The first in-depth study of Catherine the Great's plays and opera libretti, this book provides analysis and critical interpretation of the dramatic works by this eighteenth-century Russian Empress. These works are shown to be remarkable for their diversity, frank satire, topical subject matter, and stylistic innovations. O'Malley reveals comparisons to and influences from European traditions, including Shakespeare and Molière, and sets Catherine in the larger field of Russian literature in the period, further illuminating her relationship to the aesthetic debates of the period. The study investigates how Catherine expressed her social ideas throughout her drama and exploited the stage's power to promote political ideals and ideology. O'Malley sets close textual analysis within an historical framework, analyzing the major plays according to content, style, themes, characters, and relation to Catherine's life and political aims.
’O'Malley offers many insightful details in her textual analysis of Catherine's theatrical productions and leaves no doubt that Catherine's dramatic works belong to the revised canon of Russian and European theater…This is a beautifully and expertly produced book. Black-and-white illustrations enhance this volume's appeal… An appendix provides helpful references to Aleksandr Pypin's edition of Catherine collected works […]; as Catherinian scholarship continues to grow, one hopes that this rare publication will be reissued as well.’ The Russian Review ’This is a major contribution to the voluminous scholarship on Catherine the Great… offers fresh perspectives on her literary preoccupations… O'Malley has every reason to take price in a sterling synthesis based on years of patient research.’ Slavic Review ’The chief merits of this study lie in elegant close readings, careful scholarship and persuasive claims for the complexity, literary style, innovation and inherent playability of Catherine's works for the stage. …[an] excellent study of Catherine's dramatic works, which should be required reading for theatre historians.’ Theatre Research International
Contents: Preface; Catherine’s life and writings; Early comedies; Later comedies; The Shakespearean influence; Comic operas; Epilogue; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.