The Government Inspector

The Government Inspector

March 20, 2020

Mistaken Identity Russian Style: Gogol Satires Soviet Life

What happens when an unlucky nobody is mistaken for a powerful Russian government
official by a group of corrupt small town officials? Find out when INDEPENDENT PLAYERS
presents Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector Fridays and Saturdays, March 6-7, 13-14,
20-21, 2020 at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division Street, Elgin. Curtain time is 7:30 PM.

Originally published in 1836, The Government Inspector was based upon an anecdote
allegedly recounted to Gogol by Alexander Pushkin. Gogol attempted to write a satirical play
about imperial bureaucracy in 1832, but abandoned it for fear of censorship. He then wrote to
Pushkin seeking inspiration for a new satirical play in the form of “an authentically Russian
anecdote.” Pushkin had a storied background and was once mistaken for a government
inspector, so he wrote back: “Krispin arrives in the Province … he is taken for an official …
The governor is an honest fool--the governor’s wife flirts with Krispin who then woos the

Thus we have the basic story elements for The Government Inspector, Gogol’s comic
Masterpiece. Essentially, it is a comedy of errors, satirizing human greed, stupidity, narcissism
and the extensive political corruption of Imperial Russia. So, why then is The Government
Inspector—surely one of the most Russian examples of Russian culture---such a universal

According to Jeffrey Hatcher, the adaptor of the version of the play IP is using,
explains it this way: “If you ask a Frenchman ‘What do you wish for your country,’ the
Frenchman will say ‘I wish for my country the poetry of Rimbaud, the beauty of Paris, the
majesty of Napoleon.’ If you ask a German, ‘What do you wish for your country,’ the German
will say, I wish for my country the greatness of Goethe, the grandeur of Wagner, the
philosophical insights of Nietzsche.’ If you ask a Russian, “what do you wish for your country,’
the Russian will say, “I wish that my neighbor’s cow should die!’”

Hatcher continues: “There is more to Russia than that, of course—Tolstoy, Chekhov,
the dog that went up in Sputnik---but it’s been argued that the reason why Russia and its
people have always felt a bit backwards in comparison with their more cosmopolitan
counterparts in Paris, London and Vienna is because the Renaissance and the Enlightenment
skipped them completely. Nobody came to give them the word. This tends to be blamed on
the country’s vast expanses and terrible weather---destiny as defined by geography and mud.”
“This may explain why Russia, be it Tsarist, Soviet, or Putinesque has such a wobbly
respect for good government, civic standards and the law, and why the west has always
looked down its nose at Russia, regardless the charms of Dostoevsky. The Nutcracker and Mrs.
Khruschev’s sense of style. In one sense, it’s the classic case of a very original and specific
idea -- hapless nobody is mistaken for a powerful government official by a group of corrupt,
small town officials. But it’s also because its characters are so recognizable to any person in
any country in any age who has attended a city council meeting, met a contractor, or had an
inflated opinion of himself.

Elgin Art Showcase
Elgin Art Showcase
164 Division Street
Elgin, IL 60120
(847) 697-7374