Places: Boris Godunov

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1831 (English translation, 1918)

First produced: 1870

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1598-1605

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Moscow

*Moscow. Boris GodunovRussia’s capital city in the period during which this play is set. Pushkin wrote the play during the period when he was exiled from the royal court at St. Petersburg, which Czar Peter the Great had made Russia’s capital in 1712. (In 1918 the Bolsheviks would return the government to Moscow.)


*Kremlin. Enclosed fortress at the heart of Moscow and the seat of the historical czar Boris Godunov’s government. The word kremlin is an anglicization of Russian’s kreml’ for “fortress.” Many old Russian cities were centered upon similar fortresses, but the Kremlin of Moscow became the seat of the Russian government. Because of great architectural changes in the Kremlin since 1598, it is almost impossible to correlate the palace of Godunov’s time with any modern Kremlin palace. Pushkin’s minimalist stage directions depend upon the director’s and players’ familiarity with Russian history to recreate the scene on stage.

*Red Square

*Red Square. Open area in front of the Kremlin. In Russian, the same word means both “red” and “beautiful”; what was originally understood as the “beautiful square” acquired its modern name. In Pushkin’s play, the square is the site of several key interactions among the leaders and the common people.


*Kraków. Polish city that is the location of the house of Wisniowiecki, supporter of the False Dmitri, pretender to the Russian throne.

BibliographyBayley, John. Pushkin: A Comparative Commentary. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1971. One of the best English-language studies of Pushkin. A long chapter on drama treats Boris Godunov in relation to Shakespeare, the German poet Friedrich Schiller, and others.Briggs, A. D. P. Alexander Pushkin. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. In the chapter on drama, Briggs argues that Pushkin’s success as a dramatist was limited, but that his plays are more interesting than is sometimes allowed. Discusses such aspects of Boris Godunov as the work’s historical background, Shakespearean influence, structure, characters, language, and poetry.Magarshack, David. Pushkin. New York: Grove Press, 1969. This biography of Pushkin places Boris Godunov in the context of the poet’s life and literary career. A good starting place for the general reader.Sandler, Stephanie. Distant Pleasures: Alexander Pushkin and the Writing of Exile. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1989. Scholarly and subtle, this book is better suited to the serious student of Pushkin than to the general reader. Boris Godunov is discussed at considerable length.Vickery, Walter N. Alexander Pushkin Revisited. Rev. ed. New York: Twayne, 1992. A brief but clear account of the historical circumstances leading to Boris Godunov’s rule is useful to those not familiar with the background for Pushkin’s play. Many of the established topics in the study of Boris Godunov are included.
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