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Woe from Wit


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AT: Intelligence Comes to Grief; The Misfortune of Being Clever; Wit Works Woe; ‘Tis Folly to be Wise; Chatsky; Too Clever by Half; The Misery of Having a Mind A: Aleksandr Griboedov Pf: 1825, St Petersburg; complete version 1831, Kiev Pb: 1825; complete censored edn. 1833; uncensored edn. 1875 Tr: 1902 G: Com. in 4 acts; Russian verse S: Famusov's home, Moscow, 1824 C: 12m, 13f, extrasAleksandr Chatsky has grown up in the home of a Moscow official Paul Famusov, and is in love with Paul's daughter Sophie, a rather shallow creature. Famusov, a greedy and ambitious bureaucrat, is hoping to find a rich son-in-law. Deciding to seek a wider education than is possible in the midst of Moscow hypocrisy and arrogance, Chatsky travels off for three years. Returning with his head full of new ideas, he is dismayed to discover that his beloved Sophie is infatuated with Molchalin, her father's obnoxious secretary, who while wooing Sophie is, like Famusov himself, trying to have an affair with the maid Liza. Frustrated in love and dismayed at the boorishness of Moscow society, Chatsky denounces both officials and nobility. Supported by Sophie, who wishes to be rid of him, these respond in the only way they know how by declaring Chatsky insane. Disillusioned, Chatsky leaves Moscow, while Molchalin will have some explaining to do with regard to Liza.

AT: Intelligence Comes to Grief; The Misfortune of Being Clever; Wit Works Woe; ‘Tis Folly to be Wise; Chatsky; Too Clever by Half; The Misery of Having a Mind A: Aleksandr Griboedov Pf: 1825, St Petersburg; complete version 1831, Kiev Pb: 1825; complete censored edn. 1833; uncensored edn. 1875 Tr: 1902 G: Com. in 4 acts; Russian verse S: Famusov's home, Moscow, 1824 C: 12m, 13f, extras

Although The Government Inspector is much better known outside Russia, this comedy, from which most Russians can quote one or two lines, is a much fiercer satire of Russian officialdom than Gogol's play. Moreover, Gogol focused on the corruption of small town officials, an unproblematic source of humour for St Petersburg audiences, whereas Griboedov directed his elegant barbs much closer to home. Small wonder then that the premiere of the full text did not take place until two years after Griboedov's death and that it took half a century for an uncensored version of the play to be published.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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