Yevgeny Zamyatin Drama Analysis
Yevgeny Zamyatin’s reputation is likely to stand primarily on his short stories and novels, with his dramatic works, while significant in their own right, taking a secondary place. Although he was relatively free to write his plays, he was seriously limited in his ability to disseminate his works and stage his plays because of his ideological differences with the communist regime in the Soviet Union. The fact that two of his plays have never been staged in Russia (despite their receiving considerable approval abroad) may have contributed to the relative slighting of these works. An additional reason may be that most of his plays are somewhat dated, concerned as they are in one way or another with local matters. At the same time, three of his major plays are set outside of Russia and carry messages that concern all humankind. Zamyatin’s ability to rise above local themes and give his plays universal meanings makes his plays worth reading and staging today.
The Fires of St. Dominic
The Fires of St. Dominic, a costume drama set in Seville, Spain, during the Inquisition in the second half of the sixteenth century, depicts the cruel role of the inquisitor Munebraga. Zamyatin lashes out not only at a doctrine of infallibility, at the suppression of heresy by ruthless means, but also at the weaklings who do not protest their loss of liberty. This historical drama was most likely inspired by Fyodor Dostoevski’s “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” from Bratya Karamazovy (1879-1880; The Brothers Karamazov, 1912). Under this thin disguise, Zamyatin attacks the cruel behavior of the Bolsheviks and their leaders Vladimir Ilich Lenin and Joseph Stalin, who “were killing men to save mankind” in the first years of the revolution and later as well. Because of this attack on ideological conformity and the repressive mentality of the Bolsheviks, the play was never performed in Russia, although it has been staged by the Russian émigrés. Throughout his life, Zamyatin vigorously defended the right to heresy, there and elsewhere (for example, in the novel We). The Fires of St. Dominic transcends the borders of both Spain and Russia,...
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