I thought this paragraph from the History of Russian Literature (see this post) was worth posting:

After its fledgling start in the Jesuit plays of the seventeenth century, it would be several decades before theater became a fixture in the culture of the court. In 1702, on the order of Peter the Great, a theater opened to the general public in a special building on Red Square. It was named the Kunst–Fuerst Theater after the two German directors of the company that also trained Russian actors. The German company brought with it its usual repertoire, the so-called “English comedies,” popular in Germany in the seventeenth century. The plays were full of adventures, bloody fights, love, sorcery, and so on. The repertory often consisted of adaptations several times removed from the original. For example, the skit “Prince Pickled-Herring, or Jodolet” (“Prints Pikl′ gerring, ili Zhodolet”) can be traced (through Dutch, German, and French adaptations) to one of Calderón’s plays. Molière was represented by “A Comedy about a Beaten Doctor” (“Komediia o doktore bitom,” a version of Le Médicin malgré lui) and “Precious Amusings” (“Dragyia smeianyia,” a version of Les Précieuses ridicules). The theater proved unpopular; nor did it satisfy Peter’s desire for a propaganda medium, and it closed in 1706.

In the first place, the explanation of the name is mildly astonishing; if I’d seen a mention of the Kunst–Fuerst Theater, I simply would have assumed that it meant “Art-Prince” (it’s a theater, started by a ruler) — talk about your appropriate surnames! We learn from A History of Russian Theatre, edited by Robert Leach and Victor Borovsky, that Johann Kunst was the manager of the troupe when it arrived in Russia in the summer of 1702, and that after Kunst died in 1703 he was replaced by “Otto Fuerst, a goldsmith.” We are also told that “the theatre did not live up to Peter’s expectations, primarily because the plots of the plays tended to be beyond the comprehension of the Russian audience.”

Also, the mention of “adaptations several times removed” is relevant to the discussion of mediation through third languages going on in this thread.


  1. Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But it’s still not a (wet) patch on Splat and Weedon, those collaborative British urologists.

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