“The Government Inspector” is a comedy by Nikolai Gogol written in 1835 and performed in 1836 but it was published in 1842. The comedy is divided into 5 acts.
The plot is settled in Russia in the first half of 19th century, and the theme is identity swap.
In a small village an important person is expected to arrive from the capital but instead of the important person somebody else comes and everyone thinks he is the important one. All of that confusion cause funny scenes, anecdotes, unexpected events and misunderstandings.
The motto of the comedy is taken from an old saying that the mirror should not be scolded if the face is ugly. The author wanted to show the ugliness of Russia in a mirror.
“The Government Inspector” is a social and a moral satire that laughs out the human nature and the social conditions is Russia at that time. The author observed a wide scale of negative social behavior and characteristics. This work is, because of its plot and many twists, recognized and appreciated in the world’s literature.
Time: first half of the 19th century
The comedy has 5 acts. The first one serves to introduce us to the characters. They are: Anton Antonovich, Anna Andreyevna, Mary Antonovna, Luka Lukich Khlopov, Ammos Fiodorovich Liapkin-Tiapkin, Artemy Filippovich Zemlianika, Ivan Kuzmich Shpekin, Piotr Ivanovich Dobchinsky, Piotr Ivankovich Bobchinsky and many more.
All of them are gathered in the house of Anton Antonovich, the Governor, who has unpleasant news for them. He told them that a government inspector was coming to their village and that he is carrying a secret order. He got that delicate information from a friend and everyone started panicking about it. They even stopped working.
The Governor told them that they have to get order into the facilities they work at. Zemlianika has to clean up everything because it was all very filthy. Liapkin-Tiapkin, the judge, has to get the geese out of his courtroom and the mailman Kuzmich was told to carefully read other peoples mail and report if he finds anything interesting.
Many dark sides of the government are revealed – drunkenness, bribery, primitivism and others.
The country squires Dopchinsky and Bobchinsky came into the room. They report that, not far away from them, a certain official Khlestakov is staying in a room. He came from St. Petersburg and had been here for two weeks. He is getting into debts, and he is not giving a dime for anything. They were convinced that he is the government inspector.
Everyone got scared because they didn’t know what to do. The Governor went to the hotel because he wanted to suck up to the inspector so he would many upgrades in his career. At the end of the first act, the governor’s beautiful wife Anna came, and she wanted to know all about the inspector – from his arrival to his appearance.
The first act is less intense that the second and a bit slower.
In the second act, the plot is moved to the place where the alleged inspector is staying. The main characters in this act are Khlestakov and Osip, his servant.
Khlestakov is 23 years old, skinny and a bit dumb. He always sits around in his office doing nothing and everyone calls him an airhead.
Khlestakov was on his way to meet his father, but he got a bit lost and had spent all his money on clothes, gambling, and theater. He was broke and had to live in the country with his servant Osip. Both of them were hungry because they can’t get any more food if they don’t pay off their debts.
When the governor entered his room, Khlestakov was convinced that he was getting arrested, so he just started rambling on about stupid things. The governor thought it was his trick to hide his true identity.
Anton invited him to stay in his house and even offered him some money and Khlestakov accepted it without thinking twice.
In the third act, we are in governors Anton’s house. His wife Anna and daughter Mary are very happy about the guest coming into their home. They are interested in his looks and age.
Khlestakov was being dragged around the orphanage because they were trying to convince him that they are loving and carrying towards everyone. Then they went to the governor’s house. Khlestakov fascinated the wife and daughter, and he got into his act completely. He told him stories about his friendships with actresses. He bragged about being so important, so everyone felt a lot of respect for him.
In the fourth act, Khlestakov still pretended to be the inspector. The representatives of the local government came to introduce themselves to him. One at a time came and introduced himself to Khlestakov, and they even offered to loan him money.
Khlestakov loved what was happening, and he wrote to his friend in Petersburg about the evil village he was living in. Also, he used every opportunity he had to hit on the governor’s daughter and wife.
Soon after he was caught kneeling in front of the governor’s daughter so, he asked the governor to marry Mary. The wedding was about to happen soon, and everyone was excited about it. Khlestakov requested the wedding to be put off a few days so he could get his father to come.
On the other side, he is getting ready to escape with his servant. Khlestakov knew he had enough money and he was scared that they would figure out he is not who they think he is.
The beginning of the fifth act brings a euphoric mood into the governor’s house. The governor saw a chance for a promotion, and his wife was happy for moving to the capital.
The governor was sure he’d succeed, so he threatens everyone who dared to say something bad about is behavior.
A lot of people visited Anton to congratulate him on the daughter’s engagement, but then they were all shocked. A letter came, and it also contained some letters that Khlestakov wrote to his friend in Petersburg. It is explained that Khlestakov is not the inspector and that he was faking everything. Also, they found out about everything he has been saying behind their back.
An officer then arrived and told them that the real inspector is in town and that he wants to see them. Everyone was left petrified after finding out the truth.
Characters: Anton Antonovich, Anna Andreyevna, Mary Antonovna, Luka Lukich Khlopov, Ammos Fiodorovich Liapkin-Tiapkin, Artemy Filippovich Zemlianika, Ivan Kuzmich Shpekin, Piotr Ivanovich Dobchinsky, Piotr Ivankovich Bobchinsky and many more.
Anton Antonovich – the governor. His power is limited and he wasn’t very smart or educated. He is a violent taker of other people’s property and acoward that was ready to do anything to get onto the inspector’s good side. He forgot how to be careful and got fooled over.
Khlestakov – a young man, 23 years old. He was skinny, not overly smart, worked in an office, and everyone called him airhead. He talked without thinking. He was superficial and always wore the latest trends. He enjoys having fun and it costs him all of his money when he went to visit his father because instead of visiting him he was gambling and shopping. When he had no money he ended up in the country and was believed to be an inspector. Even though he wasn’t very smart he took good advantage of the situation.
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol Biography
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was the founder of Russian realism. He was born on March 31st, 1809 in Ukraine that was then a part of the Russian empire.
He finished school about the time he turned 19 and then he moved to Petersburg. He changed many jobs, tried to become an actor but ended up as a placeholder in a state service.
While he was working there, at his own expense, Nikolai published a high school poem but the people didn’t like it so Gogol burned all of the copies and started fantasizing about moving to America.
A few years later he started to work as a history teacher in an all girls boarding school and parallel to that he worked as a private teacher for rich kids. He published a book of novels “Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka” and soon became famous in the literary circles and became friends with Pushkin.
In 1835 he published “Mirgorod”, a book of short stories, that included “Taras Bulba” which was expanded into a novel later on. He published another short stories collection called “Arabesques”. After that the period od “Petersburg’s stories” began and one of the most famous are “The overcoat” and “The Nose”.
In 1836 he achieved great success with the comedy “The Government Inspector”. It is supposed that he got the idea from Pushkin as well as for the novel “Dead Souls”. Gogol imagined him like Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.
“Dead Souls” were supposed to be divided into three parts and the only one finished was the first one and it was published in 1842. The first part was supposed to be hell. He was working on the second part for 10 years and then he became a religious fanatic and went on a pilgrimage to Palestine. It is believed that he fell under the influence of a priest and burned the second part of “Dead Souls”.
He died on March 4th in 1852.