1902 Encyclopedia > Drama > Russian Drama

(Part 17)

Russian Drama

Lastly, the history of the RUSSIAN drama, which in its Russian earliest or religious form is stated to have been introduced drama, from Poland (early in the 12th century), is in its later forms an outgrowth of Western civilization. A species of popular puppet-show called vertep, which about the middle of the 17th century began to treat secular and popular themes, had helped to foster the dramatic taste of the people ; but the Russian regular drama characteristically enough had its origin in the cadet corps at St Petersburg, a pupil of which, A. Sumarokoff (1718-1777), is regarded as the founder of the modern Russian theatre. As a tragic poet he seems to have imitated Racine and Voltaire, though treating themes from the national history, among others the famous dramatic subject of the False Demetrius. He also translated Hamlet. As a comic dramatist he is stated to have been less popular than as a tragedian ; yet it is in comedy that he would seem to have had the most noteworthy successors. Among these it is impossible to pass by the empress Catharine II. (1729-1796), whose comedies seem to have been satirical sketches of the follies and foibles of her subjects, and who in one comedy as well as in a tragedy had the courage to imitate Shake-speare. Comedy aiming at social satire has continued to flourish in Russia to the present day, and possesses (or recently possessed) a representative of mark in A. N. Ostrovsky of Moscow. The church is stringently pro-tected against the satire of the stage in the dominions of the Czar, but in all other directions except one considerable licence appears to be allowed to the drama, (A. W. W.)

The above article was written by Adolphus William Ward, Litt.D., Hon. LL.D.; Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge; Master of Peterhouse from 1900; President of Royal Historical Society, 1899-1901; Vice-President of the University of Cambridge, 1901; Professor of History and Literature, Owens College, Manchester; author of The House of Austria in the Thirty Years' War, A History of English Dramatic Literature to the Death of Queen Anne, and The Counter Reformation.

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