Masks of the Empress: Polyphony of Personae in Catherine the Great's Oh, These Times!


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

A famous ruler wrote a letter to a famous philosopher in October of 1772 on the subject of a group of new plays:

Opinion here is that the anonymous author of these new Russian

comedies, though he shows talent, has grave faults; he knows nothing

about the theatre, and his plots are weak. However this is not the case

with his characters, which are well-sustained and drawn from every-

day life. There are flashes of wit, he makes you laugh, his morality

is pure, and he knows his nation very well.1

The philosopher in this case was Voltaire, to whom the ruler planned to send a Russian comedy in French translation, entitled Oh, These Times! Nowhere did this letter reveal that the female ruler shared a body and a pen with the anonymous male playwright, that they were in fact the same person-Catherine the Great.

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