Rumors as Catalysts in the Works of Griboedov and Pushkin

Melissa J. Sokol, Brown University

Rumors play an important role in literature as is evidenced by Aleksandr Sergeevich Griboedov's Gore ot uma and Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin's Boris Godunov in which they are essential to the very structure of the works. Although different types of rumors are utilized by Griboedov and Pushkin, both rely upon rumors as catalysts of action. On a larger scale the historical and political situations as represented in these plays reflect the general atmosphere in which rumors flourish.

An investigation of these Romantic writers must begin with a look at Shakespeare who was an important and familiar figure to both Griboedov and Pushkin. Hamlet and Henry IV are two works in which Shakespeare himself employs rumors.

In Gore ot uma Sofija creates a wedge driver type of rumor when she tells Mr. N that Chatskij is mad. Mr. N is eager to believe this and thus illustrates that the power of a rumor largely depends on the predisposition of the interlocutor. Rumor (slux) also means hearing or ear, a fact which Griboedov emphasizes by including Prince Tugouxovskij and the Countess who both have difficulty hearing. In this manner he underscores the importance of the message receiver. With the introduction of the rumor about Chatskij's madness the action of the play begins to pick up speed, and we clearly see the development and distortion of the rumor as it passes from one guest to the next.

In the case of Pushkin's Boris Godunov there are rumors which link Boris to the death of Tsar Fedor, and rumors that Tsarevich Dmitrij is alive. These bogie rumors are perpetuated with intention of stirring up and persuading the masses. The Impostor Dmitrij himself notes that no one is interested in the validity of his claim to the throne but instead the desire of the public to believe makes the perpetuation of such rumors possible. The reaction of Boris and his faithful followers shows they fear the power of these rumors. But it must be determined if the rumors which arise with the appearance of the Impostor Dmitrij are the result of political turmoil or if political turmoil is the effect of his appearance. Also the relationship between the intensity of the rumors and the political instability of the time as presented by Pushkin must be contemplated.

Thus it seems that Griboedov and Pushkin employ different types of rumors to the same end: rumors serve as catalysts of action and accelerate the unfolding of events.