Alexander Ostrovsky Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Alexander Ostrovsky’s only nondramatic writings are the semifictional “Zapiski zamoskvoretskogo zhitelya” (notes of a beyond-the-river resident) and occasional critical articles for various literary journals.


Alexander Ostrovsky was the founder of the modern Russian theater. Though his predecessors Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol wrote several memorable plays, their primary genres were poetry and prose, respectively, and they did not contribute significantly to the development of drama. Ostrovsky devoted his entire creative life not only to writing plays but also to producing them. In addition, he took a leading part in bringing variety to the stage by breaking the monopoly of the Imperial theaters. His prolific output of forty-seven original plays, supplemented by collaborative efforts and translations, gave Russia its first solid repertoire. In choice of subject matter, he also broke new ground. His plays for the first time presented the rising Russian merchant class to the audience. This social contingent, barely one generation away from humbler country origin, had not been deemed worthy of artistic portrayal previously, and its highly visible presence in many of Ostrovsky’s plays aroused immediate interest and controversy. The playwright further used his work to emphasize the unjust and utterly dependent position of young women without a dowry, the regressive marriage practices of the time, and the abuses perpetrated by Russia’s growing merchant class. For illuminating this “realm of darkness,” as the prominent critic Nikolay Dobrolyubov called it, and because of his many confrontations with czarist censors, Ostrovsky was considered an important social...

(The entire section is 447 words.)


Hoover, Marjorie L. Alexander Ostrovsky. Boston: Twayne, 1981. A basic biography of Ostrovsky that covers his life and works. Bibliography and index.

Lyons, Donald. “Chekov and His Forebear.” Review of The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekhov, and The Forest, by Alexander Ostrovsky. Wall Street Journal, November 5, 1997, p. A20. Lyons compares and contrasts the two Russian plays, which were being performed in New York in 1997.

Rahman, Kate Sealey. Ostrovsky: Reality and Illusion. Birmingham, England: University of Birmingham, 1999. A study of Ostrovsky that focuses on his efforts at realism and his idealism. Bibliography and index.