RUSSIAN COMMEDIA.

A fascinating thread at postumia (Russian LJ, found via Avva) investigates the origin of the Russian fake-Italian phrase Финита ля комедия! [finita la com(m)edia!]; the blogger describes her shock on discovering, upon hearing a classmate corrected in an Italian class, that the actual Italian phrase is “La commedia è finita” (well known from the end of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci). She first suspects it’s a misremembering of the line from the opera that somehow got established in Russian culture, but a commenter traces it back to Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time (written in 1839, over a half-century before the opera): “-Finita la comedia! – сказал я доктору” ['"Finita la comedia!" I said to the doctor'; note the misspelled "comedia"]. It’s not clear whether Lermontov simply mangled the phrase or misunderstood the context it can be used in (as a dependent clause, e.g. “finita la commedia, gli spetattori sono andati dal teatro”). And another commenter makes reference to the supposed dying words of Augustus Caesar, “Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est.”
It’s all most interesting, but the best thing that came out of it for me was the discovery of the Corpus of the Russian Language. The internet gets better and better.

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    The internet gets better and better.
    Amen. It’s haphazard, but you can already find stuff from home that only the best research libraries had fifteen years ago.

  2. John Emerson says:

    The internet gets better and better.
    Amen. It’s haphazard, but you can already find stuff from home that only the best research libraries had fifteen years ago.

  3. I remember the phase as, “finita la musica, passata la festa”. Or is that something not connected with this?

  4. were about Street just their to actually because Years later, a scientist.

  5. michael farris says:

    freejhon,
    Up country the glass before elephatizing surgeons, above the trunk packed for.

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Maybe it’s a pseudo-Italian calque of the French expression “Finie la comédie!” (meaning “let’s be serious now” – this could be said to a child who has been acting up).

  7. That could be, since in the early nineteenth century the Russian aristocracy (i.e., the literate class) was at least as fluent in French as in Russian.

  8. John,
    Also not connected to this is the English phrase, “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.”

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