In an ambitious reinterpretation of the premier work of Russia's national poet, J. Douglas Clayton reads Boris Goduv as the expression of Alexander Pushkin's thinking about the Russian state, especially the Russian state of his own time (some two hundred years distant from the events of the play), and even his own place within that state. Dimitry's Shade makes a startling departure from the traditional interpretation of Boris Goduv as the some-what awkward product of an exiled and angry young liberal-leaning poet who hated Tsar Alexander I, questioned autocracy, and flirted with atheism. Here instead we see how the play marks a sharp break with the Decembrists and Pushkin's own youthful liberalism, signaling its author's emergence as a Russian conservative. Boris Goduv, Clayton argues, can be best understood as an ideologically conservative defense of autocracy. In addition, Clayton shows that the play contains significant religious elements that have long been igred by scholars due primarily to prejudices dating from the Stalin era. His work portrays Boris Goduv as Pushkin's most important statement of adherence to what might be called the orthodox discourse - an adherence as much patriotic as religious. Sure to shock readers even as it persuades them, Dimitry's Shade reveals, incarnated in Boris Goduv, those three elements that were to become the slogan of Tsar Nicholas's Russia in the 1830s: autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality.
J. Douglas Clayton is a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Ottawa. His other works include Wave and Stone: Essays on the Prose and Poetry of Alexander Pushkin (Slavic Research Group, 2000) and Pierrot in Petrograd: Commedia dell'arte / Balagan in Twentieth Century Russian Theatre and Drama (McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994).