The Inspector-General, by Nikolai Gogol


SCENE: Same as in Act IV.


Governor, Anna Andreyevna, and Marya Antonovna.

Governor. Well, Anna Andreyevna, eh? Did you ever imagine such a thing? Such a rich prize? I’ll be —. Well, confess frankly, it never occurred to you even in your dreams, did it? From just a simple governor’s wife suddenly — whew! — I’ll be hanged! — to marry into the family of such a big gun.

Anna. Not at all. I knew it long ago. It seems wonderful to you because you are so plain. You never saw decent people.

Governor. I’m a decent person myself, mother. But, really, think, Anna Andreyevna, what gay birds we have turned into now, you and I. Eh, Anna Andreyevna? High fliers, by Jove! Wait now, I’ll give those fellows who were so eager to present their petitions and denunciations a peppering. Ho, who’s there? [Enter a Sergeant.] Is it you, Ivan Karpovich? Call those merchants here, brother, won’t you? I’ll give it to them, the scoundrels! To make such complaints against me! The damned pack of Jews! Wait, my dear fellows. I used to dose you down to your ears. Now I’ll dose you down to your beards. Make a list of all who came to protest against me, especially the mean petty scribblers who cooked the petitions up for them, and announce to all that they should know what honor the Heavens have bestowed upon the Governor, namely this: that he is marrying his daughter, not to a plain ordinary man, but to one the like of whom has never yet been in the world, who can do everything, everything, everything, everything! Proclaim it to all so that everybody should know. Shout it aloud to the whole world. Ring the bell, the devil take it! It is a triumph, and we will make it a triumph. [The Sergeant goes out.] So that’s the way, Anna Andreyevna, eh? What shall we do now? Where shall we live? Here or in St. Pete?

Anna. In St. Petersburg, of course. How could we remain here?

Governor. Well, if St. Pete, then St. Pete. But it would be good here, too. I suppose the governorship could then go to the devil, eh, Anna Andreyevna?

Anna. Of course. What’s a governorship?

Governor. Don’t you think, Anna Andreyevna, I can rise to a high rank now, he being hand in glove with all the ministers, and visiting the court? In time I can be promoted to a generalship. What do you think, Anna Andreyevna? Can I become a general?

Anna. I should say so. Of course you can.

Governor. Ah, the devil take it, it’s nice to be a general. They hang a ribbon across your shoulders. What ribbon is better, the red St. Anne or the blue St. Andrew?

Anna. The blue St. Andrew, of course.

Governor. What! My, you’re aiming high. The red one is good, too. Why does one want to be a general? Because when you go travelling, there are always couriers and aides on ahead with “Horses”! And at the stations they refuse to give the horses to others. They all wait, all those councilors, captains, governors, and you don’t take the slightest notice of them. You dine somewhere with the governor-general. And the town-governor — I’ll keep him waiting at the door. Ha, ha, ha! [He bursts into a roar of laughter, shaking all over.] That’s what’s so alluring, confound it!

Anna. You always like such coarse things. You must remember that our life will have to be completely changed, that your acquaintances will not be a dog-lover of a judge, with whom you go hunting hares, or a Zemlianika. On the contrary, your acquaintances will be people of the most refined type, counts, and society aristocrats. Only really I am afraid of you. You sometimes use words that one never hears in good society.

Governor. What of it? A word doesn’t hurt.

Anna. It’s all right when you are a town-governor, but there the life is entirely different.

Governor. Yes, they say there are two kinds of fish there, the sea-eel and the smelt, and before you start to eat them, the saliva flows in your mouth.

Anna. That’s all he thinks about — fish. I shall insist upon our house being the first in the capital and my room having so much amber in it that when you come in you have to shut your eyes. [She shuts her eyes and sniffs.] Oh, how good!


The same and the Merchants.

Governor. Ah, how do you do, my fine fellows?

Merchants [bowing]. We wish you health, father.

Governor. Well, my dearly beloved friends, how are you? How are your goods selling? So you complained against me, did you, you tea tanks, you scurvy hucksters? Complain, against me? You crooks, you pirates, you. Did you gain a lot by it, eh? Aha, you thought you’d land me in prison? May seven devils and one she-devil take you! Do you know that —

Anna. Good heavens, Antosha, what words you use!

Governor [irritated]. Oh, it isn’t a matter of words now. Do you know that the very official to whom you complained is going to marry my daughter? Well, what do you say to that? Now I’ll make you smart. You cheat the people, you make a contract with the government, and you do the government out of a hundred thousand, supplying it with rotten cloth; and when you give fifteen yards away gratis, you expect a reward besides. If they knew, they would send you to — And you strut about sticking out your paunches with a great air of importance: “I’m a merchant, don’t touch me.” “We,” you say, “are as good as the nobility.” Yes, the nobility, you monkey-faces. The nobleman is educated. If he gets flogged in school, it is for a purpose, to learn something useful. And you — start out in life learning trickery. Your master beats you for not being able to cheat. When you are still little boys and don’t know the Lord’s Prayer, you already give short measure and short weight. And when your bellies swell and your pockets fill up, then you assume an air of importance. Whew! What marvels! Because you guzzle sixteen samovars full a day, that’s why you put on an air of importance. I spit on your heads and on your importance.

Merchants [bowing]. We are guilty, Anton Antonovich.

Governor. Complaining, eh? And who helped you with that grafting when you built a bridge and charged twenty thousand for wood when there wasn’t even a hundred rubles’ worth used? I did. You goat beards. Have you forgotten? If I had informed on you, I could have despatched you to Siberia. What do you say to that?

A merchant. I’m guilty before God, Anton Antonovich. The evil spirit tempted me. We will never complain against you again. Ask whatever satisfaction you want, only don’t be angry.

Governor. Don’t be angry! Now you are crawling at my feet. Why? Because I am on top now. But if the balance dipped the least bit your way, then you would trample me in the very dirt — you scoundrels! And you would crush me under a beam besides.

Merchants [prostrating themselves]. Don’t ruin us, Anton Antonovich.

Governor. Don’t ruin us! Now you say, don’t ruin us! And what did you say before? I could give you — [shrugging his shoulders and throwing up his hands.] Well, God forgive you. Enough. I don’t harbor malice for long. Only look out now. Be on your guard. My daughter is going to marry, not an ordinary nobleman. Let your congratulations be — you understand? Don’t try to get away with a dried sturgeon or a loaf of sugar. Well, leave now, in God’s name.

Merchants leave.


The same, Ammos Fiodorovich, Artemy Filippovich, then Rastakovsky.

Ammos [in the doorway]. Are we to believe the report, Anton Antonovich? A most extraordinary piece of good fortune has befallen you, hasn’t it?

Artemy. I have the honor to congratulate you on your unusual good fortune. I was glad from the bottom of my heart when I heard it. [Kisses Anna’s hand.] Anna Andreyevna! [Kissing Marya’s hand.] Marya Antonovna!

Rastakovsky enters.

Rastakovsky. I congratulate you, Anton Antonovich. May God give you and the new couple long life and may He grant you numerous progeny — grand-children and great-grand-children. Anna Andreyevna! [Kissing her hand.] Marya Antonovna! [Kissing her hand.]


The same, Korobkin and his Wife, Liuliukov.

Korobkin. I have the honor to congratulate you, Anton Antonovich, and you, Anna Andreyevna [kissing her hand] and you Marya Antonovna [kissing her hand].

Korobkin’S WIFE. I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart, Anna Andreyevna, on your new stroke of good fortune.

Liuliukov. I have the honor to congratulate you, Anna Andreyevna. [Kisses her hand and turns to the audience, smacks his lips, putting on a bold front.] Marya Antonovna, I have the honor to congratulate you. [Kisses her hand and turns to the audience in the same way.]


A number of Guests enter. They kiss Anna’s hand saying: “Anna Andreyevna,” then Marya’s hand, saying “Marya Antonovna.”

Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky enter jostling each other.

Bobchinsky. I have the honor to congratulate you.

Dobchinsky. Anton Antonovich, I have the honor to congratulate you.

Bobchinsky. On the happy event.

Dobchinsky. Anna Andreyevna!

Bobchinsky. Anna Andreyevna!

They bend over her hand at the same time and bump foreheads.

Dobchinsky. Marya Antonovna! [Kisses her hand.] I have the honor to congratulate you. You will enjoy the greatest happiness. You will wear garments of gold and eat the most delicate soups, and you will pass your time most entertainingly.

Bobchinsky [breaking in]. God give you all sorts of riches and of money and a wee tiny little son, like this. [Shows the size with his hands.] So that he can sit on the palm of your hand. The little fellow will be crying all the time, “Wow, wow, wow.”


More Guests enter and kiss the ladies’ hands, among them Luka Lukich and his wife.

Luka lukich. I have the honor.

Luka’S WIFE [running ahead]. Congratulate you, Anna Andreyevna. [They kiss.] Really, I was so glad to hear of it. They tell me, “Anna Andreyevna has betrothed her daughter.” “Oh, my God,” I think to myself. It made me so glad that I said to my husband, “Listen, Lukanchik, that’s a great piece of fortune for Anna Andreyevna.” “Well,” think I to myself, “thank God!” And I say to him, “I’m so delighted that I’m consumed with impatience to tell it to Anna Andreyevna herself.” “Oh, my God,” think I to myself, “it’s just as Anna Andreyevna expected. She always did expect a good match for her daughter. And now what luck! It happened just exactly as she wanted it to happen.” Really, it made me so glad that I couldn’t say a word. I cried and cried. I simply screamed, so that Luka Lukich said to me, “What are you crying so for, Nastenka?” “Lukanchik,” I said, “I don’t know myself. The tears just keep flowing like a stream.”

Governor. Please sit down, ladies and gentlemen. Ho, Mishka, bring some more chairs in.

The Guests seat themselves.


The same, the Police Captain and Sergeants.

Captain. I have the honor to congratulate you, your Honor, and to wish you long years of prosperity.

Governor. Thank you, thank you! Please sit down, gentlemen.

The Guests seat themselves.

Ammos. But please tell us, Anton Antonovich, how did it all come about, and how did it all — ahem! — go?

Governor. It went in a most extraordinary way. He condescended to make the proposal in his own person.

Anna. In the most respectful and most delicate manner. He spoke beautifully. He said: “Anna Andreyevna, I have only a feeling of respect for your worth.” And such a handsome, cultured man! His manners so genteel! “Believe me, Anna Andreyevna,” he says, “life is not worth a penny to me. It is only because I respect your rare qualities.”

Marya. Oh, mamma, it was to me he said that.

Anna. Shut up! You don’t know anything. And don’t meddle in other people’s affairs. “Anna Andreyevna,” he says, “I am enraptured.” That was the flattering way he poured out his soul. And when I was going to say, “We cannot possibly hope for such an honor,” he suddenly went down on his knees, and so aristocratically! “Anna Andreyevna,” he says, “don’t make me the most miserable of men. Consent to respond to my feelings, or else I’ll put an end to my life.”

Marya. Really, mamma, it was to me he said that.

Anna. Yes, of course — to you, too. I don’t deny it.

Governor. He even frightened us. He said he would put a bullet through his brains. “I’ll shoot myself, I’ll shoot myself,” he said.

Many guests. Well, for the Lord’s sake!

Ammos. How remarkable!

Luka. It must have been fate that so ordained.

Artemy. Not fate, my dear friend. Fate is a turkey-hen. It was the Governor’s services that brought him this piece of fortune. [Aside.] Good luck always does crawl into the mouths of swine like him.

Ammos. If you like, Anton Antonovich, I’ll sell you the dog we were bargaining about.

Governor. I don’t care about dogs now.

Ammos. Well, if you don’t want it, then we’ll agree on some other dog.

Korobkin’S WIFE. Oh, Anna Andreyevna, how happy I am over your good fortune. You can’t imagine how happy I am.

Korobkin. But where, may I ask, is the distinguished guest now? I heard he had gone away for some reason or other.

Governor. Yes, he’s gone off for a day on a highly important matter.

Anna. To his uncle — to ask his blessing.

Governor. To ask his blessing. But tomorrow — [He sneezes, and all burst into one exclamation of well-wishes.] Thank you very much. But tomorrow he’ll be back. [He sneezes, and is congratulated again. Above the other voices are heard those of the following.]

{CAPTAIN. I wish you health, your Honor.

{BOBCHINSKY. A hundred years and a sack of ducats.

{DOBCHINSKY. May God increase it to a thousand.

{ARTEMY. May you go to hell!

{KOROBKIN’S WIFE. The devil take you!

Governor. I’m very much obliged to you. I wish you the same.

Anna. We intend to live in St. Petersburg now. I must say, the atmosphere here is too village-like. I must say, it’s extremely unpleasant. My husband, too — he’ll be made a general there.

Governor. Yes, confound it, gentlemen, I admit I should very much like to be a general.

Luka. May God grant that you get a generalship.

Rastakovsky. From man it is impossible, but from God everything is possible.

Ammos. High merits, high honors.

Artemy. Reward according to service.

Ammos [aside]. The things he’ll do when he becomes a general. A generalship suits him as a saddle suits a cow. It’s a far cry to his generalship. There are better men than you, and they haven’t been made generals yet.

Artemy [aside]. The devil take it — he’s aiming for a generalship. Well, maybe he will become a general after all. He’s got the air of importance, the devil take him! [Addressing the Governor.] Don’t forget us then, Anton Antonovich.

Ammos. And if anything happens — for instance, some difficulty in our affairs — don’t refuse us your protection.

Korobkin. Next year I am going to take my son to the capital to put him in government service. So do me the kindness to give me your protection. Be a father to the orphan.

Governor. I am ready for my part — ready to exert my efforts on your behalf.

Anna. Antosha, you are always ready with your promises. In the first place, you won’t have time to think of such things. And how can you — how is it possible for you, to burden yourself with such promises?

Governor. Why not, my dear? It’s possible occasionally.

Anna. Of course it’s possible. But you can’t give protection to every small potato.

Korobkin’S WIFE. Do you hear the way she speaks of us?

Guest. She’s always been that way. I know her. Seat her at table and she’ll put her feet on it.


The same and the Postmaster, who rushes in with an unsealed letter in his hand.

Postmaster. A most astonishing thing, ladies and gentlemen! The official whom we took to be an inspector-general is not an inspector-general.

All. How so? Not an inspector-general?

Postmaster. No, not a bit of it. I found it out from the letter.

Governor. What are you talking about? What are you talking about? What letter?

Postmaster. His own letter. They bring a letter to the postoffice, I glance at the address and I see Pochtamtskaya Street. I was struck dumb. “Well,” I think to myself, “I suppose he found something wrong in the postoffice department and is informing the government.” So I unsealed it.

Governor. How could you?

Postmaster. I don’t know myself. A supernatural power moved me. I had already summoned a courier to send it off by express; but I was overcome by a greater curiosity than I have ever felt in my life. “I can’t, I can’t,” I hear a voice telling me. “I can’t.” But it pulled me and pulled me. In one ear I heard, “Don’t open the letter. You will die like a chicken,” and in the other it was just as if the devil were whispering, “Open it, open it.” And when I cracked the sealing wax, I felt as if I were on fire; and when I opened the letter, I froze, upon my word, I froze. And my hands trembled, and everything whirled around me.

Governor. But how did you dare to open it? The letter of so powerful a personage?

Postmaster. But that’s just the point — he’s neither powerful nor a personage.

Governor. Then what is he in your opinion?

Postmaster. He’s neither one thing nor another. The devil knows what he is.

Governor [furiously]. How neither one thing nor another? How do you dare to call him neither one thing nor another? And the devil knows what besides? I’ll put you under arrest.

Postmaster. Who — you?

Governor. Yes, I.

Postmaster. You haven’t the power.

Governor. Do you know that he’s going to marry my daughter? That I myself am going to be a high official and will have the power to exile to Siberia?

Postmaster. Oh, Anton Antonovich, Siberia! Siberia is far away. I’d rather read the letter to you. Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to read the letter.

All. Do read it.

Postmaster [reads]. “I hasten to inform you, my dear friend, what wonderful things have happened to me. On the way here an infantry captain did me out of my last penny, so that the innkeeper here wanted to send me to jail, when suddenly, thanks to my St. Petersburg appearance and dress, the whole town took me for a governor-general. Now I am staying at the governor’s home. I am having a grand time and I am flirting desperately with his wife and daughter. I only haven’t decided whom to begin with. I think with the mother first, because she seems ready to accept all terms. You remember how hard up we were taking our meals wherever we could without paying for them, and how once the pastry cook grabbed me by the collar for having charged pies that I ate to the king of England? Now it is quite different. They lend me all the money I want. They are an awful lot of originals. You would split your sides laughing at them. I know you write for the papers. Put them in your literature. In the first place the Governor is as stupid as an old horse —”

Governor. Impossible! That can’t be in the letter.

Postmaster [showing the letter]. Read for yourself.

Governor [reads]. “As an old horse.” Impossible! You put it in yourself.

Postmaster. How could I?

Artemy. Go on reading.

Luka. Go on reading.

Postmaster [continuing to read]. “The Governor is as stupid as an old horse —”

Governor. Oh, the devil! He’s got to read it again. As if it weren’t there anyway.

Postmaster [continuing to read]. H’m, h’m —“an old horse. The Postmaster is a good man, too.” [Stops reading.] Well, here he’s saying something improper about me, too.

Governor. Go on — read the rest.

Postmaster. What for?

Governor. The deuce take it! Once we have begun to read it, we must read it all.

Artemy. If you will allow me, I will read it. [Puts on his eye-glasses and reads.] “The Postmaster is just like the porter Mikheyev in our office, and the scoundrel must drink just as hard.”

Postmaster [to the audience]. A bad boy! He ought to be given a licking. That’s all.

Artemy [continues to read]. “The Superintendent of Char-i-i —” [Stammers.]

Korobkin. Why did you stop?

Artemy. The handwriting isn’t clear. Besides, it’s evident that he’s a blackguard.

Korobkin. Give it to me. I believe my eyesight is better.

Artemy [refusing to give up the letter]. No. This part can be omitted. After that it’s legible.

Korobkin. Let me have it please. I’ll see for myself.

Artemy. I can read it myself. I tell you that after this part it’s all legible.

Postmaster. No, read it all. Everything so far could be read.

All. Give him the letter, Artemy Filippovich, give it to him. [To Korobkin.] You read it.

Artemy. Very well. [Gives up the letter.] Here it is. [Covers a part of it with his finger.] Read from here on. [All press him.]

Postmaster. Read it all, nonsense, read it all.

Korobkin [reading]. “The Superintendent of Charities, Zemlianika, is a regular pig in a cap.”

Artemy [to the audience]. Not a bit witty. A pig in a cap! Have you ever seen a pig wear a cap?

Korobkin [continues reading]. “The School Inspector reeks of onions.”

Luka [to the audience]. Upon my word, I never put an onion to my mouth.

Ammos [aside]. Thank God, there’s nothing about me in it.

Korobkin [continues reading]. “The Judge —”

Ammos. There! [Aloud.] Ladies and gentlemen, I think the letter is far too long. To the devil with it! Why should we go on reading such trash?

Luka. No.

Postmaster. No, go on.

Artemy. Go on reading.

Korobkin. “The Judge, Liapkin-Tiapkin, is extremely mauvais ton.” [He stops.] That must be a French word.

Ammos. The devil knows what it means. It wouldn’t be so bad if all it means is “cheat.” But it may mean something worse.

Korobkin [continues reading]. “However, the people are hospitable and kindhearted. Farewell, my dear Triapichkin. I want to follow your example and take up literature. It’s tiresome to live this way, old boy. One wants food for the mind, after all. I see I must engage in something lofty. Address me: Village of Podkatilovka in the Government of Saratov.” [Turns the letter and reads the address.] “Mr. Ivan Vasilyevich Triapichkin, St. Petersburg, Pochtamtskaya Street, House Number 97, Courtyard, third floor, right.”

A lady. What an unexpected rebuke!

Governor. He has cut my throat and cut it for good. I’m done for, completely done for. I see nothing. All I see are pigs’ snouts instead of faces, and nothing more. Catch him, catch him! [Waves his hand.]

Postmaster. Catch him! How? As if on purpose, I told the overseer to give him the best coach and three. The devil prompted me to give the order.

Korobkin’S WIFE. Here’s a pretty mess.

Ammos. Confound it, he borrowed three hundred rubles from me.

Artemy. He borrowed three hundred from me, too.

Postmaster [sighing]. And from me, too.

Bobchinsky. And sixty-five from me and Piotr Ivanovich.

Ammos [throwing up his hands in perplexity]. How’s that, gentlemen? Really, how could we have been so off our guard?

Governor [beating his forehead]. How could I, how could I, old fool? I’ve grown childish, stupid mule. I have been in the service thirty years. Not one merchant, not one contractor has been able to impose on me. I have over-reached one swindler after another. I have caught crooks and sharpers that were ready to rob the whole world. I have fooled three governor-generals. As for governor-generals, [with a wave of his hand] it is not even worth talking about them.

Anna. But how is it possible, Antosha? He’s engaged to Mashenka.

Governor [in a rage]. Engaged! Rats! Fiddlesticks! So much for your engagement! Thrusts her engagement at me now! [In a frenzy.] Here, look at me! Look at me, the whole world, the whole of Christendom. See what a fool the governor was made of. Out upon him, the fool, the old scoundrel! [Shakes his fist at himself.] Oh, you fat-nose! To take an icicle, a rag for a personage of rank! Now his coach bells are jingling all along the road. He is publishing the story to the whole world. Not only will you be made a laughing-stock of, but some scribbler, some ink-splasher will put you into a comedy. There’s the horrid sting. He won’t spare either rank or station. And everybody will grin and clap his hands. What are you laughing at? You are laughing at yourself, oh you! [Stamps his feet.] I would give it to all those ink-splashers! You scribblers, damned liberals, devil’s brood! I would tie you all up in a bundle, I would grind you into meal, and give it to the devil. [Shakes his fist and stamps his heel on the floor. After a brief silence.] I can’t come to myself. It’s really true, whom the gods want to punish they first make mad. In what did that nincompoop resemble an inspector-general? In nothing, not even half the little finger of an inspector-general. And all of a sudden everybody is going about saying, “Inspector-general, inspector-general.” Who was the first to say it? Tell me.

Artemy [throwing up his hands]. I couldn’t tell how it happened if I had to die for it. It is just as if a mist had clouded our brains. The devil has confounded us.

Ammos. Who was the first to say it? These two here, this noble pair. [Pointing to Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky.]

Bobchinsky. So help me God, not I. I didn’t even think of it.

Dobchinsky. I didn’t say a thing, not a thing.

Artemy. Of course you did.

Luka. Certainly. You came running here from the inn like madmen. “He’s come, he’s come. He doesn’t pay.” Found a rare bird!

Governor. Of course it was you. Town gossips, damned liars!

Artemy. The devil take you with your inspector-general and your tattle.

Governor. You run about the city, bother everybody, confounded chatterboxes. You spread gossip, you short-tailed magpies, you!

Ammos. Damned bunglers!

Luka. Simpletons.

Artemy. Pot-bellied mushrooms!

All crowd around them.

Bobchinsky. Upon my word, it wasn’t I. It was Piotr Ivanovich.

Dobchinsky. No, Piotr Ivanovich, you were the first.

Bobchinsky. No, no. You were the first.


The same and a Gendarme.

Gendarme. An official from St. Petersburg sent by imperial order has arrived, and wants to see you all at once. He is stopping at the inn.

All are struck as by a thunderbolt. A cry of amazement bursts from the ladies simultaneously. The whole group suddenly shifts positions and remains standing as if petrified.


The Governor stands in the center rigid as a post, with outstretched hands and head thrown backward. On his right are his wife and daughter straining toward him. Back of them the Postmaster, turned toward the audience, metamorphosed into a question mark. Next to him, at the edge of the group, three lady guests leaning on each other, with a most satirical expression on their faces directed straight at the Governor’s family. To the left of the Governor is Zemlianika, his head to one side as if listening. Behind him is the Judge with outspread hands almost crouching on the ground and pursing his lips as if to whistle or say: “A nice pickle we’re in!” Next to him is Korobkin, turned toward the audience, with eyes screwed up and making a venomous gesture at the Governor. Next to him, at the edge of the group, are Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky, gesticulating at each other, open-mouthed and wide-eyed. The other guests remain standing stiff. The whole group retain the same position of rigidity for almost a minute and a half. The curtain falls.

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