Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama
(Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914; The Gorham Press, Boston, U.S.A.)
THE RUSSIAN DRAMA
PEOPLE outside of Russia, especially Anglo-Saxons, have one great objection to the Russian drama: it is too sad, too gloomy. It is often asked, "Why is the Russian drama so pessimistic?" The answer is: the Russian drama, like all Russian culture, has been conceived in the sorrow of the people; it was born in their woe and struggle. Anything thus conceived cannot be very joyous or amusing.
It is no exaggeration to say that in no other country are the creative artists so interwoven, so much at one with the people. This is not only true of men like Turgenev, Tolstoy and the dramatists of modern times. It applies also to Gogol, who in "The Inspector" and "Dead Souls" spoke in behalf of the people, appealing to the conscience of Russia. The same is true of Dostoyevsky, of the poets Nekrassov, Nadson, and others. In fact, all the great Russian artists have gone to the people for their inspiration, as to the source of all life. That explains the depth and the humanity of Russian literature.
The. modern drama naturally suggests Henrik Ibsen as its pioneer. But prior to him, Gogol utilized the drama as a vehicle for popularizing the social issues of his time. In "The Inspector," (Revizor) he portrays the corruption, graft and extortion rampant in the governmental departments. If we were to Anglicize the names of the characters in "The Inspector," and forget for a moment that it was a Russian who wrote the play, the criticism contained therein would apply with similar force to present-day America, and to every other modern country. Gogol touched the deepest sores of social magnitude and marked the beginning of the realistic drama in Russia.
However, it is not within the scope of this work to discuss the drama of Gogol's era. I shall begin with Tolstoy, because he is closer to our own generation, and voices more definitely the social significance of the modern drama.
To Leo Tolstoy
To Table of Contents
To Anarchy Archives