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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313

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Boris Godunov tells the story of a privy councilor named Boris Godunov who plans the assassination of Tsarevitch Dimitry. Boris plans the assassination in such a way that he escapes suspicion and even becomes czar himself. A young, ambitious monk named Grigory realizes he is the same age as the murdered czar and decides to impersonate Dimitry and overthrow Godunov. Godunov attempts to capture Grigory, who begins to build armies in Lithuania and Poland. Grigory eventually marches on Godunov's son, the new czar, and defeats him. Some of the main characters in Boris Godunov are:

Boris Godunov: The counselor who plots the murder of the czar. Due to his careful plotting, he mostly avoids suspicion for the murder, although a few people know the truth, such as Grigory. Boris later becomes the czar and proves to be a cruel and ruthless ruler. He becomes ill quite suddenly and names his son as Czar before he dies.

Grigory Otrepyev: a young monk who pretends he is the murdered czar Dimitry. He builds an army in Poland and eventually leads them to attack Boris Godunov. Grigory eventually emerges victorious.

Basmanov: A military general who wishes to avoid the intricacies of politics. He originally supports Boris Godunov's son as czar but later defects to Grigory's side, leading to Grigory's victory.

Maryna: a Polish woman that Grigory falls in love with. She is initially angered when she discovers that Grigory is not the murdered czar Dimitry, as he claims. She agrees to marry Grigory if his armies are victorious.

Feodor: Boris Godunov's son, who becomes czar for a short time. He commits suicide by taking poison, according to Grigory's men.

Pushkin: One of Grigory's men who is instrumental in persuading Basmanov to defect to their side. He also rallies the people against Godunov.

Father Pimen: An older monk and former soldier. He is a mentor to Grigory.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 306

Boris Godunov

Boris Godunov (boh-RIHS goh-do-NOHF), a privy counselor who manages to have Tsarevitch Dimitry assassinated without having to take the blame for the murder. As the new czar, Godunov exacts strict obedience from his subordinates, treats the masses cruelly, and puts down ruthlessly any attempt to unseat him. While engaged in a war against a pretender, he is suddenly taken ill and dies, naming his son the new czar before his demise.

Grigory Otrepyev

Grigory Otrepyev (grih-GOH-rihy oht-REH-pyehf), a young monk turned rebel who pretends he is the late Dimitry. He marshals armies in Poland and, eventually, marches against Godunov. The struggle is bitter, and Grigory, finally triumphant, is disturbed because the populace stands silent when asked to acclaim him.


Basmanov (bahs-MAH-nof), a general interested in military victory, not political complexities. First, he supports Godunov’s son as czar; then, persuaded by Pushkin, a Grigory supporter, he leads his troops over to the other side. It is Basmanov’s defection that spells victory for Grigory.


Maryna (mah-RIH-nuh), a girl who holds Grigory’s army idle in Poland because Grigory, having fallen in love with her, is loathe to give the order to advance against Godunov. Maryna, although repelled because Grigory is only an unfrocked priest and not Dimitry, as he claims to be, still consents to become Grigory’s wife if his armies overthrow Godunov.


Feodor (feh-O-dohr), Godunov’s son, who is czar for a short time before, according to the Grigory followers who last saw him, he takes poison.


Pushkin (POOSH-kihn), a Grigory supporter who persuades Basmanov to defect to the pretender’s side and who, making a violent speech in the great square, inflames the people against Godunov.

Father Pimen

Father Pimen, an old monk, formerly a soldier, who counsels Grigory to put worldly ambitions out of his thoughts.