Who is Khlestakov in Nikolai Gogol's play The Government Inspector?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Nikolai Gogol's play The Government Inspector, set in provincial Russia, more than 80 years before the Russian Revolution, the character Ivan Alexandrovich Khlestakov is an upper-class gentleman and con artist with a gambling addiction. Due to his gambling addiction, his man servant Osip informs the audience that Khlestakov spends money frivolously to the point that he must sell all of his clothing to earn more money, "down to his last shirt."  Osip further informs us that they are stuck at the inn until they can pay the bill.

Coincidentally, the town's mayor, Anton Antonovich, has just heard word that Saint Petersburg is sending an inspector to take a look at the condition of the town. Mayor Antonovich, as well as many of the town's officials, are just as much guilty of corruption as Khlestakov. Antonovich is very worried about cleaning up the town's act before the inspector arrives and is fretting about exactly when he will arrive and how he will be recognized. When the townspeople discover that a gentleman has been staying in the inn for the past two weeks, the mayor and town's officials become convinced that the gentleman is the inspector incognito. The gentleman they believe to be the inspector turns out to be the gambling, swindling Khlestakov.

Since Khlestakov is such a con artist, he very easily comes to understand who the town has mistaken him to be and very easily swindles the town for hundreds of rubles, giving the corrupt officials their just rewards.