A Fallen Idol Is Still a God: Lermontov and the Quandaries of Cultural Transition

By Elizabeth Cheresh Allen | Go to book overview

FIVE
Ideals to Ideology Unmasking Masquerade

THE POST-ROMANTIC IDEOLOGUE

Romanticists worshipped Shakespeare. In their eyes, as historian Jacques Barzun observes, “Shakespeare's art was equal to his genius, his judgment in characterization and dramatic fitness was impeccable; his knowledge of life and human beings was not equaled by any other poet or playwright… . Thus was 'the bard' born” (Dawn, 516).1

Lermontov knelt at the same altar. Both Othello and Hamlet were staged in Moscow while the young Lermontov was in residence there, and he avidly attended the theater during his stay. He expressed his admiration for Hamlet in particular and Shakespeare in general in a letter of 1830 or 1831 to his aunt Maria Shan-Girei, lauding “this immeasurable genius penetrating into the heart of humanity, into the laws of fate, the original, that is, the inimitable Shakespeare” (4: 360–61). Lermontov incorporated direct references or allusions to various Shakespeare plays, especially Hamlet, Macbeth, and The Merchant of Venice, into a number of his own poems, plays, and prose works. And in the last extant letter from him, written in June 1841,

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