: Com. in 9 scenes; Russian prose S: Russia, 1929 and 1979 C: 12m, 3f, many extrasIvan Prisypkin ( = ‘fried fish’) is a worker with social aspirations. Having worked for the Revolution as a trade unionist, he now seeks to improve his status under the tutelage of a petit bourgeois, Oleg Barn. He rejects his working-class fiancée, driving her to attempt suicide, in order to marry a manicurist. At the wedding, Ivan, who has changed his name to Skripkin ( = ‘violin’), becomes involved in a brawl. A stove is overturned and the hall burns down. Undiscovered, Prisypkin is frozen solid in the firemen's water. He is thawed out 50 years later by the now worldwide Soviet authorities. A relic of an authentic proletarian, he, together with a bedbug that has survived with him, is viewed with curiosity, and then begins to disrupt normal life by reintroducing bad habits of the past, smoking, drinking, dancing, and love, which his former girlfriend now regards as inappropriate in the new order. The stinking Prisypkin, with his infectious bedbug, is finally caged in the zoo, from where he appeals to the audience to show him mercy.

A: Vladimir Mayakovsky Pf: 1929, Moscow Pb: 1929 Tr: 1960 G: Com. in 9 scenes; Russian prose S: Russia, 1929 and 1979 C: 12m, 3f, many extras

With echoes of Molière's The Would-Be Gentleman, The Bedbug can be seen as both a satire on the increasingly totalitarian restrictions of Soviet society (which got the play banned for some years) and an attack on the new breed of post-revolutionary proletarian who sought to become more bourgeois than the bourgeois. This ambiguity is part of the play's strength. The premiere was directed by Meyerhold with music by Shostakovich for a firemen's band.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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