From the Spectator to Spectators: Forms of Capitalization of the Dramatist’s Work in the First Half of the 19th Century (“Leib-kucher Petra III” by August von Kotzebue and “Parasha Sibiryachka” by Nikolai Polevoy)
In this article, Nikolai Polevoy’s play Parasha Sibiryachka (1840) is analyzed as an instrument of influence on Emperor Nicholas I. The plot of the play in this perspective can be understood as a direct appeal to the authorities to grant mercy and change the fate of the disgraced writer. Polevoy encodes an anecdote from the early history of Alexander the First’s reign into the signs of Nicholas the First’s «scenario of power», expecting that each of these signs will be correctly read in the Emperor’s box. However, Polevoy’s plan did not come to fruition, and Parasha Sibiryachka did not lead to any radical changes in the life of its author, despite its theatrical success and attention from the tsar. The cause of this, as explained in the article, was crisis of the paternalistic model of the theater economy, in which a high patron remained the only source of capitalization for the author’s work. The case of Parasha Sibiryachka simultaneously shows that new (probably, market) mechanisms of the theater economy, which were theoretically described by Polevoy himself, had not yet taken shape in Russia by the beginning of the 1840s. The article proposes Leib-kucher Petra III, an 1800 play by A. von Kotzebue, together with the incredible biographical anecdote associated with it, as both an inspiration for Polevoy’s strategy and the source of his play. The German playwright was sent to Siberia and then returned to Petersburg and showered with favors for his play, which somewhat resembles Parasha Sibiryachka on the levels of composition and plot. The failure of Polevoy’s attempt to play the “Kotzebue scenario” is described in the article as a symptom of the changed economic relations in the Russian theater.
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