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Chatsky and Miser, Miser! – Two Plays

UK Publisher: Salamander Street

Anthony Burgess expertly tackles the major monuments of French and Russian theatre: The Miser by Molière and Chatsky by Alexander Griboyedov.

Miser, Miser! is a bold reworking of Molière’s classic comedy of 1668. Harpagon the miser is hoarding a pile of gold, which he has
buried in his garden. As he tries to sell off his daughter, catch himself a beautiful young bride and outwit his scheming household of clever servants, the comedy of errors intensifies.

Although the original French play is written in prose, Burgess remakes it in a mixture of verse and prose, in the style of his famous
adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. This translation, discovered in the author’s archive, is the work of a writer at the height of his powers, reinventing Molière for modern audiences.

Chatsky, subtitled ‘The Importance of Being Stupid’ is another verse comedy. The theme is that of the intellectual hero who rebels
against the smug, philistine society in which he finds himself. First performed in 1833, Griboyedov’s play was so heavily cut by Russian censors that it was barely recognisable. The play is a virtuoso vehicle for male actors, and the source of many famous quotations. It is also notoriously difficult to translate. In Chatsky, Burgess remakes a classic Russian play in the spirit of Oscar Wilde. It is a great feast of language and invective.

The complete texts of both plays are published here for the first time.

Few writers have been more versatile, or more prolific, than Anthony Burgess (1917–93): one of the leading novelists of his...