Critical Context

The Bedbug is one of many Russian plays of the 1920’s that address the issue of the New Economic Policy. Most of them unsparingly satirize the greed of NEPmen who seek to line their own pockets during the relaxation of revolutionary discipline. Among the best are Boris Romashov’s Vozdushny pirog (pr. 1925; the sweet souffle), Mikhail Bulgakov’s Zoykina kvartira (pr. 1926; Zoya’s Apartment, 1970), and Nikolay Erdman’s Samoubiytsa (pr. 1928; The Suicide, 1975). In each play the central character is an entrepreneur who, caught up in the acquisitive spirit of the decade, struggles to succeed by grandiose or immoral schemes. As satiric dramatists since Aristophanes have done, Mayakovsky, Romashov, Erdman, and Bulgakov freely infuse their central plots with comic, absurd, and fantastic elements.

Although Mayakovsky was primarily a poet, he wrote twelve dramatic works; no two of these works are alike in form. They range from an extended verse monologue starring the poet himself to a pantomime about a revolutionary hero to an onstage pageant allegorizing the ascendance of the worker class. By using surprising combinations of visual and verbal elements, Mayakovsky provided the revolutionary theater that a revolutionary society demanded. What Mayakovsky’s theatrical works have in common are the celebration of socialist ideals and his withering scorn for bourgeois culture. Mayakovsky is never...

(The entire section is 435 words.)