Aleksandr Nicolaevich Ostrovsky.

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By Aleksandr Nicolaevich Ostrovsky

Translated By Constance Garnett


Up to the years of the Crimean War Russia was always a strange, uncouth
riddle to the European consciousness. It would be an interesting study to
trace back through the last three centuries the evidence of the historical
documents that our forefathers have left us when they were brought face to
face, through missions, embassies, travel, and commerce, with the
fantastic life, as it seemed to them, led by the Muscovite. But in any
chance record we may pick up, from the reports of a seventeenth century
embassy down to the narrative of an early nineteenth century traveller,
the note always insisted on is that of all the outlandish civilisations,
queer manners and customs of Europeans, the Russian's were the queerest
and those standing furthest removed from the other nations'. And this
sentiment has prevailed to-day, side by side with the better understanding
we have gained of Russia. Nor can this conception, generally held among
us, which is a half truth, be removed by personal contact or mere
objective study; for example, of the innumerable memoirs published on the
Crimean war, it is rare to find one that gives us any real insight into
the nature of the Russian. And the conception itself can only be amended
and enlarged by the study of the Russian mind as it expresses itself in
its own literature. The mind of the great artist, of whatever race he
springs, cannot lie. From the works of Thackeray and George Eliot in
England and Turgenev and Tolstoi in Russia, a critic penetrates into the
secret places of the national life, where all the clever objective
pictures of foreign critics must lead him astray. Ostrovsky's drama, "The
Storm," here translated for the English reader, is a good instance of this
truth. It is a revelation of the old-fashioned Muscovite life _from the
inside_, and Ostrovsky thereby brings us in closer relation to that
primitive life than was in the power of Tolstoi or Goncharov, or even
Gogol to bring us. These great writers have given us admirable pictures of
the people's life as it appeared to them at the angle of the educated
Westernised Russian mind; but here in "The Storm" is the atmosphere of the
little Russian town, with its primitive inhabitants, merchants, and
workpeople, an atmosphere untouched, unadulterated by the _ideas_ of any
outside European influence. It is the Russia of Peter the Great and
Catherine's time, the Russian patriarchal family life that has existed for
hundreds of years through all the towns and villages of Great Russia, that
lingers indeed to-day in out-of-the-way corners of the Empire, though now
invaded and much broken up by modern influences. It is, in fact, the very
Muscovite life that so puzzled our forefathers, and that no doubt will
seem strange to many English readers. But the special triumph of "The
Storm" is that although it is a realistic picture of old-fashioned Russian
patriarchal life, it is one of the deepest and simplest psychological
analyses of the Russian soul ever made. It is a very deep though a very
narrow analysis. Katerina, the heroine, to the English will seem weak, and
crushed through her weakness; but to a Russian she typifies revolt,
freedom, a refusal to be bound by the cruelty of life. And her attitude,
despairing though it seems to us, is indeed the revolt of the spirit in a
land where Tolstoi's doctrine of non-resistance is the logical outcome of
centuries of serfdom in a people's history. The merchant Dikoy, the bully,
the soft characterless lover Boris, the idealistic religious Katerina,
Kuligin the artisan, and Madame Kabanova, the tyrannical mother, all these
are true national types, true Russians of the changing ages, and the
counterparts of these people may be met to-day, if the reader takes up
Tehehov's tales. English people no doubt will find it difficult to believe
that Madame Kabanova could so have crushed Katerina's life, as Ostrovsky
depicts. Nothing indeed is so antagonistic to English individualism and
independence as is the passivity of some of the characters in "The Storm."
But the English reader's very difficulty in this respect should give him a
clue to much that has puzzled Europeans, should help him to penetrate into
the strangeness of Russian political life, the strangeness of her love of
despotism. Only in the country that produces such types of weakness and
tyranny is possible the fettering of freedom of thought and act that we
have in Russia to-day. Ostrovsky's striking analysis of this fatalism in
the Russian soul will help the reader to understand the unending struggle
in Russia between the enlightened Europeanised intelligence of the few,
and the apathy of the vast majority of Russians who are disinclined to
rebel against the crystallised conditions of their lives. Whatever may be
strange and puzzling in "The Storm" to the English mind, there is no doubt
that the Russians hail the picture as essentially true. The violence of
such characters as Madame Kabanova and Dikoy may be weakened to-day
everywhere by the gradual undermining of the patriarchal family system now
in progress throughout Russia, but the picture is in essentials a
criticism of the national life. On this point the Russian critic
Dobroliubov, criticising "The Storm," says: "The need for justice, for
respect for personal rights, this is the cry ... that rises up to the ear
of every attentive reader. Well, can we deny the wide application of this
need in Russia? Can we fail to recognise that such a dramatic background
corresponds with the true condition of Russian society? Take history,
think of our life, look about you, everywhere you will find justification
of our words. This is not the place to launch out into historical
investigation; it is enough to point out that our history up to the most
recent times has not fostered among us the development of a respect for
equity, has not created any solid guarantees for personal rights, and has
left a wide field to arbitrary tyranny and caprice." This criticism of
Dobroliubov's was written in 1860, the date of the play; but we have only
to look back at the internal history of Russia for the last thirty years
to see that it too "has not created any solid guarantees for personal
rights, and has left a wide field to arbitrary tyranny and caprice." And
here is Ostrovsky's peculiar merit, that he has in his various dramas
penetrated deeper than any other of the great Russian authors into one of
the most fundamental qualities of the Russian nature - its innate tendency
to arbitrary power, oppression, despotism. Nobody has drawn so powerfully,
so truly, so incisively as he, the type of the 'samodour' or 'bully,' a
type that plays a leading part in every strata of Russian life. From
Turgenev we learn more of the reverse side of the Russian character, its
lack of will, tendency to weakness, dreaminess and passivity: and it is
this aspect that the English find it so hard to understand, when they
compare the characters in the great Russian novels with their own idea of
Russia's formidable power. The people and the nation do not seem to
correspond. But the riddle may be read in the coexistence of Russia's
internal weakness and misery along with her huge force, and the immense
rôle she fills as a civilising power. In "The Storm" we have all the
contradictory elements: a life strongly organised, yet weak within;
strength and passivity, despotism and fatalism side by side.

The author of "The Storm," Alexander Ostrovsky (born in Moscow 1823, died
1886), is acknowledged to be the greatest of the Russian dramatists. He
has been called "a specialist in the natural history of the Russian
merchant," and his birth, upbringing, family connections and vocations
gave him exceptional facilities for penetrating into the life of that
class which he was the first to put into Russian literature. His best
period was from 1850 to 1860, but all his work received prompt and
universal recognition from his countrymen. In 1859 Dobroliubov's famous
article, "The Realm of Darkness," appeared, analysing the contents of all
Ostrovsky's dramas, and on the publication of "The Storm" in 1860, it was
followed by another article from the same critic, "A Ray of Light in the
Realm of Darkness." These articles were practically a brief for the case
of the Liberals, or party of Progress, against the official and Slavophil
party. Ostrovsky's dramas in general are marked by intense sombreness,
biting humour and merciless realism. "The Storm" is the most poetical of
his works, but all his leading plays still hold the stage.

"The Storm" will repay a minute examination by all who recognise that in
England to-day we have a stage without art, truth to life, or national
significance. There is not a superfluous line in the play: all is drama,
natural, simple, deep. There is no _falsity_, no forced situations, no
sensational effects, none of the shallow or flashy caricatures of daily
life that our heterogeneous public demands. All the reproach that lives
for us in the word _theatrical_ is worlds removed from "The Storm." The
people who like 'farcical comedy' and social melodrama, and 'musical
sketches' will find "The Storm" deep, forbidding and gloomy. The critic
will find it an abiding analysis of a people's temperament. The reader
will find it literature.

E. G. _November_, 1898.



SAVIL PROKOFIEVITCH DIKOY, _a merchant, and personage of importance in the

BORIS GRIGORIEVITCH, _his nephew, a young man of good education_.

MARFA IGNATIEVNA KABANOVA, _a rich merchant's widow_.


KATERINA, _his wife_.

VARVARA, _sister of Tihon_.

KULIGIN, _a man of artisan class, a self-taught watchmaker, engaged in
trying to discover the secret of perpetual motion_.

VANIA KUDRIASH, _a young man, clerk to Dikoy_.

SHAPKIN, _an artisan_.

FEKLUSHA, _a pilgrim woman_.

GLASHA, _a maid servant in the Kabanovs' house_.

AN OLD LADY _of seventy, half mad, with_ TWO FOOTMEN.

TOWNSPEOPLE _of both sexes_.

_The action takes place in the town of Kalinov, on the banks of the Volga,
in summertime. There is an interval of ten days between the 3rd and 4th
acts. All the characters except Boris are dressed in old Russian national



A public garden on the steep bank of the Volga; beyond the Volga, a view
of the country. On the stage two benches and a few bushes.

KULIGIN (_sitting on a bench, looking towards the river_).

KUDRIASH and SHAPKIN (_walking up and down_).

KULIGIN (_singing_).
"Amidst the level dales, upon a sloping hillside,"... (_ceases singing_)
Wonderful, one really must say it's wonderful! Kudriash! Do you know, I've
looked upon the Volga every day these fifty years and I can never get
tired of looking upon it.

How's that?

It's a marvellous view! Lovely! It sets my heart rejoicing.

It's not bad.

It's exquisite! And you say "not bad"! You are tired of it, or you don't
feel the beauty there is in nature.

Come, there's no use talking to you! You're a genuine antique, we all
know, a chemical genius.

Mechanical, a self-taught mechanician.

It's all one.


KULIGIN (_pointing away_).
Look, Kudriash, who's that waving his arms about over there?

There? Oh, that's Dikoy pitching into his nephew.

A queer place to do it!

All places are alike to him. He's not afraid of any one! Boris Grigoritch
is in his clutches now, so he is always bullying him.

Yes, you wouldn't find another bully like our worthy Saviol Prokofitch in
a hurry! He pulls a man up for nothing at all.

He is a stiff customer.

Old Dame Kabanova's a good hand at that too!

Yes, but she at least does it all under pretence of morality; he's like a
wild beast broken loose!

There's no one to bring him to his senses, so he rages about as he likes!

There are too few lads of my stamp or we'd have broken him of it.

Why, what would you have done?

We'd have given him a good scare.

How'd you do that?

Why, four or five of us would have had a few words with him, face to face,
in some back street, and he'd soon have been as soft as silk. And he'd
never have let on to a soul about the lesson we'd given him; he'd just
have walked off and taken care to look behind him.

I see he'd some reason for wanting to get you sent for a soldier.

He wanted to, right enough, but he didn't do it. No, he won't get rid of
me; he's an inkling that I'd make him pay too dear for it. You're afraid
of him, but I know how to talk to him.

Oh, I daresay!

What do you mean by that? I am reckoned a tough one to deal with. Why do
you suppose he keeps me on? Because he can't do without me, to be sure.
Well, then, I've no need to be afraid of him; let him be afraid of me.

Why, doesn't he swear at you?

Swear at me! Of course; he can't breathe without that. But I don't give
way to him: if he says one word, I say ten; he curses and goes off. No,
I'm not going to lick the dust for him.

What, follow his example! You'd do better to bear it in patience.

Come, I say, if you're so wise, teach him good manners first and then
we'll learn! It's a pity his daughters are all children, there's not one
grown-up girl among them.

What if there were?

I should treat him as he deserves if there were. I'm a devil of a fellow
among the girls!

[_Dikoy and Boris advance. Kuligin takes off his hat._

SHAPKIN (_to Kudriash_).
Let us move off; he'll pick a quarrel with us, very likely.

[_They move off a little._


The Same, DIKOY and BORIS.

Did you come here to loaf about in idleness? eh? Lazy good for nothing
fellow, confound you!

It's a holiday; what could I be doing at home?

You'd find work to do if you wanted to. I've said it once, and I've said
it twice, "don't dare to let me come across you"; you're incorrigible!
Isn't there room enough for you? Go where one will, there you are! Damn
you! Why do you stand there like a post? Do you hear what's said to you?

I'm listening, - what more am I to do?

DIKOY (_looking at Boris_).
Get away with you! I won't talk to a Jesuit like you. (_Going_) To come
forcing himself on me here!

[_Spits and exit_.



What have you to do with him, sir? We can't make it out. What can induce
you to live with him and put up with his abuse?

A poor inducement, Kuligin! I'm not free.

But how are you not free, allow me to ask you. If you can tell us, sir,

Why not? You knew our grandmother, Anfisa Mihalovna?

To be sure I did!

I should think we did!

She quarrelled with my father you know because he married into a noble
family. It was owing to that that my father and mother lived in Moscow. My
mother used to tell me that she could hardly endure life for three days
together with my father's relations, it all seemed so rough and coarse to

Well it might! you have to be used to it from the first, sir, to be able
to bear it.

Our parents brought us up well in Moscow, they spared no expense. They
sent me to the Commercial Academy, and my sister to a boarding school, but
they both died suddenly of cholera. We were left orphans, my sister and I.
Then we heard that our grandmother was dead here, and had left a will that
our uncle was to pay us a fair share of her fortune, when we came of age,
only upon one condition.

And what was that, sir?

If we showed a proper respect for his authority.

Then there's no doubt, sir, you'll never see your fortune.

No, but that's not all, Kuligin! First he finds fault with us to his
heart's content, and ends none the less with giving us nothing, or some
tiny dole. And then he'll go making out that it's a great favour, and that
he ought not to have done even that.

That's just the way the merchants go on among us. Besides, if you were
ever so respectful to him, who's to hinder him from saying you're

To be sure. And indeed he sometimes will say: I've children of my own, why
should I give money away to outsiders? Am I to wrong my own like that?

It's plain, sir, you're not in luck's way.

If it were only me, I wouldn't care! I'd throw it all up and go away. But
I'm sorry for my sister. He did write for her to come too, but mother's
relations wouldn't let her, they wrote she wasn't well. It frightens me to
think what the life here would be for her.

Of course. The master's no decent manners at all.

In what capacity do you live with him, sir; what arrangement has he made
with you?

Why, none whatever; "you live with me," he says, "and do what you're told,
and your pay shall be what I give you," that's to say, in a year's time
he'll settle up with me as he thinks fit.

That's just his way. Not one of us dare as much as hint at a salary, or he
storms till he's black in the face. "How do you know," he'll say, "what I
have in my mind to do? Do you suppose you can see into my heart? Maybe, I
shall be so disposed as to give you five thousand." It's no use talking to
him! Only you may be pretty sure he's never been disposed that way in his

It's a hard case, sir! You must try and get the right side of him somehow.

But the point is, Kuligin, that it's impossible. Why, even his own
children can never do anything to please him; so it's hardly likely I

Who could please him, when his whole life's spent in bullying people?
Especially where money's at stake; no accounts are ever settled without
storms of abuse. Often people are glad to go short of their due, if only
he'll let them off quietly. Woe to us if anyone vexes him in the morning!
He falls foul of everyone all day long.

Every morning my aunt entreats us with tears in her eyes: "Don't anger
him, friends! Dear boys, don't anger him!"

But you can never avoid it! If he goes to the bazaar, it's all up! He
scolds all the peasants. Even if they ask him less than cost price they
never get off without abuse. And then he's upset for the whole day.

He's a bully - there's no other word for him.

A bully? I should think he is!

And what's fatal is if some man offends him, whom he daren't be rude to.
Then all his household have to look out for themselves!

Bless my soul! That was a joke though. Didn't that hussar let him have it
on the Volga, at the ferry! Oh, a lovely shindy he kicked up afterwards,

Ah, and didn't his family suffer for it! Why, for a fortnight after we
were all hiding away in the attics and cupboards.

Surely that's not the folk coming back from vespers?

[_Several persons pass in the background_.

Come on, Shapkin, let's get a drink! It's no good stopping here.

[_They bow and exeunt_.

Oh, Kuligin, it's awfully hard here for me who've not been used to it.
Everyone seems to look with unfriendly eyes at me, as though I were not
wanted here, as though I were in their way. I don't understand the ways
here. I know this is truly Russia, my own country, but still I can't get
used to it.

And you never will get used to it, sir.


They're a coarse lot, sir, in our town, a coarse lot! Among the working
people, sir, you'll find nothing but brutality and squalid poverty. And
we've no chance, sir, of ever finding our way out of it. For by honest
labour we can never earn more than a crust of bread. And everyone with
money, sir, tries all he can to get a poor man under his thumb, so as to
make more money again out of his working for nothing. Do you know the
answer your uncle, Saviol Prokofitch, made to the provost? The peasants
were always coming to the provost with complaints that your uncle never
paid one of them fairly according to agreement. The provost said to him at
last: "Look here," says he, "Saviol Prokofitch, you must pay the peasants
what's fairly owing to them! Every day they come to me with some
complaint!" Your uncle slapped the provost on the shoulder, and says he:
"It's not worth while, your Worship, for you and me to waste our breath
over such petty details! I have to do with numbers of peasants in the
course of the year; you can understand, if I pay them a paltry farthing
short, every man of them, it mounts up to thousands, and a capital thing
too for me!" Think of that, sir! And the way they treat one another too,
sir! They injure each other's trade all they can, and that not so much
from self-interest, as from envy. They are always at feud with one
another. They entertain in their grand mansions drunken attorneys' clerks,
wretched creatures, sir, that hardly look like human beings. And they, for
a small tip, will cover sheets of stamped paper with malicious quibbling
attacks on their neighbours. And then there's a lawsuit commences between
them, sir, and no end to the worry and fret. They bring it before the
court here, and go off to the chief town, and there everyone in court is
on the look-out for them and they clap their hands with glee when they see
them. Words do not take long, but deeds are not soon done. They are
dragged from court to court, they are worn out with delays; but they are
positively delighted at that; it's just that they want. "I've lost a lot
of money," one will say, "but it's cost him a pretty penny too!" I did try
to put it all into verse....

Why, do you make verse?

Yes, sir, in the old-fashioned style. I have read Lomonosov and Derzhavin.
Lomonosov was a deep thinker, an investigator of nature.... And he was
one of us plain working folk too.

You should write. That would be interesting.

How could I, sir! They'd tear me to pieces, they'd skin me alive. Even as
it is, sir, I have had to pay for my chattering; but I can't help it, I
love to speak my mind freely. I meant to say something about their family
life, sir, but we'll talk of that some other time. There's plenty to tell
about that too.

[_Enter Feklusha and another woman_.

De-lightful, my clear, de-lightful! Divinely beautiful! But what's the use
of talking! You live in the Promised Land, simply! And the merchant gentry
are all a devout people, and famed for many a virtue! liberality and much
almsgiving! I am well content, my good soul, full to the brim of content!
For their liberality to us will their abundance be greatly increased,
especially in the house of Kabanova.



A fanatical hypocrite, sir. She gives to the poor, but her own household
she worries to death. (_Silence_.) All I want, sir, is to find out the
secret of perpetual motion!

Why, what would you do?

How can you ask, sir! Why, the English offer millions for it. I should use
all the money for public purposes, - we want to provide work for the
working people. Here they have hands to work, and no work to do.

And you hope to discover perpetual motion?

Not a doubt, I shall, sir! I have only to scrape up enough money for
models. Good-bye, sir!



BORIS (_alone_).
I haven't the heart to disillusion him! What a good fellow! He dreams and
is happy. But I, it seems, must waste my youth in this wretched hole. I
was utterly crushed before, and now this madness creeping into my mind! So
suitable! Me give myself up to tender sentiments! Trampled upon,
broken-spirited, and as if that's not enough, in my idiocy I must needs
fall in love! And of all people in the world! With a woman, whom I may
never have the luck to speak a word to. (_Silence_.) But for all that, I
can't get her out of my head, try as I will. Here she is! Coming with her
husband, oh! and the mother-in-law with them! Ah, what a fool I am! I must
snatch a look at her round the corner, and then home again.

[_Exit. From the opposite side, enter Mme. Kabanova, Kabanov, Katerina and

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