Boris Godunov (drama)

Boris Godunov (drama)

Boris Godunov ( _ru. Борис Годунов, Borís Godunóv) [Variant Title: "Драматическая повесть, Комедия o настоящей беде Московскому государству, o царе Борисе и о Гришке Отрепьеве", "A Dramatic Tale, The Comedy of the Distress of the Muscovite State, of Tsar Boris, and of Grishka Otrepyev"] is a drama by Aleksandr Pushkin, written in 1825, published in 1831, but not approved for performance by the censor until 1866. Its subject is the Russian ruler, Boris Godunov, who reigned as Tsar from 1598 to 1605. The drama consists of 25 scenes and is written predominantly in blank verse.

Although revered among scholars, "Boris Godunov" never received a premiere in its original, uncensored form. Modest Mussorgsky based his famous opera on the drama, and Vsevolod Meyerhold attempted a staging of the play in the 1930s. Meyerhold commissioned Sergei Prokofiev to write incidental music for his production, but when Meyerhold abandoned his production under political pressure, the score was abandoned as well.

The world premiere of the uncensored "Boris Godunov" was given April 12, 2007, at Princeton University in the United States, in English translation. The production was based on Meyerhold's design and featured Prokofiev's music, together with supplemental music by Peter Westergaard.

Historical Basis of the Plot

An understanding of the drama of "Boris Godunov" may be facilitated by a basic knowledge of the historical events surrounding the Time of Troubles, the interregnum period of relative anarchy following the end of the Ryurik Dynasty (1598) and preceding the Romanov Dynasty (1613). Key events are as follows:

*"1584" - Ivan IV "The Terrible", the first Grand Prince of Muscovy to use the title "Tsar" (Caesar), dies. Ivan’s successor is his feeble son Fyodor, now Fyodor I, who cares only for spiritual matters, and leaves the affairs of state to his capable brother-in-law, boyar Boris Godunov, now de facto regent.
*"1591" - Ivan’s other son Dmitriy dies under mysterious circumstances in Uglich. An investigation, ordered by Godunov and carried out by Prince Vasiliy Shuyskiy, determines that the Tsarevich, while playing with a knife, had an epileptic seizure, fell, and died from a self-inflicted wound to the throat. Dmitriy's mother, Maria Nagaya, exiled with him to Uglich by Godunov, claims he was assassinated. Rumors linking Boris to the crime are circulated by his enemies.
*"1598" - Tsar Feodor I dies. He is virtually the last representative of the Ryurik Dynasty that has ruled Russia for 7 centuries. Patriarch Job of Moscow nominates Boris to succeed Fyodor I as Tsar, despite the rumors that Boris ordered the murder of Dmitriy. Boris agrees to ascend the throne only if elected by the Zemskiy Sobor. This the assembly does unanimously, and Boris is crowned the same year.
*"1604" - A pretender to the throne appears, claiming to be Tsarevich Dmitriy, but believed to be in reality one Grigoriy Otrepyev. He gains the support of the Polish aristocracy, and, obtaining a force of soldiers, he marches on Moscow. Crossing into Russia, Dmitriy’s invasion force is joined by disaffected Cossacks. However, after a few victories, it loses momentum.
*"1605" - Boris dies of unknown causes. He is succeeded by his son Fyodor, now Fyodor II. The death of Boris gives new life to the campaign of the False Dmitriy, who enters Moscow. Boyars who flock to his side murder Fyodor II and his mother.
*"1606" - False Dmitriy I is murdered, and is succeeded by Vasiliy Shuyskiy, now Vasiliy IV.
*"1610" - Vasiliy IV is deposed, and dies two years later in a Polish prison. Another pretender claiming to be Dmitriy Ivanovich, False Dmitriy II, is murdered.
*"1612" - Yet a third pretender, False Dmitriy III, is captured and executed.
*"1613" - The Time of Troubles comes to a close with the accession of Mikhail Romanov, son of Fyodor Romanov, who had been persecuted under Boris Godunov's reign.

Note: The culpability of Boris in the matter of Dmitriy's death can neither be proved nor disproved. Karamzin, the historian to whom the drama is dedicated, accepted it as fact, and Pushkin assumed it to be true, at least for the purpose of creating a tragedy in the mold of Shakespeare. Modern historians, however, tend to acquit Boris of the crime.

Dramatis Personae

*Boris Godunov, boyar, later Tsar
*Fyodor, his son
*Kseniya, his daughter
*Kseniya’s Nurse
*Prince Shuyskiy, boyar
*Prince Vorotinskiy, boyar
*Shchelkalov, Secretary of the Duma
*Pimen, monk and chronicler
*Grigoriy Otrepyev, monk, later Dmitriy, the Pretender
*Patriarch, Abbot of the Chudov Monastery.
*Misail, wandering monk
*Varlaam, wandering monk
*Afanasiy Mikhailovich Pushkin, friend of Prince Shuyskiy
*Gabriel Pushkin, his nephew
*Semyon Nikitich Godunov, secret agent of Boris Godunov
*Prince Kurbskiy, disgraced boyar
*Khrushchov, disgraced boyar
*Karela, a Cossack
*Prince Vishnevetskiy
*Mniszech, Voyevoda of Sambor
*Marina, his daughter
*Ruzya, her chambermaid
*Basmanov, a Russian officer
*Marzharet, officer of the Pretender
*Rozen, officer of the Pretender
*Mosalskiy, boyar
*Hostess of the Inn
*Boyars, People, Peasants, Inspectors, Officers, Attendants, Guests, a Catholic Priest, a Polish Noble, a Poet, an Idiot, a Beggar, Gentlemen, Guards, Soldiers, Ladies, Gentleman, Boys, Servants


*Scene 1 - Kremlin Palaces.
*Scene 2 - Red Square.
*Scene 3 - Novodevichiy Monastery.
*Scene 4 - Kremlin Palaces.
*Scene 5 - Night. A Cell in the Chudov Monastery.
*Scene 6 - Palaces of the Patriarch.
*Scene 7 - The Tsar’s Palaces.
*Scene 8 - An Inn on the Lithuanian Border.
*Scene 9 - Moscow. The Home of Shuyskiy.
*Scene 10 - The Tsar’s Palaces.
*Scene 11 - Krakow. The Home of Vishnevetskiy.
*Scene 12 - Castle of the Voyevoda Mniszech in Sambor.
*Scene 13 - A Suite of Lighted Rooms
*Scene 14 - Night. A Garden. A Fountain.
*Scene 15 - The Lithuanian Frontier.
*Scene 16 - The Tsar’s Duma.
*Scene 17 - Plain near Novgorod-Seversk.
*Scene 18 - Square before a Cathedral in Moscow.
*Scene 19 - Sevsk.
*Scene 20 - A Forest.
*Scene 21 - Moscow. The Tsar’s Palaces.
*Scene 22 - A Tent.
*Scene 23 - Lobnoye Mesto.
*Scene 24 - The Kremlin. The House of Boris.

tage Designs

The following gallery depicts the scene designs created by Matvey Shishkov for a performance of the drama in 1870.

External links

* [ Website] for Princeton University's world premiere. (Note: this server is very slow.)
* [ News@Princeton] 'Boris Godunov' premiere takes center stage.
* [ Online exhibition] associated with Princeton University's World Premiere production.

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