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Theatre / The Inspector General

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The Inspector General (Ревизор, Revizor, literally "The Inspector", also translated as The Government Inspector) is a comedy play in five acts by Nikolai Gogol.

The corrupt Mayor (or Governor, depending on the translation) of a small town receives a message informing him that a government inspector will be visiting the town incognito to investigate how it is run, causing a panic as he and his underlings hurry to cover up their misdeeds. A stranger to town, Khlestakov, is mistaken for the inspector; in fact he is an impoverished minor civil servant, and when he realizes why everyone is suddenly being so nice to him he takes full advantage to scam them for everything he can get. After his departure, the officials celebrate the apparent successful handling of the inspector's visit, until a message arrives revealing the truth about Khlestakov. As they start blaming each other, another message arrives: a summons for the Mayor from the real inspector.


Inspired the 1949 Danny Kaye film The Inspector General, which doesn't have a lot in common with the play.

This play contains examples of:

  • Audience Monologue: At the end, as the officials are turning on each other, the Mayor addresses the audience — "What are you laughing at? You are laughing at yourselves!"
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: In the film version the various corrupt officials are cousins, nephews, brothers-in law and such and don't hesitate much to try and sell each other out.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The play ends with the officials hearing that the real inspector wants to see them. According to the author's instructions, everyone is supposed to freeze in place (in thoroughly described positions) until the curtain falls over a minute later. Few performances have managed to follow these demands to a letter; Vsevolod Meyerhold actually used dolls for the scene.
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  • Identical Twin ID Tag: In the film, there are two twin corrupt officials in the city, Izzick and Grizzick. When they get mixed up one of them keeps saying that he has a mole on his knee and his brother doesn't (repeatedly reaching down to roll up his pant leg before being interrupted). When he finally does roll up his pant leg he finds out that he doesn't have a mole but that his brother does, revealing that even they got each other mixed up.
  • The Inspector Is Coming: Corrupt local government officials panic when they hear there's an inspector in town, but the guy they suspect of being him is a case of mistaken identity.
  • Invention Pretension: Khlestakov's Tall Tales are full of it.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The famous "silent scene" at the end is an epic, several minute long Mass "Oh, Crap!" moment, described in great detail.
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  • Mistaken for Special Guest: A poor but foppish gentleman visiting a small town is mistaken for an expected government inspector by the local corrupt bureaucrats. He quickly understands what's going on, and uses the situation to swindle a neat sum out of the locals. Then he leaves and the real McCoy comes...
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, with two (unrelated) characters named Piotr Ivanovich Bobchevsky and Piotr Ivanovich Dobchevsky.
  • Permanent Elected Official: The character translated as Mayor, who is a powerful Corrupt Hick with more powers than a mayor would be thought of as having. This being Czarist Russia, there was neither a press nor was central bureaucracy as strong as today.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: One character dreams of two "Rodents of Unusual Size" the night before receiving the letter that the inspector is secretly coming to town.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: In the film, Yakov, the previous employer and untrustworthy friend of the inspector general sells a fake medicine to heal all wounds.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: A couple cases in the film
    • The Mayor of a previous town hit by the real inspector general passes through and requests a fresh horse to get out of their for parts unknown, commenting that he got out of town just ahead of a firing squad while one of his accomplices was hanged and another got twenty years.
    • There's a Running Gag of one of the town officials repeatedly attempts to resign his job and leave as well (starting how after he first hears the story of the other towns mayor).
  • Those Two Guys: Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the movie, Georgi and Yakov's fellow performers disappear after they scatter at the beginning.


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