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A: Aleksandr Ostrovsky Pf: 1871, St Petersburg Pb: 1871 Tr: 1926 G: Com. in 5 acts; Russian prose S: The Gurmyzhskaya estate, Russia, mid-19th c. C: 5m, 2f, extrasRaisa Gurmyzhskaya, a rich 50-year-old widow and owner of a large estate, is in love with the young, handsome but stupid Alexey Bulanov. To prevent gossip, she would like him to marry her ward, the pretty young Aksyusha. Aksyusha loves Pyotr, the son of the timber merchant Vosmibratov, who wants his son to marry a girl with a large dowry. Rather than leave her wealth to her one close relative, a nephew whom she hardly knows, Gurmyzhskaya is selling parts of her forest to the grasping Vosmibratov. Now the nephew Gennadius arrives unannounced at the estate. He is a travelling actor who plays tragic roles, and is accompanied by a colleague, Arkadius, who plays comic parts. Not wishing his aunt to know of his lowly calling, Gennadius ‘the Tragedian’ pretends to be the servant of ‘the Comedian’, leading to a number of comic misunderstandings. Moved by Aksyusha's plight, and even saving her from suicide, Gennadius suggests that she should run away with him to the theatre. She cannot bear to part from Pyotr, so Gennadius demands his inheritance from his aunt, gives it to Pyotr as her dowry, and the two can now marry. Gurmyzhskaya will marry Alexey, and the Tragedian and Comedian set off again.

A: Aleksandr Ostrovsky Pf: 1871, St Petersburg Pb: 1871 Tr: 1926 G: Com. in 5 acts; Russian prose S: The Gurmyzhskaya estate, Russia, mid-19th c. C: 5m, 2f, extras

This is the most popular of Ostrovsky's 47 plays, not least because of the opportunities offered by the roles of the Tragedian and the Comedian, who play out their characteristics to the full. Beneath the gentle humour there is however some social concern about the power which a silly old widow may wield, especially in the selling off of rural estates, a theme which Chekhov would explore in The Cherry Orchard.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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