The Government Inspector

Meyerhold's interpretation

In 1926, the expressionistic production of the comedy by Vsevolod Meyerhold "returned to this play its true surrealistic, dreamlike essence after a century of simplistically reducing it to mere photographic realism".[4] Erast Garin interpreted Khlestakov as "an infernal, mysterious personage capable of constantly changing his appearance".[5] Leonid Grossman recalls that Garin's Khlestakov was "a character from Hoffmann's tale, slender, clad in black with a stiff mannered gait, strange spectacles, a sinister old-fashioned tall hat, a rug and a cane, apparently tormented by some private vision".

Meyerhold wrote about the play: "What is most amazing about The Government Inspector is that although it contains all the elements of... plays written before it, although it was constructed according to various established dramatic premises, there can be no doubt — at least for me — that far from being the culmination of a tradition, it is the start of a new one. Although Gogol employs a number of familiar devices in the play, we suddenly realize that his treatment of them is new... The question arises of the nature of Gogol's comedy, which I would venture to describe as not so much 'comedy of the absurd' but rather as 'comedy of the absurd situation.'"[6]

In the finale of Meyerhold's production, the actors were replaced with dolls, a device that Andrei Bely compared to the stroke "of the double Cretan ax that chops off heads," but a stroke entirely justified in this case since "the archaic, coarse grotesque is more subtle than subtle."[7]


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