Aleksandr Petrovich Sumarokov Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Aleksandr Petrovich Sumarokov is by common consent the first full-fledged representative of Russian classicism. Consciously assuming the role of Russia’s Jean Racine, Molière, Jean de La Fontaine, and Nicolas Boileau all in one, Sumarokov wrote prolifically in all the literary genres fashionable for French neoclassicism: tragedies, comedies, pastorals, lyrics, odes, satires, fables, epistles, elegies, heroides, sonnets, songs, ballads, rondos, madrigals, epigrams, and inscriptions. A complete ten-volume collection of his works was first published in Moscow, Polnoe sobranie vsekh sochineniy v stikhakh i proze (1781-1787). A more recent collection of his works in verse, Izbrannye proizvedeniya, was published in Leningrad by the Library of the Poet in 1953. A second edition was published by the Library of the Poet in 1957.

Most of Sumarokov’s literary work is in verse, with the exception of his comedies, which in themselves represent a break from the true classical tradition inasmuch as tragedy was the genre most highly valued by the classicists. The higher, more solemn verse forms Sumarokov wrote in the “lofty style,” using Alexandrine meter adapted to Russian in a close imitation of French neoclassical poetry. In contrast, Sumarokov’s numerous fables have a more open Russian form without a fixed stanza or rhyme scheme, in the manner of the free verse of La Fontaine’s fables. Sumarokov’s songs show still greater variety of...

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