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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!"
  • 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.
  • The Gambling Addict: Khlestakov is stuck in the town because he'd gambled all his money away. His parting words strongly imply that his ill-gotten fortune will only survive until the next gaming-table.
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  • 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. The real inspector arrives at the end of the play.
  • 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.
  • 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 Bobchinsky and Piotr Ivanovich Dobchinsky.
  • Permanent Elected Official: The character translated as Mayor, who is a powerful Small-Town Tyrant 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.
  • Those Two Guys: Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky.