The play is set in a small town in provincial Russia, in the 1830s. Act 1 takes place in a room in the governor's house. The governor has called together the town's leading officials—including the judge, the superintendent of schools, the director of charities, the town doctor, and a local police officer—to inform them that a government inspector is due to arrive from Saint Petersburg. The governor explains that this government inspector is to arrive ‘‘incognito’’ with ‘‘secret instructions’’ to assess the local government and...
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