Smert’ Ioanna Groznago, tragediia v piati deistviiakh [The Death of Ivan the Terrible, a tragedy in five acts].

St Petersburg, Naval Ministry Press, 1866.

8vo, pp. [iv], 176, complete with the half-title; first couple of leaves creased, some spotting and mild offsetting in places, light marginal waterstain to initial few leaves, but still a very good copy in Russian contemporary quarter calf, marbled paper sides, cloth tips, rubbed, spine worn at foot, front free endpaper sometime removed.

£2000

Approximately:
US $2528€2335

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Smert’ Ioanna Groznago, tragediia v piati deistviiakh [The Death of Ivan the Terrible, a tragedy in five acts].

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First edition: the first in the great trilogy of plays by the foremost Russian historical dramatist. It was translated into English verse, ‘with the author’s permission’, in 1869.

In Russia, ‘there continued to be some demand for historical drama even after the romantic period, particularly since Russian opera was now coming into its own … Among the major figures of the period, Pisemsky, Ostrovsky, Konstantin Aksakov, and others wrote historical plays. But only in the case of Aleksei Tolstoi were they the main part of the writer’s achievement … Tolstoi [1817–1875] pursued a career first as a diplomat and later at court, and was personally close to Tsar Alexander II. He left the government service in 1861 and retired to his estate to devote himself entirely to his literary work. Tolstoi … had his greatest success with a historical novel, Duke Serebryany (1862) … His main importance, though, is as the best Russian historical dramatist, and this by virtue of his dramatic trilogy, The Death of Ivan the Terrible (1866), Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich (1868), and Tsar Boris (1870) …

‘The Death of Ivan the Terrible is a tense and stagy play [in which] Tolstoi adroitly uses various scenic devices to recapitalute the glory, the horror, and the ultimate defeat of the awesome tsar’ (Terras, History).

Kilgour 1186.

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