Pushkin's Mozart and Salieri

Themes, Character, Sociology


Mozart and Salieri, probably the best known of Pushkin's `Little Tragedies', was written in 1830 during the peak of the poet's creative powers. Like the other Little Tragedies it is a `closet drama' which concentrates on the devastating effects of an all-consuming human passion, in this case envy. Mozart and Salieri typifies Pushkin's implicational technique of character construction: the salient points of a fictional psyche are highlighted sufficiently to suggest inner depth while stopping short of precise concretication; this allows full play to lectorial inference on a plurality of connotational levels - thematic, psychological and sociological. The present work, the first of its kind in English, isolates two major thematic dominants in the play - envy and music - and these form the focus for its aesthetic and psychological preoccupations respectively. A variety of psychological approaches are brought to bear on the play's protagonists including adaptations of the theories of Freud, Adler, Jung and Klages. The readiness with which these contrastive but complementary approaches yield new insights into the nature and motivations of the protagonists of Mozart and Salieri points to a work of profound cultural significance, something all the more remarkable given its modest compass. The sociological and anthropological approaches applied to the drama in this study dwell particularly on theories of social interaction and theories of alienation, anomie and suicide. Pushkin has often been regarded as an enigmatic phenomenon in the west, the compactness and economy of his works often seeming at odds with the degree of impact which they have made on subsequent generations of Russian writers. The present work seeks to lay bare what is typical for Pushkin: the intimation of great psychological and philosophical truths via a superficially unassuming medium. It is not surprising, therefore, that the influence of Pushkin's Mozart and Salieri, and of the aesthetic and ideological positions they represent, can be felt in the works of later Russian writers, notably Dostoyevsky.

Table of contents

Introduction ENVY Critical Assessment Socio-Psychological Perspectives MUSIC Genre The Meaning of Music Genius CHARACTER Literary Character Psychology According to System Klagesian Characterology A Freudian Perspective Fromm's Necrophilous Type An Adlerian Approach SOCIOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS A Model for Social Interchange An Anthropological Interlude Power, System and Structure Alienation and Anomie Villainy Conclusion Appendix Index

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