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Light Comedy and vaudeville: specificity of the genre

Vysokovich Kseniya Olegovna

ORCID: 0000-0002-6019-2492

Postgraduate student, the department of Literature, Kaluga State University in the name of K. E. Tsiolkovsky

214000, Russia, Smolenskaya oblast', g. Smolensk, ul. Prospekt Gagarina, 26






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Abstract: The subject of this research is the light (salon, secular, noble) comedy "One's Own Family, or a Married Bride", co-authored by A. A. Shakhovsky, N. I. Khmelnitsky amd A. S. Griboyedov, as well as the vaudeville by A. S. Griboyedov and P. A. Vyazemsky "Who is a Brother, Who is Sister, or Deception after Deception". The goal lies in the analysis of similar genre models: light comedy and vaudeville – a variety of salon comedy. The key method of research is the motif-imagery analysis, which reveals a number of common a number of motifs and allowed examining the images of heroes. The comparative method is used for establishing the common and different between the indicated genre models. The novelty of this article consists in the comparison of two cognate genre models, as well as determine universals and particulars within their structure. The conclusion is drawn that vaudeville and light comedy are closely interrelated with a wide variety of genres: anecdote, fable, comic opera, interact, melodrama, and often serve as a means for conducting literary polemics. The external distinguishing characteristic of vaudeville is the presence of a verse. Despite the similarity of the fabula. it is worth noting that the light comedy rather tends towards high literary tradition; the external actable comism is reduced, and expressed through the speech manner of the heroes, witty dialogues, and aphoristic speech. The heroes are usually secular young people. The scene is also limited to secular living rooms and manor estates. Vaudeville in turn, is not restricted by the framework of secularism; its heroes can be officers, actors, servants, serfs, etc. Moreover, comism of the status of heroes is enhanced by external effects: buffoonery, multiple outfit changes, rapid and unpredictable narrative arc.


Shakhovskoy, Khmelnitsky, Griboyedov, Vyazemsky, Karamzin, literary controversy, light comedy, vaudeville, a version of salon comedy, theatre

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

In the 10-20-ies of the XIX century, light comedies and vaudevilles became especially popular, which is explained by "the self-consciousness of Russian society increased after 1812" [8], as well as the influence of French culture, because many works were free alterations of the French original source. However, genres will not be able to maintain their popularity for long, vaudeville in the second half of the XIX century almost completely disappears from the repertoire of the Russian theater [2].

The genres under consideration have long been perceived by literary critics and authors as "frivolous" literature. V. G. Belinsky gives the following characteristic: "Vaudeville is a light, graceful child of public life in France: there it has meaning and dignity; there it sees for itself rich materials in daily life, in domestic life. Russian Russian life, vaudeville goes to our Russian way of life, like tobogganing and sheepskin coats to the inhabitants of Naples. Russian Russian vaudeville still makes sense on the Russian stage, as a curious spectacle of the domestic life of a foreign people; but remade, shifted to Russian mores, or, better to say, to Russian names, vaudeville is a monster of nonsense and absurdity" [1]. N. V. Gogol in the "Petersburg Notes of 1836" is also unflattering Russian Russian vaudevillians, noting their alienness to the Russian spirit.: "Vaudevilles have long been crawling onto the Russian stage, they amuse the average people, the good is funny. Who would have thought that vaudeville would be not only translated on the Russian stage, but even original? Russian vaudeville! really, it's a little strange, strange because this light, colorless toy could only have been born in the French, a nation that does not have a deep, motionless physiognomy in its character..." [6, p. 181].

For the analysis, we chose the most similar works in the plot plan, the comedy "Own family, or a Married Bride", written by three comediographers A. A. Shakhovsky, N. I. Khmelnitsky and A. S. Griboyedov and the vaudeville "Who's Brother, who's Sister, or Deception after Deception" by A. S. Griboyedov, P. A. Vyazemsky.

In 1817, A. A. Shakhovskoy began working on the plot of a comedy about a "married bride", written especially for the benefit of M. I. Valberkhova. In the process, he attracted young playwrights Nikolai Ivanovich Khmelnitsky and Alexander Sergeyevich Griboyedov. In the preface to the comedy "His own Family, or a Married Bride," A. A. Shakhovskaya notes the following: "for the benefit of Mrs. Valberkhova (who decorated the Lipetsk Waters with her charming gift), I chose such a content of the play in which she could show the diversity of her game, and tried as much as possible to connect the episodic intrigues phenomena" [12]. However, as A. A. Gozenpud notes, it was not a matter of time at all. A. A. Shakhovskoy liked to patronize young talents.

The main conflict of light comedy is considered to be issues of love, marriage, flirtation, infidelity, and one of the key motives is the motive of a successful marriage. In the comedy "Own Family, or a Married Bride", young people, Lyubim and Natasha, got married without telling their relatives. According to the will, without their blessing, the young man loses his entire inheritance. Varvara Savvishna Veldyuzeva decides to help the unlucky newlyweds, she introduces Natasha as her distant relative, and also tells her about the tastes and customs of relatives. Natasha deftly adapts to numerous relatives, deceiving them in order to win them over. Natalia's image is constantly changing in the course of the plot, depending on the situation. She becomes either a shy simpleton, a sentimental admirer, an expert in philosophy and other sciences, or a frugal modest woman.

As a result, the relatives become aware of the wedding of the young people, but by this time they no longer have anything against it. Nevertheless, they try to reproach Natasha, who does not feel remorse, because she did so at the behest of her heart:

"And it's not all a lie.

By the will of my aunt, who I was, I hid from you,

But she didn't say anything untrue about anything else" [9, p. 229]

Despite the apparent simplicity of the plot, light comedy has a connection with different genres, for example, a fable, satire, anecdote, and is also often a means of polemic. A.A. Shakhovskoy had a negative attitude to new trends in the field of language, it is known that he belonged to the archaists and was a member of the literary society "Conversation of lovers of the Russian word". The innovators included the work of sentimentalists, whose leader was N.M. Karamzin.

In the light comedy "His own family, or a Married bride" Shakhovskaya, as before in "Lipetsk Waters" makes an injection in the direction of sentimentalists. Thus, the figure of a sensual admirer has already appeared in the comedy "New Stern" (1805), where he brings out the sentimental traveler Count Pronsky, as well as in the comedy "Lesson to Coquettes, or Lipetsk Waters" (1815), where it is easy to see a parody of Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky behind the figure of the poet Fialkin. In the comedy under consideration, satire is directed rather against the work of N.M. Karamzin, it is no coincidence that Raisa Savvishna, asking the girl about her life, says:

"Ah! you are embarrassed, ashamed! Oh my God!

Unhappy! tell me, or Erast is different,

As with poor Liza..." [9, p. 191]


"Is it easy, God knows how many miles

Run around at two o'clock? - From here to the churchyard

With Raisa Savvishna we ran straight, -

There was a little sighing over the graves there;

Then, along the bank of a dried-up stream,

We reached the grove where Auntie and I

They admired the motley herds, sighing.

Then we admired nature on the hill,

Under the hill, having met an old lady alone,

They gave her a poor, hot tear" [9, p. 200].

Critics reacted inconsistently to the joint play of the three authors. The magazine "Son of the Fatherland" positively commented on the production of the comedy: "... the play was received by the audience with pleasure and approval <...> it was played beautifully: all the actors played well" [10, p. 213]. But there were also negative reviews in the same magazine: "The main advantage of this comedy, which brought her the approval of the public, consists in several sharp and intricate verses. We know what our viewers like: light ambiguities and epigrams on women always excite loud laughter and general applause. The second degree consists of antics on French mamzels and fashionable upbringing, on extravagance and social life. Finally, the words: "Leipzig", "Kulm", "Paris", which by the way and inopportunely are entwined with every farce, but have already dropped in the course from continuous use on stage" [10, p. 215]. Contrary to reviews, the comedy has been played on the stage of the Imperial theater for many years. In Soviet times, the play was also popular.

Let's turn to the genre of vaudeville a variant of salon comedy, researchers [Meshcheryakov, Serbul, Sorovegina K.V.] noted "a special feature of vaudeville in the 1810s- 1820s is its "intermediateness", the ability to blend in with a variety of genres comic opera, interlude, melodrama, satirical and noble comedy, which causes its very different genre modifications" [8].

In 1824, Griboyedov, together with Vyazemsky, set to work on the vaudeville "Who is brother, who is Sister, or Deception after Deception," in which the plot of the play "His own family, or a Married Bride" is almost completely repeated. Yulia and Roslavlev Jr. hide their marriage from Roslavlev Sr., because he is able to deprive his younger brother of his inheritance. Newlyweds have to go to a lot of tricks to get their marriage approved.

Yulia, enlisting the support of the owner of the post office and his daughters, deceives the elder Roslavlev. She pretends to be a hussar who serves with the younger Roslavlev in St. Petersburg. In a conversation with Roslavlev Sr., Yulia in the image of a man agrees with his strict views on women and mentions her sister, who should be perfect for Roslavlev Sr. Roslavlev Sr. falls in love with Julia, who deftly changes the image from scene to scene. At this time, Roslavlev Jr. pretends to be a sick old man, whom Julia is looking after.

The climax of vaudeville is the scene of explanation the removal of masks. Yulia, disguised as a man, tells how she was abandoned by a man in whom Roslavlev Sr. is guessed. Julia throws off her male attire, Roslavlev understands how cruelly deceived, but finally gets confused when he realizes that his younger brother was in the image of a sick old man. In the end, Roslavlev Sr. approves of his brother's choice, and everything ends well: "To you and as soon as possible, with the beautiful Julia!.. Or maybe the name is fictitious, it's all the same: with your wife! We have nothing to get acquainted with, we seem to have become quite friends" [5, p. 190].

The joint work brought together A.S. Griboyedov and P.A. Vyazemsky, vaudeville was written specifically for the benefit of Lvova-Sinetskaya. In his letters, Vyazemsky recalled: "We agreed on some basic principles <...> Griboyedov took over all the prose, the arrangement of scenes, conversation, etc. I took the whole poetic part, that is, everything that should be sung... Shortly before that, I returned from Warsaw. In memory of my stay in Poland, I suggested to Griboyedov to move the scene to Poland and give the persons and content a Polish flavor in general" [4, p. 336].

Vaudeville did not gain the necessary popularity, Vyazemsky believed that the reason for the failure lies "in behind-the-scenes secrets. There was a young Pisarev in the then Moscow theater directorate. He was a clever translator of French vaudevilles and an indefatigable supplier of them to the Moscow stage, which only lived by them. In general, he was not without talent, but, probably, due to a sickly organism, he was irritable and bilious. I don't know why he disliked me. He also disliked Griboyedov, who already enjoyed the handwritten fame of his Grief from the Mind. Zagoskin was also an influential person in the directorate, who was also unfriendly to me at that time. With Griboyedov, he had old scores in St. Petersburg" [3, p. 196].

When analyzing the plays, it is worth noting that light comedy has a closer connection with the high literary tradition, which has already been noted by M. N. Serbul and M. N. Sorovegina: "In noble comedy, as in the "high", "literary" genre, the comic of the provisions gives way to verbal, "intellectual" comedy; dialogue prevails over the external action, the psychological characteristics of the characters are brought to the fore, external theatrical effects usually disappear" [8]. Vaudeville, having the origins of areal culture, still focuses more on external action, using such techniques as buffoonery, dressing up, surprise denouement. It is also important to note the role of the scene and the choice of characters: "A noble comedy, limited by the limits of a secular living room, does not let "low" characters into its world; the exceptions are servants-"confidants" and servants-"messengers". Vaudeville is another matter. The locality and anecdotal nature of the conflict do not prevent vaudevillists from expanding the stage space of the play by introducing mass scenes" [8]. Thus, as the researchers [M.N. Serbul, M.N. Sorovegina K.V.] note, light comedy, despite its inestimability as a genre, has a connection with a high literary tradition, while vaudeville "is entirely focused on the stage the main attention was paid to witticisms, couplets, puns, funny the positions in which the talent of a particular actor could manifest itself with the greatest vividness" [11, p. 71].

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