The Inspector-General, by Nikolai Gogol


A small room in the inn, bed, table, travelling bag, empty bottle, boots, clothes brush, etc.


Osip [lying on his master’s bed]. The devil take it! I’m so hungry. There’s a racket in my belly, as if a whole regiment were blowing trumpets. We’ll never reach home. I’d like to know what we are going to do. Two months already since we left St. Pete. He’s gone through all his cash, the precious buck, so now he sticks here with his tail between his legs and takes it easy. We’d have had enough and more than enough to pay for the fare, but no he must exhibit himself in every town. [Imitates him.] “Osip, get me the best room to be had and order the best dinner they serve. I can’t stand bad food. I must have the best.” It would be all right for a somebody, but for a common copying clerk! Goes and gets acquainted with the other travellers, plays cards, and plays himself out of his last penny. Oh, I’m sick of this life. It’s better in our village, really. There isn’t so much going on, but then there is less to bother about. You get yourself a wife and lie on the stove all the time and eat pie. Of course, if you wanted to tell the truth, there’s no denying it that there’s nothing like living in St. Pete. All you want is money. And then you can live smart and classy — theeadres, dogs to dance for you, everything, and everybody talks so genteel, pretty near like in high society. If you go to the Schukin bazaar, the shopkeepers cry, “Gentlemen,” at you. You sit with the officials in the ferry boat. If you want company, you go into a shop. A sport there will tell you about life in the barracks and explain the meaning of every star in the sky, so that you see them all as if you held them in your hand. Then an old officer’s wife will gossip, or a pretty chambermaid will dart a look at you — ta, ta, ta! [Smirks and wags his head.] And what deucedly civil manners they have, too. You never hear no impolite language. They always say “Mister” to you. If you are tired of walking, why you take a cab and sit in it like a lord. And if you don’t feel like paying, then you don’t. Every house has an open-work gate and you can slip through and the devil himself won’t catch you. There’s one bad thing, though; sometimes you get first class eats and sometimes you’re so starved you nearly drop — like now. It’s all his fault. What can you do with him? His dad sends him money to keep him going, but the devil a lot it does. He goes off on a spree, rides in cabs, gets me to buy a theeadre ticket for him every day, and in a week look at him — sends me to the old clo’es man to sell his new dress coat. Sometimes he gets rid of everything down to his last shirt and is left with nothing except his coat and overcoat. Upon my word, it’s the truth. And such fine cloth, too. English, you know. One dress coat costs him a hundred and fifty rubles and he sells it to the old clo’es man for twenty. No use saying nothing about his pants. They go for a song. And why? Because he doesn’t tend to his business. Instead of sticking to his job, he gads about on the Prospect and plays cards. Ah, if the old gentleman only knew it! He wouldn’t care that you are an official. He’d lift up your little shirtie and would lay it on so that you’d go about rubbing yourself for a week. If you have a job, stick to it. Here’s the innkeeper says he won’t let you have anything to eat unless you pay your back bills. Well, and suppose we don’t pay. [Sighing.] Oh, good God! If only I could get cabbage soup. I think I could eat up the whole world now. There’s a knock at the door. I suppose it’s him. [Rises from the bed hastily.]


Osip and Khlestakov.

Khlestakov. Here! [Hands him his cap and cane.] What, been warming the bed again!

Osip. Why should I have been warming the bed? Have I never seen a bed before?

Khlestakov. You’re lying. The bed’s all tumbled up.

Osip. What do I want a bed for? Don’t I know what a bed is like? I have legs and can use them to stand on. I don’t need your bed.

Khlestakov [walking up and down the room]. Go see if there isn’t some tobacco in the pouch.

Osip. What tobacco? You emptied it out four days ago.

Khlestakov [pacing the room and twisting his lips. Finally he says in a loud resolute voice]. Listen — a — Osip.

Osip. Yes, sir?

Khlestakov [In a voice just as loud, but not quite so resolute]. Go down there.

Osip. Where?

Khlestakov [in a voice not at all resolute, nor loud, but almost in entreaty].

Down to the restaurant — tell them — to send up dinner.

Osip. No, I won’t.

Khlestakov. How dare you, you fool!

Osip. It won’t do any good, anyhow. The landlord said he won’t let you have anything more to eat.

Khlestakov. How dare he! What nonsense is this?

Osip. He’ll go to the Governor, too, he says. It’s two weeks now since you’ve paid him, he says. You and your master are cheats, he says, and your master is a blackleg besides, he says. We know the breed. We’ve seen swindlers like him before.

Khlestakov. And you’re delighted, I suppose, to repeat all this to me, you donkey.

Osip. “Every Tom, Dick and Harry comes and lives here,” he says, “and runs up debts so that you can’t even put him out. I’m not going to fool about it,” he says, “I’m going straight to the Governor and have him arrested and put in jail.”

Khlestakov. That’ll do now, you fool. Go down at once and tell him to have dinner sent up. The coarse brute! The idea!

Osip. Hadn’t I better call the landlord here?

Khlestakov. What do I want the landlord for? Go and tell him yourself.

Osip. But really, master —

Khlestakov. Well, go, the deuce take you. Call the landlord.

Osip goes out.


Khlestakov [alone]. I am so ravenously hungry. I took a little stroll thinking I could walk off my appetite. But, hang it, it clings. If I hadn’t dissipated so in Penza I’d have had enough money to get home with. The infantry captain did me up all right. Wonderful the way the scoundrel cut the cards! It didn’t take more than a quarter of an hour for him to clean me out of my last penny. And yet I would give anything to have another set-to with him. Only I never will have the chance. — What a rotten town this is! You can’t get anything on credit in the grocery shops here. It’s deucedly mean, it is. [He whistles, first an air from Robert le Diable, then a popular song, then a blend of the two.] No one’s coming.


Khlestakov, Osip, and a Servant.

Servant. The landlord sent me up to ask what you want.

Khlestakov. Ah, how do you do, brother! How are you? How are you?

Servant. All right, thank you.

Khlestakov. And how are you getting on in the inn? Is business good?

Servant. Yes, business is all right, thank you.

Khlestakov. Many guests?

Servant. Plenty.

Khlestakov. See here, good friend. They haven’t sent me dinner yet. Please hurry them up! See that I get it as soon as possible. I have some business to attend to immediately after dinner.

Servant. The landlord said he won’t let you have anything any more. He was all for going to the Governor to-day and making a complaint against you.

Khlestakov. What’s there to complain about? Judge for yourself, friend. Why, I’ve got to eat. If I go on like this I’ll turn into a skeleton. I’m hungry, I’m not joking.

Servant. Yes, sir, that’s what he said. “I won’t let him have no dinner,” he said, “till he pays for what he has already had.” That was his answer.

Khlestakov. Try to persuade him.

Servant. But what shall I tell him?

Khlestakov. Explain that it’s a serious matter, I’ve got to eat. As for the money, of course — He thinks that because a muzhik like him can go without food a whole day others can too. The idea!

Servant. Well, all right. I’ll tell him.

The Servant and Osip go out.


Khlestakov alone.

Khlestakov. A bad business if he refuses to let me have anything. I’m so hungry. I’ve never been so hungry in my life. Shall I try to raise something on my clothes? Shall I sell my trousers? No, I’d rather starve than come home without a St. Petersburg suit. It’s a shame Joachim wouldn’t let me have a carriage on hire. It would have been great to ride home in a carriage, drive up under the porte-cochere of one of the neighbors with lamps lighted and Osip behind in livery. Imagine the stir it would have created. “Who is it? What’s that?” Then my footman walks in [draws himself up and imitates] and an- nounces: “Ivan Aleksandrovich Khlestakov of St. Petersburg. Will you receive him?” Those country lubbers don’t even know what it means to “receive.” If any lout of a country squire pays them a visit, he stalks straight into the drawing-room like a bear. Then you step up to one of their pretty girls and say: “Dee-lighted, madam.” [Rubs his hands and bows.] Phew! [Spits.] I feel positively sick, I’m so hungry.


Khlestakov, Osip, and later the Servant.

Khlestakov. Well?

Osip. They’re bringing dinner.

Khlestakov [claps his hands and wriggles in his chair]. Dinner, dinner, dinner!

Servant [with plates and napkin]. This is the last time the landlord will let you have dinner.

Khlestakov. The landlord, the landlord! I spit on your landlord. What have you got there?

Servant. Soup and roast beef.

Khlestakov. What! Only two courses?

Servant. That’s all.

Khlestakov. Nonsense! I won’t take it. What does he mean by that? Ask him. It’s not enough.

Servant. The landlord says it’s too much.

Khlestakov. Why is there no sauce?

Servant. There is none.

Khlestakov. Why not? I saw them preparing a whole lot when I passed through the kitchen. And in the dining-room this morning two short little men were eating salmon and lots of other things.

Servant. Well, you see, there is some and there isn’t.

Khlestakov. Why “isn’t”?

Servant. Because there isn’t any.

Khlestakov. What, no salmon, no fish, no cutlets?

Servant. Only for the better kind of folk.

Khlestakov. You’re a fool.

Servant. Yes, sir.

Khlestakov. You measly suckling pig. Why can they eat and I not? Why the devil can’t I eat, too? Am I not a guest the same as they?

Servant. No, not the same. That’s plain.

Khlestakov. How so?

Servant. That’s easy. THEY pay, that’s it.

Khlestakov. I’m not going to argue with you, simpleton! [Ladles out the soup and begins to eat.] What, you call that soup? Simply hot water poured into a cup. No taste to it at all. It only stinks. I don’t want it. Bring me some other soup.

Servant. All right. I’ll take it away. The boss said if you didn’t want it, you needn’t take it.

Khlestakov [putting his hand over the dishes]. Well, well, leave it alone, you fool. You may be used to treat other people this way, but I’m not that sort. I advise you not to try it on me. My God! What soup! [Goes on eating.] I don’t think anybody in the world tasted such soup. Feathers floating on the top instead of butter. [Cuts the piece of chicken in the soup.] Oh, oh, oh! What a bird! — Give me the roast beef. There’s a little soup left, Osip. Take it. [Cuts the meat.] What sort of roast beef is this? This isn’t roast beef.

Servant. What else is it?

Khlestakov. The devil knows, but it isn’t roast beef. It’s roast iron, not roast beef. [Eats.] Scoundrels! Crooks! The stuff they give you to eat! It makes your jaws ache to chew one piece of it. [Picks his teeth with his fingers.] Villains! It’s as tough as the bark of a tree. I can’t pull it out no matter how hard I try. Such meat is enough to ruin one’s teeth. Crooks! [Wipes his mouth with the napkin.] Is there nothing else?

Servant. No.

Khlestakov. Scoundrels! Blackguards! They might have given some decent pastry, or something, the lazy good-for-nothings! Fleecing their guests! That’s all they’re good for.

[The Servant takes the dishes and carries them out accompanied by Osip.]


Khlestakov alone.

Khlestakov. It’s just as if I had eaten nothing at all, upon my word. It has only whetted my appetite. If I only had some change to send to the market and buy some bread.

Osip [entering]. The Governor has come, I don’t know what for. He’s inquiring about you.

Khlestakov [in alarm]. There now! That inn- keeper has gone and made a complaint against me. Suppose he really claps me into jail? Well! If he does it in a gentlemanly way, I may — No, no, I won’t. The officers and the people are all out on the street and I set the fashion for them and the merchant’s daughter and I flirted. No, I won’t. And pray, who is he? How dare he, actually? What does he take me for? A tradesman? I’ll tell him straight out, “How dare you? How —”

[The door knob turns and Khlestakov goes pale and shrinks back.]


Khlestakov, the Governor, and Dobchinsky.

The Governor advances a few steps and stops. They stare at each other a few moments wide-eyed and frightened.

Governor [recovering himself a little and saluting military fashion]. I have come to present my compliments, sir.

Khlestakov [bows]. How do you do, sir?

Governor. Excuse my intruding.

Khlestakov. Pray don’t mention it.

Governor. It’s my duty as chief magistrate of this town to see that visitors and persons of rank should suffer no inconveniences.

Khlestakov [a little halting at first, but toward the end in a loud, firm voice].

Well — what was — to be — done? It’s not — my fault. I’m — really going to pay. They will send me money from home. [Bobchinsky peeps in at the door.] He’s most to blame. He gives me beef as hard as a board and the soup — the devil knows what he put into it. I ought to have pitched it out of the window. He starves me the whole day. His tea is so peculiar — it smells of fish, not tea. So why should I— The idea!

Governor [scared]. Excuse me! I assure you, it’s not my fault. I always have good beef in the market here. The Kholmogory merchants bring it, and they are sober, well-behaved people. I’m sure I don’t know where he gets his bad meat from. But if anything is wrong, may I suggest that you allow me to take you to another place?

Khlestakov. No, I thank you. I don’t care to leave. I know what the other place is — the jail. What right have you, I should like to know — how dare you? — Why, I’m in the government service at St. Petersburg. [Puts on a bold front.] I— I— I—

Governor [aside]. My God, how angry he is. He has found out everything. Those damned merchants have told him everything.

Khlestakov [with bravado]. I won’t go even if you come here with your whole force. I’ll go straight to the minister. [Bangs his fist on the table.] What do you mean? What do you mean?

Governor [drawing himself up stiffly and shaking all over]. Have pity on me. Don’t ruin me. I have a wife and little children. Don’t bring misfortune on a man.

Khlestakov. No, I won’t go. What’s that got to do with me? Must I go to jail because you have a wife and little children? Great! [Bobchinsky looks in at the door and disappears in terror.] No, much obliged to you. I will not go.

Governor [trembling]. It was my inexperience. I swear to you, it was nothing but my inexperience and insufficient means. Judge for yourself. The salary I get is not enough for tea and sugar. And if I have taken bribes, they were mere trifles — something for the table, or a coat or two. As for the officer’s widow to whom they say I gave a beating, she’s in business now, and it’s a slander, it’s a slander that I beat her. Those scoundrels here invented the lie. They are ready to murder me. That’s the kind of people they are.

Khlestakov. Well. I’ve nothing to do with them. [Reflecting.] I don’t see, though, why you should talk to me about your scoundrels or officer’s widow. An officer’s widow is quite a different matter. — But don’t you dare to beat me. You can’t do it to me — no, sir, you can’t. The idea! Look at him! I’ll pay, I’ll pay the money. Just now I’m out of cash. That’s why I stay here — because I haven’t a single kopek.

Governor [aside]. Oh, he’s a shrewd one. So that’s what he’s aiming at? He’s raised such a cloud of dust you can’t tell what direction he’s going. Who can guess what he wants? One doesn’t know where to begin. But I will try. Come what may, I’ll try — hit or miss. [Aloud.] H’m, if you really are in want of money, I’m ready to serve you. It is my duty to assist strangers in town.

Khlestakov. Lend me some, lend me some. Then I’ll settle up immediately with the landlord. I only want two hundred rubles. Even less would do.

Governor. There’s just two hundred rubles. [Giving him the money.] Don’t bother to count it.

Khlestakov [taking it]. Very much obliged to you. I’ll send it back to you as soon as I get home. I just suddenly found myself without — H’m — I see you are a gentleman. Now it’s all different.

Governor [aside]. Well, thank the Lord, he’s taken the money. Now I suppose things will move along smoothly. I slipped four hundred instead of two into his hand.

Khlestakov. Ho, Osip! [Osip enters.] Tell the servant to come. [To the Governor and Dobchinsky.] Please be seated. [To Dobchinsky.] Please take a seat, I beg of you.

Governor. Don’t trouble. We can stand.

Khlestakov. But, please, please be seated. I now see perfectly how open-hearted and generous you are. I confess I thought you had come to put me in — [To Dobchinsky.] Do take a chair.

The Governor and Dobchinsky sit down. Bobchinsky looks in at the door and listens.

Governor [aside]. I must be bolder. He wants us to pretend he is incognito. Very well, we will talk nonsense, too. We’ll pretend we haven’t the least idea who he is. [Aloud.] I was going about in the performance of my duty with Piotr Ivanovich Dobchinsky here — he’s a landed proprietor here — and we came to the inn to see whether the guests are properly accommodated — because I’m not like other governors, who don’t care about anything. No, apart from my duty, out of pure Christian philanthropy, I wish every mortal to be decently treated. And as if to reward me for my pains, chance has afforded me this pleasant acquaintance.

Khlestakov. I, too, am delighted. Without your aid, I confess, I should have had to stay here a long time. I didn’t know how in the world to pay my bill.

Governor [aside]. Oh, yes, fib on. — Didn’t know how to pay his bill! May I ask where your Honor is going?

Khlestakov. I’m going to my own village in the Government of Saratov.

Governor [aside, with an ironical expression on his face]. The Government of Saratov! H’m, h’m! And doesn’t even blush! One must be on the qui vive with this fellow. [Aloud.] You have undertaken a great task. They say travelling is disagreeable because of the delay in getting horses but, on the other hand, it is a diversion. You are travelling for your own amusement, I suppose?

Khlestakov. No, my father wants me. He’s angry because so far I haven’t made headway in the St. Petersburg service. He thinks they stick the Vladimir in your buttonhole the minute you get there. I’d like him to knock about in the government offices for a while.

Governor [aside]. How he fabricates! Dragging in his old father, too. [Aloud.] And may I ask whether you are going there to stay for long?

Khlestakov. I really don’t know. You see, my father is stubborn and stupid — an old dotard as hard as a block of wood. I’ll tell him straight out, “Do what you will, I can’t live away from St. Petersburg.” Really, why should I waste my life among peasants? Our times make different demands on us. My soul craves enlightenment.

Governor [aside]. He can spin yarns all right. Lie after lie and never trips. And such an ugly insignificant-looking creature, too. Why, it seems to me I could crush him with my finger nails. But wait, I’ll make you talk. I’ll make you tell me things. [Aloud.] You were quite right in your observation, that one can do nothing in a dreary out-of-the-way place. Take this town, for instance. You lie awake nights, you work hard for your country, you don’t spare yourself, and the reward? You don’t know when it’s coming. [He looks round the room.] This room seems rather damp.

Khlestakov. Yes, it’s a dirty room. And the bugs! I’ve never experienced anything like them. They bite like dogs.

Governor. You don’t say! An illustrious guest like you to be subjected to such annoyance at the hands of — whom? Of vile bugs which should never have been born. And I dare say, it’s dark here, too.

Khlestakov. Yes, very gloomy. The landlord has introduced the custom of not providing candles. Sometimes I want to do something — read a bit, or, if the fancy strikes me, write something. — I can’t. It’s a dark room, yes, very dark.

Governor. I wonder if I might be bold enough to ask you — but, no, I’m unworthy.

Khlestakov. What is it?

Governor. No, no, I’m unworthy. I’m unworthy.

Khlestakov. But what is it?

Governor. If I might be bold enough — I have a fine room for you at home, light and cosy. But no, I feel it is too great an honor. Don’t be offended. Upon my word, I made the offer out of the simplicity of my heart.

Khlestakov. On the contrary, I accept your invitation with pleasure. I should feel much more comfortable in a private house than in this disreputable tavern.

Governor. I’m only too delighted. How glad my wife will be. It’s my character, you know. I’ve always been hospitable from my very childhood, especially when my guest is a distinguished person. Don’t think I say this out of flattery. No, I haven’t that vice. I only speak from the fullness of my heart.

Khlestakov. I’m greatly obliged to you. I myself hate double-faced people. I like your candor and kind-heartedness exceedingly. And I am free to say, I ask for nothing else than devotion and esteem — esteem and devotion.


The above and the Servant, accompanied by Osip. Bobchinsky peeps in at the door.

Servant. Did your Honor wish anything?

Khlestakov. Yes, let me have the bill.

Servant. I gave you the second one a little while ago.

Khlestakov. Oh, I can’t remember your stupid accounts. Tell me what the whole comes to.

Servant. You were pleased to order dinner the first day. The second day you only took salmon. And then you took everything on credit.

Khlestakov. Fool! [Starts to count it all up now.] How much is it altogether?

Governor. Please don’t trouble yourself. He can wait. [To the Servant.] Get out of here. The money will be sent to you.

Khlestakov. Yes, that’s so, of course. [He puts the money in his pocket.]

The Servant goes out. Bobchinsky peeps in at the door.


The Governor, Khlestakov and Dobchinsky.

Governor. Would you care to inspect a few institutions in our town now — the philanthropic institutions, for instance, and others?

Khlestakov. But what is there to see?

Governor. Well, you’ll see how they’re run — the order in which we keep them.

Khlestakov. Oh, with the greatest pleasure. I’m ready.

Bobchinsky puts his head in at the door.

Governor. And then, if you wish, we can go from there and inspect the district school and see our method of education.

Khlestakov. Yes, yes, if you please.

Governor. Afterwards, if you should like to visit our town jails and prisons, you will see how our criminals are kept.

Khlestakov. Yes, yes, but why go to prison? We had better go to see the philanthropic institutions.

Governor. As you please. Do you wish to ride in your own carriage, or with me in the cab?

Khlestakov. I’d rather take the cab with you.

Governor [to Dobchinsky]. Now there’ll be no room for you, Piotr Ivanovich.

Dobchinsky. It doesn’t matter. I’ll walk.

Governor [aside, to Dobchinsky]. Listen. Run as fast as you can and take two notes, one to Zemlianika at the hospital, the other to my wife. [To Khlestakov.] May I take the liberty of asking you to permit me to write a line to my wife to tell her to make ready to receive our honored guest?

Khlestakov. Why go to so much trouble? However, there is the ink. I don’t know whether there is any paper. Would the bill do?

Governor. Yes, that’ll do. [Writes, talking to himself at the same time.] We’ll see how things will go after lunch and several stout-bellied bottles. We have some Russian Madeira, not much to look at, but it will knock an elephant off its legs. If I only knew what he is and how much I have to be [on] my guard.

He finishes writing and gives the notes to Dobchinsky. As the latter walks across the stage, the door suddenly falls in, and Bobchinsky tumbles in with it to the floor. All exclaim in surprise. Bobchinsky rises.

Khlestakov. Have you hurt yourself?

Bobchinsky. Oh, it’s nothing — nothing at all — only a little bruise on my nose. I’ll run in to Dr. Hübner’s. He has a sort of plaster. It’ll soon pass away.

Governor [making an angry gesture at Bobchinsky. To Khlestakov]. Oh, it’s nothing. Now, if you please, sir, we’ll go. I’ll tell your servant to carry your luggage over. [Calls Osip.] Here, my good fellow, take all your master’s things to my house, the Governor’s. Anyone will tell you where it is. By your leave, sir. [Makes way for Khlestakov and follows him; then turns and says reprovingly to Bobchinsky.] Couldn’t you find some other place to fall in? Sprawling out here like a lobster!

Goes out. After him Bobchinsky. Curtain falls.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54