THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR
Adapted by JEFFREY HATCHER
From Revizor by NIKOLAI GOGOL
Directed by JESSE BERGER
GOGOL ON WRITING THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR*
"The idea of a comedy has possessed me. ... Just the other day its subject began to take shape; I had already jotted down the tide in a blank thick notebook, The Vladimir Order, Third Class, and what fury, laughter, pungency! But I stopped short, realizing my pen had touched upon things the censor wouldn’t dream of passing. What is a play that won’t be performed? Drama lives only on the stage. An unperformed play is like a soul without a body. Would any craftsman exhibit an incomplete work? All I can do now is to concoct a subject so innocuous that it couldn’t offend even a policeman. But what is comedy without truth and fury! So I can’t attempt a comedy. But if I pick up my historical studies — before my eyes the stage comes alive, applause reverberates, faces jut from boxes and galleries, grins appear in the orchestra — and to hell with history."
From a letter to M. P. Pogodin, February 20, 1833
"Do me a favor; send me some subject, comical or not, but an authentically Russian anecdote. My hand is itching to write a comedy. ... Give me a subject and I’ll knock off a comedy in five acts — I promise, funnier than hell. For God’s sake, do it. My mind and stomach are both famished."
From a letter to Pushkin, October 7, 1835
"The reaction to [The Government Inspector] has been extensive and tumultuous. Everybody is against me. Respected officials, middle-aged men, scream that I hold nothing sacred in having had the effrontery to speak of officialdom as I did. The police are against me, the merchants are against me, the literati are against me. They rail at me and run off to the play; it’s impossible to get tickets for the fourth performance. If not for the intervention of the emperor, my play would never have remained on the stage, and yet there were people seeking to have it banned. Now I see what it means to be a writer of comedies. The faintest glimmer of truth-and entire classes are up in arms against you.The pitiful situation of the writer in our country is a melancholy sight. Everyone is against him, and there is no counterbalance whatsoever. “He’s an incendiary! A rebel!” And who is saying this? Government officials, experienced people who ought to have enough intelligence to see things in their true light, people who are considered to be educated and whom society or at least Russian society, calls educated. Crooks appeared on the stage and everyone is indignant: do you show us crooks? I can understand that the crooks are angry, but why those whom I never regarded as such? This uncultured petulance is very distressing to me; it is a sign of the profound, tenacious ignorance widespread in all classes of our society. … Whatever enlightened people would greet with loud laughter and sympathy provokes the acrimony of the ignorant, and this ignorance is widespread. Call a crook a crook, and they consider it an undermining of the state apparatus; show a true and living feature, and they translate it to read as a defamation of an entire class and an incitement of other or subordinate classes against it. Consider the plight of the poor author who nevertheless loves his country and his countrymen intensely."
From a letter to M. P. Pogodin, May 15, 1836
"The Government Inspector has been performed-and I have such a troubled and strange feeling. … My creation struck me as repellent, bizarre, and not at all mine... In general the public was satisfied. Half the audience even received the play sympathetically, while the other half, as usual, railed against it for reasons having nothing to do with art ...."
“Fragment of a Letter to a Man of Letters, Written by the Author shortly after the First Performance of The Government Inspector,” May 25, 1836
"All is disorganized within me. I see, for example, that somebody has stumbled; my imagination immediately grasps the situation and begins to develop it into the shape of most terrible apparitions which torture me so much that I cannot sleep and am losing all my strength.…in order to get rid of them [fits of melancholy] I invented the funniest things I could think of. I invented funny characters in the funniest situations imaginable."
Gogol retrospective comments on his work
*Provided by the Guthrie Theater