Yevgeny Shvarts Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Yevgeny Shvarts began his literary career in the 1920’s as a writer of poetry and stories for children. In the 1930’s, he wrote some prose adaptations of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales; in the 1940’s, he wrote a number of original, realistic stories for children about contemporary life. The best-known of these, Pervoklassnits (1947; the first grader), was made into a film in 1948. Other film scenarios by Shvarts include Razbudite Lenochku (1933; wake up, Lenochka), Zolushka (1947; Cinderella), and Don Quixote (1957).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Yevgeny Shvarts succeeded, perhaps better than any other Soviet playwright, in popularizing the formally sophisticated avant-garde theatrical styles that reached their maturity under Vsevolod Meyerhold in the 1920’s but then, in the Stalinist years from 1930 to 1956, either were repressed for political reasons or lost out in competition with the old, established realist tradition of the Moscow Art Theatre and the new tradition of socialist realism. Shvarts is an anomaly because he made his major contributions to the Soviet avant-garde tradition in the period from 1934 to 1944, after that tradition was dead or dying or had gone underground elsewhere in Soviet theater.

Shvarts drew the materials for his plays from stories that had become familiar in Soviet mass culture through published translations of fairy tales by Andersen and Charles Perrault and of popular versions of medieval romances. He also drew on nonliterary sources—his audience’s collective memory of Russian folktales. He elegantly reworked these materials drawn from popular and folk sources, transforming them in his stylized adaptations. He succeeded in returning them to popular theater and film, where they enriched Soviet popular culture both as individual classics and as continuations of the 1920’s avant-garde tradition.

Shvarts is officially recognized in the Soviet Union primarily for his adaptations of fairy tales for children’s theater. His versions of “Little Red...

(The entire section is 463 words.)


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Corten, Irina H. “Evgeny Lvoich Shvarts: A Biographical Sketch and Bibliography.” Russian Literature Triquarterly 16 (1979). This article presents a brief overview of the life of Shvarts and his works.

Corten, Irina H. “Evgeny Shvarts as an Adapter of Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault.” Russian Review 37 (1978): 516-567. This essay focuses on Shvarts’s adaptations of fairy tales in his plays.

Leach, Robert, and Victor Borovsky, eds. A History of Russian Theater. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999. This overview of Russian drama presents background information on the theater during the time in which Shvarts wrote. Bibliography and index.

Metcalf, Amanda T. Evgenii Shvartz and His Fairy-Tales for Adults. Birmingham, England: University of Birmingham Press, 1979. A critical analysis of the works of Shvarts, which include fairy tales. Bibliography.

Neill, Heather. “Sinister Fairy Tale.” Review of The Dragon, by Yevgeny Shvarts. The Times Educational Supplement, November 20, 1992, p. 11. A review of a performance of Shvarts’s The Dragon by the Royal National Theatre in England.

Segel, Harold B. Twentieth Century Russian Drama: From Gorky to the Present. Rev. ed. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. This examination of Russian theater in the twentieth century includes coverage of Shvarts’s role. Bibliography and index.

Smeliansky, Anatoly. The Russian Theater After Stalin. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Although this work begins in 1953, toward the end of Shvarts’s career, it sheds light on the forces that affected his work. Bibliography and index.