NABOKV-L post 0022240, Sun, 11 Dec 2011 23:29:28 +0300

maidservant Martha and Shakespeare in The Event
Martha (Марфа), the old maidservant in VN's play The Event (глупая бытовая старуха, "the type of a stupid old woman," according to Lyubov'), is a namesake of Марфа посадница (Martha Boretski, the widow of a Novgorod governor, d. 1503*), the eponymous heroine in Pogodin's tragedy in blank verse (1830) enthusiastically praised by Pushkin. In a letter of the end of November, 1830, Pushkin from Boldino wrote to Pogodin that his tragedy had merits worth of Shakespeare:
Что за прелесть сцена послов! как вы поняли русскую дипломатику! А вече? а посадник? а князь Шуйский? а князья удельные? Я вам говорю, что это всё достоинства — ШЕКСПИРОВСКОГО!..

Shakespeare is mentioned in "The Event" at least twice. The portrait painter Troshcheykin admires the almost finished portrait of the jeweler's black-curled son and observes that there is a connection ("Shakespeare perceived it in his Othello") between precious stones and Negro blood:

Нет, мальчик мне нравится! Волосы хороши: чуть-чуть с чёрной курчавинкой. Есть какая-то связь между драгоценными камнями и негритянской кровью. Шекспир это почувствовал в своём "Отелло". (Act One)

Pushkin, too, had Negro blood. Othello (played by the black tragedian Aldridge), Pushkin (a swarhty old man in the audience who Suhoshchokov's brother said was Pushkin) and his flashing rings are mentioned in VN's novel "The Gift" (Chapter Two). Its hero's name is Godunov-Cherdyntsev. Godunov's landlord is Boris Shchyogolev (who was a public prosecutor in Russia). Pushkin is the author of "Boris Godunov" (a tragedy in blank verse, 1826). The rumour (and the historian Karamzin) accused Boris of the murder of little Dimitri (the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible**). In his famous monologue Boris mentions blood-stained little boys in his eyes (мальчики кровавые в глазах). Troshcheykin's two-year-old son died three years ago (in a couple of days he would have been five). According to Eleonora Schnap (the mid-wife), the child's father actually was Barbashin (Lyubov''s lover who attempted to kill her and Troshcheykin even before the child's birth). Schnap says that she always was немножко знакома запанибрата с мосье Барбашиным (sort of on intimate terms with Barbashin).

In his letter Pushkin criticizes one scene in Pogodin's tragedy, saying that Boretski is слишком за панибрата с Иоанном (unduly familiar as he talks to Ivan III, the Grand Duke of Moscow). He adds: Сердце ваше не лежит к Иоанну (your heart is cold to Ivan). Schnap, too, mentions her heart: кроме щипцов я имею ещё большое грустное сердце (I have not only gynecological forceps but also a big sad heart; Act Two).

Schnap is German, and Pushkin used to say that Pogodin (a learned and sober man) was a true German. The name Pogodin comes from pogoda (weather). Lyubov' mentions the weather in Act One: "Смотри, погода какая сегодня жалкая" and Revshin in Act Two: "Тут погода несколько улучшилась." In Act Three (just before Barboshin's visit) Antonina Pavlovna and Troshcheykin make polar remarks about the weather outdoors. In my article "Barboshin instead of Barbashin..." I argue that the secret source of light (veiled sun in Act One, bright sun in Act Two and full moon in Act Three) in VN's play is Pushkin ("the sun of Russian poetry").

According to Troshcheykin, art always moves in the counter-sun direction. Therefore he paints at first the reflection and then a source of light. The source of light in his portrait of the jeweler's son are five balls around the boy:

Видишь ли, они должны гореть, бросать на него отблеск, но сперва я хочу закрепить отблеск, а потом приняться за его источники. Надо помнить, что искусство движется всегда против солнца.

But three balls (Troshcheykin's accessories with which his model played football after the sitting) are lost, he finds only two. He asks his wife to find them, but Lyubov' says that Martha should do it:

Любовь. Отстань ты от меня, пожалуйста. Подумаешь - велика беда! Ну - будет картина "Мальчик с двумя мячами" вместо "Мальчик с пятью"...

Трощейкин. Умное замечание. Я хотел бы понять, кто это, собственно, занимается разгоном моих аксессуаров... Просто безобразие.

Любовь. Тебе так же хорошо известно, как мне, что он сам ими играл вчера после сеанса.

Трощейкин. Так нужно было их потом собрать и положить на место. (Садится перед мольбертом.)

Любовь. Да, но при чем тут я? Скажи это Марфе. Она убирает.

Трощейкин. Плохо убирает. Я сейчас ей сделаю некоторое внушение...

Любовь. Во-первых, она ушла на рынок; а во-вторых, ты её боишься.

Трощейкин. Что ж, вполне возможно. Но только мне лично казалось, что это с моей стороны просто известная форма деликатности...

In Act Three Meshaev the Second, too, mentions delicacy: Нет, не беспокойтесь. Я понимаю. Я из деликатности. Вот, говорят, во Франции, в Париже, тоже богема, всё такое, драки в ресторанах... Immediately after his words Barboshin comes in noiselessly and inconspicuously. Btw., when Lyubov' sees the photograph of Barboshin clad in a medieval costume, she asks: Что это, король Лир? (What is it, King Lear?)

The name and patronymic of Troshcheykin's colleague, Igor Olegovich Kuprikov, also have historical connotations; and, according to Troshcheykin, his ancestor was a voivode of the 14th century.

Speaking of devils: in Shakespeare's tragedy (Act Five) Othello calls Iago "demi-devil:"

Othello. ...Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devil
Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?

Also, Pushkin's Lyceum friend Wilhelm (William) Kuechelbecker is the author of "Шекспировы духи" ("Shakespeare's Ghosts," Dramatic Joke in two acts, 1825).

*Martha Boretski died in exile, in Nizhniy Novgorod. The city was renamed Gorky in 1932. Aleksei Maksimovich Troshcheykin is a namesake of A. M. Peshkov (Maxim Gorky). Peshkov comes from peshka (pawn). Troshcheykin says of Antonina Pavlovna's guests: И потом нельзя так: один ферзь, а все остальные - пешки (one queen, while all others are pawns). The queen is the Famous Writer who mentions Shakespeare: "Зад, как сказал бы Шекспир, зад из зык вещан" ("That, as Shakespeare would have said, that is the question;" the English phrase mispronounced to look like Old Russian: Act Two).

**Antonina Pavlovna's late husband, Dr Ivan Vasilievich Opayashin, is a namesake of Ivan the Terrible.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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