The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The Snowstorm is a short play that Marina Tsvetayeva subtitled “dramatic scenes in verse.” It is the first of Tsvetayeva’s dramatic works and was written in Moscow in December, 1918. Tsvetayeva’s early dramatic works are written in a neoromantic style. Although Tsvetayeva is not generally considered as one of the Russian Symbolist writers, or as a member of any group of poets writing during what is known as the Silver Age of Russian poetry, this play is noticeably influenced by the Symbolists.

The play takes place at an inn in Bohemia on New Year’s Eve. A group of travelers is caught in a snowstorm. As is typical of a Symbolist play, the characters are types. They do not have individual identities, but instead represent a certain group of characteristics. An Innkeeper, a Huntsman, a Trader, an Old Woman, and a Lady in a Cape are gathered. The Old Woman is described as representing the essence of the eighteenth century. The Lady in the Cape remains aloof from the rest of the group, and her identity remains a mystery until near the end of the play. The three men seem merely to provide a backdrop of vulgarity to contrast with the action in the final scene. In that respect, they function as a chorus.

After defending the Lady from the sarcastic comments of the three men, the Old Woman gives the Lady a diamond ring that was once given to her by the king. It is understood that she must have the ring, but no explanation is offered....

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Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In this drama, Tsvetayeva experiments with the elliptical style that is characteristic of her later verse. As in her lyrics, the verses begin in a regular metrical pattern and then gradually vary in rhythm. Tsvetayeva varies her style according to each character, although the style of writing remains essentially her own. In fact, Tsvetayeva is often noted for her ability to sustain different tones within the same collection of verse. In the first section of the play, the elliptical style lends a quality of colloquial speech to the opening conversation of the three men.

The exchange between the Lady and the Gentleman in the last section is modeled on Aleksandr Blok’s style, as is Tsvetayeva’s later “Verses to Blok.” Repetition of the first word of the stanza is prominent in this section, lending an incantatory quality to the conversation. It is reminiscent of the singsong quality of a prayer. The speech of the Old Woman and the Gentleman is marked by archaisms and the longer lines characteristic of eighteenth century Russian versification. Although the repetitive patterning and archaisms are reminiscent of Blok, they are successfully assimilated into Tsvetayeva’s lyric poetry. Tsvetayeva’s later poetry is characterized by a mixture of colloquial and archaic diction. She also experimented with the repetition of sounds and roots of words in her mature verse as well as simply the repetition of certain words.

The similarities in the...

(The entire section is 496 words.)