Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District

by Nikolai Leskov

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The characters of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District are:

Katerina Izmaylova: Katerina is Zinovy's wife. She is young, attractive, lustful, and flirtatious. Like many young women of her time and station in life, she is illiterate. Katerina resents her provincial life and her father-in-law's rule. In Zinovy's absence, she has an affair with Sergey, the new farmhand.

Katerina maintains that both men and women can be brave, self-sacrificial, wise, and strong. She sees her affair with Sergey as an act of defiance against society. To Katerina, her husband Zinovy is weak, ineffectual, and sexless. Katerina does not find fulfillment with Sergey, however. His roving eye inspires only despair in her, and she eventually takes her own life. In the story, Katerina is guilty of the murder of three people: Boris, Zinovy, and Fyodor.

Sergey: Sergey is the new laborer at the Izmaylov property. He is lustful, conniving, and opportunistic. Sergey becomes enamored with Katerina and has an affair with her, despite knowing that she is a married woman and the lady of the house. His sensual nature fascinates Katerina, which explains why the latter is willing to take a risk in bedding him. For his part, Sergey aligns himself with Katerina but does not remain faithful to her. He eventually has an affair with Sonetka and Fiona.

Zinovy Izmaylov: Zinovy is Katerina's hapless husband. He returns home to hear that he has been cuckolded. Furious by Katerina's disloyalty, Zinovy beats her. The story does not reveal much about Zinovy, but the text tells us that he holds the same misconceptions about women that Boris does. In the end, Zinovy dies at the hands of Katerina and Sergey.

Boris Izmaylov: Boris is Zinovy's father and Katerina's father-in-law. He rules his household with an iron hand and harbors contempt for Zinovy for his failure to keep his pretty wife satisfied. Boris is secretly enamored with Katerina. In his youth, Boris was a philanderer, and in Zinovy's absence, he shamelessly fantasizes about bedding Katerina. When he discovers Sergey in Katerina's bedroom, he flogs the farmhand himself and has the latter consigned to the store-room. Boris's life is short-lived, however, for Katerina kills him by serving him poisoned mushrooms.

Fyodor: Fyodor is Boris's distant relative. In the story, Katerina and Sergey murder the young boy after concluding that the latter would stand in the way of Katerina inheriting the entire Izmaylov estate.

Fiona: Fiona is a female convict who has an affair with Sergey. Fiona is mainly interested in satisfying her lusts and has little consideration for Katerina's feelings.

Sonetka: Sonetka is the second female convict who has an affair with Sergey. Their affair taunts Katerina for her failure to keep Sergey's interest. Sonetka later drowns after Katerina pushes her into the river.

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